Content considerations: Restrained depictions of parental death and child neglect; fantasy analogue to assault; likely romance contains uneven power dynamics (although it’s handled carefully thus far).
What’s it about? After his father passes away, recently debuted shoujo mangaka Ichiro vows to look after his two young siblings on his own. Buried under deadlines, Ichiro receives timely help from Shiori, a talented new assistant who seems heaven-sent… and when Ichiro accidentally touches her “stinger,” he learns that “heaven-sent” is more accurate than he’d ever have guessed: Shiori is the princess of the Star People, and their relationship is about to get complicated.
Try to ignore the “What’s it about?” blurb for now, because on paper A Galaxy Next Door sounds like a cliché rom-com where a magic wife fixes a sad boy’s problems. And it very well could turn into that, but this premiere is a lot more charming—and way more relaxed—than its synopsis would have you think. To explain what I mean, let’s walk through the episode on three levels: the plot beats, the execution, and the themes.
First, the plot beats. Big Brother Ichiro is a young shoujo mangaka and live-in landlord with two elementary school-age siblings. His father recently passed away and his mom doesn’t want to be involved with the family, so Ichiro is determined to raise his kid siblings on his own. He puts on a brave face for his family, but even they can tell he’s overworked and stressed out. Thankfully, his editor finds him a new assistant: Shiori, an 18-year-old woman who is mega-talented and eager to help.
Then things get weird: After working an all-nighter, both Ichiro and Shiori pass out at their chairs. When Ichiro wakes up, he thinks there’s a G-pen stuck in Shiori and tries to get it out of her, but pricks his finger on it and is briefly transported to a galactic otherworld. Shiori informs him that he has been “linked” to her “stinger,” an act that is “only permitted to those in a marital relationship.”
Shiori is furious, thinking she’s essentially been assaulted, but Ichiro explains the misunderstanding and apologizes. She then tells him she’s a “princess of the Star People” who came to earth because she fell in love with manga—and particularly with his manga, which she used to help her learn how to draw and developed a close connection to in the process.
So we’ve got a competent, pretty young woman working for a young man she idolizes and arguably has a crush on, and also he’s maybe accidentally groped her and/or proposed to her. It sounds like the premise to an exhaustingly played-out rom-com, and one riddled with potential red flags to boot… and yet, it mostly works? Execution is everything, folks, and Galaxy’s premiere is proof positive of that.
The trick to Galaxy is that the tone is relentlessly laid-back and the main characters are both thoughtful young adults who communicate with each other. Ichiro refers to Shiori as a “goddess” because of her artistic talents, but he doesn’t drool over her or make any crass remarks. There’s also no slapstick “you perv!” moment when Ichiro accidentally touches Shiori’s stinger. Instead, she tells him what he did wrong and why she’s appalled, he apologizes and explains himself, and she believes him and they move on.
Likewise, when Shiori implies they’re in a relationship now and tells Ichiro she’s a fan of his work, his initial reaction is basically “This seems inappropriate!” And, shock and awe! Shiori listens to his discomfort and backs off, suggesting they “start out as friends” instead.
The potential pitfalls are still there, mind you—uneven power dynamics (she’s both an assistant and a fan), parasocial relationships, an idealized female romantic lead, and whatever is going on with Shiori’s hallucinogenic, vaguely phallic space-bee nuptials. But because Ichiro isn’t a creep and both characters are almost hilariously matter-of-fact about everything, it winds up being a surprisingly refreshing take on the “magical spouse” tale type that’s speckled fiction for as long as people have been telling stories.
If this series weren’t adapted from a manga by the Sweetness and Lightning creator, I’d probably be approaching it with a lot more caution, but Amagakure Gido has shown a talent for taking potentially fraught topics like “high schooler helps the teacher she has a crush on cook delicious meals for his daughter” and handling them with care. The author has earned my trust, so while I’m not fully sold on Galaxy, I’m also not fully tossing it, either.
What’s got me most hooked by this premiere, though, are the ideas circling around the characters. The dialogue directly discusses the need for work-life balance and taking breaks; the importance of asking for help when you need it and not trying to do everything by yourself; and, as a fun bonus, the appeal and emotional impact of shoujo manga. (Why does it seem like so many authors who love shoujo manga get published in seinen magazines? Maybe an expert will write about it for us someday.)
Overall, this feels like a series less interested in wacky rom-com hijinks and more about Ichiro learning how to reach out, trust others, and build a supportive community around himself. The fact that the characters live in a “social apartment complex” (individual studio apartments with a shared kitchen and lounge area, essentially) opens the door for plenty of future storylines along this same vein as well.
There are a lot of unanswered questions in this premiere about the nature of Ichiro and Shiori’s relationship after the accidental “sting.” It’s also unclear if Shiori came to earth to pursue her own artistic goals or to help Ichiro specifically, which is a vital detail in terms of determining if she’s a fully realized character or a “magic wife” whose sole purpose is to adore and assist the male protagonist. Future episodes should help clarify Shiori’s character and role in the tale.
At this point, I’m hesitant to recommend Galaxy Next Door because even though I (somewhat surprisingly) enjoyed the premiere, it feels like it could fall off a cliff within the first 5-10 minutes of the second episode. Will Shiori get more character development? Will her relationship with Ichiro grow organically or become a “forced betrothal” story? Will the show’s relaxed atmosphere keep it grounded, or turn it into a snoozefest?
Guess you’ll have to tune in for the three-episode review to find out.