With the exception of Gundam Unicorn, new Gundam merchandise in the US has been kind of rare these days, to say the least. Ever since Bandai Entertainment kicked the bucket, all DVD sales have pretty much ceased, with Turn A Gundam’s highly anticipated release getting canned and the aftermarket prices for the Mobile Suit Gundam boxsets now reaching absurd prices on the aftermarket. With no plans to show Gundam AGE in the US, it seemed like Gundam was pretty much dead out here.
For those unfamiliar, Gundam: The Origin is a manga adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam written and drawn by character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, better known by his fans as “Yas”. Unlike his mecha-designing counterpart Kunio Okawara, Yas hasn’t lost his touch at all. The art for the mecha and characters alike are fantastic, and the updated mobile suit designs are fantastic as well. I especially like how it’s clear where the Zaku’s cockpit is located in this version, unlike the original design which seemed to change depending on which piece of media you were watching.
Origin is a very faithful adaptation of the TV series, but it still does a few things differently. Unlike most manga adaptations which compress many events down and even omits some others, Origin actually has MORE to it than the TV series did. For example, instead of three Zakus attacking Side 7 at the start of the story, six do, and three of which are destroyed while taking down the RX-78-1 Prototype Gundam in combat. It takes over 150 pages just to tell the events of the first episode.
Some story events are different as well, and characterizations stronger. Amuro learns how to pilot the Gundam by hacking into his dad’s classified military files instead of just picking up a book that got dropped, and Sayla’s personality is much stronger and less passive. Also of note is Captain Bright, who is far less confident than his anime counterpart; essentially putting on a face during combat to avoid seeming insecure.
The first book covers the events of the first episode through the White Base first breaking through the Earth’s atmosphere. Essentially, this book is equal to the first disk of the DVDs.
I do, however, take some issues with the localization of the story. While the transfers art-wise are much better than the old Viz release, there are some issues with the dialogue. Many of the translations differ from the ones we have become so used to over the past 12 years, namely the opening narration. Character names are all correct, as are mobile suits, but the slang terms for Federation and Zeon (“Feddie” and “Zeek”) aren’t used at all, and instead we only see “Fed” used. These names have been used by the fanbase so much, they were canonized in several official works.
Additionally, some character ranks are odd. Bright is always referred to as “Lieutenant Junior Grade” instead of just “Lieutenant”. While an accurate translation for sure, it’s odd and clunky, as LTJGs are usually just referred to as “Lieutenants”. Hopefully this is just a learning curve that will improve with time.
Despite a few bumps, I find the new release of Gundam: The Origin to be an incredibly welcome addition to any manga library. You can pick it up for $30 at FPNYC, and the second volume should be out in June!