The Spring 2023 Anime Preview Guide
A Galaxy Next Door
How would you rate episode 1 of
A Galaxy Next Door ?
Community score: 3.9
What is this?
Since his parents died, manga artist Ichiro has barely scraped by, forced to support his two younger siblings with just a middle school education. He doesn't even have time to learn how to use a computer, which forces him to keep wrestling with pen and paper. When his art assistants quit to strike out on their own, on top of juggling deadlines, family, and the constant fear of losing his job, Ichiro feels close to a total breakdown. But then a new assistant pops into Ichiro's life, and his prospects immediately start to brighten. She's an incredible artist, she always finishes on time, and she's beautiful, to boot. But she also seems to know an awful lot about him, and, soon, she makes a confession that bends Ichiro's mind beyond the confines of Earth…
A Galaxy Next Door is based on Gido Amagakure's A Galaxy Next Door (Otonari ni Ginga) manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.
How was the first episode?
For me, a cute anime comedy about a struggling manga artist will always have a bit of something to prove since I'm bound to compare it to shows like Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun and Kakushigoto. That said, I always look forward to seeing shows like this because I love stories rooted in the creative process, so I was very interested to see how A Galaxy Next Door stacked up. After watching this premiere, I can tell you that it is exuding all of the wholesome vibes that are practically a prerequisite this season, though I thought that a show about a cute artist's assistant who is also a space alien would be, I dunno, less… bland?
Maybe “chill” is the word that I'm looking for, rather than bland, but either way, the biggest thing that A Galaxy Next Door has going against it is its relative dullness. Not only does most of this first episode consist of fairly slow and uneventful dialogue scenes, but the characters themselves don't have a lot of personality to spare. Ichiro seems to be a reasonably nice dude (especially for a landlord), but we don't have much to go off of so far as what makes him a good leading man other than he is taking care of his equally nice-but-not-especially-interesting little siblings. Shiori has the whole “sheltered rich girl” vibe that can be pretty cute when done right, but the fact that she's apparently some alien or whatever is shockingly played down by the story.
I mean, yeah, it's weird that she had a shiny tail-barb thing that is such an intimate part of her anatomy that Ichiro accidentally betroths himself to Shiori when he touches it. Still, you'd think that the two of them accidentally miscommunicated something about a page layout for how little impact the moment has. Hell, Ichiro is so nonplussed by the fact that his new assistant-fiancée has a magic tail and is calling herself a Space Princess that I feel it must be a part of the joke…except it isn't very funny. It isn't much of anything, really. Maybe this is one of those series that will grow on you over time, but given how many excellent and funny rom-coms we've got this season, I'm struggling to see why I would choose A Galaxy Next Door over any of its competition.
Something felt off about this whole premiere, and it took me a while to figure it out. I don't mean in terms of anticipating the twist – both the trailer and the opening scene of this premiere make it clear there's more to Goshiki than meets the eye. Despite being a perfectly pleasant and easy watch, it felt like something was missing throughout the premiere. It wasn't until the credits rolled that it dawned on me: there's no spark here.
Partly, I mean, there's no romantic spark. Our two leads are perfectly nice, agreeable people who have friendly little conversations in-between working on pages of manga, but they don't have much chemistry. Goshiki is largely stoic, totally professional, and slots herself into the work and family dynamic of Ichiro's life without making a single wave. Ichiro is similarly polite, humble, and altogether a pretty pleasant person for her to work and talk with. Yet there's never a real sense of rapport or connection between them. Heck, even the revelation about her mysterious “stinger” and being “princess of the Star People” gets only a mild reaction out of him before they're back to having a mature, straightforward, kinda dull conversation.
That's not bad, but it means this episode's central relationship feels pretty flaccid. Similarly, Ichiro's complicated work and family situation feel more inert than they should. He's under pressure to make a living for his family, but the kids are well taken care of and pretty chill about the whole thing. That's nice for them, but it means there's not much in the way of tension or conflict. The biggest struggle in this episode is Ichiro trying to meet an upcoming deadline, and even that feels limp because the characters never look more than mildly tired, despite pulling an all-nighter. The art, in general, is pretty underwhelming – clean and simple enough to be appealing but never communicating the energy or emotions of the cast much at all.
