In the year 2075, Hachi has decided that he will stop at nothing to be selected for the crew of the Von Braun, which will take the first humans to Jupiter. With Toy Box stuck in port due to a massive solar flare, Hachi spends all his free time trying to get in shape for the Von Braun crew selection trials. Fee tries to remind him how bad his odds are, but Hachi is absolutely determined. Suddenly, Yuri floats in to tell Hachi that he has a visitor–Werner Locksmith, chief executive officer of the Jupiter Project. A star struck Hachi excitedly tries to introduce himself, but unfortunately all Locksmith wants to know is if Hachi knows where his father is. Hachi reports that he hasn’t seen his father–Goro Hoshino–in five years, and with that Locksmith takes his leave. With Locksmith gone, a nearby vent is pushed open revealing Goro, who remarks that he thought this vessel had a familiar name. It seems that Locksmith wants Goro to be the chief engineer of the Von Braun, citing his brilliant work as an engineer on five Mars missions, but Goro wants to go back to Earth to retire. Hachi is taken aback by his father’s disinterest and tries to explain that Jupiter’s hydrogen and helium deposits could provide power to the human race for hundreds of years. Hachi’s words fall on deaf ears as Goro explains that he just doesn’t care. Meanwhile, Locksmith receives some rather bad news and temporarily calls of the search for Goro. It seems that the New Aramagoruto lab has been destroyed by the meltdown of one of the Tandem Mirror Engine prototypes–taking the researchers and technicians with it. Locksmith says he needs to call a press conference to take responsibility for the accident, and his assistants assume that this means he will be resigning his post. Surprised, Locksmith explains that he could incinerate two or three labs without being removed because he lives, breathes, and worships space travel–he is the best there is. Back on Toy Box, Hachi is still unable to accept Goro’s apparent abandonment of space. Hachi recites a quote from Tsiolkovsky: “Mother Earth is the cradle of mankind… but, no one spends his whole life in the cradle.” Goro tells Hachi that that should have been called Tsiolkovsky’s Lie. Tsiolkovsky was a selfish person so caught up in his own dreams of space travel that he tried to make them look like not merely his, but humanity’s dream. Goro is interrupted when the dock is hit by a large piece of debris. The dock master calls for all ships to evacuate. Fee moves Toy Box out and into a higher Lunar orbit to escape the sudden debris shower. As the crew wonders what could have happened, on the horizon they see a large plume of dust where Locksmith’s lab used to be–the result of a Tandem Mirror meltdown. Later, Locksmith’s press conference gets underway with Locksmith expressing his sympathy for the families of those lost in the explosion and assuring them that they will be compensated for their loss. A flurry of press questions ensue, when one reporter finally asks how Locksmith could possibly make up for what seems to be the worst accident in space development history. Completely devoid of any emotion, Locksmith simply states that he is sure that the data collected in the aftermath of the explosion should be sufficient to allow them to fix the design flaw and that he looks forward to sharing the results of his work with them in the future. As the members of the press look on speechless, Locksmith gathers up his notes and walks off stage. While Hachi and the others are taken aback by Locksmith’s blatant inhumanity, Goro has been mightily impressed. Knowing that such a man will get the job done at any cost, Goro decides that he wants the job after all.
