By Yoshikazu Yasuhiko; Original Story by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate; Mechanical Design by Kunio Okawara. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialized in the magazine Gundam Ace. Released in North America by Vertical, Inc.
There are spoilers in this review for this volume of Gundam, though not future ones.
As you might imagine by the subtitle of this particular volume, our heroes finally reach Jaburo and are able to have the ship refitted. What’s more, surprise, everyone decides to enlist… though not everyone is happy about this. In the meantime, though, this is still Gundam, which means we get to experience the horrors of war, the death of beloved crew, and the ‘good guys’ behaving in a way that makes them look just as bad as the ‘bad guys’.
I dpo wonder sometimes how much Yasuhiko is writing for new readers unfamiliar with things (like me), and how much of this is paced towards folks who know what’s going to happen from having watched the TV series. I ask this because Lieutenant Matilda, who walks around White Base with every male salivating around her, is basically a perfect soldier, and chose a job in the supply corps as it’s the best way she can serve in this time of need, is just walking around wearing a sign saying “Hi, I am going to die”. (One can argue that Ryu is as well, but he’s been around from the start. Indeed, Ryu and Matilda’s deaths being so close together was rather startling to me, and felt oddly paced.) I do wonder if Matilda’s foreshadowing was done deliberately as the author knew it wouldn’t be a surprise. In any case, she is a terrific character.
Speaking of which, I liked the differing reactions to the deaths of Matilda and Ryu. After Ryu dies, Hayato has a bit of an emotional breakdown, and Amuro tries to snap him out of it with a rousing speech and a “snap out of it” punch. Unfortunately, Amuro is still really emotional himself, so the whole thing degenerates into a fight. Later on, we meet Lt. Woody, who is in charge of the refit at Jaburo, and also Matilda’s fiancee. After Amuro tries to apologize for being unable to save her, Woody gives him the rousing speech he should have given to Hayato, with the backing of more maturity and experience. It was nice to see.
Not that experience means everything here. I had wondered why the kids were being SO horrible and obnoxious throughout the first half of this volume, then I got to Part Two, where they essentially save the day. These are war orphans, and they’re also little brats, but they’re smart as whips, and I will take a little unrealism in my story for the sake of them being awesome and getting rid of almost all those bombs within just a few minutes. This allowed Jaburo to get the jump on the Zeon attack, headed by Char (who is fantastic, and fails only due to a combined effort from Woody and Amuro) and Garcia (who is a cartoon villain who gets his cartoon villain comeuppance, though it’s worth noting that the series shows how dangerous cartoon villains can be when ordering actual troops to their deaths).
It will be interesting to see where things go from here. There’s several open plot threads, and not just in regards to the war. Amuro clearly has some type of PTSD, and getting psychotropic drugs from the medical crew at Jaburo so they can try and see if he’s a Newtype isn’t helping. Meanwhile, Bright and Mirai continue to get closer, despite her having a fiancee (something Bright reacts poorly too). At one point it looks as if he’s reading her thoughts, and I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or not. Volume 5 is called Char & Sayla, though, so I expect it will build on the revelation we got at the end of this volume. In any case, this is a series that everyone should be reading, and each volume builds on the last to make a real epic.
Let’s not talk Yokusaru Shibata dressing Sayla up as a buxom maid in the extras, though, which merely served to remind me why 81Diver isn’t licensed over here.