I came across the complete run of Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments at my library, so I checked all seven volumes out at once. You can read up to the end of volume 3 on-line, so far (last update was six months ago, so scanlators may still be working on this one.)
I liked this one a lot.
I’ve been struggling with how to describe this manga to friends of mine in order to make it sound cool enough for them to want to read it, and I think I fail partly because: “You guys, you guys! It’s about window washers in SPAAAAAAAAACE!” sounds much cooler in my head than it does out loud.
But, but… window washers in SPAAAAAACE!
Am I convincing you yet? No? Okay, okay, so the story follows a young orphan named Mitsu, who is following in his father’s footsteps. Dad was an affable window washer who, one day, had an accident and likely plummeted to the surface of Earth. See, despite ‘Saturn’ being in the cover, this story actually takes place in a human-built ring in the stratosphere of Earth (35 kilometers/ 21.8 miles above earth.) We built this spinning apartment complex in order to escape the environmental collapse. Life in the apartment ring has become stratified.
The people in the upper levels are all super rich, and those down below are poor working class.
Several people from below (and a few above) dream of a returning to Earth and starting afresh… including our little hero, Mitsu.
For a slice-of-life manga, Dosei Mansion/Saturn Apartments, actually has a lot of plot.
Remember when I had the revelation while reading Yotsuba&!/Yotsuba to! that maybe slice-of-life manga are some kind of weird propaganda? When I got to the final line of the manga, I really, really felt that I might be on to something. There’s a revolution fomenting up above that never comes to pass, our hero gets to Earth and discovers that the people on the bottom were once on the top, and his only thought is, “Wow, the ring is so pretty because the windows are so clean!”
I mean, he even goes to jail for a few years? It’s… I mean, the end seems to imply that maybe you should just be happy where you are, enjoy hard work, and don’t rock the boat because, ultimately, you can’t change the world all that much (there does seem to be a bit more freedom of movement by the end, to be fair.)
It kind of reminded me of the dreaded ending of Bleach, in that there’s this major push against the status quo, but by the end, everything just falls back into its place and we’re all supposed to be okay with that.
People will no doubt tell me that I’m looking at this with too Western an eye. That’s likely true. I can’t entirely help that. However, I do think it’s worth noting, regardless.
Especially since, in the case of Dosei Apartments/Saturn Apartments, I really enjoyed the story…. all the way through. Even though the ending was a quiet sort of change, I really loved the constant pride that Mitsu had in his window washing work and how his love for his job actually made other people like him and accept him. He both followed his dad AND surpassed him in all sorts of quiet, yet meaningful ways.
Quiet yet meaningful.
That’s a fine revolution, IMHO.
So, with the caveat of the ending doesn’t seem like much, I say this manga is well worth the read. I can see why this series won the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize for Manga (according to Baka-Updates.)