“Mech Cadet Yu” debuted last month with a charming first issue. Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa’s new collaboration has since then been promoted from a miniseries to an ongoing. Join the freshly minted mech cadet Stanford Yu as he starts his robo training, but beware of some spoilers.
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa
Coloured by Triona Farrell
Lettered by Simon Bowland
It’s Stanford’s first day at school, and he and his mech will have to see if they can keep up with the other students.
In an interview included at the back of the first issue, artist Takeshi Miyazawa said the human relationships are really what push this story forward. With a sympathetic main character in Stanford and a strong rival in Park, Pak and Miyazawa establish a good foundation. Stanford’s mother is anything but a cardboard cut-out parental character who just stands in the background. Greg Pak gives her some of the most impactful dialogue in the issue, especially in the scene where she tells Stanford about his dad crying when he was born. Her relationship with her son feels heartwarmingly real. The world building is left to be much more subtle than the relationship building. Stanford is a relatable character for anyone who’s ever been a kid watching from the sidelines as the other’s play, wishing to join but not being allowed or able to. That wish comes true for our young janitor turned mech cadet, but that doesn’t mean he gets treated the same as the others.
Privilege is a big question in this series. Park’s father is a general and when Park isn’t chosen by a robo, he orchestrates it so that Park can become a mech pilot anywas by letting her use the first man-made robo mech. This is an extreme contrast to Stanford, who is sneered at by being chosen by a robo despite being a poor janitor’s kid. When he leaves his new room at the Sky Corps Academy, he almost trips over a pile of trash left there by Park. Later, Park sabotages Stanford’s training by making his robo trip and continues to insult him, culminating in outright aattacking him despite mech fights being forbidden between the cadets. What Stanford lacks in position and money, he makes up for with kindness and earnestness.
The wish fulfillment aspect of the underdog kid getting to play with the big toys surely appeals to both kids and those who remember that wish from their childhood. The questions of where privilege gets you, and where kindness gets you, give the comic some deeper meaning and are something a lot of readers also have real life experience with.
Takeshi Miyazawa makes both the layouts and art look easily approachable by keeping them simple. The mech robos have an almost soft look to them. Their designs are very simplistic but each of them visually fits their pilot perfectly. Stanford’s robo is small and friendly looking but not in the best shape, Park’s is spikier than anyone else’s, Captain Tanaka’s is rusty and clunky but still stands straight. Just like in the writing, the emphasis of the art is on the characters and robos instead of the setting. Miyazawa puts detail into character’s expressions, whereas the backgrounds are quite plain. Sometimes they even look a bit too empty. Colourist Triona Farrell has a big influence on setting the mood of the comic by using brighter tones outdoors and more muted colours inside the buildings. The influence of mech anime can be seen even in the colouring: Stanford with his bright yellow janitor’s uniform and red-white cap stands out from the other students colour-wise, much like many shounen anime differentiate the protagonist from others by brighter coloured hair and clothing. The mech pilot’s views from inside their robos aren’t shown yet but would be fun to see.
The final page announcing an attack from the Sharg aliens feels a bit abrupt and separate of the other pages. The creative team hasn’t shown the Sharg aliens yet, which is a good decision since they haven’t been relevant to the story’s situation despite being a constantly looming threat in the background. Giving an infodump about the antagonists who haven’t shown up yet would have been unfit for the smaller-scale character-focused beginning of the story. Due to the nature of the story it feels very sudden to have them attack already at the end of issue two. Anyways, now that the Shargs become more relevant, hopefully there will be more information on them, since neglecting world building isn’t a good idea even if the characters are the driving force of a story.Continued below
Not counting the final page the issue is structured well. A lot happens and while a big chunk of it is very typical for “boy gets to pilot a robot” stories, the tone is very different from many mech series, so “Mech Cadet Yu” #2 is worth checking out even for those who don’t get particularly excited about robot stories.
Final verdict: 6.8 – Endearing all-ages fun.