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Mobile Suit Gundam SEED X Astray Vol. #01 Manga Review

4 min read
Gundam SEED X Astray is much better than it has any right to be.

Against all odds, the world of Gundam SEED manga has brought forth an enjoyable side story that outmatches its predecessors at every turn.

Creative Staff:
Writer/Artist: Artist: Kouichi Tokita / Story: Tomohiro Chiba (Studio Orphee) / Created by: Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino
Translated by: Jeremiah Bourque

What They Say
A mysterious mobile suit approaches research colony Mendel. As Lowe Gear intercepts in the Red Frame, the pilot opens fire! Remarkably, the Red Frame survives the blast, but the mystery behind the attack reveals an even greater threat to our junk tech hero… and thus begins another exciting adventure set in the popular Gundam Seed universe! Mobile Suit Gundam SEED X Astray continues where Gundam Seed Astray R left off!

The Review
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As somebody who read all four volumes of Gundam SEED Destiny, I can safely say that if there was ever I manga I was sure I wouldn’t like, this would be it. And when I saw the name “Lowe Gear” on the back cover, and then came across a character named “Prayer Reverie” right off the bat, my hopes sank even lower. “Here we go again” doesn’t begin to describe it.

But it was good. I’m starting to think it’s some sort of law for Gundam side stories to be better than their originals. Despite being a follow-up to a series I hadn’t heard of – something else that had my heart sinking when I discovered it – everything made sense right away. Well, okay, I’m still a little hazy on the different factions, but those aren’t terribly important to this story, so that’s all right. Besides, there are only three mentioned here, as opposed to the, what, six or seven in Destiny. The characterization is easy to pick up on; none of the “who are these people and what are they doing” feel of that other series.

And, most importantly, the story is pretty good, too. Since it’s the first volume, there aren’t any curveballs or big revelations, and there shouldn’t be so that’s all to the good. Things get set up quickly and efficiently, laid out clearly, and are presented with enough pizazz and intelligence to make for a good read.

Something the Universal Century side stories have done really well is to shift the focus from the story of a huge complicated war to the stories of small groups of people and the effect the war has on them. X Astray is in the same tradition, though of course not in the same timeline. In a way it’s the best of both worlds: you get the style of the Universal Century without the oppressive anti-war mood. The plot so far is simple enough. A group of junkers cruises space, trying to scrape out an honest living through salvage, using their wits and good old-fashioned elbow grease in turn. In the course of a salvage operation, they discover a new mobile suit prototype. Anyone with the slightest Gundam familiarity will know that this doesn’t bode well for anybody, not even the side that developed it. Interestingly, the junkers seem to know that too, and they do everything in their power to keep it out of the wrong hands – which, in a Gundam story, means just about everybody. Following their adventures is pretty good fun. And that’s something Gundam titles can always do with a bit more of.

My, what a change in artists can do for the look of a series! After the impossible-to-differentiate character designs of Gundam SEED Destiny (to say nothing of the impossible-to-follow battles) this is a positve delight to look at. Every character has a distinct and suitable look. Even helmeted pilots are easy to tell apart. The layout is very good. I can’t remember losing the flow of the action even once, not even during a couple of pretty complicated battle scenes. A really fine job all around.

In Summary:
It was a great relief to have my expectations for this book turned on their head by it doing what it set out to do with style and effectiveness. (As a matter of fact, it even got me rationalizing that the name “Prayer” was a translation error and should really be rendered something like “Preia”.) Gundam SEED X Astray is much better than it has any right to be. Best of all, it shows every sign of getting still better in the following volumes. It showed me what mecha manga can do when it puts its mind to it, and as such is definitely worth checking out.

Bonus info: The latin text that occurs halfway through is from the Requiem (funeral) mass. The first portion is from the introit; the second is the two beginning verses of the Dies irae: translations are very easy to find with a simple internet search. To get the proper effect, imagine the words being chanted or sung as a kind of background music.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: C+
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: October 30th, 2007
MSRP: $9.99

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