From UC side stories we move on to one of the more popular (or at least nostalgic) AU properties. Is it worth our lover, or simply all our hate and our sorrow?
MOBILE FIGHTER G GUNDAM (Kido Butoden Ji Gandamu), by Kouichi Tokita, based on the franchise by Hajime Yadate & Yoshiyuki Tomino. First published in 1994 and first published in North America in 2003.
In the Future Century, Earth has been ravaged by years of war. To prevent further disaster, the world governments have agreed to decide which nation rules the world through the Gundam Tournaments, where each nation's champion pilots a powerful mobile suit and fights their way to victory. As the 13th Gundam Tournament begins, Neo-Japan's champion Domon Kasshu hopes to use his powerful Shining Gundam to clear his father's name and stop his wicked brother from taking over the world with the help of his former mentor.
G Gundam may be the closest to traditional shonen that Gundam has ever got, but it has a liveliness and commitment to its earnestness that makes it easy to overlook its goofiness (and abundance of awkward stereotypes). Even in print, it should be fun to read and easy to adapt to a manga for a kid's magazine. So how the hell did Tokita manage to make it so boring?
A big part of it is pacing. Initially it looks like Tokita is going to drag out the early arcs of the show, where Domon would wander the world shoving pictures in people's faces, screaming "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?", and getting into stand-still fights with the Gundam champion of the week. By the halfway point of the volume, he's only gotten up to Domon's second challenger, Sai Saici. Clearly the editors notice because the pacing shifts into the entirely opposite direction and it speeds through plot points at lightning speed. Those last couple of chapters not only cover the other two random opponents, but Domon's backstory, the betrayal of Master Asia, the appearance of the Shuffle Alliance, and even the first appearance of German champion Schwartz Bruder. That's a lot of material to cover in such a short span of pages, material that took the better part of a season to deliver. Quite frankly, it's too much info for such a short span, as it can only cover the most cursory of information about who is doing what and why. There's certainly no love or interest in the material, just the most rushed, workman-like treatment of the story possible.
Tokita's art is equally generic as his interpretation of the story, although it is at least an improvement on his Gundam Wing manga. The broader, more exaggerated character designs were clearly a lot more easy for him to grasp and draw than Wing's and he makes more an effort with the suits as well. Of course, he's still no good at drawing fights and he tends to lean heavily on the speed lines to make up for the stiff poses and faces. Still, it's a step up from before and at least this time the fonts and translation quality were a lot more even.
G Gundam's manga lacks the fighting spirit of the show that inspired it. It's too rushed and too plain looking to inspire even the youngest reader, much less Gundam fans.
This series was licensed by Tokyopop. This series is complete in Japan with 3 volumes available. All 3 were published and are currently out of print.