Started in 1986, still being published with 16 volumes to its credit, The Five Star Stories finally arrives in France thanks to the Noeve editions which deliver us a sublime edition at the height of this manga monument. Because yes, the saga of Mamoru Nagano is a cult work that had never arrived in France before that, despite the release of the animated film at Dybex. An anomaly of the French market finally repaired allowing us to discover this stellar series, a saga of space fantasy which mixes conflicts, loves, mecha, mythology, haute couture and many other things. A multiple work, as is also its author, mangaka first known for his talents as a mecha designer, when he is not a stylist or a musician.
The prologue of The Five Star Stories begins in 3960 and recounts the end of an almost thousand-year-old space war. The conclusion of an era to which the manga promises to return since we jump 1000 years in the past on the occasion of the first act of the saga. It therefore takes place in 2988 in the stellar cluster of Joker and returns to the origins of the conflict. After the prologue, this first volume of the series is devoted to the ceremony of presentation of the new Fatima, androids serving the Mortar Headd pilots, and helping them to pilot these giant robots. A ceremony where should be presented Lachesis and Clotho, the two latest creations of Chrome Ballanche who arouse the greed of the leaders and knights of the stellar cluster, such as the charismatic Emperor Amaterasu. Only then, the duke Uber who organizes the event plots to keep the Fatima by thirst for power but also by pure perversion. Protagonist of this first volume, Ladios Sopp is a designer from Mortar Headd going to the ceremony. In fact, he is a friend of Doctor Ballanche and knows Lachesis and Clotho well. So he makes it his mission to free them. He crosses paths with Bord Bullard, a knight who comes to his aid in his quest.
The first volume of The Five Star Stories revolves around this presentation ceremony, with many elements that disturb it. Several clans set up their action plan, offering us a finely crafted scenario that continues to grow in power over the pages. And if the manga shines with its universe and its characters, it is the quality of the writing of the story that keeps us in suspense from beginning to end. Mamoru Nagano intensifies his narrative both in terms of action and reversals of situations in a masterfully applied recipe until its grandiose finale. The author continues to leave a veil of mystery on his story while giving a lot of information about his fascinating universe. This obviously requires getting involved in reading the story to appreciate it at its true value, but as long as this effort is provided, The Five Star Stories will have the effect of a huge artistic slap. This is all the more the case as the manga shines with the finesse of its drawings. It is something that is felt when we see Ladios Sopp and his androgynous appearance or the Fatima who look like dolls. Despite the war, despite the bazaar, there is a very noble aura that is felt when reading this manga. This is partly due to its author’s taste for haute couture, and in particular the wonderful outfits worn by Amaterasu. Mamoru Nagano masters his subject and immerses us in a manga of great beauty where iron giants coexist with angels, androids with humans, gods with machines.
The universe and the characters are at the heart of the interest for this Star Wars-like saga. An easy comparison between two works of space fantasy but there are however some points in common such as the presence of lightsabers, knights or similarities in the construction of a world with various influences. Even Bord Bullard, in his sidekick role, has facets of Han Solo as he looks much more like a big-hearted adventurer, a bit flirty and free-spirited, than the idea that we have of an exceptional knight and pilot that he is. But the manga is far from being a Star Wars clone, and isn’t even necessarily in the same vein in the end since it strives to tell a different kind of story. Mamoru Nagano’s objective is to stage time, he wants to tell History in broad outline but also on a human scale and for this he describes a complex universe escaping human laws and logic. Mythology and fantasy then mingle with science fiction to give birth to a unique work, a real gem with a thousand influences. Evidenced by the sisters Lachesis, Clothos and Atropos whose names refer to the Fates of Greek mythology or the emperor Amaterasu who takes his name from the goddess of the Sun of Japanese mythology. The world in which this first act takes place has an oriental air, it looks like an old Baghdad made yet futuristic by the presence of technologically advanced tools. And when the characters move away from Bastogne, we discover in its suburbs a typical far west atmosphere, with the presence of a saloon for example. A mixture of influences made coherent by the talent of the author and his ability to create powerful imaginary worlds in the different cultures of ours. If Mamoru Nagano mixes cultures, he also mixes genres. He manages to move without difficulty from action to romance, from fantasy to science fiction. We feel the author particularly at ease in his narration and it is obvious when we observe his cutting of the boxes at the origin of certain memorable scenes.
In addition, the universe of the saga is expanded with color character sheets to introduce the book as well as numerous documents at the end of the volume. All this gives an encyclopedic aura to the manga, in which we find an imposing dictionary of specific terms, a chronological frieze, a map of the stellar cluster of Joker or even a presentation of the Mirage knights and their Mortar Headd. In short, a lot of bonus content used to enrich the universe of The Five Star Stories. Reading is of course not mandatory but this gives the manga an originality that is found nowhere else in such proportions. Mamoru Nagano’s work is decidedly unique, which is confirmed by the author’s long and fascinating afterword that we discover between the story and the bonuses. In addition, the book is of high quality, the Noeve editions having done an exceptional job, when they are already used to offering us magnificent books. The effect on the cover is absolutely beautiful, perfectly honoring the work of the author, just as the paper is of high quality. The lettering is by Emma Poirrier who does a remarkable job, especially in the subtitling of onomatopoeia, always faithful to the original versions. And the same goes for the translation, Pierre Giner and Anaïs Fourny immerse us in the rich universe of The Five Star Stories thanks to their successful adaptation. A colossal work that can be glimpsed when discovering the whole encyclopedic aspect of manga. The icing on the cake, this first volume is accompanied by three magnificent cards that will delight collectors. There is no doubt that this is the best edition of the year.
And concerning its own qualities, The Five Star Stories will inevitably be in the debates to know which is the best manga of 2022. The competitors are numerous but regardless of the rankings, this first volume is a narrative slap, an opening towards a new imagination. We finally discover this work that is both rich and dense but manages to keep us going despite the complexity of its world. Intense, elegant, epic, The Five Star Stories conveys images that will stick in our minds for a long time, certainly as long as this already cult manga lasts. Immerse yourself body and soul in The Five Star Stories, be passionate about its universe, its characters, its stories. If you’re willing to indulge in this stellar journey, you won’t regret it.
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Review Vol.1 The Five Star Stories – Manga
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