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 were 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.