In January C.E. (Cosmic Era) 71, Junk Guild technician Lowe Guele discovers two prototype Gundam Astray mobile suits in the ruins of Orb’s space colony Heliopolis. Although Lowe finds the Blue Frame suit first, Serpent Tail mercenary Gai Murakumo steals it and heads out into space. Kisato Yamabuki informs Lowe that Gai is helping his partner, and both Lowe and Liam Garfield realize Gai was betrayed by his employers, who wanted him to erase all evidence of the Astrays. Lowe asks them to help him dig out the Red Frame so that he can go save Gai. Aboard the HOME, the Professor watches Gai and Elijah fight off a group of Moebius mobile armors. Lowe arrives in space and slices at the Moebius’ weapons. Later, Gai and Elijah leave and take the Blue Frame with them. Although Lowe says he is happy to have the Red Frame and a spare arm from the Gold Frame, his personal quantum computer 8 thinks he’s lying. The Professor wonders why so many ships are gathering around Heliopolis and wonders if they’ll run into any pirates. Gai and Elijah disable a pirate ship and escape. Portia, the young commander of the pirate ship, sends out an S.O.S. signal. In the HOME‘s hangar, Lowe paints the Junk Guild logo onto the Red Frame and customizes it by spray painting his name onto it. Liam does some research on the Red Frame and discovers that its weapons cannot be used by other mobile suits. Kisato doesn’t understand the reasoning, and Lowe explains that it prevents the enemy from using your weapons. The Professor tells everyone about the S.O.S. signal, and Liam thinks they should ignore the signal because pirates often use S.O.S. signals to lure in their prey. He also says rescue ships are already on their way to help, but Lowe insists on helping the ship. Lowe and the others go over to the pirate ship, and Portia lies and says they were attacked by pirates. Lowe lets it slip that he has a mobile suit, and Portia asks if she can see it. After seeing the Red Frame, Portia calls Boss and tells him she’s found the ultimate prize. The HOME is hit by several missiles, and Boss demands that they hand over the Red Frame. Lowe has an idea to fight back and asks everyone to help him build some junk. He fires his beam rifle at the pirate ship, but he’s out of range. They then bombard the pirate ship with junk, and Lowe attacks with his beam saber. The beam saber goes out of control and causes substantial damage to the pirate ship’s hull. Lowe can’t believe he’s caused so much damage and offers the pirates a discount on replacement parts.
In the HOME‘s hangar, Lowe tests out a GINN sword by slicing a piece of metal that Kisato is holding with her Kimera. Although the GINN sword cuts through the metal, Lowe isn’t satisfied with it. He says he needs a weapon in case someone tries to steal the Red Frame, and Kisato tells him he should use the beam saber. Lowe disagrees because the beam saber is too dangerous and drains the Red Frame’s energy. Liam performs a search on mobile suit swords, but he says there are too many results. The Professor asks how the search is going and suggests visiting the Graveyard. She explains that many of Earth’s artisans migrated to a satellite called Graveyard. She pulls up information on a katana called the Gerbera Straight, and Lowe decides he wants that sword. The HOME arrives at the desolate Graveyard, and Lowe launches in the Red Frame, followed by Kisato and Liam in their Kimeras. The Professor tells him that there were around 100 people at the Graveyard, but her information is quite old. Inside the Graveyard, Lowe receives an audio transmission from someone demanding to know what he wants. Lowe explains that he wants the sword, and the sender accuses him of being a robber. Lowe spots a BuCUE hanging from the ceiling above them. Un’no, the pilot of the BuCUE, attacks Lowe. Lowe chases after Un’no and his dog Denpachi, insisting that he isn’t a thief. Lowe activates his beam saber, and Un’no jumps out of the BuCUE and slices apart the beam saber. Lowe and the others chase Un’no into a pit and trip some trap bombs. They eventually come upon a door made up of interlocking engraved blocks. Lowe realizes it’s a puzzle, and suddenly the ceiling begins to lower. Lowe quickly moves the blocks and completes the puzzle to open the door. In the next chamber, Lowe discovers a graveyard. Kisato wonders if Un’no killed all the people in the graveyard. Un’no appears and says he realizes Lowe isn’t a thief. He explains that he is the last of the artisans that came to the Graveyard, and the others recorded their skills into their graves. He says that they fought against military attacks, and six months ago the Gerbera Straight was damaged. Lowe asks him to fix it, and Un’no says that’s impossible because it’s heavily damaged and the smith who built it is dead. Lowe says he can find the smith’s data and thinks Un’no might as well do something useful before dying.
