Written & Art By Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Original Concept By Yoshiyuki Tomino & Haijime Yatate
One thing that defines Japan is robots and Gundam is the franchise that defines robot manga and anime. Gundam’s popularity is often compared to Star Wars and Star Trek, but other than a few science-fiction elements the comparison ends there. Most of the Gundam series can be described as war dramas where the ultimate weapon is a mobile suit aka the giant robot. The entire franchise started with Mobile Suit Gundam back in the 1970s. The original concept designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko has taken the first series and is retelling it as a manga. This just isn’t a manga from last century, but brand new and breathes life into the classic robot show.
The series is set in the future when tracking the time has changed from AD to the Universal Century. The Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon are locked in conflict, but the Earth Federation has been working on a new weapon the RX-78 Gundam mobile suit. Zeon has heard about the experimental weapon, however, and they attack the Federation. Amuro Ray’s father was one of the scientists who developed the Gundam and when his home is attacked, he doesn’t want to see innocent people hurt. He jumps into the Gundam’s cockpit and joins the skirmish. His amateur skills save the day and he joins a cobbled together crew aboard an assault carrier. Amuro and his crewmates are up against a powerful force and he encounters his new rival Char Azanable.
The Mobile Suit Gundam manga moves fast and establishes the main game players in the first few chapters. It doesn’t waste time with lengthy exposition and takes the reader straight into the conflict. The story and characters are extremely complex in their relationships and the many plots that interweave together. In some ways it’s like a soap opera, except with giant robots. The manga does vary from the original anime leaving out small details or waiting to establish them later. This does make the manga confusing, but not enough to make it less enjoyable.
Gone are the pencil scratches and mass-produced, hand painted cells of the original anime series. In its place are clean, detailed drawings the echo the 1970s ethos, but without the all gunk and other style quips of that era. It combines nostalgia and modern sensibilities in one package.
The new Gundam manga has all the best qualities of the past and present. It’s a generational franchise and new retellings like the manga keep it alive.