Friday, March 7, 2014


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

The first half of volume 4 is another fantastic exercise by Yasuhiko in rearranging and re-ordering events from the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM to form a more organic and cohesive experience. The White Base makes two stops on its way to Jaburo, one at a Federation base in Lima, and a second in the neutral territory of Cuzco. While both these stops are original creations of Yasuhiko, they incorporate some moments from the original series that had previously taken place aboard ship.

While White Base travels, General M'Quve recruits Zeon's ace pilots, the Black Tri-Stars, to join the upcoming attack on Jaburo. In an event created wholly by Yasuhiko, some of the White Base crew, including Amuro, bump into the Tri-Stars in a market in Cuzco. Much like Amuro's encounter with Ramba Ral previously, this encounter adds a personal element to Amuro's eventual battle with the Tri-Stars.

But first, speaking of Ramba Ral, his lover (possibly his wife), Hamon, wants revenge on the White Base for his death. Originally this sequence took place immediately following Ral's death, but Yasuhiko wisely delays it a bit, giving readers some breathing room following the last volume's chaos before this book ramps up the tragedy quotient yet again.

As in the TV series, Hamon's attack results in the deaths of both her and of White Base's stalwart senior enlisted crewmember, Ryu. But here, Yasuhiko uses Hamon's attack to cripple the ship, bringing in Lt. Matilda's Medea transport for repairs, and setting things up for an attack by the Black Tri-Stars, who were on training maneuvers when Hamon's unit passed them by, leading them to follow Hamon to investigate her unsanctioned attack. And again, as in the TV series, the Tri-Stars' assault results in the destruction of Matilda's plane and her death.

The flow is much more logical here than it used to be, relying upon a natural progression and escalation of events, rather than just presenting these encounters as a series of unrelated skirmishes. And on top of the more organic storytelling, Yasuhiko compresses the deaths of Ryu and Matilda into a single tragic day, crafting a brutal one-two gut punch for White Base crew and readers alike. It's brilliant work, retelling these already existing events in a much more effective fashion.

Approaching Jaburo.
And that's only half the volume! White Base finally arrives at Jaburo following the encounter with the Tri-Stars. Their crew is depleted and their mobile suit complement is down to the Gundam alone, so the Federation resupplies and completely refits the ship. The entire crew is asked to stay on, and the civilian volunteers are given battlefield commissions to officially retain their posts. I've always thought it was a bit odd to see a bunch of kids continue to operate the ship, but the manga does an excellent job of reinforcing the Federation's faith in White Base's crew following their astounding escapades on the way to Jaburo.

The newtype concept is revisited again this volume as well, for a number of characters. Amuro of course demonstrates his aptitude further, sensing an attack before it happens. Sayla has a similar experience, and this time even Mirai has a premonition that something bad may happen to Matilda, shortly before the other's death. Finally, at Jaburo, in a sequence new to THE ORIGIN, Amuro is subjected to a battery of tests under the supervision of several scientists researching newtypes for the Federation.

It's unclear how long White Base is docked at Jaburo, but the downtime as the ship is refitted is a welcome breather following the recent travails of her crew. Besides the newtype sub-plot and the commissioning of the crew, we also get a little comedy out of Fraw Bow's attempts to keep the orphan trio in line, and there are even a couple romantic sub-plots thrown in, via the introduction of Matilda's mourning fiancé, Lt. Woody, and a hint that Bright may have feelings for Mirai.

Siblings Sayla and Char finally meet in person
during the battle of Jaburo.
But the respite doesn't last long. Just as in the original series, the arrival at Jaburo soon leads to Char's long-awaited return to the battlefield, as he spearheads Zeon's assault on the Federation headquarters. Unfortunately, Yasuhiko makes a rare mis-step by incorporating the TV series plot of the orphans discovering Char's plan to destroy the Federation's mobile suit factory, and then thwarting that plot. I think the kids are funny in small doses, but their role here is a bit too much for a mostly serious and realistic storyline.

The subsequent battle, however, plays out much better in Yasuhiko's version than previously. Zeon's main assault on Jaburo includes a second attack, not seen in the TV series, by General Romeo Garcia, a comic relief character original to THE ORIGIN. Garcia's raid is repelled in part by a unit of Federation mobile suits led by Sleggar Law, who will become a member of White Base's crew when it leaves Jaburo. I liked Sleggar in the TV series, though he came across there as a bit of an "obnoxious American", so I'm curious to see how Yasuhiko will develop him here.

The manga is really in a great groove at this point. The first couple volumes were great, but mostly retold the original series with minor modifications. Volumes 3 and 4, however, have ramped things up as far as reorganizing and reshuffling events and creating brand new material to enrich the world and the saga. There have been a handful of misfires, but they're few and far between. Yasuhiko continues to do a remarkable and admirable job in crafting a definitive continuity for the original GUNDAM saga.

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