On Earth, Hachi wonders why he is so calm these days. He can’t understand why he was so angry or why he was in such a hurry. He buys a drink from a roadside vending machine and notices a cat that has just been run over by a passing car. Despite its moral wounds, the cat pulls itself off the road and off into the forest. The next day, Hachi and the other members of the Von Braun crew are featured at a press conference. While Locksmith talks about how Jupiter is the future, Hachi zones out, remember the way the cat looked at him as it passed by. Sally Silverstone–Hachi’s EVA partner–wakes him up, pointing out that a reporter has just asked him what inspires him to make him want to go on such a long and difficult mission. Try as he might, Hachi is unable to come up with anything to say. As the conference moves along, Hachi sees the wounded cat sitting in front of him. When the cat moves its tail to his face, he passes out face first into the desk. Later on, Sally suggests that Hachi go see a doctor, noting that he really hasn’t look so good recently. Hachi waves it off, saying he feels much better now. With a week off coming up, Sally suggests Hachi go back to Earth and go on a picnic or something. Taking her up on half of her suggestion, the next day Hachi goes out on the lunar surface with a large oxygen tank and some rations, intending to camp out for a couple of days. Turning off his lantern, Hachi stares into the darkness. Once more retreating into the void in his mind, this time he sees a vision of a white cat with a very long tail. The cat asks him why he’s here, and Hachi explains that he winds up here whenever he thinks about space. Hachi asks if this is the end, to which the cat replies that it could be–but where did it start? Hachi doesn’t know, so the cat suggests that perhaps it’s a circle–no beginning or end. Hachi wonders if he has to go around and around forever, but the cat tells him he doesn’t have to do anything, and then suggests that he go home. Hachi replies that he doesn’t know how–he feels so weak. The cat tells him he can walk back, he is human and he loves Tanabe–these will give him strength. The cat begins to leave, telling Hachi that he’ll come for him someday, but Hachi still has so much to live… Hachi awakes to find Sally shaking him–it seems that he has been out there for a week, and Sally expected to find a corpse. Hachi seems oblivious to what he’s just done, merely noting that time flies. Sally tells him she’s taking him to a specialist when they get back. This confuses Hachi, who mumbles, “Get back? Back where? How?”
In the spring of 2056, Koji Tanabe–a former popular lead singer for a death metal band, now a wind turbine mechanic–and his wife Yukari Tanabe–an elementary school teacher–find a baby abandoned on their doorstep. They name her Ai. In 2077, Ai Tanabe does some minor repair work on Toy Box‘s hull, when Fee calls her back inside. Apparently, the DS-35 was decommissioned after a debris accident that claimed the lives of two of its crew. With its owner dead, the DS-35’s resident pet cat was going to be put to sleep, but Tanabe volunteered to take it and smuggled it aboard Toy Box. Fee is not pleased and tells Tanabe to get rid of it the next time they make port. Back in the past, Yukari brings Ai, now a toddler, home from a doctor visit. She is concerned that, despite her age, Ai has yet to talk and spends most of her time blankly staring out into space. Yukari waves goodbye to some of her former students whom she ran into on the bus, but when she turns around, Ai is gone. Yukari finds her a short distance away, but is aghast to find her cawing with a large group of crows picking at some roadkill. Just as Ai reaches for the corpse as if she’s a bird herself, Yukari swoops in and carries her away. That night Yukari tells Yoji that the doctors didn’t find anything wrong with Ai. Despite that she’ll be starting school next year, Ai simply refuses to talk to anyone, yet she was trying to talk to those crows. Yoji comforts his crying wife the best he can. The next day, as Yoji climbs one of his windmills to make repairs, he sees Ai sitting in a tree with the cat, Kuro, which always seems to be by her side. He talks to her cheerfully, telling her that he heard she can talk to crows. He can only talks to humans, he explains, and he knows her mother would really like it if she would talk to her sometime. Some time later, Yoji comes home during a massive rainstorm. Yukari brings him a towel, and he wonders what Ai, who is staring slack-jawed out of the window into the storm, sees when she stares out into space like that. The three of them all wind up staring into the storm together. After some time, Ai notices Kuro out in the rain. Kuro stares at her and then gets up and walks back into the storm. The normally apathetic toddler suddenly breaks into screaming tears, causing Yukari to pick her up and ask what’s wrong. Ai stops crying long enough to choke out “Kuro, gone.” Ecstatic that she’s finally speaking, Yukari and Yoji do the obvious thing and try to get her to say ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ respectively. Back in 2077, Ai Tanabe comes home, finding Yoji high above the ground, repairing one of his windmills. They sit under a tree to have lunch, and Tanabe tries to give him DS-35’s cat, but when she opens the bag, the cat bolts. Tanabe yells after it, calling it Kuro. Surprised, Yoji says a quick prayer for the former Kuro, saying that he always wanted to thank the old cat. Tanabe and her father make small talk, Tanabe tells him that she’s getting used to zero gravity. She finds it odd that, despite what people say about space feeling strange, she feels almost like space has always been her home. Yoji asks her why she thinks that is, and after a bit of unproductive thought, Tanabe smiles and writes it off to woman’s intuition.
