REVIEW: Monsters, Family, and Flying in Asadora! Volume 4

cropped cover of asadora volume 4 depicting asa asada in her pilot uniform

Asadora! Volume 4 is the latest volume of Naoki Urasawa (creator of Monster, Pluto and 20th Century Boys)’s ongoing series about teenage stunt pilot Asa Asada and a mysterious ocean monster threatening to ruin the opening ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, and it continues to be awesome.

Asadora! Volume 4

Naoki Urasawa
VIZ Media
October 19, 2021

Cover of Asadora Volume 4 depicting Asa in her pilot uniform.

It’s the day before the opening ceremony, and some fishermen just spotted a massive monster off the coast of Japan. It’s up to Asa to fly the plane to help kill the monster, but her best friend needs her support in an audition for an entertainment agency! Not to mention her sick little brother, and a reporter who’s been sniffing around the airplane hangar has come to the entirely wrong conclusions about what he’s found there, and the scientist guy who thinks he’s discovered the monster’s weakness on a piece of scrap paper his mentor left behind. Everything happens so much in Asadora!.

Throughout the volume, the narrative tension remains high, pulling the reader along at a swift and steady pace as it bounces between the high stakes of the sea monster emergence and the comparatively lower stakes of Koshichi’s fever and Yone’s idol dreams. A bit more breathing room might have been nice, but there’s also something fun about the consistently high energy of this volume. It’s hard to put this book down.

The many overlapping storylines and subplots in this volume feel almost cinematic in how the story navigates between them. Every character has their own agenda, their own goals, their own wants and needs and plans, and sometimes those plans are at odds with each other, like how Yone and A-kura and Kinuyo all need Asa’s help at the same time. Things escalate and resolve in unexpected ways, leaving loose ends to be picked up again in the following volumes.

opening page of Asadora volume 4 depicting the monster rising out of the ocean

The heavy rain that Asadora!’s first volume opened with returns in this volume, suffusing every page with the cold and damp sensation of early October. Urasawa draws the majority of his own backgrounds unassisted, and his love for rendering environments shows in how believably moody and wet each panel is. Urasawa’s attention to detail shines through in how he establishes the specific setting of Tokyo in 1964 with clothing, set design, furniture and even the pop culture references characters make to each other.

page from Asadora depicting cars driving in rain

His skill with caricaturing the human form is also on full display in this volume, with both incidental and major recurring characters afforded varied and interesting facial expressions. The sequence where Kasuga faces down the shady reporter is a particularly strong sequence of visual storytelling, ugly actions and words beautifully staged.

page from Asadora depicting Kasuga punching out the shady reporter.

Asadora! is such a special reading experience because of how it contrasts its high-concept monster story with smaller-scale, every day human conflicts and problems. The final big climactic scene, the two-page spread the volume ends on, is offset by the mundane scene of Asa’s family and A-kura taking care of her sick little brother. The allure of the cool big monsters doesn’t distract Urasawa from the sincere humanity at the core of the story, and that’s why Asadora! continues to be awesome.

 

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