Cover Image: Asadora!, Vol. 3

Asadora!, Vol. 3

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I'm loving the direction this story is taking! When I started this series, I was expecting a plucky young heroine/ found family story, and this is that, but with a kaiju subplot that grows more intense as we go along. The sightings of the monster continue, and this has the Japanese government worried, as the opening ceremonies of the Olympics are about to begin in Tokyo. It's important to show a peaceful face to the world after WWII, and having military fighter jets going after a possible kaiju will not look good, so Col. Jissoji secretly enlists the help of Asa and Kasuga to scout the monster for them, to get closer and try to get more information about it. The pair also get a bodyguard, A-kura, to watch over them and alert them in case they're needed. When he picks Asa up from school one day, he takes her to a seedy area of town to meet up with Kasuga and Jissoji, and confront Keichi Nakaido, a researcher who had worked with the deceased Professor Yodogawa, who had been researching the monster. Nakaido took the Professor's research when the university decided to have it destroyed, and the military wants to know what's in it. It gets all kinds of shady and intriguing, and after that cliffhanger, I need Volume 4!
In more regular happenings, we check in with Shoto, who didn't make the Olympic team, but is still working toward that dream, Asa's friends from school bring the drama over the talent agency thing, and Asa's younger siblings get in a fight with some other kids because of the youngest's belief that he saw the monster when he was a newborn. 
Urasawa's art remains fabulous and beautiful, with so much emotion- the characters' expressions speak volumes! The story is pacey, with a good blend of supernatural what's-going-on and everyday life, and I love how well the characters are fleshed out, including secondary characters. Another great series by Urasawa!

#AsadoraVol3 #NetGalley
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During the initial two volumes of Naoki Urasawa’s manga Asadora!, the author is playing the long game when it comes the mystery of the giant monster (or kaiju) — its tail is the only thing that’s been revealed, as witnessed by Asa and Mr. Kasuga. However, most of the storytelling is about how the two protagonists live their lives after the atrocities of Typhoon Vera in 1959. 

The story now takes place in 1964, and the Summer Olympics are approaching. When Asa and Kasuga are approached by an old army buddy of the latter, they are given the chance to hunt down the giant threat that could pose as a threat to the Olympics, which is a celebration of peace and a week away. With their plane chosen as the hunter, Asa and Kasuga must keep this assignment separate from their personal lives and along with a young aspiring biologist, who was mentored by his late professor, they attempt to solve the mystery of the being. 

Though there may not be any more of the monster that is revealed – apart from a tiny glimpse on the final page – the story is now more focused on Asa and Kasuga getting involved in the central mystery, which is coinciding with the real events of the 1964 Summer Olympics. Despite the fact-and-fiction approach being a fascinating direction for a story that seems to be verging on science fiction, it’ll be interesting to see how Urasawa continues down that path as the next volume will most likely feature the monster in all its glory. 

However, the appeal of the manga continues to be the characters, in particular the two leads, who carry so much of the heart and humor of the story. Considering their rocky beginnings, Asa and Kasuga have basically become a family, which may have its unconventional quirks as they always butt heads on certain things. There is certainly love there, however, and with this dangerous assignment, their relationship might be put to the test. That said, some of the supporting characters are still less interesting — Shota is training to compete at the Olympics whilst working as a newspaper boy, and one of Asa’s two friends has been chosen by an entertainment agency, but hasn’t told the other. 

Urasawa’s mangas largely feature talking heads, and so his panel layouts are pretty basic. But there are times when his artistry speaks louder than words, such as in his expressive character designs. He’s not one to draw much action, but when it occurs, it’s still visually striking as in one chapter where Shota makes the daily newspaper drop-off and many pages and panels are devoted to his running, shown through impressive line work.

Although the next volume will most likely be the first confrontation with the Kaiju, there is still a lot to like about this volume thanks to Naoki Urasawa’s artwork and characterization.
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We get deeper into the mystery this title revolves around - scientists, agents, and locals (particularly those in Asa’s life who remember the towering spike that almost killed them) are all involved. A time skip occurs where we follow a more adolescent and aviation experienced Asa reckon once again with the possible beast that destroyed her childhood. 

This volume feels more subdued from the action intense scenes of the previous two. Partaking in Asa and Kasuga’s tension in their involvement hits home - wrestling with the possibility that their lives may never be the same once the investigation comes closer to its goal. Another factor that intrigues me are the relationships each character shared with one another. Urasawa has a great hold on the impacts of one character’s decision onto the greater whole and this latest installment makes the possibilities clear - what family and friends may be lost whether it be leaving everything to pursue a career in entertainment or admitting that Asa and company are the only family she has. 

