The Five Star Stories: The cult SF manga (finally) arrives in France

A space opera where ancient robots intersect and serve as a weapon of war in a conflict that tears five star systems apart. Here comes The Five Star Stories at last in France. A cult manga by Mamoru Nagano that every SF fan should read.

It was time. Time to finally see The Five Star Stories arrive in France, after decades of indifference in France. Time to discover the thousand and one facets of the exciting intergalactic story. And above all, time to immerse yourself in the work of your life for the author: Mamoru Nagano.

Because it was only July 22, 2022 – in the 2nd country where the most mangas in the world are sold – to discover a high-level title launched in 1986, endowed with a rich knowledge of the Dune, Star Wars and Gundam fans. That’s all you want to tell me? It’s an understatement to say it and we can say a big thank you to publisher Noeve Grafx for taking the trouble to offer it a French release that was so much hoped for by a few insiders, including yours truly.

The publishing house, which has been very active in the market in recent months, has also lived up to expectations by offering a decor with the most beautiful effect. Then we discover a manga large format 21 x 16.5 cm, with a cover in metallic paper, selective varnish, hot stamping and embossing, while the quality of the paper is welcome here.

By comparing it with the original Japanese editions, we can even point out that this French version is undoubtedly the most beautiful edition of this work in the world. In all objectivity, since our Italian neighbors and the American public in the early 2000s were entitled to publications that had become almost impossible to find, but much less finished and provided with translations that did not do justice to the work of the master.

Mamoru Nagano is a silent star in Japan. The man remains popular with mech aficionados who knew his work around two cult works from the 80s: Zeta Gundam and Heavy Metal L-Gaim. Two animation series for which he mainly designed the robots. It was by collaborating with Yoshiyuki Tomino, father of the Gundam saga, that “the idea of ​​Five Star Stories (FSS) started to sprout,” the author explains in the appendices of the Japanese editions. He even admits to saving some sketches of robots that were not saved in this animated series for the rework on FSS.

An ambitious fractal story

So why so much admiration for FSS? The answer lies in the care taken in developing his story from a wealth that is still rare in the world of manga. If the first pages published 36 years ago suggest a classic SF scenario in which giant robots collide in the heart of an interstellar war, FSS will soon open its story to craft it from a fractal narrative.

We then see the protagonists and their descendants and reincarnations evolve through centuries and millennia. And the search for its original hero, baptized Amaterasu, in reference to the goddess of the sun, then takes on an unprecedented magnitude. The one who hoped to unite the five solar systems launches a thousand-year-old war, where betrayals and twists abound, as eternal love moves through the ages. A mythology that resonates with Japan and the history of the country’s origin in the 7th century BC.

And since we are talking about mechas in FSS, Mamoru Nagano develops a carnal bond here, as the giant robots called Mortar Headd here are led by pilots accompanied by mechanical dolls endowed with consciousness and superhuman powers, the Fatima . Treated as objects by some, loved with passion by others, the latter are at the heart of this extraordinary story.

Readers of the Land of the Rising Sun have also had to be patient. Because the publication of FSS has had many twists and turns. So far, 16 volumes have been released in Japan… in 36 years. Blame it on erratic publishing speed on the part of the author. It took nine years between volumes 12 (2006) and 13 (2015), then three years for volume 14 (2018). But the pace of pre-publication within NewType magazine in Japan is now constant.

A rare and exciting complexity

“People often say they can never predict when The Five Star Stories will end or how it will end, and in a way it’s endless, but it will always return to the main stories I’ve created. I don’t think it will end anytime soon. The story ultimately sustains itself,” Mamoru Nagano confided to Forbes in 2019, in one of his rare interviews he gave to Western media.

Both powerful and fantastic, The Five Star Stories is a work that should be included in any manga library. The naivety and inconsistencies of the opening chapters soon give way to a more mature scenario of rare and exciting complexity. Mamoru Nagano grows there over the course of his story to deploy all his genius.

The Five Star Stories, by Mamoru Nagano, ed. Noeve Grafx, volume 1 available July 22.

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