Hachi takes Toy Box‘s newest crewmember–a young woman named Tanabe Ai–out for a spacewalk to teach her what she didn’t learn in training school. As rookies tend to, she flies out of control in all directions and winds up space sick. Later, Hachi brings her some food and, out of curiosity, asks her what why she wants to work in space. Tanabe explains that she wanted to push herself to see how far she could go. Reflected on her earlier performance, she wonders if she’s already found her wall. This elicits a personal response from Hachi, who passionately proclaims that there is no wall for anyone–and he will go to Jupiter, at any cost. Shortly thereafter, Hachi and Yuri are sent out to retrieve an unknown piece of debris which has just recently fallen into Earth’s orbit. To their surprise, they find that the object is the coffin of an astronaut who was buried in space fifty years ago. Unsure of what should be done in this situation, Fee contacts Command, who tracks down the man’s only living relative–his daughter. Command patches her through to Toy Box and she explains that her father loved space–so much so that he tended to ignore his family in favor of space. She requests that they take his body back to port to be shot back out into deep space. Tanabe, who had been listening on the bridge, throws a fit, yelling that since the odds that a coffin sent out on a comet trajectory could wind up coming back to Earth are so slim, he must have wanted to be back with his family. An enraged Hachi tries to remind Tanabe of her place, but she doesn’t listen. When Hachi and Yuri return with the coffin, Tanabe quickly hijacks it, carrying it up to the top of the ship and threatening to throw it into the atmosphere. Tanabe rants about how the man made a loveless choice, abandoning his family until radiation poisoning finally sent him home to die. Hachi angrily tells her that her sentimentality is a weakness in space, and there was nothing wrong with the man’s passion for space–it was that kind of passion that got mankind here in the first place. Taking a quieter tone, Tanabe wonders what the point is living if all you do is live and die alone–space, she says, is too big for that… Having overheard the entire conversation, the daughter eventually decides to have her father’s body brought back to Earth for a proper burial. Internally, Hachi fumes–he is unable to talk Tanabe down. She is invading his space, and there is nothing he can do about it.
Having done extremely well during the physical portion of the first round of the Von Braun crew selection trails, Hachi is advanced to the second round of testing. On his way to meet his former crewmates, he runs into another applicant, Hakim, who congratulates him on his success. Hachi congratulates him right back, but before he can get on the elevator, Hakim asks him why he wants to get on this mission. He reminds Hachi that terrorists hit Lagrange 2 last week, and he wonders if the will of the people will be eclipsed by the glory of the mission. Hachi flatly states that it doesn’t bother him at all, and suddenly, a bomb goes off in the elevator shaft. Shortly thereafter, Hachi makes his way up to a bar where he’s meeting Fee and Yuri, who are shocked that he seems completely unconcerned by the terrorist attack he just narrowly avoided. Tanabe chews him out for not trying to help out and accuses him of losing sight of his humanity. In the ensuing argument, it is Hachi, surprisingly, that loses his nerve and decides to leave. Late that night, Hachi is unable to sleep as he is currently being harassed by his inner-demon-in-a-spacesuit who points out that Hachi is overworked and exhausted. He suggests that Hachi should ask for some help–perhaps from Tanabe. She would accept him no matter what he did, his demon explains. Hachi forces a laugh, telling his demon that he knows nothing–Tanabe is the least of his worries. His insecurities, loneliness, and pain are his and he refuses to share them–especially not with Tanabe. Some time later, Hachi and the other remaining applicants are taken for a tour of the Von Braun before the second round begins. At one point, Hakim breaks away from the group and uses a fake security card to gain access to a control room. He begins to plant a bomb, but is suddenly interrupted by Hachi, who has an anchor launcher pointed right at Hakim’s back. Hachi asks Hakim why he saved him from the elevator bomb. Hakim explains that he is from a tiny country in the far east that used to get by on its oil reserves. But when humanity moved away from oil, civil war tore the country apart. Larger nations supplied both sides with weapons, but not food. Jupiter, he says, will be just like the Moon. The larger countries will divide it amongst themselves, leaving the weaker nations to fend for themselves. Hachi tells Hakim he will shoot if Hakim doesn’t give up the detonator, but Hakim tells him that Hachi’s eyes tell him he won’t. With that, Hachi finds that Hakim has just walked right past him. Hakim tells him that he saved him because he didn’t see him as a threat. An enraged Hachi spins around to shoot Hakim, but before he can pull the trigger, the bomb is detonated, and the hall is flooded with smoke and debris. Unable to find Hakim, Hachi is consumed with rage.
