In Twinkle Stars Volume 2, Sakuya does a lot of pointless fretting. When she worries that her cousin Kanade won’t give Chihiro another chance, the two boys begin an epic bromance over breakfast. And, when she worries that she will miss her last summer camp if she fails her geology final, you’re right if you assume that Natsuki Takaya won’t pass up the chance for a scene change to the teen camp setting. During all this, Yuuri’s heart smolders, then accelerates into a raging crush on Sakuya, and the real source of all of Sakuya’s anxiety makes an entrance—her stepmom, who could give Cruella DeVille some hope-crushing pointers. Sakuya’s history with her stepmom plays out, but not without the counterpoint backstory of Yuuri and Sakuya’s initial meeting.

My first thought upon finishing Twinkle Stars Volume 2 was that not much happened, which is not the first impression that this phone book sized manga gives you when you pick it up and thumb through it. But the three hundred pages and thousand-plus panels of Twinkle Stars Volume 2 provide a very decompressed narrative, as if a single meaningful dream was unpacked and sifted through Sakuya’s stream of consciousness. And interestingly, while the present day scenes are very dream-like, the flashbacks are depicted in a colder, more cinematic, style, as if Sakuya’s trepidation only gained clarity with distance. While I wouldn’t call Twinkle Stars very true to life, I would call it true to human experience, which, when memorable, is either recalled with a trembling , photographic, lucidity, or with a wistful, oneiric, glitter.

Fans of Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket may notice a more expressive style in Twinkle Stars, with a varied page and panel layout, more blacks, and animated figure work. The story structure is more experimental, as rather than simply alternating the story arcs until their resolution, there appears to be a thematic collaboration between the arcs, so that each backstory and current happening comment on each other. Most importantly, the art has potent emotional value. When I say that my aesthetic journey in Twinkle Stars was emotionally moving, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about the story. In most comics and manga, for fear of overwhelming the story structure, the emotional impact of art is often sacrificed. By comparison, when I was reading Twinkle Stars, the art had a strong emotional impact, to the point that I could feel the crackle of feelings as I flipped the pages. Twinkle Stars is a powerful reminder that there is enormous potential in the graphic novel medium, that stories can be communicated to readers not only through a denotative text overlaid on a flat backdrop, but visually and emotionally, through a succession of images and the feelings encoded in them.

Twinkle Stars Volume 2 was published on March 21st, 2017, and if you find it sold out, you can buy it through this bookseller list on the Yen Press site.

Yen Press sent the review copy.

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