Gundam SEED Astray Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 182
  • ISBN: 1-59182-938-0
  • Size: Tall B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Gundam SEED Astray Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     June 19, 2004
Release Date: May 01, 2004

Gundam SEED Astray Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Chiba Tomohiro and Tokita Kouichi (Created by Yatate Hajime and Tomino Yoshiyuki)
Translated by:Ikoi Hiroe
Adapted by:

What They Say
As a scrappy Junk Tech, Lowe Gear scours the war-torn solar system for salvageable parts. When the colony Heliopolis is decimated in a brutal attack, Lowe and his crew quickly plunder the ruins for booty. What they unearth shocks and excites them -- a fully functioning, top-secret Mobile Suit Gundam dubbed "Red Frame"! Lowe is in for the ride of his life as devious factions attempt to claim the Red Frame as their own!

The Review
TOKYOPOP uses a new action image of the Red Frame firing its beam rifle with a close-up of Lowe's face in the background. The cover and spine is full of blues and reds; these colors are a common theme in this series and were used nicely here. In contrast to the original cover and the one currently on TOKYOPOP's website this cover would appeal more the action fan, as the other covers have large images of the Frames looming large in the back with pilots in the foreground.

Logo Check!! (2003 Megs).... TOKYOPOP does I nice job mixing in the original logo for SEED Astray. After translating "Mobile Suit Gundam" into English they place some of it over the original Japanese "SEED and ASTRAY." Really nice!

Inside TOKYOPOP treats readers with four full color pages introducing this futuristic setting. The end of the GN features three Don't Give Up, Kisato! 4-koma strips, Red Frame mechanical notes and Toda Yasunori's guest column. For someone completely new to the SEED chapter of the Gundam saga these extras are great; they do not go into a lot of detail but there is a little of everything for everyone. TOKYOPOP also includes ads for: Samurai Deeper Kyo, GTO, .hack//LEGEND OF THE TWILIGHT and PLANETES.

For some reason the art of Astray reminds me a lot of G Gundam. The character designs have a Saturday morning cartoon feel. Everyone is occasionally drawn in a comical manner (though, SD is not used at all). There really is nothing wrong with Tokita's interpretation of Ueda Youichi's designs, though. There is a lot of variety in his characters. Look closely and you can find the different design influences from the vast Gundam universe in these characters. What Tokita does with Akutsu Junichi's mechanical designs is another story. The designs are standard Gundam; put these up to some of the more recent mobile suits and it will fit in easily. Tokita does not give them much detail nor is there much action in this first volume to really so it off, so it might get better in the future (I hope it does. As a Gundam fan I care more about mecha designs than character designs in Gundam anime/manga.)

Despite having a layout that is a little hyper, Tokida tends to use his backgrounds a lot. This makes the layout look a more cluttered, but shows some skill as backgrounds can be pretty important in a story where the main characters are scavengers.

Presented in TOKYOPOP's standard tall B6 GN Astray is in right-to-left format. The SFX are left untranslated. I this being a new title I wish had a glossary like they are doing currently with a few select titles.

Not having read Kadokawa Shoten's version I am not sure how accurate the translation is, but I can say Hiroe's translation and adaptation sounds really good. Slang is kept to a minimum and I like how Liam and Lowe sound like polar opposites (which, technically, they are). I did not notice any major spelling or grammar issues either. Good read.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
War continues in space forcing families to say good-bye to loved ones, change their daily routines and sometimes leave everything behind. Tragedy could mean a boon to some. Junk Tech's love situations like this. They travel through space as scavengers living off the remains of wars, decommissioned projects and the unfortunate. They do not just collect junk, but they recycle materials and sell goods. Other's garbage can be your treasure.
For Lowe, Lain, Kisato and the professor (still nameless) searching the remains of he the recently destroyed satellite Heliopolis brought them something they will all treasure: a brand new mobile suit. As soon as Lowe found his, he had it stolen and then his luck as a "natural" kicked in - he found another one! Now Red and Blue were face to face, but instead of fighting to the death Lowe let his new associate, Gai, have the one they stole. All is fair when salvaging materials.

Like junk techs, mercenaries search for work where ever things are in dire straights. They make a living by making things trouble for people. On the surface these professions are different but underneath they work in jobs that take advantage of the unfortunate. Gai and Elijah, a coordinator and a natural, may not see eye to eye with Lowe and crew all the time but they understand and relate with them as they struggle in space. And since these two groups found their mobile suits they will have to help each other out whether they want to or not. And you know there will be quite a few people out there looking for a new weapon to collect... err, I mean steal. Hopefully there will be some time to have a picnic and meet with family between run-ins with evil-doers.

What Chiba and Tokita have done here is make a fun action-comedy for the existing Gundam SEED audience. They really do not go into much history of this arc in the broad Gundam saga. They also leave background behind "naturals" and "coordinators" up to interpretation. As this GN progressed some of those issues started to come to light but I still had a feeling that I was missing quite a bit from the start. Why are these characters fighting? What are "naturals" and "coordinators" and why are they paired up together if they cannot understand each other? It is always cool to find out these things with time, but with my previous Gundam experience those themes were almost always defined near the start in order to get the audience to loose their guard for whatever twists and turns may come up.

That being said, I can imagine that this series would be great for those familiar with SEED. As a side story of that Gundam arc getting to know some more of what was going on during this era could be a new enjoyable experience. Lowe and Liam, Elijah and Gai: natural and coordinator are wonderful partners that with mentalities that are polar opposites but personalities and ideals that are perfectly synched to work with precision and harmony. Seeing how such different personalities relate to each other whether it is natural and coordinator or mercenary and junk tech all of these characters bring out some of the best in each other to survive in space.

There really is not much to the story so far as it has been an episodic monthly mobile battle manga so far, but for the demographic (shonen) nice looking robots with funny looking stereotypical characters can be entertaining without much else. Unfortunately even those very action scenes that are there to appease the Gundam freak are often weak or filled with MS pilots acting out. Still is fun shonen sci-fi comedy that could easily is suitable for younger audiences as well as Gundam fans. While there is not a lot of mobile suit action so far, this series still has a deep Gundam feel that takes designs and themes from other Gundam stories. And as a side story to the popular SEED arc this should fill in some wholes or maybe bring a new twist to what seems to be a well received story.

Going into this series without any SEED experience I thought I might be a little lost but with this being a side story I did not assume it would be to hard to get in to the right rhythm. Boy was I wrong. Not only did I feel as if I was reading something for an audience at least half my age (I am 23), but I had no clue about what these characters meant when they referred to each other as "naturals" or "coordinators". At first I thought naturals were just that: talents; coordinators: those in charge of operations. I may or may not be right, but after reading a bit more I found myself believing there is something more to it. And as I have still not been totally clued in I feel as if I am missing out on some of the subtleties in the story. Once the characterization lost me, I turned to the mobile suit action - chapter 2 was great but the other scenes left a lot to be desired.
I still had a lot of fun with this cast. Their expressions and attitudes are full of vigor and positive energy. They kept me wanting to read on and they actually rewarded me with some nice drama at the very last moments of this volume. The last chapter was dedicated to character development and drama, but each chapter before it has been filled with poor action and posturing. In the end, Astray may not be on the right path for me, but if it stays on the path it showed me I can see some good times up ahead.


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jnager 3/13/2012 9:11:33 PM

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