I am a huge Hitoshi Ariga fan, and on top of that, Mega Man V was one of my favorite Classic games, hands down. So when GigaMix 1 was released in Japan, and it hinted that the next story involved the Stardroids, I about lost it. This story arc builds up on the events that happened in GigaMix volume one's story, Asteroid Blues. Light, Wily (who was still incarcerated at the time), and Mega Man traveled through space to an asteroid called "Alpha", to gather these crystals that were discovered to have a huge source of power. Wily betrays them of course, breaking out of his shackles and elimating his guards thanks to Shadow Man. The battle over these crystals raged, with Mega Man the victor. Wily escaped, and is lurking somewhere on Earth.
I'm not sure exactly how much time has passed since that battle. It looks like the events of MegaMix are in between "Asteroid Blues" and the start of this story, "White Nightmare", as Dr. Cossack is around, as well as robots from MegaMix volume three, like Yamato Man and Knight Man. Not to mention, the return of the Hourly Pay Squad. (Hooray Star Man!)
In the after notes of this volume, Ariga states that the Stardroid story was a long time coming. He doesn't state what stalled him from sitting down and drawing it, but says he was working on the idea constantly, going through many drafts. I believe him. I've actually stalked Ariga's blogs a lot, and over a long period of time, there's been hints that he was interested in the Stardroid series. That was the first picture of the Stardroids he did, I believe. It's clearly earlier work, as he looked to be sticking more to the Capcom style. Maybe he was just getting a feel for the characters? Later on though, the familiar 'black eyes' design popped up into a sketch. Check out the images on the left that have been hanging around my hard drive for awhile.
Am I glad Ariga waited so long? Yes. As much as I love Ariga's earlier MegaMix works, sometimes I felt like the art was maybe a little rushed, and that his story telling was a little spastic at times. I did love his story of more silly and humorous approach, which is probably what added to that feeling. When I read GigaMix 1, the thing that blew me away was the fact that both his art and story had jumped and matured quite a bit. He started to get a more serious tone in MegaMix 3, and I'm quite glad he decided to follow that trend now with GigaMix.
Of course, we hit the best part of Ariga's mangas: the character design. Ariga has a knack with re-designing the Mega Man characters with his own personal flare, giving them interesting back stories, and little design details that add so much to the character. GigaMix is no exception to that rule. He's turned the Stardroids into actual robotic aliens, rather than having them Wily bots like the game canon. Boy, does he drive the alien part home. Everything the Stardroids do, from their reactions to their looks scream of something not of this planet. They're more cruel and ruthless than anything Wily or Wily's bots have ever come up with. Heck, there's panels of Terra hovering around, and looking up at him. I think his boots make him look like some sort of space craft. No, seriously.
Bonus points for UDON's wonderful addition as well, changing the text around to make it look and feel like the Stardroids are talking in strange ways. Great font choices!
He also builds on the characters we've all come to know and love. We get to see that maybe Wily and his robots aren't all that bad and have a softer side to them. A part that struck me particularly hard was seeing Shadow Man struggle, survive, cry, and throw away whatever pride he had to complete his mission.
Let's not forget, a touching flash back between a much younger Dr. Wily and Dr. Light in their college days. It gives us quite a bit of insight on why Wily acts a certain way sometimes. It also makes you wonder what went so very wrong to break up what looks like such a strong friendship. Was it a little madness on Wily's part, or was there some other unseen event in this version of Mega Man? I'd be interested to see a bit more on the subject. Maybe it's something Ariga will touch on in later manga? Poor Wily. Looks like his hair has always been uncontrollably messy since birth.
All in all, GigaMix 2 is a perfect follow up to the first. The story is exciting, full of hot Stardroid vs Robot action. It flows at a great pace, and it kept me hooked through every panel. The art and design is extremely solid. I'll probably end up reading this 15 million times, just to absorb all the elements that have been intertwined into this great book. Ariga it always stepping it up to the next level. Should you buy this book? Yes and a thousand times yes. What are you waiting for?!
I cannot wait for volume 3: The final show down with the Stardroids, not to mention, more familiar characters popping in.