Today we're making a hard shift in topic, going from moe economics to old-school mecha action. Today's review isn't even the first manga series based on this series, coming 15 years after the original series, but did that time gap help save a manga series that was:
MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM 0079 (Kido Senshi Gandamu), based on the series created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate with art by Kazuhisa Kondo. First published in 1994, and first published in North America in 2000.
It is Universal Century year 0079. Earth is locked in a war with the Republic of Zeon, a moon colony that wishes not only for independence, but dominance. The battle has been rough and bloody, but Zeon maintains its edge through the use of Zaku, giant piloted battle robots, along with the guidance of the legendary pilot Char Aznoble. During one of those battles, a young boy called Amuro Ray stumbles upon the Earth force's secret weapon - a piloted robot of their own, the Gundam. Now Amuro must join the war and fight if both he and his shipmates are to survive.
Call me crazy, but I always thought that something adapted from another form of media - say, a TV show - should be able to stand on its own. In a perfect world, it would even be able to explore interesting new angles or expand upon the universe of the original source material. That's what makes this version of Mobile Suit Gundam so disappointing, because it reads more like a storyboard or an illustrated episode breakdown instead of a stand-alone story.
If the story here were told any more stiffly, it would be completely stagnant. There's no sense of flow from panel to panel, much less from scene to scene. People come and go, battles zoom by, and the whole thing is infused with an air of tedium. You almost wonder at times if Kondo is simply rushing through the whole thing just for the sake of getting it done before a deadline. The rush not only hurts the pacing, but the characters as well. Amuro seems to be the only one with anything resembling a character arc, and that's mostly just him going from bland to pissy halfway through because how dare a ship full of soldiers expect him to behave like a soldier when he's the only one who can pilot a military weapon? Even then, all it takes to get him out of his funk is a well-earned slap from Fraw Bow (easily my favorite part of the book). Still, that's enough to distinguish him from the rest, who display no personality at all. Honestly, if it weren't for the character guide at the front of the volume I wouldn't know who half of these people were.
The action scenes fare no better than the rest. You could pose a bunch of assembled model kits with backgrounds drawn in crayon and that would still be more dynamic and expansive than the battles seen on the pages here. That same stiffness extends to the fights, and worse still everything is crammed into small, seemingly inflexible panels. As such, you never get a sense of scale. You could easily forget that these are GIANT FREAKING ROBOTS fighting in OUTER FREAKING SPACE. Honestly, there's only one thing that Kando can seem to do right, and that is draw a proper Gundam. He lavishes detail upon the Gundam, the Zakus, and even the spaceships. If only he could have done the same for the characters. Someone should have told him that he really didn't need to replicate the crappiness of the original series' animation. Many of the characters look only half-drawn, and they frequently go off-model. It's weird to think that this particular manga came out in the mid 1990s, because it's so cheap and sloppy that you would think it was done while the series was originally on air, back in 1979.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 is just a failure on every front. It doesn't engage the reader by drawing them into the drama of the One Year War. It doesn't delight them with stunning visuals, allowing to savor all the different robots and the epic space battles. It's just dull, beginning to end.
At leas the folks at Viz tried to give this story some context. As noted before, there's a character guide at the front to sort out who's who. There's also a timeline that goes into the Universal Century as well as the One Year War, a necessity for a series that's loaded with backstory but not always willing to share it with the newcomers. Also, as was true for many older Viz titles, the artwork here is flipped.
If you're looking for a manga about Mobile Suit Gundam, stick with Gundam: The Origin and leave this half-assed tie-in on the shelf.
This series was published by Viz. The series is complete in Japan with 12 available volumes. 9 volumes were published, and are now out of print.
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