Mobile Suit Gundam: Ecole du Ciel Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Translated by:Ikoi Hiroe
What They Say
École du Ciel - where aspiring Gundam pilots train to become Top Gundam!
Year is 0085 of the Universal Century.
Daughter of a brilliant professor, Asuna is a below-average student at École du Ciel. But with the world spiraling toward war, Asuna is headed for a crash course in danger, battle and most of all love...
Set in the original Gundam universe, renowned artist Haruhiko Mikimoto has created the perfect series for anyone who hasn't been introduced to the wonderful world of mobile suits!
TOKYOPOP does a good job with the presentation of this title. First they use the original cover art and logo. This cover features main character Asuna Elmarit in her Federation student pilot uniform standing in front of a Zaku! The image clearly shows off Mikimoto's great color work. He is able to really put a lot of color on this cover, even though the image is predominantly covered in green. The opposite cover has the volume description on a cloudy background with another image of Asuna framed to the right of it. Her design is a little different here, but you get to see more of what Mikimoto's sense of style can do with those old Gundam costumes. TOKYOPOP uses the original logo with kanji/katakana. I have noticed them do this more often.
Inside the printing looks pretty good. I was really concerned about the printing for this title as Mikimoto uses a variety of techniques in his art. Charcoal, inking and multiple grades of tone are only some of his arsenal, and the potential for faded pages and bleeding tone is very high. TOKYOPOP does a decent job with this. I don't think it is perfect. Comparing it to my Kadokawa versions, the print is still dark, but good enough to see what's going on. If there is a concern it has to come with the alignment. Maybe its my volume but there were a few pages where the art was cut off on the outside of their respective pages. There are no color pages in this volume, which is disappointing because the original print had 4 pages worth.
At the end of the GN, TOKYOPOP kept the interview with mechanical-designer Sayama Yoshimori, 2-page ato-gaki manga from Mikimoto and two assistant omake manga. TP also included a preview blurb which was followed by ads for I Luv Halloween and Blade of Heaven.
I hope TOKYOPOP will be able to get the art used for the special edition. Kadokawa Shoten released the first volume with a special Mini-CDRom (filled with art) and a different cover. Maybe a future volume will be able to share that art with the readers.
Mikimoto draws a good looking title. He tries to keep it very active visually, so there is usually a lot going on in each panel. Sometimes that can a be a little distracting and sometimes that might end up slowing down the story a bit too much. Personally, I spent too much time looking at the art and not concerning myself with the story too much. At times I wondered if he did this on purpose. However, upon further inspection I noticed something. He cannot layout a manga.
Character designs are typical Mikimoto. Eyes are really detailed giving a lot of emotion. These are a trademark of Mikimoto and as you can see on the covers he can vary the look quite a bit. Hair is wispy and kinda has a frayed look to it. Bodylines are strong even though the line work is rather sketchy. Characters are done to pretty close to scale as well so they look good in most angles. Costume designs are straight out of the original Gundam series. Pencil work and charcoal is all over the place. I really don’t think he even needs to use inking at times because the lines look real good left alone. His characters just have this rough sketch feel to them. It is really evident in some of his characters like Yahagi where is facial hair looks ridiculous because of the crazy line work. Mikimoto also likes to switch between using tone and charcoal for shading. The charcoal comes almost exclusively when he draws character pieces and nothing else. It really works well that way, as we get to see his character designs at their finest.
Backgrounds can be done in detail when Mikimoto feels like it. There seems to have been quite a bit of work put on creating the school according to the notes at the end of the volume. There buildings are quite functional and have a design that almost looks too futuristic for the UC.
The mechanical designs are from Sayama Yoshinori and they look relatively function but are still very much in the traditional Gundam looks. You can see the RGM-79C (JIM) , the MS-06F (Zaku) and the RX-75 (Guntank) in pretty good detail. There is also a headless training model the TGM-79C.
Typical of TOKYOPOP, SFX are not translated. Cannot say much more about that except I am a little disappointed about this stance.
I was able to compare this translation with my Japanese version from Kadokawa Shoten and I do not have any major problems. This series does not use honorifics and the characters refer to each other with first names and TP does that perfectly here. They even get the weird spelling of Barnack’s first name right (Shinn).