In a dream, Hachi stands on the surface of a strange world staring up at the Milky Way galaxy. A pink, furry alien stands next to him and points towards a star. The alien tells Hachi that it is 90,000 light years from home, and now that it has seen its galaxy as it really looks it is time to head home. This confuses Hachi, who wonders if you really can go home when you’re so far away. Hachi wakes up to his alarm going off, and notes that no matter how many times he has that dream he still can’t figure out what the alien means. Hachi’s train of thought is interrupted by a porn magazine floating through the air. Hachi dismissively wonders who is tossing their porn on his bed, and remains unimpressed even when he realizes the air is full of porn. Goro, porn in hand, stares at his son from the hatch, looking for any kind of reaction at all. Later, Goro tells other male members of the crew that Hachi has achieved an impressive level of spiritual discipline. Sally wanders in and questions their methods, as she is worried about Hachi as well. In addition to his utter detachment, his health is beginning to suffer. She goes to Locksmith himself to request some vacation time for him, but Locksmith tells her that, as the crew of the Von Braun, he wants them all to be able to work together as the perfect family–if they can’t get Hachi back together on their own, he will begin removing people from the crew until he has one that can function as such. Another of Goro’s plans fail, and Sally calls Hachi outside for a private chat. He apathetically answers her questions until she breaks down and asks him point blank, what it is that he needs. Hachi simply answers, “nothing.” Sally snaps, and before Hachi realizes what’s happening, she’s dragged him back to her room and completely disrobed, absolutely serious about getting him back to normal no matter what. Appreciating her concern, Hachi apologizes, telling her he hasn’t gotten an erection since his camping trip. He tells her that while he was out there, he thought about space. And now when he dreams, he dreams about the Milky Way spinning in the sky above him, making him so dizzy that the feeling remains even when he wakes up. Hachi tries to apologize again, but Sally pulls him into a comforting embrace and explains that his mind is simply trying to perceive the vastness of space. Hachi remembers another person who held him like this once, and promptly falls into a deep sleep, much to the surprise and relief of Sally.
Hachi once again dreams of looking up at the Milky Way galaxy, but this time, the alien next to him has been replaced by Tanabe. She suggests they go back, and Hachi happily agrees. Hachi wakes up fully clothed in Sally’s bed. He realizes how hungry he is and suddenly begins to laugh, but silences himself when he realizes Sally is still asleep. He tucks her in and leaves for the spaceport with a couple days of leave. Happily eating a burger, Hachi prowls the port looking for Toy Box and more specifically, Tanabe. When he finds and boards the ship, no one answers his calls and he shortly finds himself in front of the hatch to his old room, which now belongs to Tanabe. Inside, he notices her last will and testament pinned to the wall (unsurprising, as all astronauts are required to keep a will on file). Taking it in his hand, he can’t remember what he wrote in his. Before he can put it back, Fee comes up behind him, causing him to reflexively shove Tanabe’s will into his jacket. Fee tells him that Tanabe is down on Earth visiting her parents. Hachi feigns disinterest but suddenly makes up an excuse to leave, only poking his head back in to ask Fee where Tanabe’s parents live. On the shuttle ride back to Earth, Hachi reviews his feelings trying to figure out why he needs to see her so badly. Giving into temptation, he opens up her will. To his surprise, it is mostly blank, with only a single scribbled out character to suggest she’s even looked at it. When Hachi finally makes it to Tanabe’s family home, she is shocked to see him. Hachi makes a valiant attempt to explain what he’s doing there, but fortunately, Tanabe is happy to see him and interrupts him to bring her parents out to meet him. Hachi is roped into joining them for dinner, during which Tanabe’s mother tries to play matchmaker, to the embarrassment of her daughter and Hachi. Afterward, Hachi and Tanabe walk back towards the bus station. Hachi pulls out her will and apologizes for reading it. Looking at it, Tanabe begins to tear up, saying that she needs to write something–an apology, her reasons for going up to space, how much she loves them. Hachi empathizes, and pulls her close as she begins to cry. Later, they sit together at the bus station bench, holding each other’s hands. Hachi tells her that, as astronauts, no matter where they go they always have to come back alive–and they will.
