Friday, February 12, 2016

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, VOLUME 9

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

With Zeon’s forces driven from Earth following the Battle of Odessa, the war’s main theater returns to space, and White Base heads up to join the conflict. But before undertaking its first mission, the ship docks at the neutral Side 6 colony for supplies. While there, Mirai is reunited with her fiancée, Cameron Bloom, now part of the colony’s customs agency.

Also on Side 6, Amuro has an encounter with his father, presumed dead since Zeon’s assault on Side 7 in volume 1. But it turns out Doctor Ray survived, albeit with brain damage due to oxygen deprivation when he was blown out of the colony during the fight. Amuro spends a bit of time with his father, but eventually returns to White Base.

The final significant event to occur on Side 6 is Amuro’s meeting with Lalah Sune and Char, in person. It’s unclear whether Lalah lives on Side 6 or is merely visiting, but Amuro encounters her while out for a drive following a disappointing visit to his father. Amuro feels an unusual connection with the girl and the next day, as White Base prepares to depart, he goes out to find her again. But when he finally locates Lalah, she is in the company of Char. Thus Char and Amuro cross paths in person for the very first time, though Char is unaware the boy he’s speaking with is the pilot of the Gundam which has vexed him for so long.

The entire Side 6 sequence, up to and including White Base’s departure and battle with three Zeon cruisers within the neutral colony’s airspace, is, as far as I can recall, pretty much a completely faithful adaptaion of the original television material. This is an unusual occurrence for Yasuhiko, who generally finds at least one way to tweak almost any scenario he adapts. But in truth this part of the story has always worked just fine as originally presented and changes probably weren't necessary. In particular, the meeting between Amuro and Char, which recalls a similar encounter between Amuro and Ramba Ral on Earth, is a nicely suspenseful moment, as Amuro once again gets to see his enemy as more than a faceless mobile suit.

The changes return, and as usual I’d say for the better, in the second half of volume 9. White Base receives a mission to quash a top secret Zeon project in the now-deserted Texas colony. Originally this sequence occurred after the Battle of Solomon, but Yasuhiko has saved that epic event for the next volume – which means that the excursion to Texas here features Sleggar Law among White Base’s crew (he will no longer be a member following Solomon).


Further, where the original Texas episode had White Base simply investigating a Zeon sighting near Texas. Here, Zeon is actively using Texas as a testing ground for potential Newtypes, including one pilot named Challia Bull, who would actually factor into a later GUNDAM episode according to the original timeline. But since the original series’ Texas mission featured Amuro dueling M’Quve in a mobile suit, and since M’Quve perished in the last volume, here we see Amuro battle Bull while Char and Lalah observe, and while the remaining complement of White Base’s mobile suits fend off a separate Zeon attack.

Shuffling Solomon down the timeline gives us a better look at Sleggar, and allows us to see the development of Newtypes on a smaller scale prior to their participation in that much grander conflict. I’d call both of these improvements over the original GUNDAM sequence of events. As usual, working with the benefit of hindsight, Yasuhiko is able to figure out the best possible order for a more organic, logical story experience.

Plus, he ties this previously unrelated Texas mission into the backstory he established in volumes 5 through 7. I will again state that I wasn’t a fan of some of the stuff he did in those installments, but I appreciate that he’s bringing things full circle here. In the original Texas episode, Char and Sayla crossed paths while on the colony, though neither had any apparent connection to their surroundings. Here, their meeting is given more weight as they both travel independently to the old Mass homestead, which is now burnt out and dilapidated. It is in the shadow of their former lives that they debate philosophy and Char reveals to Sayla that his goal within the Zeonic forces is to oversee the rise of Newtypes to prominence in the universe. Unbeknownst to both, their conversation is overheard by Kai, who reports it to Bright (previously, it was Bright himself who listened in on the discussion).

The volume closes out with Sayla admitting to Bright and the others that Char is her brother. Bright relieves her of her duties until he can run this fact by Federation command, and Sayla retires to her quarters to cry.


I continue to love Yasuhiko’s development of Sayla in these volumes. She was always a major presence in MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, being Char’s sister and a pilot, as well as a minor-level Newtype, but even under those circumstances she felt like a secondary character behind Amuro, Bright, Mirai, and one or two more. But here it’s hard to argue she’s anything less than one of the primary leads of the series along with Amuro and Bright, and the role fits her well.

Next up is Solomon, one of the biggest battles in the entirety of the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM. Glancing at an episode guide online, given that he’s already covered the Texas visit and combined Challia Bull into that story, it appears Yasuhiko only has six episodes of material left to cover, and three full volumes in which to do it. I sense more original ideas must be coming to fill some of that space and, notwithstanding my issues with his excursion to the past, I really look forward to seeing what he’ll come up with. The final segment of the series, in which White Base returns to space and things become far more metaphysical, has always been my least favorite part of the MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM storyline. Hopefully Yasuhiko can get me to appreciate it a bit more.

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