A series of manga that mostly take place just behind, and a little to the left, of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.
Lowe Gear is a member of the Junk Guild, an organization of mechanics and salvage experts that usually retrieve and recycle space debris, and resell it for (hopefully) a profit. Or keep them for personal use if they're cool enough. Lowe and his friends show up at the space colony Heliopolis (Kira Yamato's Doomed Hometown) shortly after the Archangel's escape. Searching through the ruins for survivors or anything of value, they come across a pair of Gundams, one red, and the other blue, that were somehow missed in all the commotion before. But before they can capitalize on their find, they are attacked by the Serpent Tail, a group of mercenaries hired to keep the Astray Project a secret. Lowe faces off against Gai Murakumo, the leader of the Serpent Tail, until the mercs themselves are double-crossed by their employers, who count them among the witnesses they don't want. Gai takes the Blue Frame and uses it to take care of their erstwhile employers, before Lowe shows up with the Red Frame to make sure he doesn't try the same to his friends. The two groups depart with their new respective mobile suits.
The story continues with the various adventures of Lowe and his friends, fleshing out the Gundam SEED universe, often preceding or following up on events in the series, and fixing a few plot holes along the way For example, it's Lowe who saves Kira after he's nearly killed by the self-destructing Aegis Gundam. They often meet or clash with the Serpent Tail from time to time, and seem to run into a lot of people with an unhealthy interest in the Astrays, such as Rondo Ghina Sahaku, who had them built in the first place, and still owns the third Astray, Gold Frame.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray R is the sister series to Astray by a different author, and more or less runs concurrently with the original. Both comics reference each other regularly. A photonovel, Astray B, was also written. Astray R focuses specifically on Lowe's adventures, while Astray B focuses on Gai; the letters refer to their respective Astray Gundams, Red Frame and Blue Frame.
Another similar series, Gundam SEED X Astray, takes place roughly during a short Time Skip in episode 47 of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and features Canard Pars, a "failed" experiment in the same "Ultimate Coordinator" program that spawned SEED protagonist Kira Yamato. He wishes to prove that he's not a failure by defeating Kira and the Strike Gundam, but first runs into our Junk Guild and Serpent Tail heroes, and promptly attacks them, seeing as they have Gundams in their possession. During this, both teams come across Prayer Reverie, a young boy with a Mobile Suit that contains both a nuclear reactor, and a device known as a Neutron Jammer Canceller, which would allow said reactor to work. When Canard finds out about Prayer's N-Jammer Canceller, he naturally wants it to give his Hyperion Gundam the power to face Kira head on (as by this point Kira has upgraded to the nuclear-powered Freedom Gundam).
The next in the Astray series is Gundam SEED DESTINY Astray, which features the reporter Jess Rabble, who is assigned to check out reports of a ZAFT Superweapon. It turns out to be none other than Lowe and crew, who are using the spoils of a battle in R to head out to Mars. Unfortunately, Jess' Mobile Suit is wrecked before things are straightened out, so before he leaves, Lowe gives him the Astray Out Frame, a mech he found in the base and fixed up. As the Junk Guild crew heads out to space, the story follows Jess as he views the events in and around the Second Bloody Valentine War through very large camera lenses. It also introduces the mercenary Kaite Madigan, who sometimes acts as a bodyguard to Jess. After going through a succession of customized mobile suits, Kaite eventually acquires Out Frame's nuclear-powered sister unit, the Testament Gundam.
DESTINY Astray also has its own side story, a one-shot chapter following Rondo Mina Sahaku (Rondo Ghina's not-so-evil twin sister), which mainly serves to show off Gold Frame's latest upgrade (which may or may not have the longest name in Gundam history).
This is followed up by DELTA Astray, a story of Martian colonists chased by the protagonist of STARGAZER (before the events of STARGAZER). Then FRAME Astray, which focuses on Gai and the Serpent Tail during the events of the SEED TV series, between their appearances in earlier Astray series.
After that came VS Astray, centering on a new antagonistic faction called Librarian that makes use of "Carbon Humans", pseudo-clones made by injecting people with genetic material from others, and having them pilot copies of past mobile suits. Because the series received a huge marketing blitz mostly centered around recolored and only barely changed versions of existing model kits, fans are decrying this one as Merchandise-Driven (even moreso than the norm for Gundam) drivel.
Finally, Destiny Astray R and Destiny Astray B are coming along as the newest entries, covering short stories from the Destiny part of the series.
