Mech Cadet Yu #1 marks the beginning of a new boy-and-his-mecha story. Is it good?
This issue starts the series off very strongly, as it gets a lot done in a short amount of time. All the groundwork needed to feel at home in this new sci-fi timeline is established, and the protagonist is introduced in a very sympathetic fashion. This series is just starting but themes of social class and economic advantage are already being tackled effectively, as writer Greg Pak and artist Takeshi Miyazawa introduce us to Stanford Yu, a young janitor who wishes he could be lucky enough to join the Sky Corps and pilot his own mecha.
He gets his wish…sort of. When an alien robot chooses Yu to be its partner, the choice flies in the face of tradition and societal ideals of acceptability. It’s one thing for a narrative to be built around the concept of “child who has a discouraged dream proves their naysayers wrong.” It’s another thing, however, to take that premise and really make the audience feel the character’s pains, joys, frustrations, and doubts. The effective emotional rendering of the plot owes a lot to Miyazawa’s beautiful line-work. Yu’s facial expressions and body language are full of personality, as it the mysterious robot who falls to Earth to meet him.
Speaking of the robot, all the mecha in this issue are splendidly drawn. Miyazawa conveys both individuality and group identity, as each robot has its own unique design elements, while still fitting in with the others in this world’s lore and aesthetic sensibilities. Colorist Triona Farrell’s contribution to the issue’s success can’t be overestimated, either. Even while grappling with emotionally heavy topics, this issue never ceases feeling extraordinarily fun; Farrell’s bright color palette plays a pivotal role in making this happen. Even as Yu struggles with his place in the world, he is surrounded by beautiful blue skies that hint at the promise of a better future ahead of him. Miyazawa and Farrell’s renderings of clouds and smoke are charmingly wispy, and the art as a whole screams “Saturday morning cartoon” in all the best ways.
Pak deserves applause for his work here as well. The dialogue in this issue is phenomenal, and helps to distinguish the characters from each other. All of their voices are distinct and well-honed, from the bitter soon-to-be-rival to Yu’s well-meaning mother who knows how hard the world is and has no idea about the seeming impossibilities that have just occurred in his life. Between Pak’s dialogue, Miyazawa’s lines, and Farrell’s colors, Yu’s emotional first meeting with his robot partner is perfectly crafted on all levels.
Overall, Mech Cadet Yu #1 is a stellar beginning to the series. The creative team takes a familiar premise and makes it shine with societal frameworks and lore that are actually developed and influence characters’ actions, rather than just existing as static background information. This is a book that will leave you feeling nostalgic for giant robot adventures, whether you’re new to the genre or have been binging Gundam, Evangelion, and the like for decades.
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