This work is meant to be a tone switch up for what is to come after the first two volumes and it does it’s job well enough. The pacing does slow down to a bit of its own detriment weighing down on who’s still left and what’s at stake with little to no resolution. Yet it is a mark of what’s to come and I look forward - with all of my hopes and fears - for the next one.
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Urasawa is one of my favorite manga artists precisely because of stories like Asadora.  This feels exactly like a slice of life coming of age story, except for the huge kaiju that begins and ends every volume and may have killed the protagonist's parents.  I love Urasawa's ability to build fully fleshed out characters with needs and desires that draw them into inevitable moral conflicts, his ability to draw emotions (his people have riiiiiich inner lives), and his ability to just throw in something utterly insane and fantastic into every story.   As Asadora grows up, I'm really interested to see where this narrative goes.
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Asadora! Volume Three continues to establish the pieces that connect together for the overarching mystery.

Asadora! Volume Three
Written by: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 20, 2021

Volume Three opens with three color pages that show an event that will take place in the future… the return of the mysterious creature that destroyed Asa’s hometown. Immediately after this, though, we return to where Volume Two left off. Asa is talking with the young scientist after seeing the picture of the scratches in the tree that he dropped. Overall, this young man is rather rude to her, but Asa keeps trying to ask him questions. She eventually gets out of him that the picture is part of the research his mentor was doing before he died. The reader, of course, knows this is the same young man we saw in the opening scene of Volume Two, where he and his mentor were shown the tree with the scratches. From this knowledge, the reader can ascertain that somehow, this young man and his mentor’s research, will become important at some point in the story.

Afterwards, Kasuga secretly takes Asa to Hamamatsu to see Colonel Jissoji, the man who came to see Kasuga in Volume Two to ask him about the creature. He’s overseeing jet planes practicing at skywriting the five rings for the Olympic symbol. The colonel makes it clear that this is a very important mission for the jet planes, and that nothing must happen to ruin their show when they do it for real at the opening ceremony of the 1964 Olympics that are coming up in Tokyo. The colonel asks them to take on a mission to fly close to the creature and ascertain what it is the next time it appears, since they have no idea what it actually is. They are told to be ready at a moment’s notice. Kinuyo, who is serving as a guardian for Asa and her siblings, is unhappy to learn that Kasuga took Asa to Hamamatsu without her permission. Kinuyo is very protective of these kids, and she really wishes that Asa wouldn’t fly the plane. While they tell her they went to Hamamatsu, they try to fib and claim it was to meet with a client for a flying advertisement. From the way Kinuyo’s expression is drawn, though, it gives the impression that she doesn’t entirely believe them.

Kinuyo becomes important later in the volume when Asa’s youngest sibling gets in a fight after a classmate makes fun of a drawing he made, as well as saying that Kinuyo isn’t their real mother. The drawing is of the mysterious creature, which the youngest sibling insists that he saw. But it’s pointed out that he was just a newborn that day. However, he insists that he actually saw it. I thought this was an interesting detail to add, and it makes the reader wonder if he really did see it as a newborn or not. But this leads to Kinuyo and Asa, along with Asa’s siblings, going to see the other child’s family. Asa sees that they have a big family with a lot of kids, just like Asa’s before her hometown was destroyed. What I really liked about this portion of the story was how Kinuyo demonstrates what kind of a mother figure she is for Asa and her siblings. While these children may not be her own, she still takes the job of caring for them seriously.

Asa also finds herself stuck in the middle of a situation involving her two best friends, Yone and Miyako. They both want to be idols, but in the last volume, a talent scout was only interested in Yone. Yone has kept this secret from Miyako. But we learn that Yone has gone ahead and set up a meeting with the talent scout without her parent’s permission. But Yone wants Asa to accompany her to the meeting, because she’s afraid to go alone. I can’t blame Yone for wanting Asa to go along with her, since I have my suspicions that this talent scout isn’t on the up and up. Every time Asa tries to convince Yone to tell Miyako about the talent scout, Miyako keeps trying to get Asa to say something. I had to feel bad for Asa here, because she’s expected to keep this secret, and Yone doesn’t want to take responsibility to tell Miyako the truth. We see Miyako talking about becoming a star in the future, completely clueless as to what’s happening to Yone, and I felt bad for her. I can only see this situation end in disaster, either from the talent scout acting inappropriately, or Miyako finding out what’s happening and learning that both Yone and Asa kept this a secret from her. The signs seem to be pointing to some friendship drama coming up in the future in some way, shape, or form.