Both Astray and X Astray made it into Super Robot Wars W alongside SEED. In fact, Astray's storyline makes up the greater content of SEED material in the story.
Character page under construction here.
This series contains examples of:
- Aborted Arc: When Astray began it was strongly implied that Lowe's intelligent computer 8 was the learning computer from Amuro Ray's Gundam; Lowe found it in an "abandoned space capsule" that looked exactly like the Gundam's Core Fighter, and the name 8 comes from the only writing visible on the casing (which was positioned as if it were the last number in a sequence, as in "RX-78"). However, if this was the plan Astray's writers never followed up on it, and Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam showed a very different fate for the Core Fighter and learning computer.
- Ace Custom: The Red, Blue, and Gold Astray Frames are all extremely heavily modified by their pilots, repeatedly, over the course of the series. This is best shown when the fourth Frame, Green Frame, showed up in FRAME Astray against Serpent Tail and got demolished, since it was still just a vanilla Astray unit except for its green coloration.
- The last chapter of the original Astray manga showed that both Gai and Miguel Aiman from SEED both had custom GINNs that were lost in battle against each other, right before the battle on Heliopolis.
- Armed Legs: Blue Frame Second mounts knife blades in its toes and heels.
- Artistic License – Physics:
- The Delta Astray uses rocket engines for standard maneuvering and the Voiture Lumiere solar sail system for rapid acceleration and extreme maneuverability. Solar sails can push a spacecraft to higher velocities than rockets...eventually. In terms of Super Mode style acceleration, however, they're the last thing you want to go to.
- The Powered Red represents a particularly suspension of disbelief-obliterating example. It's supposed to be able to swing a 150 meter katana, far larger and denser than itself. It is said to be designed to have enough strength to do this, when the real problem is not strength but thrust. Trying to swing such a massive weapon in space would only result in the Powered Red swinging itself because it has nothing to push off of and its thrust capacity wasn't upgraded. Never mind the mockery it makes of the square-cube law. Even scaling a katana up to mobile suit size was supposed to be difficult. Making one 20 times longer should be impossible if the tech had any internal consistency. Its Red Flame attack is capable of damaging even mobile suits protected by Phase Shift Armor with its sheer force... Despite the fact that Powered Red itself is still made of foaming metal, the most brittle mobile suit armor material. Logically speaking, an attack that powerful would shatter its hand, and possibly its arm too.
- Attack Drone: Gunbarrels and DRAGOONs again.
- BFS: In ascending order: Gerbera Straight, and its partner Tiger Pierce, Sword Calamity Gundam, the many Tactical Arms' Sword Modes, and the Gerbera Straight II. That last one is 150 meter long(!) and is on one occasion used to skewer a battleship..
- Blind Without 'Em: Riika Sheder in DESTINY Astray is literally blind without her cybernetic "glasses". With them she's an ace pilot.
- Brain Uploading: George Glenn
- Brick Joke: In the animated Red Frame short, Lowe purchases a salvaged BuCUE head but has to leave it behind when ZAFT attacks, and the short ends with Lowe lamenting that he has to abandon such an expensive treasure. Nine real-world years later in Destiny Astray R, Lowe finds the head again and is so happy that he cries Manly Tears, but ends up having to win it off of a bandit leader who's claimed it as his good luck charm.
- Broken Pedestal: To a point. When George Glenn is revived via hologram, the crew (especially fangirl Kisato) is surprised to find that rather than the larger-than-life figure Coordinators made him out to be, he's actually pretty light-hearted and jovial. This is equally surprising to the readers, since all that had previously been seen of him was in formal occasions, and the prepared speech he gave while leaving for Jupiter that revealed the existence of Coordinators. He even lampshades this trope. George does eventually convince Kisato to give him a fair chance.
- Canon Immigrant: Zig-Zagging Trope. Astray was apparently intended to tie directly into the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TV series (Red Frame even appears briefly in the first opening), but those plans fell through and reduced it to a sidestory. However, Sunrise still seems to consider it official, as the Re-H.O.M.E. cameos in Episode 47, and of course a pair of promotional anime shorts were produced.
- Color Motif: Lowe is emotional and passionate; Gai is calm and logical. Guess what colors their respective Gundams are?
- Commonplace Rare: The Strike Gundam from the original SEED was originally a Super Prototype; Astray introduces its successor model, the Strike Enhanced (Strike E), which is used as an uncommon elite unit by the EA. The Strike Noir from Gundam SEED CE 73 Stargazer is also of this type (Strike E + Noir Striker Pack).
