Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Vol. 4

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.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Vol. 3

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.

In the first 2 volumes of this Gundam manga it’s been fairly easy to root for our heroes. They’re fighting against an empire with fascist tendencies, and the two main antagonists we’ve gotten so far are a smug schemer and a daddy’s boy who looks to be in over his head and is dispatched fairly easily at the end of the last volume. Char will no doubt continue to be a headache, but Garma is no more. Of course, this means we need a new minor villain, and it’s not going to be Char, as he’s too busy smirking. And so we get to the title character of this book, Ramba Ral.


Make no mistake about it, Ramba Ral is exactly what this book needed at this point. Even if Char is a very popular character with fans, the fact is that the heroes and villains have been more black and white than they needed to be. This is particularly evident at Garma’s state funeral, which Gihren quickly starts using as a political rally to mobilize the troops. This, combined with the funeral choreography and the uniformed fascism, makes the Principality of Zeon look like Nazi and the Naztones to a degree. Ramba Ral is different, and reminds you that this isn’t “fighting aliens” – all of these people are ultimately human beings with human flaws and human virtues. He’s a captain who loves him men, loves to fight, and is very good at it. His wife is second in command and clearly much of the brains behind the operation. It’s a shame that the plot decrees his fate at the end of this book, as I’d much rather he have been the main antagonist.

And counterbalancing Ramba Ral being a villain who is easy to respect and admire, our heroes are having a very rough time of it. Amuro has always been a petulant teenager, but here his temper tantrums get dealt with in detail, and he runs away. Bright, meanwhile, is doing his best to try and think like a commander, but making decisions that are the right thing to do is proving to be unpopular… not only with his men, but with Mirai. As for Sayla, she’s finding that being a double agent is a lot harder than it looks, particularly when you’re not working for the villains. All three of these characters make somewhat dumb decisions, pay for them, and later learn to read people’s hearts to see what the better option is.

There’s still lots of what makes everyone love Gundam in the first place. The battles are taking up more and more space in the book, but are still very exciting. And the political back and forth and constant attempts to get the upper hand is even better. Char excels at this, of course, even when captured for insubordination. He’s just a man who wants his sunglasses. That’s all. Add in an afterward by Shimoku Kio, who draws the female cast, and has the Genshiken meet Amuro, and you have absolutely no reason not to pick this up. An excelletn volume.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Vol. 2

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.

When we last left our heroes, they’d finally gotten back to Earth. Of course, this proves to be only the beginning of their troubles… they’re in enemy territory, and are being told by their allies in South America “get here first, then we’ll tell you what to do next.” Their ace pilot is having a bit of a PTSD attack, and wants no part of all of this. The refugees they picked up are resorting to taking hostages just to be allowed to leave. And our man in charge, Bright Noah, just can’t seem to get any respect. But then, this is what happens when your enemies call your ship the “Trojan Horse”… you have all the luck that Troy did.


To get the obvious out of the way first, most of what you enjoyed about the first book is present and correct here in the second. The battles are done very well, with lots of attention to detail and realism (given that these are robot wars), but don’t take up so much of the book that you get bored with all the combat. The overall tone is serious, but there are some very amusing dashes of humor, including Lieutenant Reed’s ulcer, Fraw Bow’s jealousy (and a flash of the same thing from Amuro), and every exasperated face Noah makes. But overall, the message continues to be what Gundam does best: war is a horrible thing that destroys entire cities, and one should never revel in it.

I think my favorite party of the volume was watching every single interaction between Char and Garma. After all the earnestness that our heroes fall into, it’s great seeing two people who clearly despise each other attempting to one-up each other in how politely smug they can be. Char’s needling of Garma, and manipulation as the story goes on, really shows of his people skills, albeit not in a good way. He spends much of this volume simply watching things develop (well, that and taking long showers so that he can properly show off his fantastic naked body to the reader). This makes his arrogant sneering at Garma right at the end all the more startling, and reminds you once again that he may be the bad guy you love to hate, but he’s still the bad guy.

As for Amuro, he gets the bulk of the second half of this volume, as he reunites with his mother. I’ll be honest, I totally expected him to return and find his mother dead – all the signs were pointing that way – but then, this series has pointed one way and gone another before, so I shouldn’t be surprised. What we got was even better, though – his mother has no context for what’s happened to Amuro at all, and all she can see is that her little boy has become a killer. This is far more visceral than most stories of this time, given Amuro has to lethally fight his way out of the encampment his mother is living in. It’s the emotional heart of the story.

And then there is the titular Garma. The Gundam story makes sure that we don’t simply see the Zeon enemy as “space Nazis”, and Garma’s desire to be worthy of his name, as well as his romance with an Earth girl, is part of this. I was never quite sure till the end how invested he was in Icelina, but it seems to be more genuine than I thought, and I wonder if she’ll return at some point down the line. But in the end, this is a story about war and the prices that one pays during it, and the final images we see are a father brutally gunned down in front of his daughter, and a father stunned to hear of the death of his son.

I admit I would perhaps have slightly fewer mech battles if I were plotting this, but oh well. Gundam is still a riveting and fascinating series, and fully justifies why it has endured all these years. And the presentation, again, is fantastic – a real coffee table book. It’s hard to wait three more months to see what happens next.