Category Archives: reviews

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin

Type: Manga
Number of Volumes: 23 (tankōbon), 12 (aizōban)
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2001-2011
Date of Review: October 16, 2017

The cosmos shudders as the Principality of Zeon declares war on the Earth Federation. With new weapons known as mobile suits, heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict will make desperate choices in order to save those they care about. When Amuro Ray climbs into the experimental Gundam mobile suit, he’ll unknowingly turn the tide of the war.

If that blurb above sounds familiar, your eyes do not deceive you: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is indeed a manga retelling of the classic Mobile Suit Gundam tale. Master artist Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, who helped design parts of the original series in the first place, has created an absolute masterpiece here that will be long remembered as a true science fiction classic.

Lovingly crafted over a ten-year span, this manga doesn’t simply adapt the original series step by step. A few plot points are changed here and there (most notably the use of prototype mobile suits by the Earth Federation before the Gundam), small details from the show are further fleshed out, and roughly a third of the series is an all-new flashback story detailing the tragic histories of Char Aznable and Sayla Mass. There’s even all-new mobile suit battles, and those are treated with the same attention to detail as our human characters. Every mechanized conflict is tense and compelling.

Rarely can an artist so successfully infuse that much personality and emotion into their work, and Yasuhiko makes it looks simple. While most chapters begin with a few painted color pages, we can’t underestimate the strength’s of Yasuhiko’s pen and ink work. Even the finest details still pop right off the page, drawing you into the Gundam world like few other works. His art style is unique and exceptionally effective. Mobile suits and space warships are one thing, but he brings characters to life in a way you wouldn’t think possible. (Perfect example: I never cared about Lalah Sune until I read Origin.) Aside from rightfully focusing on drama, the light humor that Gundam is known for still makes appearances, helping to alleviate tension or sometimes just to prove that humans aren’t one-sided beings, even under duress.

Origin has been adapted into five anime films as of press time, with one more to go. (The first four covered the Char and Sayla flashback arc, the next two cover the Battle of Loum.) As you might expect, these have also been phenomenal, setting new standards for the Gundam franchise as a whole. They work quite well as a starting point for newcomers.

Origin is absolutely the gold standard for manga adaptations. It far exceeds every single expectation, creating an unbelievably rich tapestry that enhances the Gundam saga to a near-mythical degree. It’s a long series, but it goes by in a flash because it’s so gripping and well-paced. If you’re a Gundam fan, Origin is a must-read. If you’re a not a Gundam fan, this is still a must-read.


Gundam Build Fighters: GM’s Counterattack

Type: OVA
Number of Episodes: 1
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 2017
Date of Review: September 18, 2017

Sei Iori and friends are invited to test out the new Gunpla Battle system, but they’ve walked into a trap! The nefarious Gunpla Mafia wants revenge, and they’re pulling out all the stops to humiliate our heroes. With new Gundam models in tow, our battlers will have to take on some seriously over-the-top opponents!

Gundam Build Fighters: GM’s Counterattack bridges the gap between Gundam Build Fighters and Gundam Build Fighters Try, showing what Sei’s been up to following the events of the former series. Sunrise wisely does not try to bring in every single character from GBF, letting us focus on just a few fan favorites.

As you’d expect, plenty of new models are introduced in this special; Bandai’s gotta sell them toys, after all. It’s a good thing they’re pretty damned cool looking, even Sei’s new “test unit” the Star Burning Gundam. Of course, Nils Nielsen’s Ninpulse Gundam is probably the best of the bunch, but wait’ll you see the big boss’ mobile suit.

The animation is on par with the other recent Gundam shows, with amazing battle scenes that really let our star mobile suits shine. On the character side, GM’s Counterattack easily balances tense battle drama with comedy, including a hilarious sequence that references a minor plot point in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam; in fact, my review for that series unknowingly mentioned the very scene that is parodied.