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Asuna Elmarit is enrolled in the top Gundam pilot cadet school in the Earth Federation. All the students at the École du Ciel in Montreal, Canada are here to someday become the next best Gundam pilots available to protect the Earth from whatever is out there. The school is almost like a large military base. Some of the instructors are combat hardened. The budget can be compared to one of a small European nation. There is almost no expense too great and those who watch over the school do not believe there is anything - financially or socially - too expensive to not pursue to guarantee that they truly get the best out of their young pilots.
As you can imagine the pressure is intense. There are only so many students here in the first place, and then there are only so many positions available. The competition is fierce and there is no room for error for the students. Whether it is combat training in a simulator, actual field combat in a training Gundam or just working on one's physical strength in judo class every course and every exam is taken seriously. Failure means extra work until you either catch up or you are out entirely.
No one gets much more than a second chance and Asuna knows that first hand. She was hand picked for the school and on top of that she is there specifically as a pilot (even though she really only wants to learn logistical support). She is struggling mightily when we meet her. She does not understand that she must train her mind and her body to fully utilize her mobile suit. The connection between man and machine must be seamless for any hesitation could be disastrous. She might be trying her best, but when compared to the elite of the elite which makes up her class only your best is never enough. To catch up she has to double her training work and on work on her mechanical and maintenance work. For her to move up the ranks amongst her peers, she will have to accomplish the extraordinary.
But that is what she was sent here for.
That is why everyone is here for. The objective is to create the future now. Being able to create a program where those with great potential someday become the legends of future wars, maybe even the newtypes of future wars. The wars in the original Gundam are still fresh in the mind of some of the adults in this story, and they understand that the peace that is maintained right now is only held by programs like the École du Ciel.
It is difficult to forget the wars that were fought by Amuro Rei and Char. The damage has been felt in many ways across the solar system. Millions lost their lives on all sides and even with a the current sense of peace there is no doubt that war will come again. That is why the Earth Federation has created a school to train cadets to become pilots like Amuro and Char. They are pouring in money in the billions as they hope to get as many super-pilots as possible as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, there is no way to find out who might be a good pilot in a simulator and who will end up becoming a legend in battle. Nothing can prepare these kids for real-time war situations. All the money they pump into the training, the educating and the nurturing will not likely bring them the results the political and military powers wants to see. Only war can do that and only the minds involved behind the scenes in this story could bring that on pre-maturely for their own selfish purposes.
This is one of those titles that I can already see quickly becoming a hit or miss with most manga readers. There are plenty of positives and negatives for this title and I feel it starts with the mangaka - Mikimoto.
At times I was just too distracted by the art. The designs are great but the layout is a mess. I was slowed down by the art so much I had to take one reading in to sittings. Moreover, I still did not get all that was going on. This became a habit when at the start of this volume when none of the plotlines were defined. So when I expected the story to progress as a romance comedy, then Mikimoto would move onto the political aspect of Gundam. The change was too abrupt for me and I could not get who was what and why. The interactions were also a little stifled. There are too many characters and very little about most of them has been disclosed. So there I was stuck in the art and confused by the pacing.
There were moments where Mikimoto was right on, though. Politics has always been a part of the Gundam canon and as soon as that came into this series I was immediately pulled back into the plot. There is a lot going on here. Actually, I think it is being discussed better here than I have seen it done in most Gundam titles. Here we get to the see the dark room conversations, the “secret” gatherings at undisclosed locations and the treasonous acts some of these characters are willing to accomplish to see their project succeed. This gave me a different perspective of the rest of the cast, especially the cadets. At the start of the manga they just seemed to be a bunch of school kids going through the motions of peer pressure and bullying. Once Mikimoto introduces the espionage then I saw them as tools unaware of the role they will play in something huge.
I will reserve judgment for this series for future volumes but so far I have to say École du Ciel needs to take some classes itself. Space opera has to be dealt properly, comedy and tragedy most be balanced out and the transitions must be seamless. We are not there yet, but maybe like Asuna this title will be able to used all that potential for something special.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left