Friday, March 4, 2016

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN, VOLUME 12

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

GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN’s final volume begins exactly where the last one left off: Char and Amuro have annihilated one another’s mobile suits within A Baoa Qu, but both escape the damage unscathed and Amuro pursues Char deeper into the fortress.

For whatever reason, the destruction of the Gundam doesn’t feel as momentous here as in the original animation. It’s not necessarily for lack of trying on Yasuhiko’s part; he certainly draws it well. But I seem to recall that the TV series (and subsequent movie adaptation) made this out to be the big deal one would expect from the destruction of the series’ title device. Here it’s just something that happens, and not even Amuro seems too shaken up about it.

Char, on the other hand, is quite shaken, though not due to the destruction of his Zeong. Amuro pursues him into Ghiren’s private quarters, glimpsed in the previous volume, and in short order, just as in the original animation, the pair begins a duel with a set of Ghiren’s antique sabers. But while Lalah’s death is certainly on both their minds here — Amuro wants to kill Char for causing him to inadvertently kill her while Char wants to kill Amuro because he believes the other is not worthy to speak her name — there’s much more to the fight in Char’s mind this time around.

Yasuhiko revisits some of his original flashback material here, namely a scene from volume 5 in which the Kycilia sent an assassin for Char/Casval/Edouard while he and his sister lived with Señor Teabolo on Earth. The assassin, as seen in that installment, wore a suit of medevial armor as he snuck around Teabolo’s castle. Here, the antique armor in Ghiren’s quarters reminds Char of that situation — only now he sees himself as the assassin and Amuro as the innocent victim fighting for this life. It’s hard for me to state just how much I love this role reversal. I don’t think it’s something that was ever explored before — mainly since we didn’t know Char’s backstory — and it’s a fascinating look into his psyche as he suddenly finds himself fighting against… himself.

Meanwhile, Yasuhiko continues his welcome development of Sayla’s plotline as well. Having stirred up insurrection within the ranks, she’s now created a third side in the civil war which rages inside A Baoa Qu, as the forces loyal to Zeon Zum Deikun fight against the already warring Ghiren loyalists and Kycilia mutineers. The chaos leads Kycilia to abandon A Baoa Qu, and this brings the various threads to converge as Sayla locates Amuro and Char. Her admonishment snaps Char out of his bloodlust. He bids his sister farewell and departs to carry out his mission, leading to one of the most iconic scenes in GUNDAM history, as he grabs a bazooka, zips up in front of Kycilia’s departing ship with a jetpack, and fires into the bridge, blowing her head clean off and causing the vessel to crash into A Baoa Qu.

I love the conclusion of MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM, and Yasuhiko does it perfect justice, giving Sayla a much larger role, deepening Char’s motivation for dueling Amuro, and lavishly illustrating all of it. He even makes up somewhat for his nonchalance about the Gundam’s destruction when Bright orders an evactuation of White Base and we see the young captain remain on the bridge a bit longer than anyone else to bid farewell to the ship which we’ve followed for the past dozen volumes.

And then A Baoa Qu goes down, the crew of White Base is reunited, and the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon declare an armistice as the calendar flips over to Universal Century 0080.

But we aren't quite finished yet. Between 2010 and 2014, during and after his conclusion of the manga saga, Yasuhiko created a trio of “bonus” chapters focused (sort of) on Char, Sayla, and Amuro. The first of these, set during UC 0057, shows us the day Char was born and reveals a few more choice tidbits about the past, such as the fact that Hamon Crowley helped deliver Char when she was only a little girl and that Degwin Zabi, the dean of a colony university, hid Zeon Zum Deikun, one of his professors, from the Federation security forces in the early stages of the revolution. There’s not a lot to this one, though it’s interesting to see Ghiren, Dozle, and Kycilia in their younger days (young adult, teenager, child, respectively), and it’s nice to see Degwin and Zeon at a point in their lives when they were still friends (remember, even in the previous flashbacks, the first we see of them is the day Degwin had Zeon assassinated).

The second story, set three years after the war’s end, is ostensibly about Sayla, but really gives us more insight into Kai. A jobless drifter since the war ended, he is recruited by Mirai (now married to Bright) to go check on Salya, who, rumor has it, is under Federation house arrest in England. Bright, still in the military, has it on good authority that Zeon may send someone to kidnap Sayla, and Mirai wants her warned. Kai soon learns the house arrest rumor is false, but in short order discovers that Sayla is, in fact, under observation by MI6.


When a group of Zeon commandos comes to spirit her away, the story takes a turn for the bizarre as the lady of the manor where Sayla’s staying talks MI6 and Zeon out of blowing each other away, convincing them instead to settle their differences via a polo match. The Earthnoids win and Sayla remains on Earth by her own choice. Kai, having posed as a reporter to get close to Sayla, decides to pursue a career in journalism for real—which would be his profession in MOBILE SUIT ZETA GUNDAM, the original show’s sequel series. (Also set up for sequels in this tale is the fact that Mirai and Bright have a son named Hathaway, who would figure into the final Char/Amuro story, CHAR’S COUNTERATTACK, released a decade after the original series.)

The final story takes place two years after the battle of A Baoa Qu, and features Amuro visiting Hayato and Fraw Bow in Japan. We learn that Hayato plans to marry Fraw and adopt Katz, Letz, and Kikka, and that he will soon be returning to the military (all setup for ZETA GUNDAM). But as Amuro and the others explore the scenic San’in Region, several Zeon loyalists (in particular M’Quve loyalists) attempt repeatedly to assassinate Amuro but are thwarted at every turn by a Federation security detail trailing him.

It’s a pretty inconsequential story, though it ends with Amuro telling Fraw that he plans to return to Side 7, where everything started for him, to help rebuild and hopefully, eventually “…create a society where human beings can truly get along with each other.” It’s a nice note to end on, I suppose. No mention of Earthnoids or Spacenoids or Newtypes or Oldtypes. The message at the core of MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM has always been that war is hell and humanity must learn to coexist. In the end we’re all just human beings, plain and simple.

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