Friday, February 20, 2015


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

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko closes out his long flashback sequence with a full volume dedicated to the opening act of the One Year War. We saw Zeon’s opening salvo, destroying a colony cluster loyal to the Earth Federation, in the previous installment, but we learn here that one of the colonies is kept intact, per orders from Gihren Zabi, with the intention of gassing its inhabitants to death and dropping the colony on the Federation headquarters at Jaburo.

This heinous plan leads to Ramba Ral resigning from the military, earning him the ire of Dozle, the one member of the Zabi family who had supported Ral after the fall of his house. Yasuhiko continues to paint Ramba Ral as the best of the Zeon characters. He has principles, unlike Gihren, and — unlike Dozle, who also recognizes the horrific nature of the plan but goes along with in anyway out of duty — he sticks to those principles. Unlike Char, Ramba Ral is honorable, and unlike the Black Tri-Stars, he is able to maintain his professionalism and not devolve into petty bickering and jealousy. Ral is the epitome of a noble antagonist, which would of course explain why he was killed off so early in the storyline. But his fleshing out is probably the best part about this long foray into the past.

And, in general, this volume is probably the best overall of the three "past" books. The strongest material, I still believe, was the early segment of volume 5, featuring the political maneuvering between House Zabi and House Ral -- but that book was heavily marred by the "unrelated identical twins" fiasco. This book, however, while mentioning the "real" Char Aznable briefly, is overall untouched by such terrible ideas. In fact, I'd say the worst thing to come out of the book is the scene wherein a Zeon agent -- the soldier who helped young Sayla and Char escape to Earth years before -- appears to Sayla and informs her that Char Aznable may be more than he seems, and that he believes Casval is still alive -- essentially smashing Sayla over the head with the knowledge of her brother's secret identity and retroactively undermining earlier scenes in previous volumes where we thought she was learning the truth for the first time. Turns out she was merely having it confirmed, which is not nearly as interesting.

But Sayla gets some great material in this volume as well. Summoned back to Texas colony when her adoptive father's health takes a turn for the worse, she finds herself defending the family home when riots break out as Zeon attacks the Loum colony cluster -- of which Texas is a member -- out in space. Sayla loads up a shotgon and blows away several intruders, her leadership turning the tide and quelling the riot. Sayla was always a somewhat major character in the original GUNDAM, being Char's sister and a Newtype -- but she was constantly overshadowed by Amuro and generally came across as uninteresting. The Sayla of THE ORIGIN, however, is, as I believe I noted once before, a total badass, and is possibly my favorite character from this version of the story (that honor, by the way, belonged to the stoic Lt. Bright in the original series).

At any rate, to step back a bit -- Zeon's colony drop operation fails in its primary objective as the colony breaks apart while entering Earth's atmosphere, but the three pieces cause unfathomable destruction when they hit and by the time the fallout is complete, half the Earth's population is dead. But Zeon's march continues as they stage the aforementioned assault on Loum, where the Federation fleet enters the fray. But Zeon's mobile suits prove a deciding factor in the battle and Zeon is victorious, even capturing Federation commander, General Revil.

And it is Revil's incarceration which leads to one of my favorite moments in the flashback sequence: Degwin Zabi, still adamantly against the war, visits Revil in his cell and suggests that the fighting to this point has been far too costly for both sides, and peace is needed. He arranges for Revil to be rescued by Federation forces after their discussion, under the impression that Revil will pursue peace with Zeon. But when Revil finally gets home, he gives a televised speech rallying the Federation to never surrender and to fight Zeon to the end. This finally pushes Degwin into the pro-war camp, as he sends a delegation to Earth under the guise of a peace mission, but with the secret goal of establishing a foothold to invade the planet.

And thus the stage is set for the series' first volume, while also setting a direction for volume 8 at the same time. The peace envoy is led by General M'Quve, who should factor into the next volume's events. Under his command is Garma, who we saw on Earth back in volume 2. Char is instructed by Dozle to locate the Federation's new experimental mobile suit, a mission he will complete in volume 1. And we've seen much of the Zabis, who become major players in the second half of the series when the action returns to the present -- and to outer space.

I still believe, however, that this flashback arc was ill-conceived. The concept was sound, but Yasuhiko has gone in some weird, overly indulgent, almost fan-fictionish ways with it. But there is some good material to be found in these three volumes, and with regards to this installment in particular, the battle of Loum is terrific -- and Sayla killing dudes with a shotgun is pretty much worth the price of admission.

But volume 8 will bring us back to the current day's storyline, and it looks as if, once more, Yasuhiko will be reordering some events from the TV series to better fit into a logically cohesive storyline. And, as this is the area in which he most excels, I'm exciting to return to the exploits of the White Base and its crew.

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