Lowe trains with Un’no on sword forms. Un’no tells Lowe that his form is wrong because the katana doesn’t use it’s weight to cause damage. He explains that the thin part does the cutting and must be perpendicular to target. He says that with a proper form Lowe can slice something apart with just one cut. Lowe asks Un’no to teach him secret moves, and Un’no tells him he has to master the basic forms before he can ever learn any secret moves. While Lowe practices, Liam programs all of Un’no’s moves into the Red Frame’s OS. Elsewhere, the informant Kenaf Luchini examines pictures of the Red Frame and sees that it’s quite a discovery. Kenaf gives the information to three mercenaries, along with pictures of the HOME‘s crew. Lowe uses a mobile suit-sized hammer to repair the Gerbera Straight. Un’no examines it and determines that it needs to be sharper. Un’no thinks to himself that he was wrong about Lowe. He figured Lowe was an impatient punk, but he sees that Lowe simply absorbs information very quickly and is eager to learn. Kisato complains that she isn’t doing anything while everyone else works so hard, so the Professor suggests she go help Lowe and Liam. Kisato comes over with her Kimera to help, but she crashes into a wall and makes a mess. Lowe tells her it isn’t her fault, and Liam tells her they’re doing fine on their own. Kisato leaves, and Liam thinks that she’s blaming herself for the accident. Kisato goes off on her own and says to herself that she’s a screw up. She thinks that she only causes problems and wishes she’d never been born. Suddenly, the three mercenaries come around the corner with GINNs and capture Kisato. The mercenaries tie Kisato up to one of the GINN head crests and demand that Lowe hand over the Red Frame in exchange for Kisato. Lowe attacks the GINNs with the Gerbera Straight and slices the mobile suit holding Kisato hostage in half. The mercenary escapes with his two comrades and heads straight for the minefield. Un’no sees that Lowe’s form is perfect, but Kisato’s sleeve breaks from Lowe’s close cut. Elsewhere, Kenaf thinks to himself that Lowe might be useful in the future.
Later, Lowe, Liam and Kisato search the Debris Belt for parts. Liam and Kisato don’t want to go inside the Debris Belt, but Lowe thinks they could find something valuable if they search hard enough. While searching the area they come across the massive ruins of the PLANT Junius Seven. Lowe is amazed by the size of the PLANT, and Liam explains that it once had more than 243,000 inhabitants before the Earth Alliance destroyed it with nuclear weapons. Kisato says she wants to leave because she’s scared, and Liam says they have no reason to stay because they have enough supplies. Lowe says that he loves to fix things and doesn’t understand why people have to destroy things. Kisato spots a flash of light, and Liam says they’re from a nearby battle. Several Alliance Moebius units attack the civilian ship Silverwind. The captain orders the evacuation of their VIP passenger Lacus Clyne, the daughter of PLANT Supreme Council Chairman Siegel Clyne. Lowe says that he can’t let a defenseless civilian ship be attacked, so he sends a loud transmission to the Alliance ship to stop. The Alliance captain tells Lowe he is intercepting a ZAFT ship, and Lowe calls him a liar. Elsewhere, Kenaf meets with a pirate named Elisa Azana. She asks him why he’s fooling around with the Junk Guild again, and he says it’s just for fun. He explains that he leaked information to the Alliance stating that the Silverwind was a ZAFT ship disguised as a civilian shuttle. He tells Elisa that the Red Frame is a secret Orb mobile suit built from stolen Alliance technology, and she decides to capture it. Lacus is placed into an escape pod, and Lowe and Liam move in to investigate the Silverwind after the Alliance ship leaves. Lowe suddenly comes under attack by Elisa in her custom GINN Tempester and Otark’s custom GINN Fuego. Lowe dodges their attacks until his battery runs out of energy. He gets a spare from Liam and realizes the GINNs must be low on power too, but they are still moving very quickly. Liam thinks they probably have batteries hidden in the debris and are quickly changing batteries with their dual mobile suit attack. Lowe times his next attack when Elisa’s power is low. Liam tracks both GINNs and determines where the batteries are hidden. Lowe reaches the batteries first and slices Elisa’s GINN in half. Liam tells him an escape pod launched from the Silverwind, and he hopes whoever is in it is safe. Elisa floats around in space and is rescued by Kenaf.
So that’s the first volume of ASTRAY R, which has a story running concurrent to Koichi Tokita’s ASTRAY. If you read them both, you can piece together the events to get a cohesive narrative. I don’t like the three-way split of the original ASTRAY story and think it was a cheap marketing gimmick. I could understand splitting Lowe and Gai’s adventures, but not splitting Lowe’s adventures as well. It takes a while to get used to Yasunari Toda’s art style, which is a bit different from Tokita’s. As for the story, we see how Lowe acquired the Gerbera Straight, along with the first appearances of Kenaf Luchini and Portia. We also see how Lacus ended up floating around in space before Kira finds her in episode 7 of SEED. So far, this is another entertaining ASTRAY pulp adventure story.