Though the title sounds like it’s to a superhero sci-fi series, the goofy childlike image of a grinning star on the logo of Yuuki Fujimoto’s Stellar Six of Gingacho (Tokyopop) cues us to what’s really going on in this teen-rated manga. Gingacho (Galaxy) is a street market, and the Six are all 13/14-year-old kids of market shopkeeps. As youngsters, they were inseparable, but once they moved into middle school, the group drifted apart. The focus of Stellar Six, then, is on how this crew reconnect and rediscover each other as slightly more mature beings.
The sextet is equally divided between boys and girls, but in the first volume, at least, the central couple is comprised of tomboyish green grocer’s daughter Mike and fishmonger’s son Kuro. Born in the same city hospital at around the same time, the two share a bond that we know will turn into something deeper once those hormones start kicking in. “That weird feeling fluttered up and my head got all muzzy,” Mike tells her Stellar Six gal pals after one highly fraught interaction, though she remains oblivious as to its full ramifications.
The remaining foursome receive only sketchy attention in the first book: one girl, bespectacled Sato, is an avid Otaku (obsessive fangirl), while the third distaff member, jovial plus-size Iba, is the strongest member of the group. Among the guys, pretty boy Q turns out to be the egotistical one, while the last group member Mamoru is — well, I’m not entirely sure what Mamoru is since he’s not given all that much to do in volume one. Guess that makes him the Quiet Beatle.
The three longish stories in the first book are by no means earth-shaking: in the opener, for instance, the group bands together to enter a dance contest so they can win the money to help a bartender whose establishment keeps getting wrecked by a former boyhood friend. In another, the promise of a group excursion brings up memories of a time when Mike and Yuro got locked in a shed together. The impact of our childhood past on our present day life is obviously a running theme in this book, and if Fujimoto occasionally over-hammers this idea, it’s consistent with the age of characters who treat every minor insight like it is a major cosmic revelation. The accompanying art has an appealing looseness that also works with these gawky ‘tween-aged protagonists.
It’s a sweet series, in other words, that may not break any new ground but should be enjoyed by a middle school readership discovering this kind of low-key comic book material for the first time.