Friendship Tethers 2 Struggling High School Students Together

The cover of the first volume of “Kimi to Uchu o Aruku tameni” (“Walking to Space Together”) by Inuhiko Doronoda, which is published by Kodansha

Kimi to Uchu o Aruku tameni (Walking to Space Together)
by Inuhiko Doronoda (Kodansha)

A book called “Keki no kirenai hikoshonen-tachi” (Delinquent boys who can’t cut the cake) became a hot topic of conversation a few years ago.

The book’s author, Koji Miyaguchi, is a child psychiatrist and has worked at a mental health facility for juvenile offenders. Miyaguchi said that most juvenile offenders have weaknesses in the areas of their brains that help with cognitive functions.

Such young people, even if they try their best, are unable to perform tasks that other people might consider ordinary due to the difficulties they face in using their abilities to perceive, listen and imagine. Since they are often unsuccessful in their attempts, they are treated as incompetent at school and in society, making them feel like outcasts.

People with borderline intellectual functioning are thought to account for more than 10% of the population. With such statistics, it is clearly not something that is only seen in juvenile detention centers. The seemingly unmotivated underachiever sitting next to you might not be the lazy person you think they are.

The protagonist of the manga “Kimi to Uchu o Aruku tameni” (“Walking to Space Together”) is Kobayashi, a high school troublemaker with bleached hair. He never takes notes in class because he does not understand what the teacher is saying, and he can’t seem to hold down a part-time job. He always messes up when doing something others seem to be able to do quite easily. His bad attitude doesn’t help either, leading him to get quickly fired. The problems he has faced have led him to give up on himself, saying that he’s an idiot.

Then, one day, Kobayashi meets Uno, a transfer student. Uno is a little eccentric and writes down everything he has to do that day in a notebook, down to the last detail. He has a good memory but can’t do multiple tasks at the same time. He also panics when he hears loud voices.

“When I don’t understand something, it feels like I’m floating alone in space,” Uno tells Kobayashi. “But I want to do a spacewalk!”

Some of Kobayashi’s friends make fun of Uno, but Kobayashi can’t laugh at him. After seeing Uno’s notebook, Kobayashi realizes how much effort Uno puts into just doing “ordinary things in ordinary ways.”

Following his example, Kobayashi begins taking notes on how to perform certain tasks at his part-time job.

Kobayashi and Uno end up becoming good friends, and the world around them gradually begins to change.

A manga about people with developmental disorders is no longer something new. Even “Delinquent boys who can’t cut the cake” has recently been adapted into a manga series.

However, “Kimi to Uchu o Aruku tameni” does not use any medical terminology but instead brilliantly connects the different struggles felt by two high school boys with an image of feeling weightless in space and not having a sense of up or down. If they are together, rather than alone and isolated, they might be able to walk in space while keeping each other tethered.

According to Miyaguchi, it is not helpful to tell people with weak cognitive functions to just work harder or do better. It is more important to motivate them to want to change.

It is not my job to analyze this work too strictly, but I think the mangaka, Inuhiko Doronoda, has done a great job in casually depicting this in the form of a friendship.

“Kimi to Uchu o Aruku tameni” is Doronoda’s debut work, and the first chapter was apparently written as a one-off story. I think Afternoon magazine’s editorial department made a great decision to serialize the work after only seeing a storyboard draft.