Number of Volumes: 23 (tankōbon), 12 (aizōban)
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
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.