I'm not a huge anime/manga person, but I've checked out the odd series in both formats here and there, most frequently back when I was in college and there was an anime boom on Cartoon Network. But of the series I looked at back then, only a very few stuck with me to the point that I would consider myself a fan. One of those properties is MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM.
I first encountered Gundam, as I imagine is the case for many Americans of a certain age, via Cartoon Network's broadcast of GUNDAM WING on their Toonami programming block back in 2000 or so. I had heard of Gundam previously, but never seen it. GUNDAM WING introduced me to the franchise, and while I enjoyed the show quite a bit on its own merits -- I still dust it off to watch every few years -- it was soon overshadowed in my estimation by the original 1979 series, MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM.
After getting into WING, I did some research about its ancestor on the fledgling internet, and picked up Viz Media's first two translated volumes of the original series' manga adaptation. The art didn't do a lot for me, but the story was enough to make me want more. Unfortunately, I never found any further volumes. I assumed Viz had canceled the series due to low sales, but I eventually learned that it actually ran to completion in the U.S. I assume now that it just wasn't carried anyplace I normally purchased books and/or comics.
But not long after, Cartoon Network aired the original GUNDAM series on Toonami, and I was finally able to see the whole thing. The animation was primitive by the standards of the time, but I have a huge soft spot for that style of the late 70s/early 80s, so that really only added to my appreciation. The music grabbed me, and the story was just as melodramatic as I'd expected. During that brief run, I became a full-fledged Gundam fan. I picked up toys and DVDs, and I played the video games. I continued to watch other Gundam series as they were imported to the U.S., and while I liked some, none captured my attention quite like the original series.
A few years later, Viz gave Gundam manga another shot, beginning a translation of GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, an all-new adaptation of the original series being published almost concurrently in Japan. THE ORIGIN was written and illustrated by the original series' character designer, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, with the goal of definitively hammering the story into a more cohesive, dramatic narrative than ever before -- a definitive re-telling of the Gundam saga.
(And in fact it has proved so definitive that Gundam owner Sunrise plans to adapt it back into a TV series in 2014-2015 for the 35th anniversary of the original series!)
However, Gundam manga just doesn't seem to do well in America, and Viz's release of THE ORIGIN was canceled after only a few issues. Part of the blame may lie with Viz themselves, as they published the series in a comic book/magazine format rather than thick paperback volumes as in Japan, and the individual issues were overpriced for the minuscule content they contained. I know I didn't bother with them, in spite of the attractive artwork.
But now we come to the modern day. A new publisher, Veritcal, has picked up the rights to THE ORIGIN, and they're giving it the treatment it deserves: beautiful hardcover volumes, including, among the standard black and white artwork, all the original colored pages as they previously appeared in Japan. The manga is selling as poorly as ever, but from what I've gathered, Vertical is committed to finishing it anyway as an extremely limited run directed solely at collectors. They're releasing one volume per quarter over the course of three years, and as of this writing I already have the first four installments in my collection.
As you've doubtless guessed, all this backstory is my way of announcing that I plan to review GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN here. My intention is to do the first four volumes, then a year or so from now I'll cover the middle four, and then finally in two years, I'll get to the last three. So it's a long-term project, but hopefully it'll be a fun one. I'm looking forward to it, at least!