Friday, February 28, 2014


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

This is a heavy volume, filled with more drama and carnage than anything else so far in the story. It begins with the funeral of Garma Zabi and the introduction of his family: father Degwin (glimpsed briefly at the end of volume 2), the leader of the Principality of Zeon; brother Gihren, the commander-in-chief of Zeon's armed forces, sister Kycilia and brother Dozle (also seen previously in volume 1), admirals of the Zeon navy. Gihren uses the funeral's broadcast to give a rousing speech to the citizens of the Principality, reinforcing the revolution's purpose.

On Earth, White Base continues its journey to South America, now pursued by Ramba Ral, ace Zeon pilot. The politics behind Ral's situation are, I believe, new to the story. It is established that Ral served loyally under Zeon Zum Deikun, founder of the Principality who was overthrown by the Zabis. Out of favor with the ruling family, Ral and his loyal troops served in the reserve forces. But now, following Char's failure to seize the "Trojan Horse", Ral is called to active service by Dozle.

However, Kycilia is no fan of Ral, and as Earth falls under her jurisdiction, Ral receives next to no aid in his mission. Still, working with only his elite commandos and a handful of mobile suits -- including a new, state-of-the-art model called the Gouf -- Ral dogs White Base at every turn, showing no mercy and attaining greater success in his campaigns than Char ever did.

I have been a fan of Ramba Ral's since I first watched MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM years ago. Unlike Char, Ral has a sense of honor and does not view his troops as expendable commodities. Where Char was willing to lose countless Zakus (and their pilots) in his attacks, Ral orders retreat every time he is outgunned, and reacts far more personally and emotionally to the losses of his men.

Rambal Ral and his wife (?), Hamon
When General M'Quve, head of Zeon's Earthbound forces, refuses further assistance to Ral following the loss of all but one of his mobile suits, the old campaigner stages a daring raid on White Base with jet packs, small arms, and commando tactics. This assault proves his defeat, but he goes out fighting even when all odds are against him. If nothing else, his dedication to his mission above all else is commendable, and even seems to make an impression on the White Base's young crew.

Ramba Ral's forces may be completely wiped out, but White Base does not make it through the volume unscathed, either. Having lost one of their Guncannons previously, this storyline sees a second destroyed, as well as one of their Guntanks with all crew aboard, all at Ramba Ral's hands. The final battle sees the deaths of several of White Base secondary senior crew members, as well.

But White Base suffers mental scars as well. Amuro deserts the ship when he overhears Bright planning to remove him from the Gundam. When the crew captures one of Ramba Ral's men, Sayla sneaks to his cell to ask him about Char, which leads Bright's officers to brand her a traitor and confine her to the brig. With Sayla imprisoned, several more of the civilian crew members attempt to desert as well. Ramba Ral's final attack reunites them all for a common purpose, but the damage to their relationships has been done.

Yasuhiko continues to impress with his ability to take bits from the TV series and cobble them together into a more satisfying whole. In the show, Sayla's imprisonment was a slap on the wrist for a minor infraction; not nearly as contentious as it is here. Ramba Ral's group pursued White Base unaided for no real reason. Here, Sayla's trip to the brig acts as the impetus for what was, in the series, an unrelated attempt at desertion by other crew members. And Ral has no aid due to political maneuvering between the Zabi siblings. It's a much more richly layered experience here than originally.

Gouf vs. Gundam
Char plays a very small role in the volume, but his presence is seen as another example of Yasuhiko's creativity. Originally, following his dismissal by Dozle, Char was recruited by Kycilia simply for his skills. Here, Char is arrested by Kycilia's men, and she interrogates him to find out why he allowed her brother to perish. Char refuses to answer, but blackmails his way into Kycilia's service by telling her he can get the Earthbound Zeonic forces into the Federation's Jaburo base. It seems he spent some time on Earth after Dozle let him go, met some natives in the South American jungle, and can use them to gain entrance to Jaburo.

All of this is new to Yasuhiko's retelling of the story, but works much more organically than the original series' continuity. We have a more satisfying reason for Char's return to service under the Zabis, and an explanation for his long absence between the battle of Los Angeles and the upcoming attack on Jaburo.

The mysterious Sayla Mass
Among other developments in this volume, briefly, are the revelation that Sayla and Char are siblings, and that Char is rumored to be of noble descent. I don't recall exactly when these revelations came about in the TV series -- it could have been at this point, but for some reason I think it was sooner. At any rate, the reveal is treated appropriately dramatically here, with a full-page splash of Sayla lying on a bunk, thinking of Char as her brother.

Also notable in the volume is the first use of the word "newtype". Newtypes will become a major part of the story later on, but right now the concept is only teased as a sort of gifted individual with latent mental abilities (telepathy, precognition, etc.). Lt. Matilda informs Bright during a supply run that the Federation brass believes there may be newtypes among the White Base crew. Amuro is most certainly one, and, when she senses the approach of Ramba Ral's men from the brig just before the volume's finale, Sayla demonstrates that she likely is, as well.

As I said, this is a heavy volume -- both in terms of emotionally provoking material and in terms of concepts and plot points. I noted previously that White Base's time on Earth is the highlight of MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM for me, and these are exactly the reasons why. Volume 3 is a dense read, but an exciting and exceptionally enjoyable one, as well.

Available now from


  1. Hamon is Ramba's aide and lover but not his wife

    1. Thanks. I was never entirely clear what their relationship was, and it occurs to me in retrospect that's probably because I first watched MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM on Toonami's weekday afternoon broadcast, where I'm sure their relationship was sanitized to avoid forever scarring younger viewers.