This is another series that’s been a long time coming on my blog. I had a bit of a gap between buying and reading the first volume, and then subsequently buying and reading the second and third volume. Now that I’ve managed to read the series through I want to give you my thoughts!
“Stairway Island” is a unique place, considering it a small population of 2000 people, all of whom are considered ‘discarded’. They arrive with no memories leading up to why they have become so. Their island is also home to a witch, who at the top of the stairway that dominates the landscape, is said to live. Those on the island must find what was lost in order to leave… but our protagonist Nanakusa doesn’t want to leave this strange place. He enjoys it. Until his childhood friend, Manabe Yuu appears and turns life on the island upside down with her unwavering desire to question the social norms, and leave. However, for Nanakusa it’s more a question of how the optimistic Manabe even ended up discarded in the first place! Follow the duo as they attempt to uncover the true nature of the island, based on the novel of the same name by Kouno Yutaka.
I… was originally really into the first volume of the series. It had so many good points to it! The rules and location of Stairway Island, as well as the lore of the island without being dragged out. Some mysterious circumstances of people appearing, disappearing and their own personal hardship that might have led them to being ‘discarded’. The different personalities and roles that each individual character plays, because all of them, for some reason or another, have become discarded after all! How much Nanakusa and Manabe contrast one another, and yet still end up in the same place too makes for a curious circumstance.
There’s so many elements that held so much promise. Which I feel like a sixteen chapter manga adaptation did an okay job of adapting, hitting the highlights and key elements but failed to really deliver on the ending. Personally, the ending fell flat. It made sense given the circumstances described in the earlier chapters, and played by the conditions set within the opening, but it’s not what I was hoping for. Like I wanted more of canon boom of an ending, and I got a party cracker instead. I have a feeling that if I had read the novel, that the story’s ending would flow better.
Moving on, the art is very stylized and flows well. The covers are gorgeous and I will confirm that the covers (minus the color of course) match the interior art. So no worries about being disappointed in that regard. The characters certainly are very unique design-wise, and almost bubbly in a way? It’s not quite shojo in style, but has a very fresh, youthful feeling to them. Ai Uzuki knows the story well, since she does a great job really rendering in backgrounds when needed to help us track where the characters are on the island. There’s enough detail to let us know where, when and how but not anything that’s distraction from the characters and events occurring. Additionally, there’s some great use of textures and tones to help with mood, and adding depth to the pages to keep it grounded throughout.
As for the characters, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s an issue with giving every islander a name and basic defining detail, be it an item, personality trait, or occupation. A lot of characters are introduced for them to flesh out that the island is in fact occupied by various types of people, but most of which are reduced to that initial defining point. The only characters we really see any sort of background are Nanakusa, Manabe, their homeroom teacher and the youngest member of the island Daichi. As you can imagine their homeroom teacher and Daichi serve plot movement purposes that are intentional, and natural, but a bit too obvious for my liking. I’d also imagine in the 318 page novel, that more named characters get a chance to contribute towards the story and it’s many mysteries.
For an adaptation of a novel, I think Fragile Light of Pistol Star did an okay job. I’m curious enough to give the live-action film a shot at some point, so that’s something. Overall, I have to say I don’t particularly recommend the series. It’s a bit hard to come by, and not worth the effort of tracking down. It’s not likely popular enough to get an official translation, so that’s a bit of a bummer. I enjoyed it to pass the time, but it’s not a series that’s going to linger too long on my mind.