With the threat of impending invasion, Greg Pak‘s Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two shows how not even children are safe from war. Following the uplifting first volume, volume two takes a dark turn, displaying the harsh reality of battle. As the Sharg invasion brews, the Sky Corps have no choice but to intensify the new cadets’ training so they can help in the fight. But even with the cadets training as hard as they can, Sky Corps feels the need to take matters into their own hands. As the battle draws near, there will be hard decisions made, loyalties tested, and friendships strained. Will it be worth it in the end?
The Story Continues in Volume Two
After the return of the Sharg in volume one, the Sky Corps ground Stanford and his team to disobeying orders. (His team ignored commands to stay in the school during the Sharg invasion in order to save people.) However, instead of expelling them, Sky Corps decides to make the team janitors. The punishment does not faze Stanford since he was a janitor beforehand with his mother. His team, on the other hand, especially Park, is not happy with the decision.
Following the invasion, the team and other janitorial staff received the task of cleaning up the remains of the Sharg. During this clean-up mission, the crew finds Sharg eggs. This sends everyone into a frenzy as they scour the area, ensuring they destroy all the eggs. (Any eggs remaining on the field risk hatching and infesting the area with more Sharg.)
When Team Stanford completes their janitorial duties, they return to their dorms. However, while during the day, the team works as janitors, at night, they secretly train with Skip Tanaka to perfect their teamwork. During this training session, it becomes clear to Stanford how big the rift is between him and his teammates (especially with Park). He also realizes that he knows little about the true history surrounding Skip’s battles, seeing he received the sugarcoated version of history.
With the return of the Sharg, a combative team, and new revelations surrounding his hero, Stanford’s journey to becoming a Mech Cadet continues its rocky progress. Add to that with another Sharg attack on the way and Sky Corps itself acting suspiciously, Stanford will have to grow up fast in Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two.
The Artwork of Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two
The art by Takeshi Miyazawa perfectly encapsulates the dark times the Second Sharg War brings to Earth. All war is ugly, and Miyazawa illustrates that through displaying the destruction these creatures leave behind. The aftermath of the Sharg’s first strike displays the beasts’ carcasses littered throughout the area. Just the images of the creatures’ dead bodies showcase how dangerous they are as their size rival those of the robos themselves.
Life is literally a monster movie in Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two as the team fights for survival. There is so much action within this volume, and Miyazawa manages to make his characters’ movements as lifelike as possible. The artwork for the action scenes plays like a movie, capturing every weapon swing, rolling dodge, and close call. Plus, readers can tell just how much fear or adrenaline a character feels during battle. Whether through their body language or facial expression, the characters’ exertion comes across clear as day thanks to the artwork.
The coloring by Triona Farrell captures the serious atmosphere of Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two as most of the colors belong to the dark side of the spectrum. Dark reds, navy blues, sterile grays, and luminescent greens shade the majority of the volume. What Farrell does so well with her colors is she knows when and which colors to use to enhance a scene. For example, there is a moment when Team Stanford has to fight off Shargs using spears furnished from broken brooms. Instead of having anything distracting in the background, Farrell simply uses a one-color background to emphasize the moment. These colors provide a bleak, horror aesthetic to the story as they create tension, suspense, and anxiety.
Developing Stanford’s Team
Considering the series’ namesake, it should be obvious that Stanford Yu’s journey to becoming a sky cadet is the comic’s main focus. That is why when readers first meet Stanford’s teammates, they do not receive much development. If anything, they come across as stereotypes: Park is the bully/rival, Olivetti is the scaredy-cat, and Sanchez is the tough girl. While volume two does not do much in developing Sanchez and Olivetti, it does do wonders in expanding Park’s character.
During the team-training exercises, Yu realizes just how fragmented his relationship is with Park. In volume one, Park bullies Stanford for being a janitor at the Sky Corps facility. After the robo chooses him instead of her, Park’s dislike for Stanford only grew. While Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two could have continued making Park the stereotypical bully, instead, the series delves into her character and the reasons behind her behavior.
Park’s father is a general in the Sky Corps. Due to his position, she receives extra pressure to succeed in everything she does to earn his approval. Whenever she fails, Park sees it as bringing shame on her father. Essentially, everything Park does is to earn her father’s love. However, regardless of what she does, Park always finds herself falling short in her father’s eyes.
This revelation explains why Stanford’s acceptance as a sky cadet hurt Park’s pride. She is angry that after all her hard work, the robo chose someone who was not even trained as a cadet. Their rivalry takes a different form in volume two as they push each other to achieve new heights.
The Stakes are Rising in Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two
With the start of the Second Sharg Invasion, Stanford and his team have to grow up fast. Similarly to all battles, just because they are children does not mean they are unaffected by the war’s impact. This fact comes across strongly through Skip Tanaka’s training.
During the team-building exercise, Tanaka provides the team with airsoft guns that they must use to “kill” him. While there is no literal danger, the reality sinks in during this exercise that if the team were in actual battle, they would be killed. During the training, they rarely land any blows on Tanaka, while he manages to hit everyone almost immediately. While the realization of their mortality is an interesting focus, what elevates Mech Cadet Yu Volume Two is when Team Stanford places their practice into action.
With or without their robos, the team places themselves in the midst of battle to defend the general public. They come to the realization that in order to save the majority, they must accept the sacrifice of the minority, i.e. themselves. This idea of self-sacrifice is necessary for every soldier; however, for a child, it is a sad reality to accept. Nevertheless, as the stakes rise in Mech Cadet Volume Two, so do the cadets.