One of the most beloved, if bizarre, tropes in anime, at least in anime imported to the US, is humans hanging out with giant robots. It’s usually played straight, sometimes a little too straight. Mech Cadet Yu (BOOM! Studios), out today, plays with those tropes a little bit while keeping the starry-eyed optimism of the idea of a boy, his robot, and their scrappy spirit.
Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa bring an incredibly earnest tone to the book, and it’s oddly refreshing. In this world, robots regularly descend from the sky and bond with humans to protect the Earth from alien menaces, and being a “cadet” is a rare honor reserved for the rich. The Yu in question, and yes the name isn’t subtle, is the son of a janitor told he’s at the bottom and has to work five times as hard to get a fifth as far. But Yu’s luck seemingly turns around when he meets a robot just as hardscrabble as he is, and the two find an unlikely benefactor in the first boy ever to bond with a robot, now a grizzled old war veteran.
Pak hints, ever so slightly, that there will be more to this book than its gee-whiz first issue suggests. Miyazawa, meanwhile, gets to apply his manga-tinged sensibility to the art and seems to be having more fun than even the kid with the pet robot. His giant robots are cleverly expressive without compromising suspension of disbelief, and he carefully riffs on anime design tropes while making them his own, giving the book a classic feel and helping make Mech Cadet Yu a splash of unabashed joy on the stands.