Friday, February 5, 2016


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

With his three-volume excursion into the past complete, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko returns to year 0079 in the Universal Century, and to the crew of White Base as they travel across the Atlantic Ocean from Jaburo to participate in the Federation’s all-out assault on Zeon’s Earth headquarters at Odessa in the Ukraine.

White Base stops for refueling and shore leave in Federation-controlled Belfast, where General Revil himself pays them a visit to provide their new instructions. The ship is to continue its role as a “Trojan Horse” and proceed alone to Gibralter, where it will act as the vanguard of the Federation’s operation.

But White Base is pursued as usual by Char, now hooked up with the “Mad Angler” squadron, an amphibious Zeon unit led by Captain Boone. The entire first half of volume 8 is dedicated to White Base’s battles with the Mad Anglers. Kai deserts White Base (again) and befriends an Irish girl named Miharu (doesn’t really sound too Irish, does it?), who is secretly a spy for Zeon. But when one of the Mad Anglers stages an unauthorized assault on the docked White Base, Kai returns to his shipmates and helps fend off the attacker. In the chaos, Miharu sneaks aboard the ship.

Kai has to be one of my favorite characters in the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM. In general I tend to favor the clean-cut, stiff types like Bright, but while I’m a fan of his as well, there’s something about Kai which appeals to me. He’s a loudmouth, an occasional bully and a sometimes coward and deserter, but we’ve seen before and we see again here that he can’t stand by while his friends are in danger. And Yasuhiko is quick to remind us, as he returns to action, that despite his frequent bouts of insubordination and desertion, Kai is clearly the second best Mobile Suit pilot aboard White Base after Amuro.

True, we’ve seen this arc for him before in the series, but that’s an unfortunate failing of the TV series which Yasuhiko is adapting here. The original GUNDAM, while relatively sophisticated by the American animation standards of the time, was still aimed at a younger Japanese audience and was prone to occasional repetitiveness. But in this case, Kai’s desertion serves the purpose of bringing Miharu into the picture for a while. Perhaps Yasuhiko could’ve found a better way to handle this – unless I’m mistaken, the heavily condensed GUNDAM movie trilogy altered her story in some ways – but it works well enough.

Kai and Miharu
After seeing the White Base from inside, Miharu has a change of heart and defects, joining Kai on the Gunperry plane when he heads out to support Amuro duing another attack by the Mad Anglers after White Base departs Belfast. But her eagerness to help proves fatal, as she perishes helping Kai perform a manual override on a jammed missile. This devastates Kai, and one gets the impression at the end of the arc that he won’t be abandoning his post again. He’s lost too much to the war to give up before he can see it through.

As usual, Yasuhiko rearranges bits of the saga for his serialized retelling here. Originally, as discussed previously, White Base’s path around the world was haphazard and seemingly aimless. The ship landed in North America and battled Garma in “New Yark”, then after a few run-ins with Ramba Ral, crossed the Atlantic to Odessa in the Ukraine, made a U-turn after the battle to dock in Belfast, and then crossed the sea again to head down to Jaburo. It was immediately after the Battle of Jaburo that White Base returned to space.

But here, we’ve seen the ship touch down in California and travel a logical path down the coast of South America to Jaburo. By rearranging Operation: Odessa to occur after Jaburo rather than before it, Yasuhiko makes certain White Base’s path is a bit more logical, and he overcomes an obstacle the compilation movies apparently couldn’t; in those films Odessa -- the Federation's major offensive against Zeon on Earth, and a huge centerpiece to the terrestrial component of the war -- occurred entirely off-camera while White Base was occupied elsewhere.

The Battle of Odessa
However in Yasuhiko’s version, we see the battle and White Base’s participation in it, though again the circumstances are somewhat altered. First off, White Base arrives late at Gibralter to find Federation forces waging battle against Char, who hides in the demolished city and uses guerilla tactics to take out any mobile suits sent for him, all so he can await the Gundam – having learned from Miharu before her defection that White Base was bound for Gibralter.

When Amruo finally battles Char, dialogue remind us of something that isn’t necessarily overtly evident thus far: though Char has dogged the White Base almost nonstop since the story began, he has only battled Amuro suit-to-suit three previous times. Compared with the TV series, where Char and Amuro had several fights over multiple episodes, the restraint shown by Yasuhiko is an excellent choice, as it gives extra weight to the proceedings whenever the two enemies do cross paths.

The Gibraliter chapter is, to my knowledge, a whole-cloth invention of Yasuhiko. But the story returns to familiar ground when White Base reaches Odessa. The original version of this pivotal battle featured both of Amuro’s encounters with the Black Tri-Stars and the death of Lieutenant Matilda. But since some of that happened previously, what we have here is a fight with the two surviving Tri-Stars, Ortega and Gaia. Originally the original fight and the rematch happened over the course of two back-to-back episodes, but here Yasuhiko spreads it out, even inserting his three-volume flashback sequence in between, creating a much bigger sense of importance for the fight.

Black Tri-Star
Though the end result of Odessa is the same as ever – Zeon’s Earth forces are wiped out and the Federation reclaims the planet – the circumstances are a bit different. Originally, a traitor in General Revil’s inner circle, General Elran, was exposed by Amuro and Sayla, but here it is Revil himself who makes the deduction. Amuro then saves Revil’s flagship, Big Tray, from a Zeon suicide nuke attack in spectacular fashion, but unlike in the source material, here Zeon’s Earth commander M’Quve perishes in a last stand at Odessa. Previously, M’Quve survived and returned to space for a mobile suit duel against the Gundam.

But again, M’Quve’s fate here is a bit better than in the movie adaptations, where he barely registered as a character due to the White Base skipping the Battle of Odessa entirely. At any rate, his end here feels far more natural and logical; he was Zeon's commanding officer on Earth. Better he should perish there than go out with a whimper, almost as an afterthought, in the next volume.

On top of all this, we get some development for Sayla as she becomes a fighter pilot alongside Lt. Sleggar Law, while Fraw Bow takes Sayla's place working communications on the bridge. These events happened in the TV series and movies as well, though I believe their placement in the timeline was a bit different. I don't think Sayla originally got behind the stick until after White Base returned to space. And as I've made clear before, any development that gives her extra time to shine is fine by me.

I had some issues with Yasuhiko’s excursion into the past over the prior three installments, but with volume 8, he’s rebounded nicely. Moving Odessa to occur after Jaburo is a smart idea, as it gives us the biggest Earth-based battle of the One Year War as the pivotal turning point which will result in White Base’s return to space. Since the series began, we’ve spent one volume in space, four on Earth, and three in the past. At this point it would seem unlikely Yasuhiko will need to make many changes to the story or timeline, as the source material is pretty straightforward once the action leaves Earth. But he’s pleasantly surprised me before with his creativity, so perhaps there are a few surprises yet to be seen in the next four installments.

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