Friday, February 21, 2014


Written & Illustrated by: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original story by: Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate
Mechanical Design by: Kunio Okawara

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko continues his retelling and deepening of the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM SAGA in this second volume of GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN. The story picks up with White Base now on Earth, forced off course by Char's forces so that the ship is trapped in the Zeon-controlled North American southwest. The ship immediately comes under attack by Garma Zabi's forces, but with the aid of the Gundam, manages to fight off this initial sortie.

Yasuhiko borrows some cues from the GUNDAM compilation movies for his reorganization of this segment of the saga. The initial battle with Garma's forces is a combination of a couple separate events from the TV series, and it works much better this way. Rather than Garma ineffectively and repetitiously attacking White Base multiple times during its journey through his territory, he really only has one major initial encounter with the "Trojan Horse".

But on the other hand, Yasuhiko keeps a storyline from the TV series which was omitted from the movies, wherein the civilian refugees aboard White Base grow restless, take hostages, and demand to be let off the ship. This leads to a brief cease-fire declaration between both sides as White Base offloads the refugees, and the sequence flows organically into a rematch with Char, as he plans to spring a trap immediately after the cease-fire ends. There's a very nice bit during this story where a couple of crashed Zeon pilots encounter a refugee and her son, and share their camp with her. Just a little while before, the pilots had been seen engaged in a fierce battle with the Federation forces. It's a very humanizing moment that reminds us that, as in any war, both sides believe they're the "good guys" and are capable of kindness, even to enemy civilians.

Garma and Char
The war takes a toll on Amuro, just as in other versions of the story, as shell-shock begins to set in. He admits his fear to Fraw Bow as she struggles to convince him to battle the Zeon forces during Char's attack. And also as in previous versions of the story, it falls to Lt. Bright to literally slap some sense into the cowering Amuro. The boy's fear of war is understandable and painfully realistic. He fell into his role as the Gundam's pilot, and his natural skill behind its controls makes him the only viable candidate to continue its operation.

The relationship between Char and Garma is spotlighted as well in the volume, borrowing liberally from the source material. As originally, they are academy classmates, and while Garma believes Char to be a real friend, Char constantly thinks of Garma as an incompetent fool. Their time together comes to and end when, as in the series, Char tricks Garma into the White Base's trap during a battle in Los Angeles, and, just before Garma is killed, Char taunts Garma, essentially telling him that his death is nothing personal, but is necessary as part of Char's revenge against Garma's father, Degwin.

But before all that, there are a couple more events along the White Base's path. Ordered by the Federation to break from Zeon territory on its own and deliver the Gundam to Federation headquarters in Jaburo, South America, White Base travels south, always under the watchful eyes of Zeon scouts. But there is time for a layover or two, as the ship parks not far from Amuro's hometown.

I've never been a fan of the brief story where Amuro returns home and meets his mother, but it's a pretty important element of the character's evolution, so there was no way it would be omitted from THE ORIGIN. And Yasuhiko presents it about as well as he can. The key is in making Amuro's mother unsympathetic, so that Amuro has reason to leave her behind and accept his fate as the Gundam's pilot, completing his character arc for this segment of the saga. Past iterations of this sequence seemed, to me at least, to want viewers to side with Mrs. Ray. This version really plays up her selfishness in wanting her innocent child back, trying to force him to desert his allies, so it works much better.

Lt. Matilda Ajan
Plus, in a sequence unique to THE ORIGIN, we get a daring rescue scene, where Amuro, chased out of town by Zeon forces, meets up with Sayla and Kai in a jeep, and the trio speeds back to White Base, blowing Zeon planes out of the sky with a bazooka as they go. It's another scene that plays up the "badass" side of Sayla, which is something most versions of the story don't get to until much later -- so the earlier development here is nice to see. Also welcome is the fact that Kai is quickly evolving from a self-serving, somewhat cowardly character into a soldier who will risk his life to save a friend.

The volume also introduces us to Lt. Matilda, captain of the Medea-class supply plane which meets up with White Base in Zeon territory. She informs the ship's crew that they will continue on as a fully commissioned battleship, with no senior relief crew to take their place. Amuro is smitten with Matilda, much to Fraw Bow's consternation. And speaking of Fraw, she comes across much cuter in this iteration than in any version of GUNDAM I've seen before. She wears her feelings for Amuro on her sleeve, and even tries to make him jealous by flirting with a Zeon pilot during the cease-fire. As I recall, she was usually more reserved in past continuities, and I like this more self-assured version of the character a lot better.

The last major whole-cloth element Yasuhiko throws into the story for this volume is the fact that the final battle with Garma's forces is the result of a guerilla insurgency. Originally the battle was simply a case of the White Base moving through Garma's territory on its way south, and stopping to defend itself from attack. Here, the ship is a component of a small liberation force, which helps add to the larger picture of the war on Earth. White Base's participation in this battle in Los Angeles, as the closest ship in the area, is a logical conclusion to the Garma story arc, and another way in which Yasuhiko judiciously adds in his own bits where they make sense to deepen the overall GUNDAM story.

White Base escapes from L.A.
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