- Dude Looks Like a Lady:
- Canard Pars. His outfit doesn't help.
- Rondo Ghina Sahaku, so much that the Tokyopop translation of the manga has erroneously referred to him as a lady.
- Expy: As soon as Lily Thevalley was revealed in VS Astray, fans started declaring her an Expy of Elpe Puru. Turns out they were spot-on, since there are a double handful of Lily clones running around, and one ends up being taken in by the Junk Guild, just as Puru was by Judau and the Shangrila kids.
- Fashion-Victim Villain: An in-universe example. V.V., the Dandy antagonist in Destiny Astray R; he prepares a fake treasure to try and trap Lowe, but his sense of honor wouldn't let him just place an empty box so he put in a set of his clothing, which he considered a great treasure. When Lowe opens the box, he finds it contains a purple jacket, matching pants, and a pair of pointy-toed boots; he and 8 instantly agree that whomever this "Pirate King" was, his fashion sense was pretty tragic.
- Fragile Speedster: Astray Gundams use a foam metal composite for armor material which is nowhere as durable as SEED PS armor but much lighter.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Lowe
- Homemade Inventions: Quite a few.
- Humans Are Bastards: Kaite Madigan was abandoned by his parents because his genetic modifications didn't come out as they intended. What's his "defect", you ask? His hair is two-toned (blond and black). There's an entire mercenary organization, Circus, dedicated to taking in such abandoned Coordinators.
- Insistent Terminology: In Destiny Astray R, Lowe invents the Caletvwlch, which he insists is a multi-purpose cutting and welding tool and not a weapon...despite the fact that it looks like a Gun Blade and is named after a legendary sword. When asked, he explains that there are limiters in place to keep it from being used as a weapon; if someone disables those limiters, they're taking responsibility for its use after that point. Note that he does this because the Junk Guild has very strict rules against the creation and sale of weapons.
- It Was a Gift: Elijah Kiel hangs onto his custom GINN long past the point of obsolescence because it uses parts from his dead friend Goud Veir's custom GINN, given to Elijah just before he had to be put down. This also serves to explain its unusual half-blue-and-red paint job. Eventually Kaite Maddigan destroys the GINN in a Let's You and Him Fight situation and gives Elijah a custom ZAKU as an apology.
- Jerkass: Agnes Brahe from DELTA Astray: very Hot-Blooded, looks down on Earthlings and has little tolerance for those who don't share his points of view.
- Katanas Are Just Better: The Gerbera Straight has no power requirements, which is especially important since a vast majority of Cosmic Era MS use batteries rather than fusion reactors. It's a double-edged sword (no pun intended). The katana is the power saver, while the beam saber is better for penetrating armor.
- In addition to the Gerbera Straight, there's the Tiger Pierce (its wakizashi partner, used by Un'no's GINN until Lowe reclaims it), the Gerbera Straight Vol.2 (the 150-meter version), the Vertical Edges (the katana wielded by Mars Jacket), and the Ame-no-Habakiri (a copy of the GS wielded by Mirage Frame).
- A downright ridiculous example happens in Astray R, wherein swordmaster Un No pulls a super-fine Clean Cut through the barrel of a mobile suit's beam rifle with his hand held katana. A normal, human-wielded katana cutting through a Humongous Mecha-wielded rifle, with no justification other than the implication that yes, katanas really are just that sharp...and he does it twice.
- Knowledge Broker: Kenaf Luchini.
- Lighter and Softer: At least the stories revolving on Lowe's team, and comparing it to the main series. There are still the sad fatalities of war, but the major lowering of the kill-rate (particularly thanks to Lowe and Co.'s aversion to killing) along with Lowe and his group's hijinks and eccentricities keep their stories from brooding so much. Some of the mangas even have comic strips at the end of each issue focusing and exaggerating on these lighter aspects of the stories. Gai and his group practically carry the major bulk of the seriousness of the conflicts.
- Mecha Expansion Pack: Quite a few, including one that's basically a Humongous Mecha in and of itself, which is piloted by the smaller mecha.
- Astray Out Frame is probably the universal champion of Mecha Expansion Packs. Originally designed with mounting points for the Alliance's Striker Packs (employed by the Strike Gundam and its descendants), Lowe later builds a "Multi-Striker" that allows it to equip the ZAFT's Silhouettes (for the Impulse Gundam) and Wizards (for the ZAKU and DOM). That's about two dozen options if you include the anime, sidestories, and MSVs.
