Friday, February 26, 2016


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

The penultimate volume of GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN opens with the beginning stages of the Federation’s siege against A Baoa Qu, Zeon’s strategic stronghold in deep space. But as that war rages, Char meets in person with Kycilia Zabi and the truth comes out: she has discerned his true identity. But in true Zabi fashion, Kycilia decides to spare the man who sacrificed her brother as a pawn, in order to use him for her own purposes. She apparently buys Char’s story that desire for revenge against the Zabis has left him, and that his sole wish now is to see Newtypes rise to prominence in the universe. Kycilia welcomes Char back into her graces, a decision which — it should surprise no one — will come back to bite her in the near future.

And after this relatively low-key introductory scene, the battle of A Baoa Qu kicks off with a literal bang as Ghiren, commanding Zeon forces from the massive asteroid base, fires a laser his technicians have fashioned from a hollowed-out colony. The beam obliterates half the Federation fleet, including General Revil, as well as Ghiren’s own father, Degwin, who had just arrived to negotiate a cease-fire with Revil.

Revil’s demise has never really sat well with me, but I think that’s probably the idea. Throughout the GUNDAM saga, he’s presented as a stalwart leader with no time for politicking or other such pursuits. Revil wants to win the war and he has repeatedly recognized White Base and her crew as an integral part of that effort. Where everyone else sees them as expendable commodities, Revil seems to believe they’re destined for something greater—which is why his end hits so hard. He’s not your typical military bureaucrat; he actually believes in Amuro and company; perhaps to the point of being their sole remaining genuine supporter in the Federation, and certainly their highest ranking supporter. His end essentially means that, regardless of the war's outcome, the heroes of White Base will remain just another bunch of faces in the crowd, unrecognized for their integral parts in the war's outcome.

But Yasuhiko, at least, remembers that this is White Base's story. We got some nice character touches among the crew in the last volume, and this installment continues that trend, though perhaps on a larger scale. Besides the obvious Amuro, who we’ll touch on shortly, this installment gives Bright and Sayla in particular their chances to shine. Bright gives a rousing speech to his crew just prior to the battle’s start, which I don’t believe ever existed in any other versions of this story. Later, after Revil’s successor, Rear Admiral Watkein, goes down with his ship, Bright assumes command of the remaining vessels in the fleet and directs them — once more via a dramatic speech — to a last-ditch landing at A Baoa Qu for the final battle. Both these incidents really cement him as the leader of men we've seen periodically across the saga.

Sayla and her GM mobile suit.
Meanwhile, Sayla — who we’ve already determined is a much bigger presence throughout this iteration of the story than in others — is given her very own state-of-the-art mobile suit to pilot in the battle (previous incarnations of this tale had her back in her fighter instead). She puts it to good use, taking out a member of the Zeon Newtype unit in a skirmish which, I believe, is unique to THE ORIGIN. As I’ve said before, it’s always nice to see Sayla kick a little ass, so this scene is much appreciated.

And Sayla’s story continues, as her mobile suit is totaled in the fight and she ejects, finding her way inside A Baoa Qu to search for Char. But instead she runs across Zeon security forces and quickly wins them over by revealing her true identity, inciting a mutiny among those still loyal to her father. I believe that originally, her role in A Baoa Qu was merely to crash and watch Amuro and Char fight it out, then help Amuro escape. Here she’s given a much more proactive role and both her character and the story as a whole — resulting as it does in a schism between Zeon’s forces — are stronger for it.

Then, of course, there are Amuro and Char. Their rivalry takes a tragic turn when they cross paths on the battlefield with Lalah as an observer. It becomes apparent — if it wasn’t already — that both young men have very strong feelings for Lalah. Char perhaps has a reomantic interest in her, shown before the battle when they share a kiss, while Amuro sees her as a kindred spirit; perhaps the only other person who might understand him in a way transcending simple emotion. Lalah shares Amuro’s regret that they didn’t meet sooner, but her allegiance belongs to Char, the man who “rescued” her, and she gives her life for him in the heat of battle, intercepting the Gundam’s beam saber before Amuro can slice Char apart.

Char and Lalah share a kiss.
Both Amuro and Char are devastated by Lalah’s death and part ways once more, though they know they will meet again. Char immediately approaches Ghiren on A Baoa Qu and requests permission to use the new Zeong mobile armor in battle against the Gundam. After securing, as Kycilia did, Char’s pledge of fealty, Ghiren agrees and Char returns to the fight, staging a solo assault on White Base and luring Amuro out to defend it.

Though many characters die over the course of GUNDAM, and various cast members are affected in serious ways by these untimely ends, it’s the death of Lalah which is probably the most pivotal in the saga. Her demise turns Char’s and Amuro’s conflict from a rivalry into a blood feud. As recently as the previous volume, Char wanted Amuro to join him, but now Amuro’s death is his goal.

Kycilia executes her brother.
Neither of them dies yet, though, but there is one more casualty before the volume’s end, as Kycilia brings her plan, begun in the prior volume, to fruition. Recall that she talked her father into approaching General Revil to broker a peace arrangement, then immediately informed Ghiren of Degwin’s plan. Naturally, the first thing Ghiren does to start this volume is kill both of them with his solar laser. Now, with Dozle and Degwin out of the way, Kycilia arrives at A Baoa Qu, extracts a boastful confession from Ghiren in front of his own men, and executes him on the spot, assuming command of the Zeonic forces.

At this point, mostly via the actions of her own family members (with a bit of help and/or prodding from Char), Kycilia is now the sole remaining Zabi. It’s hard to tell if this was her plan all along, but certainly since shortly before the battle of Solomon the idea has been percolating. With the exception of Dozle, who was content in his station as a military commander, all the Zabis are too ambitious for their own good. Bringing things full circle, as I noted to start this review out, Kycilia’s own overconfidence, coupled with this ambition, will prove her undoing as well.

Beginning with volume 10 and continuing here, the drama has really ramped up for THE ORIGIN. At this point Yasuhiko is pretty much just following the beats of the TV series in a perfectly straightforward manner, adding things in — such as Bright’s speeches and Sayla’s exploits — but not rearranging anything. I’ll state again that the final segment of the GUNDAM saga isn’t my favorite, but I’ll also reiterate that it’s not because of the story. The plotting and characterization are just about perfect at this point, to the extent that Yasuhiko really doesn’t need to change anything anymore. From this point forward, a direct adaptation is probably the best way to go.

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