Astra: Lost in Space Vol. 1 TP
Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 29, 2017
Price: $9.99
Creator: Kenta Shinohara
Format: 208 pgs., B&W, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4215-9694-5
Age Rating: 12+
ICv2 Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Astra: Lost in Space is a cheery shonen manga about a group of high school students who are stranded in outer space and must use their wits—and their combined skills—to get home.

Class trips often go awry in manga, and apparently things haven’t gotten any better by the year 2063.  That’s when a group of students heads to Planet McPa for an interplanetary field trip.  It’s supposed to be an immersion experience, so the adults drop them off and leave, promising to be back in five days.  Moments later, a huge sphere appears out of nowhere and sucks up all the students, depositing them in a remote region of outer space.  Fortunately, there happens to be an abandoned spaceship nearby, and the students take refuge there to figure out how they will get home—ultimately, they decide the only way they can make it is by hopping from planet to planet.  As the story progresses, we learn that one of the group is a super genius with computers, another has a photographic memory, and another has an extensive knowledge of botany and zoology.  In fact, everyone in the group is unusually talented at something, and by the end of the volume, it’s starting to seem like none of this is a coincidence.

Shinohara, who is also the creator of Sket Dance, really lets his imagination loose when the students arrive on the first planet on their way home.  He creates an entire new world with trampoline trees, parachute seeds, and strange animals.  His designs are close enough to our own world to feel "right" but different enough to seem strange and exotic.  Similarly, the characters feel like very familiar manga characters—there’s the bold guy, the hot guy, the snooty girl, the ditzy girl, the smart guy with glasses—but as the story goes on, each one reveals more about themselves and they start to become more interesting.

Astra: Lost in Space is a real treat for shonen manga fans, and it’s a good first manga for those who are new to the medium.  Shinohara’s art is clear and easy to follow, and he throws in quite a bit of humor to keep things light.  Aside from the ridiculously form-fitting spacesuits, the fanservice is minimal, and the story leans heavily on the themes of friendship and teamwork, making this a good choice for pre-teens and younger teens, whether they are shonen manga fans or just enjoy a good, old-fashioned space yarn.

- Brigid Alverson