Friday, July 5, 2013

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin vol. 2

If begrudgingly I pried open my wallet for volume one, volume two of 'Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin' was pre-ordered with fervent anticipation. And with its arrival, I am now one step closer to no longer being a Gundam newbie. Adding some nice character development on top of the superb action, volume two impressed me just as much as the first.

After barely escaping Char at the end of volume one, Amuro Ray and the crew of White Base set out for Jaburo across hostile Zeon territory. No sooner do they enter Earth's atmosphere, do they encounter a brand new enemy, Colonel Garma Zabi, commander of Zeon's North American forces. A young, headstrong man with something to prove, he's determined to take out White Base and the dangerous prototype mobile suit on board. Everyone bands together to bolster their defenses and fight off the new threat...That is, everyone but Amuro.

Now, with not much time for character development last volume, I neither actively liked or disliked Amuro. But with the very first chapter of this volume, he took a big step in the wrong direction if I was to like him. Or so I thought. He was acting like a first class brat. Truly annoying. Refusing to fight and acting like a child. That's when I remembered, he is a child. And he just got thrust into an epic space war, killed several men, and barely survived to tell the tale. He's scared and doesn't want to kill again or be killed himself. He had every right to break down like that, and as a reader, I can't hold that against him. And wouldn't you know it, with some encouragement from Fraw Bow, he resolved himself, and though he didn't want to, he stepped up to pilot the Gundam once again and protected the White Base. So while the boy was most certainly an annoying brat no matter how justified, he turned that around pretty quickly and earned some points in my book.

Out of danger for the moment, Amuro Ray and the other crew members of White Base were given some much needed rest and relaxation. While some decided to soak up the Sun by the beach, which they hadn't experienced in ages(if ever, some being born in space), Amuro decided to go find his childhood home to see his mother. Discovering his house trashed by partying Federation soldiers with his mother nowhere to be seen, an old toy brings back memories of when he first set out for space with his father. And with just a one page flashback, we get a nice bit of characterization for Amuro. We find out that though Amuro and his father are the one to leave her for space, she effectively is the one that abandoned him. She had no real good reason for not going with them other than that she didn't wan to live in space. Their interactions when they do finally meet up only further makes me suspicious of her. You can see that she obviously has some connection to him since he is her son, but there is this detachment. Perhaps it is just because they have been apart for so long, but I think there may be more to it. He asks, "Don't you love me at all.", and of course she says she does, but he doesn't believe her and I don't quite either. So at age fifteen, father dead, he leaves his mother behind again, this time for war.

On the topic of war; This time it felt very real. No longer did we have these fantastical battles in outer space. We have both literally and figuratively been brought down to Earth. This applies to war in the visual sense. Sunny, clear, familiar skies replace the dark, foreign setting of space. Making for a whole new action dynamic, adding gravity and terrain to the mix. But what really hit me while reading was how war was less romanticized in this volume. And you can really see this with Amuro's focus. Especially when he is forced to defend himself against a Zeon soldier. This time, without the protection of the Gundam armor. Not only was the Gundam protecting his flesh body, but the enemy Zaku's were hiding the faces of the men he had to kill. And now, face to face with an enemy soldier, he had to protect himself or be killed. "We are at war now.", he says when his mother questions how he became such a scary kid. It kind of felt like I came to that realization at the same time that he did.

Though I'm sure you know this, I can't really talk about this release without at least mentioning the production quality. Vertical really is going all out for this series. Of course you know that it's a well made hardcover, but what really got my attention was the quantity of color pages. So I went through and counted and there is a whopping sixty-eight color pages, including an illustration gallery in the back! This prompted me to go back and check how many color pages volume one had and I counted fifty-six. These two books have by far the most color pages of any manga I own, omnibus or otherwise. And this is rounded off with a round-table discussion and a nice double page color spread by CLAMP. I'll be on the lookout to see if volume three can top this volume's deluxe features. Sixty-eight is the number to beat!

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