Months pass, and Tanabe and Hachi have taken to spending their off time together. During a game of Shiritori (a Japanese word game), Hachi proposes. Tanabe accepts, and in the process, loses the game. With the Von Braun‘s launch imminent, Hachi takes Tanabe to meet his parents. While his mother is surprised, but quite pleased, Kyutaro asks why they want to get married right before Hachi leaves on a seven year trip to Jupiter. Hachi admits that he’s being selfish–he wants her to wait for him. Hachi’s mother seems to empathize–being married to an astronaut isn’t easy. After a drinking session kicked off by Goro, Hachi and Tanabe go for a walk down towards Kyutaro’s beach side launch site. Tanabe is impressed by Kyutaro’s latest model, which he claims should nearly reach the stratosphere. Hachi muses about the simplicity of rockets–heading straight in one direction, driven only by the will to escape. So much like the pioneers of space development. He looks into the night sky, and remembers the void he created for himself. The white, long-tailed cat walks by him, towards the surf. Hachi thanks the cat–he had been angry and stressed out and thought that the solitude of space would make all that stop. But now he realizes that space is too dangerous and wonderful to face alone. The cat tells him that humanity will never conquer space as they wish. Hachi agrees that this is a possibility, but they’ve learned a lot, including how to survive there–and that’s been the point all along. Tanabe walks up and asks Hachi who he’s talking to and together they watch Kyutaro’s rocket lift off. Kyutaro watches them through the smoke, and mumbles that he just doesn’t get it.
On Mars, in the year 2050, a young Goro Hoshino plays catch with the side of the Mt. Olympus Research Base. With one hundred humans living in these prefabricated structures, Goro muses that Mars truly is the frontline of mankind. Goro receives a video message from his wife, who is eight months pregnant with their first child. In his return message, all he can come up with is a list of safety guidelines that he wants her to follow to ensure a safe birth. As he goes about the daily routine, he thinks about how his wife will give birth regardless of where he is. Later he gets a message from his in-laws, telling him that his wife went into labor two weeks early. With there being absolutely nothing he can do other than wait, he goes back outside to play catch. One of his superiors, Ismail, is out for one of his daily prayers, and plays catch with Goro afterwards. To help cheer Goro up, Ismail helps him organize the first ever baseball game on Mars. Five innings later, Goro is up to bat. He begins to tell a story about how when he was younger, he wanted to go to Mars no matter the cost. Interrupting him, the pitcher throws a strike, reminding Goro that in battle, the enemy does not wait. Another pitch is thrown, and Goro nails it. As the other players watch their only ball sail into the distance, Goro stares into the sky and realizes he has a son now and because of that he’ll always have to return home. As he finally gets around to running the bases, he decides on a name: Hachirota.
With this volume, we reach the end of Hachi’s story. In order to escape the frustrations of life (or rather, the human condition), he threw everything he had into escaping on the Von Braun, thinking he could find solace within the vastness of space. But when he realized that everything is part of space, he found that there was no where to run to, because he was already there. Thus, he began to feel empty and without purpose. In the end, he found that the human connections he so desperately tried to sever in order to escape his frustrations were the very things that could save him. We’re also given clues that Goro went through the same thing, and Kyutaro is likely to follow in their footsteps. Whether you agree with this philosophy or not, it’s hard to deny that Makoto Yukimura is extremely skilled at writing and drawing character stories. As for random trivia, the anime borrowed Hachi’s alien for Technora’s mascot and Hachi’s white cat for the avatar of the Space Defense Front’s leader.