By Daniel Vlasaty
I’ve never been super big into giant robots. I don’t remember liking Transformers growing up, and don’t even get me started on the recent movies. I liked Pacific Rim fine but it wasn’t anything that changed my life. I don’t know. I don’t have anything particularly against the giant robot/Mecha genre. My interests just usually fall elsewhere I guess. So what you’re probably wondering, then, is why I chose to review Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa’s Mech Cadet Yu. And I don’t have an answer for that. I’d have to guess it was because of Miyazawa’s cover of the Mech holding a small boy in its giant hand in what appears to be an American desert. Anyway, here’s my review.
Mech Cadet Yu opens with a bit of an info dump. There’s a lot that needs to be set up in a short amount of time. We learn that a few decades ago the first robo mech descended upon the Arizona desert and befriended a kid named Skip Tanaka. Skip and his robot saved lives. They fought aliens. They saved the planet. And now, every four years, more robo mechs arrive on the planet and bond with a new group of cadets from the Sky Corps Academy. We are introduced to the three cadets that have been selected to be paired with this years’ group of robo mechs. They are the elite, the best of the best. But we also meet a young boy who works as the custodian of the Sky Corps Academy. He wants nothing more than to be selected into the academy. He wants to pilot a robo mech, just like Skip Tanaka. His mother discourages his dream, tells him it’s safer down here on the ground, and basically that he needs to learn his place in the world. And, surprise-surprise, Stanford’s dreams come true when one of the robo mechs selects him to be its partner, much to the ire of the cadet that has been over-looked, the U.S. government and Sky Corps.
There is actually more to this book than I was expecting. The obvious thing is the giant robot fighting aliens adventure. But there also seems to be some slight commentary on class divide and the upper class elite vs the lower class. I’m not sure how much this is going to play out throughout the series but I can see it becoming a recurring theme, especially now that “lower class” Stanford has been selected into an elite squad of privileged pilots. He is an outcast, but it appears his robot is also one. I think this will make for some interesting stories.
Mech Cadet Yu has the feel of an all-ages book without ever feeling too cutesy or juvenile. I did not expect to like and feel for Stanford as a character. But I feel like Pak did a good job of writing him as a sympathetic lead. I did feel for him and I was rooting for him. And I imagine this will continue throughout the series as well.
I thought this was a solid first issue. It does a great job of immersing the reader into this world. We have very clear heroes and villains, people to root for and people to hate. The story possibilities for this series are legit endless, because it’s both set us up for more earth-bound dramatic stories and the as-yet-unseen outer space adventures with giant robots and aliens.
I thought that Takeshi Miyazawa’s art was great, and that Triona Farrell’s colors were fantastic. The art is clear and well-defined, realistic and also extravagant. The colors are bright and playful and, really, just pretty. The robot designs were a real treat. They all have a similar looks and design, but still manage to come across as individuals, much like the cadets they chose to be their pilots and friends. I’m excited to see if each of the robots have their own personalities and how that will affect the overall story.
All in all, I’m surprised to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this issue. I did not expect to. I think this was a good set-up issue and that the story has enough things to offer to readers who are already fans of the genre as well as ones who are not, like myself. Mech Cadet Yu is a light-hearted story but it has the potential to become a solid and powerful series.
Mech Cadet Yu #1