The whole thing wraps up with a nice little final scene that sets up Try. However, that scene does not spoil Try, so it’s nice for those viewers who haven’t seen the sequel series yet. Like Island Wars before it, GM’s Counterattack is a fine treat for GBF fans.

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory

Type: OVA
Number of Episodes: 13
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 1991-1992
Date of Review: June 26, 2017

The One Year War has been over for a few years now, but Zeon remnants still present a threat. A powerful Zeon admiral invokes Operation Stardust, a daring plan that involves stealing a new nuclear missile-equipped Gundam. Federation test pilot Kou Uraki will have to risk everything he holds dear in order to stop a legendary enemy ace!

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory was one of the first Universal Century OVAs that helped fill the gaps between the regular series. Our hero is Kou Uraki, a relatively rare example of a Gundam pilot with a positive attitude. He’s also not someone just thrown into a conflict by chance, as he’s already a military officer and test pilot. This was not a common occurrence back in 1991 when Stardust Memory was released, and it’s no less refreshing now. Kou and his pal Chuck Keith serving at Torrington Base and on the warship Albion really showcases the camaraderie among the Federation soldiers and pilots, even when transfers from other ships and bases amp up the rivalry.

Kou’s love interest Nina Purpleton is a scourge of the fandom, it seems. During my rewatch of Stardust Memory, I didn’t understand the hate for Nina…until the last few episodes. Yeah, she gets pretty annoying there, but look on the bright side: she’s definitely no Quess. Besides, Nina’s friend Mora Boscht easily makes up for it, as she’s one of the best female characters in the Gundam universe. You can’t help but cheer when she belts a lascivious flyboy right in the jaw.

On the other side, within our Zeon remnants, we’ve got Anavel Gato. The infamous “Nightmare of Solomon” is one of the Gundam saga’s greatest villains; he may not be the mastermind of wicked schemes, or a genocidal maniac, or any other kind of evil stereotype, but he’s just an arrogant expert pilot that makes him the perfect foil to Uraki. Naturally, Gato’s not the only bad egg hanging around; you’ve got his commanding officer, the disgraced Admiral Aiguille Delaz, as well as Cima Garahau, the conniving master of her own leftover fleet. Expect plenty of doubledealing and betrayals when all of these folks attempt to work together!

But what about the Federation’s Gundam Development Project? That’s where the wonderful mecha of Stardust Memory come in. Leading the pack are the experimental Gundams designated “Unit One” and “Unit Two;” that second one carries a nuke, and its subsequent theft by Gato sets off the whole story. (The suits’ full names are RX-78GP01 Gundam “Zephyranthes” and RX-78GP02A Gundam “Physalis.” Now you see why people just say “Unit [insert number here].”) The Gundam designs are simple yet striking, and the two primary units couldn’t be more different from one another. The many battles between the two quickly become the stuff on legend; furthermore, Unit One is later upgraded for space combat, and Kou also gets to pilot Unit Three towards the end. (Even more Gundams, the GP00 and GP04G, are mentioned in supplementary materials. The latter showed up in Gundam Evolve, and was later released as a model kit.) There’s plenty of grunt suits to go around, too, like upgraded GMs and such. These new designs fit the aesthetic of Stardust Memory as well as looking like a perfect naturally progression of machines from the One Year War.

As is par for the course for a Gundam OVA, Stardust Memory is a showcase of stellar animation. The mechanical designs look amazing in motion, and neither ground nor space battles are given any slight. Character animation is great, too, accurately portraying the intense emotion that comes part and parcel with a tale of war and betrayal. Finally, the music sounds a bit too synthesized and artificial at times, but it’s not much of a distraction. The compositions fit the show well.

The recent domestic Blu-ray release really makes Stardust Memory pop, plus it includes the compilation film Afterglow of Zeon, plus two Mayfly of Space animation shorts giving more background to Cima. Despite Stardust Memory‘s bittersweet yet ominous ending (as it helps set up the events of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam), this OVA is a fine ddition to the Gundam saga, with thrilling animation and and a great story that’s worth enjoying.