The colonel sends a messenger/bodyguard named A-Kura to be with Asa and Kasuga. He’s there to keep an eye on them so when the creature appears again, they can be mobilized immediately. Rather quickly, Asa and Kasuga are taken to a location in a former red light district, where it’s discovered that Keiichi, the young scientist from earlier in the volume, is related to the owner of the building. The colonel has discovered that Keiichi has his mentor’s research and intends to go through it to find some answers about the mysterious creature. Keiichi later admits to Asa that he doesn’t believe in any of his mentor’s research and only has it because he wanted to save it from being destroyed. Later, Kasuga makes a modification to Asa’s plane, and she hates it. Yes, this modification was needed for the upcoming mission, but he made a major change to Asa’s plane without her knowledge. I can’t say I blame Asa for how she reacted to the news.

We get a chapter focusing on Shota and the life he’s leading in Tokyo. He’s living with a couple that runs a newspaper office, and it’s his job to deliver papers. Unfortunately, his mind is more on running than on delivering, so he gets a lecture from his employer about missing deliveries. While he’s out for his next delivery, he sees someone who, from behind, looks a lot like and runs a lot like someone who is on Japan’s national team. Shota decides he can’t pass up the opportunity to run with this guy, so Shota once again neglects his deliveries to try to race this guy. He feels a sense of accomplishment when he catches up and then passes the guy, but it turns out it’s someone imitating the runner from the national team. I can only imagine how disappointed Shota would be to find this out, as well as the fact that he’s going to get into trouble for missing more deliveries. So far, it seems that Shota has gotten a chapter of his own in both the second and third volumes of the series. In this volume, we also learn why Shota really doesn’t respond to Asa’s letters: his handwriting is hard to read because it’s messy. I hope at some point in the series, Shota and Asa can have a reunion and ultimately tie these two stories back together.

Right at the end of the volume, we see that the unknown creature makes an appearance in the ocean. While the final scene of the volume doesn’t match up with the color pages at the beginning, we can assume that the creature’s return is being seen by these people from different locations. It looks like Urasawa is setting the foundation for Asa and Kasuga to launch their mission to get some reconnaissance and information about the unknown creature.

Urasawa is doing a great job with Asadora! As I read Volume Three, I was intrigued by the story and I didn’t want to stop reading. I like Asa as a character, and I can’t wait to find out what kind of adventures she’s going to have in the next volume of the series.
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The plot may be thickening in this volume, but that seems like it's in the same way that instant pudding thickens in the fridge: because it's just sitting there. That's not to say that there aren't important pieces of the story; the reveal that Japan does, in fact, have fighter pilots fort he first time since WWII is definitely worth paying attention to, as is the fact that the government (or at least a shady piece of it) is aware of Nikaido's research materials from his mentor, which deal with the mysterious creature that surfaced during the typhoon all those years ago. Unfortunately those moments are almost lost in the story's holding pattern - the government guy is being shady and mysterious, Asa's friends are creating Drama, and the Olympics are coming. The reappearance of the kaiju towards the end of the book implies that things will be more dynamic in the next volume, which is good. Urasawa's always worth reading and I still enjoyed this, but it definitely lost a little of its power.
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This continues to be a stellar series with a compelling story that is both heartfelt and mysterious. The art work is phenomenal and each character has a distinct presence and personality. Can't wait for Volume 4!
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Asadora is a magical series that is one of my recent favourites. It's a manga with intrigue, thrills, and warm hearted fun around each bend. The secrets and tales of a giant monster that's tormenting Japan is really interesting! I also love the lead and her assembled secondary cast mates.

The furthering of the story is what gets me. I'm constantly being given more information to start forming my own opinion, but not enough to solve the story. I seriously dig every second I'm reading this book. The story is fun and makes me wonder how much of Godzilla they are using and what they've come up with on their own. I have never really liked big monster books, so this one deserves a medal.

Some fun parts of this specific book:
Japanese Military
The Olympics!
More hints about the monster
A few solid jokes to make you grin
New characters with recent developments on the monster

I wouldn't change much. Obviously I want to know what's going on, but I'll learn that soon enough (as long as I can keep getting my hands on this book). I also really like the illustrations, as a side note. They're fun!

Overall, this is an epic tale of epic proportions.

Five out of five stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and VIZ for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. Keep 'em coming guys!
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Asa and Kasuga are tasked by the Japanese military to attack the mystery creature if and when it returns as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics approach. Asa persists in her belief that the creature took her family and that they are alive. The creature approaches.
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