Otaku Corner: Gundam Thunderbolt Vol. 1

Gun­dam side story delves deeper in the mecha ethos

“Only the dead know the end of war.” — Plato

As many of our read­ers know of my love for the Gun­dam series, I have men­tioned the series’ leg­endary mark on anime and pop cul­ture many times. Manga is no excep­tion since numer­ous Gun­dam series was printed out and read by many Gun­dam fans and big robot lovers, alike.

On a recent trip to 2nd & Charles, I found one of a few English-translated adap­ta­tions of Gun­dam manga that was a side story set dur­ing the events of the orig­i­nal series. While the main char­ac­ters were not present in this series, it nev­er­the­less told of the widen­ing con­flict between the Prin­ci­pal­ity of Zeon and the Earth Fed­er­a­tion as seen through the eyes of two des­tined indi­vid­u­als, each with their own views of jus­tice. “Mobile Suit Gun­dam: Thun­der­bolt “was my ticket to this lat­est chap­ter of the Gun­dam Universe.

Set in the Uni­ver­sal Cen­tury year 0079, the space colony Side 3 declared inde­pen­dence as con­flict between Zeon and Earth began. One year later, both sides engaged in a bat­tle for an area of destroyed space colonies known as the Thun­der­bolt sec­tor. Dur­ing this period, Daryl Lorenz, top sniper for a spe­cial unit known as the Liv­ing Dead Divi­sion, has enabled Zeon forces to con­trol Thun­der­bolt sec­tor with­out loss. How­ever, his luck changes when Io Flem­ing, ace pilot for the Earth Federation’s Moore Broth­er­hood fleet, ambushes a Liv­ing Dead mem­ber, killing him and tak­ing an enemy Zaku suit. As a result, Io is given a new mis­sion to fur­ther dis­rupt Zeon con­trol but with a new mobile suit: Gundam.

As the Liv­ing Dead dis­cover that a Gun­dam is being used, the bat­tle between Io and Daryl inten­si­fies amid the wreck­age of Io’s home colony, Side 4: More. With both sides hell­bent on each other’s destruc­tion, a new rivalry is set in the Gun­dam saga with var­i­ous music types pro­vid­ing the sound­track to a bat­tle where there is only one victor.

Read­ing MSG: Thun­der­bolt is a new take on the bat­tle between Earth and space. While Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino pro­vided the orig­i­nal story, Yasuo Ohta­gaki pro­vided a fresh per­spec­tive via story and art. I felt invested in Daryl and Io because tragedy has taken away hap­pier times in their lives. Both char­ac­ters were born in afflu­ent fam­i­lies who pros­pered as mer­chants, but war upended their lives. Daryl became a solider but was severely injured los­ing both legs, which gained his fam­ily the right to reset­tle on a Zeon colony and other ben­e­fits. He also had to adapt to using pros­thetic legs to regain his abil­ity to walk and to use a mobile suit.

Io lost his father, who was mayor of Side 4, to sui­cide dur­ing the Zeon assault. For­tu­nately, Io’s friends Clau­dia Peer, who is his com­mand­ing offi­cer (and lover), and Cor­nelius Qaqa, the fleet’s engi­neer, are there with him to carry the task of aveng­ing their lost home. Daryl also has the sup­port of his unit, who are also deal­ing with the hell­ish results of war. Ohtagaki-san’s detail to story and art was excel­lent from start to fin­ish, espe­cially with the designs of the Gun­dam, Zaku and Rick Dom suits.

The in-between drama for Io and Daryl is also accu­rate in show­ing the types of prob­lem that mil­i­tary ser­vice­mem­bers may deal with dur­ing and in between bat­tles. At these points in the manga, I felt that pulling for both char­ac­ters is jus­ti­fi­able as they are fight­ing a phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal war on all fronts. Finally, the music selec­tion closed the deal for me while read­ing Thun­der­bolt. Jazz and pop music set each chap­ter tone as if I was part of the bat­tle. Viz Media did a great job on adap­ta­tion and trans­la­tion of Thun­der­bolt with praise going to STAN! And Joe Yamazaki for care­fully pre­sent­ing Thun­der­bolt. They pre­sented the side story care­fully with­out com­pro­mis­ing what Gun­dam is about.

MSG: Thun­der­bolt is one of the few Gun­dam manga adap­ta­tions I felt did jus­tice to a series with­out sac­ri­fic­ing its cru­cial parts to tell its story. As Daryl and Io con­tinue their bat­tle, I plan to review their bat­tles in the future.

Bran­don Beatty is asso­ciate edi­tor of Gam­ing Insur­rec­tion. He can be reached by email at brandonb[at]gaminginsurrection.com

We remem­ber Kirby Mor­row, 1973–2020

I’m ded­i­cat­ing this review to the mem­ory of Kirby Mor­row. Mor­row — best known for voic­ing Trowa Bar­ton from Gun­dam Wing, Billy Kata­giri from Gun­dam 00, Teru Mikami from Death Note and Miroku from the Inyusha series and its recent spin­off Yashahime: Princess Half Demon — passed on Nov. 18, 2020. Rest in peace, Kirby. You are for­ever loved. You are for­ever remem­bered. You are for­ever Gundam.

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