Ecole du Ciel: Vol 1 – Haruhiko Mikimoto

Asuna is a failing student at Ecole du Ciel. She’s not even motivated to be there, she wants to be logistic support and not a mobile suit (MS) pilot. Unfortunately for her passing MS ability is mandatory for all students. She’s embarrassed in front of the rest of the students, the only student who has to restart the course, but after a few encouraging words from her crush object, she finds the strength to get herself fit and ready. One of the instructors notices her training and gives her one last chance to prove herself…but she must defeat the guy she fancies in combat!

There’s a lot more to this manga than the mecha combats, something suspicious is going on in the background within the council. They really want ‘newtype’ pilots, Asuna is marked as a possible newtype, but how far is the council willing to go to find their newtypes? Who *spoiler* put live rounds in the training exercise machines? Will the newtypes appear before war starts? On top of this there is controversy surrounding the lives of several of the female characters which will hopefully give this manga the added interest it needs to entice some more female readers into the world of mecha.

It’s the character details and little events that make this enjoyable to read: from the weird sea urchin ice-cream to Asuna worrying about her breast size. Even though there’s little fan service it’s funny when Asuna’s crush object Shinn mistakes her and Emilu for lesbians. Elicia is a more mysterious character I’d like to know more about, she is such a perfectionist that after she made mistakes during combat she smashes her fist into a mirror.

A lot of thought has gone into the mecha design. The training MSs have no head, and a breakable plastic outer layer because the mecha get damaged a lot in simulations, and plastic is safer and cheaper to replace. Sometimes it’s difficult to work out who’s who during combat when the students are wearing their helmets. However, the heads of the macha are different enough to be able to figure it out if you look more carefully.

One major drawback is the cover artwork, it’s really not as good as some of the insert sketch pages of the girls and makes Asuna appear more doll-like and dopey than she really is. It’s also a shame the intro artwork pages weren’t printed in colour like in the original Japanese manga. Sometimes the character design of Asuna makes her look too young, I know she’s supposed to be a bit underdeveloped but not that much! I found myself wishing that the prettier Elicia was the main character not Asuna.

In the next volume I hope they tell us more about the character’s pasts, and that the space training is as exciting as training at the school. I wonder if the council will start a war simply to get the newtypes they desire? I hope they at least follow through with the suggestive comments made by members of the council and don’t leave us in the dark again!

This is a good read for someone new to the Gundam world and for the more experienced of you, this series is supposed to answer some questions about the series. If you know nothing about mecha design (like me), there’s an informative eight page interview with Yoshinori Sayanama at the back of the book worth checking out, along with several amusing mini mangas. It helped me rethink how I interpret mecha in combat.

This figure doesn’t look completely like Asuna, and it’s not very sexy!

The official Tokyopop webpage for Ecole du Ciel is here.

Rating: B