Author: Akihito Tsukushi
Status: Concluded (one installment)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Psychological
Localization: Not localized
Rating: Not Rated
(This analysis discusses plot elements, and thus contains spoilers.)
I was browsing the Made In Abyss subreddit the other day, when I found a topic linking to other works by author Akihito Tsukushi. Among the stories that I found was a short story written by Tsukushi in the manga format, called From Star Strings (links to MangaDex).
From Star Strings is relatively short; it’s a one-off one chapter work, about 70 pages long, that I read through in about a half-hour. It told a compelling story about a girl who lived alone, having a planet to herself, who set off on a journey. Like many of Tsukushi’s works, the artistic style is like a combination of that of Tony DiTerlizzi and Precious Memories, but with something of a dark edge.
I suggest following the link above to read the story for yourself, and form your own first impressions before continuing on with this article. There are spoilers ahead.
The protagonist this time is a young girl who doesn’t know where she came from or anything about her life prior to having an entire planet to herself, which conveniently simplifies her motives. She also knows little besides her own name, which is Kuroru, and how to speak, which is conveniently just enough for her motivations to be communicated to the reader through monologue.
But let’s not fall into the trap of asking distracting questions.
On her little world, Kuroru had a sprawling, Earth-like environment to explore. She had plenty to eat, little to no danger, and did not want for anything. Except for one thing: she was alone. And having explored her own world, she deduced that there was no one else there.
One day, Kuroru happened upon a red, glowing string. One end was on the ground, and the string extended into the sky, beyond the girl’s ability to see the other end. She imagined that there had to be another world like hers on the other end.
She worked up the courage, and began tugging on the string. Then, minutes later, vibrations returned through the string that stretched into the sky. It seemed as though she finally made contact with another person!
Over the course of days, the Kuroru would tug at the string, and await a response, which would come shortly afterward in the form of movement of the string. At one point, she thought to play music on the string. As before, she got a response.
One day, Kuroru decided that she’d meet the person on the other end of the string. But to do that, she’d have to climb the string to the other end. This would not be easy, as she had trouble gripping the string with her bare hands. What’s more, she did not know the distance she would have to climb to traverse the space between planets.
So, she started preparing. She practiced going hungry to accustom herself to going without food, and dipping in water to accustom herself to holding her breath. She made herself a pair of gloves to help her grip the string. She packed food for the trip, carefully determining what she could preserve. And she even prepared a gift for the person she expected to meet.
And then, Kuroru began her climb. At first, the climb was difficult. As she ascended, she eventually saw the tops of the clouds. Then, her own world became a bright, round and shrinking light beneath her. With gravity relaxing it’s pull, the girl was able to make greater distance with her strength.
As one of the story’s fantastic elements, the girl didn’t have a problem with breathing in space, and her temperature wasn’t an issue. But as her equipment began to wear, and there was no end in sight, the girl was in a great position to appreciate the enormity of the distance between planets.
If you’re familiar with other works by Akihito Tsukushi, you’re likely aware that he’ll sometimes use dark elements in his storytelling, to convey a sense of danger, and the possibility that things can go wrong for the protagonists. Such is the case in From Star Strings, where simply dozing off or losing her grip could send the protagonist drifting through the unfathomable abyss of space, never to be found by anybody.
But, in time, a sphere of light appeared in the distance, growing in size as the girl drew near! So she pulled herself towards it, and as the light expanded, she began to make out the landscape!
However, she did not arrive gracefully to the new world, as she lost her grip and plummeted a short distance to the new world, being injured upon impact. Surveying the new world, the girl’s heart sank. She did not see the kind of greenery she saw on her own world. The ground beneath her feet didn’t seem dependable, and shifted in places. And, worst of all, there didn’t seem to be anyone else around.
The girl arrived tired and hungry to a world that was inhospitable. No food or potable water awaited her. And there was no company. The vibrations that returned to the girl through the string were apparently generated by the girl herself, having returned to her after making its course across the string. It seemed like a terrible end to a fantastic journey.
But it was not over yet.
In time, Kuroru learned to live on her new world. She was able to procure “food” to eat. Curiously, the stones were edible to her. The girl was even able to make a shelter for herself somewhere in the shifting landscape. And she recovered from her injury, though it initially seemed fatal.
It was different from her old home. But she was alive. She found her own way to survive and form a routine of sorts in the marginal world. And she made a doll for herself, a sad attempt to cope with her loneliness and disappointment. Each time a doll was broken, she’d make a new one. Interestingly, she gave any doll she made the same name as herself, as this would make it easier to cope if anything were to happen to them.
But then, one day, she found it.
A string. Not the same red string that connected the world Kuroru remembered to the one she was on, but a blue string intertwined with a thinner blue string. It was previously inaccessible due to the shifting landscape.
She made a determination to climb the string, to make it to the hypothetical world on the other side. She did not hesitate to make this trip in the same way as she did for the first one. It took her less time to prepare herself.
What’s interesting is that, if Kuroru could have made another, similar trip, she could have returned to the world she had come from. On her previous planet, all her basic needs have been met. All of them, that is, except one. She was all alone, and while her old world was hospitable, there wasn’t anyone waiting for her there.
To the end of fulfilling her strongest desire, she was willing to climb a different string, not knowing what awaited her, on the chance that a person would be on the other end.
The last few panels suggest the kind of world that might have awaited Kuroru on the other end. However, the manga concluded before her journey ended. Did she make it to the other end? Was the world that we saw in the last panels the one she would have arrived on?
I don’t know. To take one from Tsukushi himself, let’s imagine.
From Star Strings was obviously intended as an allegory for those who pursued a path with hope, only to be disappointed. Yet, hope still does not completely disappear, because as we continue on, we may find another opportunity to go where we want to go, and for our wish to come true. The world can be harsh and unaccommodating, but we are not the world that we live in. And, in a sense, our world is something we can decide on for ourselves.
From Star Strings is recommended reading. And I give it a score of 8.5 out of 10.
You’re on a journey, aren’t you? But it’s not over, is it?