Neil Armstrong – First man on the moon. What else is there to say? Ignoring the conspiracy theorists, Neil was a Navy pilot during the Korean War, continued as a test pilot, got into NASA and made it into the Apollo program, and was the mission commander for Apollo 11. After leaving NASA, he taught at the University of Cincinnati, served on two NASA accident investigations, and either acted as spokesman for several companies or served on their board of directors. He also did some voice-over work for an animated film commissioned by JPL/NASA. He died on Aug. 7, 2012, during heart bypass surgery.
The intro manga has Merrino preparing to return home to the Sheep Planet after having completed his stay on Earth. Youichi and Mami recall all of the problems he’s caused them (eating their snacks, scribbling in their school notebooks, filling their backpacks with shed wool) and eagerly anticipate his departure. Since this is the last time for them to watch a lesson projected by Study Bell, all three of them kick back and relax for the film. In the wrap up, the two kids are starting to feel a little lonesome, when Merrino pops up from a trapdoor in the floor, asking their mother what she’s making him for dinner – turns out that Angora has installed a wormhole between the two planets and the sheep prince can come back whenever he wants. The story finishes with the entire cast telling the readers that they hope to meet them again some day.
The artist for the main manga is Kamui Fujiwara, who had drawn issue 3, on da Vinci. Unfortunately, while he’d employed some interesting visual tricks in #3, #80 is presented as a straight-forward documentary, with really weird choices for the character designs. Most blatantly, Fujiwara draws Armstrong as being at least 20 pounds overweight. His face is consistently fat, and one of the postcard images has the spacesuit looking like a clown suit… But, the backgrounds are good, and there’s lots of pictures of space and the moon. One full page displays the intended route for the Apollo rocket missions, and would make a nice wall poster.
The manga starts out with Neil narrating an incident during the Korean War when he’d been on a flight mission over North Korea and had to limp back to safety with half a wing shot off. Back over friendly territory, he ejected from the plane and floated down by parachute. This is followed by the USSR getting a jump on the U.S. by having the first human in space (Gagarin, vol. #50). The U.S. government goes into panic mode, and Kennedy steps forward to announce that they’ll have a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. There’s a bit where Ed White tells Armstrong that by being in NASA’s program that they’re about to fulfill mankind’s greatest dream. This is followed by a NASA tech doubting that the Lunar Landing Module is going to work right, when someone else runs up to announce that there’s been an accident over on the launch site – Apollo 1 had exploded and killed the three men aboard (Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White). Armstrong is next seen in front of Ed’s tombstone, wishing that his friend would still be around for what’s going to happen next. At one point, Neil contemplates his options if there is a failure in space; just as in North Korea, if the machine breaks down, it’d be dangerous to bail out. Two and a half years later, Apollo 11 lifts off, and the story follows the rocket to the moon and ends with an image of the footprint in the lunar soil and the Japanese translation of “One small step for man”.
The textbook section spends a little more time discussing Neil’s upbringing and his fascination with planes. His father was a state auditor and the family moved around a lot. Neil got good at making friends quickly, but he also liked to read, study and play sports. One book on airplanes triggered his lifelong affair with them. There’s some mention of his time in the Navy, and a list of his accomplishments at NASA. Sidebars talk about the U.S.-Soviet cold war, the Mercury Seven, and the post-moon landing parades in New York and Tokyo. The last two pages cover possible plans for trips to Mars, the concepts for Virgin’s reusable spacecraft and a space elevator, and what would be needed for living on the moon (basically, an underground station). A lot of this issue is taken up with talk about the Cold War.
Conclusion: Well, this is it. Last issue in the Manga Sekai no Ijin (Manga World Famous People) series. The inside back cover has all of the famous people standing around in various poses, and there’s credits for the main editorial staff. I’d say that Asahi Shimbun (Asahi newspaper) isn’t going to produce season 3. In a way, this is understandable. One of the biggest problems with having a weekly series like this is that the bookstores are running out of shelf space for them all. There are serialized collections for build-it robot kits, Japanese castles, famous Japanese historical figures, and TV series (DVDs for Galaxy Express 999, Macross, Gundam, Columbo, Gegege no Kitaro, etc.) It’s gotten to the point where each new issue is set out on the “Just Arrived” shelf for 1 day before being stuck in with all of the other back issues. Lately, there’s only been 2 or 3 copies of the newest Ijin issue on the shelf at the one bookstore I go to, and I’m thinking that the store has cut back on the numbers they buy. So, the most likely thing is that Asahi is planning on making the majority of their money by selling the magazines to elementary schools. But, I may be wrong about that. Regardless, since the Ijin series has finished now, I’m going to have to find something else to write about on this blog.