- Meta Mecha: In order to handle the 150-meter Gerbera Straight II, Lowe builds a Power Loader reminiscent of Aliens, which Red Frame itself docks with. Regenerate Gundam one-shots the Power Loader, which leads Lowe to create the Powered Red.
- Palette Swap: Frame Astrays and VS Astray got flak for discontinuing the Astray tradition of awesome new mobile suits in favor of taking stuff from the SEED anime and slapping on a new color scheme (and, in the case of VS, giving it Striker Pack capability).
- The original Astrays started out as palette swaps of each other (Red, Blue and Gold Frames were externally distinguishable only by color), but soon got customized in radically different directions.
- Private Military Contractors: Serpent Tail, and later Canard's Mercenary Unit X.
- Psychic Powers: People said in-series to have heightened spacial awareness actually have these. While the SEED anime keeps this it somewhat ambiguous, by the end of X Astray it's obvious that Prayer Reverie and those like him are Newtypes by another name.
- Psycho for Hire: Ash Gray.
- Punny Name: Lowe Gear.
- Spell My Name With An S: The official romanization is "Lowe Guele", which sadly destroys the pun.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Lowe (Red Frame) and Gai (Blue Frame)
- Restricted Expanded Universe: Averted, unlike most of the Gundam Expanded Universe by virtue of being intended from the beginning to tie into the anime, occasionally patching up plot holes. As a result, it just barely misses being included in the anime itself.
- Rule of Cool: Destiny Astray R outright says that Junkers prefer the machines they make to be functional and cool. At one point Lowe elects to use his new Draig Head to illuminate a dark area because it's cooler, and his intelligent computer 8 concedes the point.
- Shout-Out: The Martian Guardshell mobile suits can transform into a tripod form.
- Space Pirates
- Split Personality: Goud Vair from Astray, R, and B, a gentle man who goes psychotic when he hears loud noises (and thus tends to listen to relaxing music all the time to prevent this). VS Astray introduces Lily Thevalley, a Carbon Human made with genetic material from several Ace Pilots; this is best illustrated by a title page showing all her clones, each with a different emotion showing on its face.
- Super Prototype: Red Frame to the M1 Astrays seen in SEED.
- Super-Speed: Astray Mirage Frame 2nd Issue is extremely fast in brute mode, even coordinator's super human reflex can't keep up with it and the pilot need special modification.
- Supporting Protagonist: Jess Rabble. He barely does anything of any importance throughout the whole of Destiny Astray (aside from serving as a spotter for Kaite Madigan in a battle where all sensors other than the human eye have been rendered useless; good thing the Out Frame has a secondary observer's cockpit in the head with an actual window instead of cameras) and is one of the most boring people on the screen, yet is supposed to be special due to his quest for the truth.
- Swiss-Army Weapon: The Tactical Arms backpacks, seen with Blue Frame Second L and later Red Frame Kai. Blue's changes between Flight, Sword, and Gatling Forms (with the later Tactical Arms II gaining the ability to pull the Gatling and the sword blades off the backpack and use them independently). Red Frame Kai's Tatical Arms II L has Flight, Delta, V, Sword, Arrow, and Work Forms.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Hyperion's Beam Knife/Bayonets. It's actually given five of them specifically so this can be a viable tactic. Lowe does it with the 150-meter Gerbera Straight.
- Token Evil Teammate: Rondo Mina Sehaku in later stories, most notably Destiny Astray. She obviously hates Lowe and wants revenge for the death of her brother, but frequently works with him if only because of similar objectives. She seems to get less evil over the course of the series, and never was as crazy as her brother, though. After X Astray, Canard Pars plays a similar, if toned-down, role.
- The Unfavorite: Canard Pars is a product of the same Ultimate Coordinator project as Kira Yamato, but is considered a "failed specimen". His primary motivation in X Astray is getting an MS powerful enough to challenge the Freedom, then defeating Kira to prove that he's the superior one. Eventually Canard gets over it and mellows out.
- Villainous Breakdown: Rondo Ghina Sahaku does not take losing well...
- Warts and All: A less negative example than usual: Kisato is a huge George Glenn fangirl; thanks to the Brain Uploading, she gets to meet the man himself, and is greatly upset that he's light-hearted and goofy rather than the larger-than-life figure she came to admire. George asks her to give him another chance, saying that other people were the ones who built him up as an idol when he's only human. She agrees, but is still put off by his silliness.