Six months later, with Hakim still unaccounted for, the crew selection trials come to an end and Hachi and the other remaining applicants are sent home to wait for the results. In the lower levels of one of the Moon’s underground cities, Goro fights for his life against a gang of terrorists hoping to delay the Jupiter mission by killing the Von Braun‘s chief engineer. Fortunately, Goro is more than a match for most of the terrorists, only fleeing into a vent when one throws a grenade. Meanwhile, in the residential area, Tanabe knocks on the door of Hachi’s room in an attempt to return a bag of his she found on Toy Box. The door falls open and Goro–who is hiding inside–knocks her out cold thinking she’s a terrorist. When she comes to he apologizes and fills her in on the situation, but further conversation is halted when somebody else tries to enter the room. Like Tanabe before him, Hachi also falls to Goro’s sucker punch. As Goro explains, it’s safer to check after he’s knocked you out. When the terrorists do finally come knocking with automatic weapons, Goro, Hachi and Tanabe are already safely high-tailing it through the air ducts. Hachi calmly suggests they head for the upper levels and get lost in a crowd. Goro rejects that plan for putting random people in danger, but Hachi continues to press the issue–completely apathetic toward the well being of anything but himself and his chance to make it to Jupiter. Tanabe finally has enough, and throws a punch at Hachi, which he calmly deflects. Their stare down is interrupted when Goro hurls them both down a side corridor before the terrorists begin emptying clips in their general direction. Trapped with no way out, Hachi asks Goro if he’s got any ideas. Goro produces a grenade he liberated from one of his earlier attackers and pulls the pin. Before he can throw it, however, Tanabe grabs the grenade out of his hand, worried that it will kill their pursuers. Goro points out that that’s the idea, as Hachi finally shows a bit of emotion, flying off the handle at Tanabe and reminding her that she’s holding a live grenade. Hachi tries to snatch it from her, but in the scuffle, she loses her grip on it and the safety grip pops off. Fortunately, Goro once again comes to the rescue, kicking the grenade down the hall just before it explodes, breaching the hull. Emergency bulkheads seal the breach before too much damage is done, and Goro finds that the sudden pressure drop has knocked all their attackers unconscious. Though they were somewhat protected from the blast, Tanabe is feeling several ill effects. They start to walk away, but suddenly Goro is attacked by a final terrorist–Hakim–who was hidden down another corridor. Though Goro manages to disarm him, Hakim manages to knock him down and pulls a knife. Fortunately, Hachi nails him with a piece of debris, knocking him to the ground while Hachi retrieves his gun. Hovering over Hakim with a gun pointed at his head, Hachi greets his old friend with a deadly serious look in his eye. Hakim tells him that that he sees it in him now, the drive to take down anyone in his way. When he pulls that trigger, he’ll be reborn–completely free from the moral toils of humanity. Hachi agrees with him, and prepares to fire, but Tanabe yells at him to stop–if he pulls the trigger, he will die with Hakim. Hachi taunts her, telling her that her philosophy of compassion is just a convenient excuse not to get anything done. Hachi begins to squeeze the trigger as both Tanabe and Goro move to stop him. Tanabe gets to him first, pulls his head to face her, kisses him, and then holds him close. An absolutely shocked Hachi lowers the gun. As if her actions physically drained all tension from the room, a confused Goro asks Hakim if he wants to keep fighting. Taking a moment to compose himself, Hakim simply says, “I’m tired.” Tanabe passes out due to the drama and the earlier pressure drop. Shortly thereafter all Space Defense Front activity drops off, and Hachi receives word that he’s made the crew of the Von Braun.
