[Review] Arisou de NASA Sou – Vol. 1-4

JP title: ありそうでNASA荘

This is an updated repost of my earlier review of the manga. Back when I first wrote about it, only volumes 1 and 2 were out, so now that all four volumes are out and the story is officially concluded, I figured I’d do a fresh post instead of constantly updating/rewriting the old one.

Every once in a while when the moon turns blood red, the stars align and the wolves howl in the night, I do something unlike me and read something silly and light-hearted. Because even a gourmet eater craves a big, juicy, hamburger from time to time, right? Right. IN ANY EVENT. I picked up this manga on a whim because the art looked great and the premise sounded wtf enough to pique my curiosity. And… maybe the cover art influenced me too… just a bit… yeah… Anyway, so putting that aside, let’s talk about this lovably dumb, light-hearted, and semi-entertaining manga about a bunch of weirdos doing weird things.

Arisou de NASA Sou, a manga by Hiiragi Yuuichi (the author of “Zombitch wa Bitch ni Fukumaremasu ka?”) introduces itself as a heartwarming “space comedy” with just a bit of ecchi thrown into the mix for good measure, but honestly, it doesn’t actually have too much to do with space or actual astronaut things, and the majority of the story will revolve around everyday scenarios such as going to the beach, the zoo, etc. Furthermore, the ecchi parts gain more and more prominence as the story progresses – the first volume barely showed anything, but by the time volumes 3 and 4 rolled around, the author decided to go bolder and bolder with the lewd comedy; it felt almost like he was testing how much he could get away with, lol. Not that I’m complaining.

The basic premise is that two American dudes believe themselves to be aliens, so when they end up coming down to Earth from their Moon base, they do and say all kinds of weird shit because they don’t understand how human society works, as you’d expect. Hijinks ensue. They’re called アリス and エル btw, which would be… Alice and Elle? I’ve no idea why they have female names… Then again, another character is named after a Russian dog, so I guess I’m just gonna roll with it.

Anyway, characters.

Alice and Elle are the two Americans who believe they’re aliens (they think Japanese is the “Earthling” language and that English is their own alien tongue) because they grew up on some abandoned/forgotten Moon base and one day watched a video about a sci-fi movie with aliens, thinking it was the real thing. Yeah, like I said, just roll with it. Alice can be aggressive and loud-mouthed but at the end of the day, he’s not a bad guy. Elle is basically the happy-go-lucky airhead; the fool to Alice’s straight man. Or the Pinky to his Brain, if Brain was kind of an idiot, too. Elle generally gets on Alice’s nerves and the two bicker a lot, but the manga was nice enough to throw in a brief bromance scene between the two at the end of volume 1 to show a more serious side of their relationship.

Belka is a Russian girl (the one with the short, silver hair on volume 2-3-4’s cover) whose backstory is ridiculous but once again, just go with the flow. She’s basically a super soldier who was shot up to the Moon as a kid during the Cold War in order to collect top secret NASA information for Mother Russia. Except by the time she woke up from cryo sleep, the Soviet Union had already crumbled and the war was over. The rest of the world kinda forgot about her, but she’s still adamant about carrying out her mission, completely oblivious to the fact that her country’s no more (or at least the way it was back then).

Her main “enemies” are obviously Alice and Elle since she believes they possess a weapon of mass destruction, so she’s trying to steal it for herself and the Soviet Union to guarantee their victory in the Cold War (that already ended, but y’know…). Due to her strict military training and mindset, she’s just as clueless about the real world as the two Americans, which leads to all sorts of… situations. Oh, and she also befriends a stray dog who becomes her comrade and confidant, which is kind of adorable. Throughout the manga, she starts to open up to the group and begins to harbor feelings for Alice, which obviously results in a number of cute scenarios, a whole armada of blushy faces and a few genuinely heartwarming moments. In fact, she gets so much focus that you might as well consider her the main character after the first volume. The other heroine is Kaede, the dark-haired girl posing next to Belka on the cover, and who, surprisingly enough, barely makes an appearance in volume 1. In later volumes, she’s more prominent as a character and her personal quirks become more and more pronounced, to the point where she quickly moved up on my list of favorites.

