Looking back at my review of the first volume of this series, I’m surprised at how negative I sound. The surprise mainly comes from the fact that I genuinely enjoyed this volume. No, it’s not the second coming of “Planetes,” but it’s evolving into its own character-driven sci-fi animal. That’s because the character interaction feels more genuine and realistic here, with their assorted quirks coming off as more endearing than gimmicky.
This is most clearly seen in the opening story where young upper-atmosphere-window-washer Mitsu strikes up a friendship with a thirty-year-old woman who is a shut-in by virtue of her overbearing mother. The friendship progresses gradually, with the girl sending messages to Mitsu as he washes their window, but things take a more interesting turn when the mother falls ill and the girl starts going to the office in her place. Mom is a different beast and while she doesn’t like Mitsu at first, he quickly endears himself to her by way of his reactions to her attempts to provoke him while he’s on the job.
The other stories, which mainly focus on how Mitsu interacts with his crew, are similarly strong. I liked seeing how Kageyama, with his goofball personality, interacts with the gruff Jin, and how Sachi the observer cottons to Mitsu. Some interesting plot threads also start to emerge here, with Makoto’s gradual acceptance of the young window-washer being the most interesting in light of his creepy veiled threats to the kid in the previous volume. While on the job, no less. I hope that the other ideas in this volume, such as the mystery of what happened to Mitsu’s dad and what the survey teams are really doing on the Earth’s surface, receive similar development in subsequent volumes.
My biggest complaint about this series is still Mitsu himself. While the world around him is quite interesting, he is not. I’m willing to forgive his blandness since he serves as our entry point to this charming world, but I hope to see more traits beyond “basically competent” and “wants to be like his dad” emerge. Until then, I'll just have to content myself with everything else that this series has to offer.