On a training excursion in a two-seater ship, Hachi’s co-pilot Leonov tells him about how his mother was against him becoming an astronaut, instead wanting him to take over the family farm. All Leonov wanted to do was go far away from there, and Jupiter is about as far as you could hope to get. Leonov asks Hachi why he wanted to go to Jupiter, and Hachi explains that he wants his own spaceship and the freedom that comes with it. But while Hachi is reaffirming his determination, he unexpectedly remembers Tanabe holding him. As he shakes the thought from his mind, a debris warning sounds. Normally, Hachi would simply change orbits to avoid, but coincidentally a blast of solar radiation hits them at that very moment and the ship crash lands onto the Lunar surface. Hachi comes out without a scratch, but Leonov and the ship are not so lucky. Hachi manages to pull Leonov out of the wreckage before the engine explodes, but Leonov is bleeding and unable to walk. With all the radiation, Hachi’s emergency signal is unlikely to reach anyone, so he decides to head for the Kepler Crater facility 40 kilometers away. Six hours later, Leonov tells Hachi he doesn’t think he’s going to make it and quietly apologizes to his mother before passing out. Hachi–exhausted and haunted by thoughts of his friends and family–is enraged by Leonov’s sudden lack of conviction shown by his apology. He rages and yells that Leonov can’t die because Ukraine needs cowardly farmers like him. His anger spent, Hachi collapses and quietly tells Leonov he won’t forgive him. Suddenly, Toy Box, having picked up his emergency signal, lands right in front of him and Tanabe quickly exits, asking if he’s alright. Emotionally exhausted, Hachi tries to wave her off, telling her he doesn’t need her help and asking her to leave him alone. Why, he asks, is she so good to him? Breaking into tears, Hachi asks them to save Leonov–his mother is waiting for him to come home.
Hachi visits Leonov in the hospital. He’ll make a full recovery, but he will have to be hospitalized for six months, which means he has been removed from the crew of the Von Braun. Despondently looking out the window, Leonov wonders why, though they were on the same ship, God was only with Hachi. Hachi leaves the room, only to run in to a Russian-speaking woman who he assumes is Leonov’s mother. Though he can’t understand her, she tearfully thanks him for saving her son. Hachi goes home for some R&R along with Goro, where they get to marvel at the results of Kyutaro’s impressive growth spurt. While Kyutaro and Goro argue at the dinner table, Hachi’s mother notices that Hachi is troubled. He admits that the only difference between himself and Leonov is where they sat–it could just as easily have been him in that hospital bed. His mother tells him that he shouldn’t worry about it so much. The mark of a great astronaut, she explains, is one that comes home when they don’t have space anymore. That night Hachi dreams that he is in an empty void. His inner demon comes out and tells him that there’s no one else here–this is what Hachi has created. His demon begins to disintegrate as he reminds Hachi that there is no God in space, and therefore Hachi has to be stronger than man was meant to be to survive out here. As his demon falls to dust, it reminds him that something happened when he touched that engine. With his inner demon gone Hachi admits that he doesn’t think he can go on without it. Hachi wakes up in a cold sweat and goes to get a beer. Unfortunately, Goro has happened to drink all the beer in the house, so Hachi goes out on a bicycle to get more–ranting all the way about great astronauts being ones that come home alive. The future, he says, is made by those not afraid to put their lives on the line. In the middle of his rant, he finds himself directly in the path of a large truck. He swerves out of the way, but hits the divider and winds up falling into the sea. As he plunges into the depths, he has an epiphany–the space he’s been so desperately reaching for is everywhere and everyone is a part of it. Hachi is pulled out of the water by the truck driver who asks him if he’s alright… A few days later, Fee, Yuri and Tanabe prepare to board a train back to the spacedock, when Tanabe notices Hachi exiting the train. He walks over and asks if they’re off to work, explaining that he’s on his way to training. As the train prepares to pull away, he tells them he’ll see them later.
Tanabe and Locksmith are both introduced in this volume, representing two opposite schools of thought. Where Locksmith is the embodiment of raw, selfish determination, Tanabe is the embodiment of compassion and humanity. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly fond of Tanabe’s introduction chapter (though I do think it’s a bit more effective than the anime episode based on it (Phase 3)). I am, however, particularly fond of ‘A Black Flower Named Sakinohaka’ (part 2). Yukimura is very good at drawing action scenes, and Goro is a hilarious action hero. Also, Tanabe putting her philosophy into action to prevent Hachi from killing a defeated opponent is a defining moment of this manga, and something you won’t see in the anime.