There’s another supporting character, a girl called Miru who’s a university student working a part-time job at a book store reading out children stories for little kids. She… kinda gets off on this and reaches orgasm-level satisfaction when the kids applaud her stories and whatever, because it makes her feel like a queen loved and worshiped by her people (aka, the kids). Uh, yeah. Anyway, I won’t spoil what happens next because she’s pretty great and I honestly liked her segments the most. One particular bit actually made me laugh out loud, lol.

In terms of storyline, there’s not much to talk about, because this whole thing about the Soviet Union and a weapon of mass destruction is only there to serve as vague justification for all the hijinks. This isn’t the kind of plot you really have to think too much about. I mean, this is primarily a comedy manga, anyway. Having said that, the humor can be a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked Miru’s segments and Belka basically makes every scene she appears in amusing just by being there because she’s too pure and precious and her best girl levels are off the charts. Some other jokes, on the other hand, fell flat, got repetitive, or were plain not funny. More specifically, the majority of volume 1 is pretty meh, with the exception of maybe Miru’s scene, and it’s only in volume 2 and onwards where the characters start to get somewhat more interesting and the situations more amusing. Which is unfortunate, since you’d normally want to give readers a good first impression with the first volume.

As for the art… well, it’s pretty much 10/10 as far as I’m concerned. Hell, it played a big role in making me check out the manga in the first place. So yeah, bless Hiiragi Yuuichi. This could be up to personal taste, of course, but the entire thing was right up my alley. From the general anatomy of the characters to how hair, eyes, clothes, facial expressions, etc. are drawn… pretty much everything about the visuals hit all the right notes for me. Even if you ignore all the titillating aspects of NASA荘’s art (the author very much excels at drawing the female form, if you catch my drift), the attention to detail is great, and pretty much all characters, both male and female, are drawn really well.

Anyway, moving on. Volume 3 is where I noticed a greater reliance on ecchi stuff, but considering how good the art is, I didn’t mind this at all. There were also a few really cute bonding moments, as well as hints of Belka developing romantic feelings for Alice, but the focus of the manga is still pretty much the wacky comedy and the lewd stuff, so don’t go into this expecting a proper love story because you’ll be sorely disappointed. We also get a new character in the form of a Chinese pilot girl, Yue, who’s pretty cute but doesn’t quite manage to steal the spotlight from Belka.

Luckily, the painful lack of Kaede in volume 3 is remedied in volume 4, plus we get the obligatory beach episode, and… well, you can pretty much guess how that turns out. Two words: wardrobe malfunction. This volume felt pretty diverse in terms of content; a personal favorite of mine is the bit where we see Kaede dressed in a badass 不良 / delinquent outfit as she tries acting like a “bad girl”, which leads to all sorts of hilarious results. The volume even introduced a brand new character: Ouran, a cool, dark-haired Chinese oneesama who actually only shows up for one brief chapter and then promptly disappears. It’s a shame, because her character could’ve worked nicely as part of the main group, or at least as someone who shows up from time to time. I would’ve loved to see more of her (and her lovely black thigh highs), at any rate. Then again, maybe her entire purpose was just to make a certain Halloween-themed pun possible…

The final volume also starts hastily wrapping up some of the plot threads: out of nowhere, Belka finally finds out that the Soviet Union collapsed 20+ years ago, which leads to various other developments, and even the Belka x Alice romance is addressed in the end. I find it a bit odd that the manga abruptly ended at volume 4, and I’m not entirely sure if the author just ran out of ideas and decided not to drag things out further, or if there was some other reason that forced him to bring NASA荘 to an early conclusion. Well, who knows. I just felt like the manga could’ve gone on for a bit longer, as there were probably other potential situations/gags to explore, plus it felt a bit weird that the story would conclude in the same volume that introduced a brand new character.

Arisou de NASA Sou was off to a rocky start, and I initially wasn’t really sure what to make of it (particularly after the lackluster humor of the first volume), but as it went on, it slowly began to form a personality of its own and I gradually warmed up to its cast of wacky characters. Anyway, I don’t think you should go into this expecting a masterpiece or anything, but it’s decently entertaining while it lasts, and the awesome artwork, alongside likable characters like Belka, Kaede, or even the hilariously twisted Miru make it a moderately enjoyable, albeit not outstanding, manga. I can give it a mild recommendation, provided you set your expectations accordingly.

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