_Developers_ Turns "Gundam" into "FUNdam"

Looking for a light, refreshing manga with no heavy baggage — some low-impact reading material to get you through the Holiday Period? Like cute girls, giant robots, and laffs? If so, I recommend checking our Developers: Mobile Suit Gundam Before One Year War. Yes, it's Gundam, but only peripherally; it's a comedy-romance in a sci-fi setting rather than the typica; Gundam fare of angst-ridden, New-Type-powered space war.

The story centers on a small family-owned engineering company in Zion called Hosioka and its efforts to develop the very first prototype Mobile Suit. The program's prime contractor, Zeonic Corporation, chooses the tiny firm to be its subcontractor for the project due to the million-to-one chance that the new-tech MS's power reactor will blow up; they figure if somebody does get blown up, no one will miss Hosioka. As the story begins, Zeonic's project supervisor, the earnest Tio Pajitenov, arrives at Hoskioka's dumpy digs on the bad side of the cylinder bearing the plans for the prototype MS. There he encounters the company's crew of weirdos, geeks, old farts, and other misfits, including Watch Dog, the company, er, watch dog. He also encounters the boss's daughter, the tomboyish but winsome Mion Hosioka, who takes an immediate disliking to him. After dragooning him into performing a couple of menial tasks, Mion and the Hosioka team figure out that Tio is not a loser looking for day labor but the head of the MS project; soon after, Tio introduces them to the project, and (shamefacedly) to their own role as expendables as well.

Despite the doubtful nature of the subcontract, however, Mion is fired up at the thought of working on a whole new type of work droid. Her enthusiasm proves infectious. Soon the Hosioka gang is hard at work, taking the first small steps in the development of the wonder machine, never guessing that fruit of their efforts will someday make history.

Developers is a great deal of fun to read, primarily bcause of the character interplay. Mion, who is more a feisty female in the tradition of Fio from Porco Rosso than a modern-style tsundere, gives the good-natured Tio a generous serving of attitude; nevertheless, her pure-hearted love for machinery and her devotion to family keep her well clear of annoying nag territory. The family business is of course a haven for underachievers of various stripes, from snack-munching Auntie to the trio of dozy old engineers who keep the gears turning. Imagine the cast of The Office, only in the robot-building business; that's kind of what it's like.

Technically, the strip is great, with clean, crisp linework, well-spotted blacks, and judicious us of gray toning throughout. Artist Housui Yamazaki (山崎 峰水) [Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service] tells the story with a deft hand, and gives each character (especially cutie-pie Mion) a memorable, idiosyncratic look without veering into comedic caricature.

The only downside to Developers is that you have to steal it read it online in order to read it at all; no official English-language version of this strip exists, or likely will ever exist, so it's scanlation time. Nevertheless, if you have a little free time, you should give this fun manga a read. I enjoyed it, and I think a lot of you all might dig it, too.


Tohoscope said...

Nice review, I'll have to check that one out.

DVC said...

Beats reading about "Fistgate" :P

Bomb#20 said...

Good read. I do like the humor aspect of it. Nice change of pace for a Gundam series either in manga or anime form.

No moe, but Mion has a hint of the tsundre thing going on. Hope it doesn't get too toxic.