Reviewby Theron Martin,
Rinna visits from Ultima as training continues for the prep students. Jousting contests are the order of the day, but the activities are fraught with unpleasant past memories for some and an accident puts one of the young pilots in jeopardy. The accident doesn't prevent Shima and Kouta from being chosen to participate in the Great Mission, though, a prospect which worries Shima deeply. When the time for the Great Mission finally does arrive, both must step up and do all they can to help defend the Earth from the Second Wave and face a major crisis that arises. As both quickly learn, though, they are not alone; saving the Earth is a team effort after all, one for which Mankind has prepared for more than 180 years.
The second volume of Stellvia's manga adaptation closely follows the plotting of episodes 7-10 of the anime series for most of its length, at times even parroting the anime word for word. It deviates from the anime in a significant way in only a handful of places, although its climax is notably different and its concluding chapter presents an entirely new take on post-Great Mission planetside R&R when compared to episodes 12 and 13 of the anime. The manga also adds in the whole “hot pot with crab” dining gimmick involving the Big Four members, which wasn't present in the anime, although as an exchange the manga lacks the Shakespearean quotes one character regularly spoke in the anime. Whether the changes affect the story for better or worse is highly debatable but leaning towards the negative side; the change to the Great Mission climax in particular is not an improvement, as it goes overboard on the dramatics.
The breakneck pacing which marred the first volume is reined in considerably for this volume, allowing the storytelling and characterizations to progress at a more sensible speed. This is most notable in the development of the relationship between Ayaka and Yayoi, an occurrence which is spread out over several more episodes in the anime but is handled just as well (albeit with some different circumstances) here. Still lacking, though, is the emotional appeal of the original story, as the sadder scenes in the anime don't carry the same impact in the manga and/or the slightly different approach taken to the scenes doesn't work as well.
The cutesiness which was always a prominent trait of the anime series is not only carried over but enhanced somewhat in the manga, which also increases the silliness quotient in the more light-hearted parts. Those used to the anime will probably find this done to overkill at points, but newcomers aren't likely to mind. The dramatic intensity in the more serious action-oriented scenes is also ramped up a bit, occasionally approaching melodramatic levels. The storytelling is at its best when portraying the lighter dramatic scenes, but unfortunately that isn't often.
Ryo Akitsuki's character designs not only do a good job of capturing the style and spirit of the anime series but actually make Rinna look a bit less ridiculous and a bit more appealing. He overuses cutesy depictions of his other characters, though. His backgrounds also lack detail and some action scenes are more confusing than helpful. Equipment designs pale by comparison to the sharp CG designs seen in the series, and his artistry in general lacks smoothness and refinement, as if it were all completed in a hurry. The translation is also flawed, as there are at least three or four places where the words listed in the balloons either have inaccuracies or else don't make sense within the given context. The way the balloon stylings are used to indicate transitions between different characters speaking in the same panel is not always clear, either, but that is more a problem with the original artistry.
Dr. Master Publications, a company whose titles include the manga versions of Tsukihime, RahXephon, and Infinite Ryvius, took the somewhat unusual approach of leaving the original Japanese sound effects in but also including their American versions in small print. This does make some scenes easier to understand while preserving the original artistic integrity, but it also clutters up the panel when a lot of sound effects are going on. A brief character summary is included at the beginning, right after a glossy full-color drawing of Ayaka and Yayoi getting friendlier with each other than is ever hinted at in the manga or anime series. The page count is higher than both the first volume and manga titles in general due to the inclusion of an extra chapter, but that has not affected its standard manga pricing.
The Stellvia manga ends shortly after the first major climax of the original series, which leaves a lot more story to tell. Adjustments to some of the character relationships and the deletion of early references to UFOs imply that the manga version was intended to be a self-contained story rather than just part of a bigger picture, however. Those new to the Stellvia franchise could use the manga as a springboard into watching the better-developed anime series, but the primary appeal of the manga is going to be to Stellvia completists.
Story : C+
Art : C
+ Rinna looks better than in the anime, the story's pacing is improved over the first volume.