Science fiction writers don't seem to be very optimistic. I'm not judging, I'm just saying. The future is always more of the same human mistakes, just with spacesuits. And yet we keep reading it. It must be because mistakes are more interesting than perfection. (There, I've just handed you the perfect excuse the next time you mess up on something.) In Saturn Apartments , Hisae Iwaoko has written a science fiction manga filled with characters that could live next door to you, living with the same small joys and problems as we do now.
The story is set in the future, when humans have moved to a giant man-made ring that floats around the earth. Earth itself has become a nature preserve that no one can visit. Mitsu, the main character, is an orphan who has just graduated junior high and taken his father's old job as a window washer. Window washing sounds fairly dull until you realize he's washing the windows on the outside of this giant ring – in a spacesuit dangling far above the atmosphere of Earth! But really, it's not about window washing, it's about how Mitsu's father died. And the friends and enemies he makes. And how strange and wonderful and infuriating his customers can be.
Saturn Apartments reads like a series of interconnected short stories, each understated and moving. The art is simple but eloquent – much is said in a tilt of the head or a sideways glance. And there's a cat in a spacesuit! What's not to love about that?