It all comes together for a totally inoffensive but essentially disposable premiere. Some familiar pieces here have worked well in other shows, but none have been fitted together properly to make things move. It mostly functions to prove that “not bad” isn't the same thing as “good.”
If someone seems too good to be true, there might be a stinger growing out of her backside. That's the case with Ichiro's new assistant, anyway. Shiori shows up at just the right moment when he's desperate to make his deadline, and she's really amazingly talented, not to mention apparently self-taught. But there's always a catch, and in this case, it seems that Shiori is the princess of the Star People and that he who pricks his finger on her stinger may be her husband. If the rest of this episode (and what I've read of the source manga) weren't so darn wholesome, I'd accuse this of having a thinly-veiled sexual metaphor in there.
In all honesty, the fantasy/science fiction angle doesn't need to be there, apart from framing Shiori as a sort of manga assistant Mary Poppins. (Note the umbrella and the black garb. The suitcase on wheels is an updated carpet bag.) There's enough plot between the lines to make this feel like more than a simple story about a man and his manga. Ichiro has inherited his father's apartment house and the care of his two much-younger siblings, Machi and Fumio, and he's using his manga career to help make ends meet. Their mom is still alive, but in an almost throwaway moment, we learn that she's abandoned the family and has zero interest in returning with her ex's passing – “I know I'm your mother, but I have a new life now” is a pretty rotten thing to say to your just-out-of-his-teens son suddenly saddled with the care of his siblings. All of this provides the background for Ichiro's drive to keep up with his work, and while cousin Chibi helps, she's in middle or high school herself. Having a competent assistant makes his life much easier.
Shiori is, thus far, the weakest piece of the story. She's preternaturally beautiful and gifted, and her insistence that Ichiro is not taking advantage of her work ethic rings true for those of us who have trouble differentiating between creative work and leisure activities. (Who, me?) But there's also nothing to her besides that, and even Fumio, who barely says three words, feels like a better-established character. This stands to change going forward; frankly, this is calm and pleasant enough that it almost doesn't matter. Give this one a chance because it might be the dose of calm you need at the end of the week.
The most unrealistic thing about A Galaxy Next Door isn't the beautiful (alien?) princess who one day shows up to help a manga artist with his work and decides they are engaged after he touches her "thorn." Rather, it's the fact that an apartment building landlord who is also a serialized manga artist doesn't make enough money to support a family of three. I'm joking, but it's hard to believe that money is an issue for Ichiro, given his affluence as seen through his studio and the apartment's shared kitchen.
However, that's not to say he isn't struggling. Trying to raise two kids alone while doing a full-time job—especially one with lots of overtime—is life on hard mode. Doing the work of two additional people—in addition to your own because both of your assistants quit—is just asking for a nervous breakdown. So, it's easy to see why Shiori entering his life is a godsend. Having someone competent to back him up provides a huge relief.
But the real problem with Ichiro is that he takes on too much responsibility, even when there are other options. While he may complain about money, he used to pay the wages of two assistants. Without them, he could afford to hire help, even if it's not for his work but for taking care of his siblings. Having someone drop by after school to make them (and him) a healthy meal would do wonders for everyone involved. This episode also sees Shiori calling him out on his bad habit, leading him to humble himself and ask her to work overtime to help him meet the deadline. His attitude of "I'll make it work somehow" is an optimistic starting point, but he needs to learn when to delegate. When two elementary school children see that their lifestyle is unsustainable, it's time to wake up and make some changes.
Luckily, it looks like Shiori will be a good influence on Ichiro. She can easily do the work of two people without stressing herself. Also, her knowledge of his style means she needs very little oversight, so he can focus on being an artist rather than a manager.
As for the whole supernatural aspect of the story, it seems pretty meaningless at this point. As competent as Shiori is (and considering how much she enjoys Ichiro's art), there's no need for a supernatural MacGuffin to keep them in contact. Ichiro would be a fool not to hire her full-time immediately, and it's not exactly unusual for a romance to develop when working closely together. I wonder why anything supernatural was included at this point.
All in all, this is still a decent slice-of-life romance that could have a lot of heart in it. If that's your thing, by all means, check this one out.
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