Story & Art: Yasuo Ohtagaki
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
Only the dead know the end of war. – Plato
Claudia Peer has been captured by Zeon forces, which hope that she will lead them to the location of the Psycho Zaku research facility. Daryl Lorenz brought Claudia in, but his encounter with Sojo Levan Fu has made him realize he shares her trauma. Elsewhere, the crew of the Spartan refit and rearm, and despite Io Fleming’s talent for combat, his hot temper fuels doubts among the Federation command that he can get the job done. As the Spartan homes in on the hidden Zeon base, secret followers of Sojo Levan Fu among both Zeon and Federation forces make their move…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This has always been an aside that I haven’t really brought up in my Gundam Thunderbolt reviews, but it’s worth noting that the little plot synopses on the back of each volume has always been a solid recap. Long-running space dramas in general tend to be something I end up having to re-read because I forget key plot points, but the recaps on the back of each of Viz’s releases have done a spectacular job of catching me up and putting me in the mood for what’s to come. So when I read volume 10’s synopsis only to have it come off as an awkwardly worded mishmash that tries to summarize the current volume rather than what was previously the trend of recapping the story thus far, I was a bit thrown off.
And the rest of the volume ends up carrying on in a similar way. The strengths of Gundam Thunderbolt involve how author Ohtagaki is able to humanize his entire cast despite how deep into bloodshed they’ve all gotten. Small moments between two characters completely unrelated to the overarching plot feel rewarding because you really get into their head as to why they do what they do. But this time around, those moments come off as overbearing, slowing down the plot when you’re expecting things to rev up. Scenes between Daryl and the now infant-minded Karla don’t hit as hard as they should, since we’ve already seen the two interact under these circumstances, and any repeated meetups don’t feel like they’re accomplishing anything.
Even in the case that Ohtagaki is slowly planting seeds for later plot points, nothing ever feels particularly interesting. Daryl meeting with the captured Claudia has been built up to be this momentous occasion, yet when the two finally meet and secretly bond over their shared communication with Sojo Levan Fu, it feels oddly downplayed. So little is said between the two (which admittedly makes sense since… psychic abilities at play), so the jump from distinct enemies to allies in war feels far too steep to make on a single scene alone. The volume’s final plot development before it closes out relies a lot on this single interaction between Daryl and Claudia really clicking with readers, so for it to feel like a limp handshake, doesn’t really set the stage for the volume’s finale, as significant as it is.
Meanwhile, the Federation’s downtime feels horribly unearned as their complete destruction at the Rig the previous volume led to so many innocents dead. Unlike past moments of downtime following an operation, this sudden moment of peace comes off less like a moment to catch your breath, and more like an awkward pause where you realize just how wrong that Raid was and the lack of responsibility the Federation takes for their actions. Seeing Io goofing off with other Federation frames him for the irresponsible child he is. Such is further underlined when he’s reprimanded by Director Humphries, who herself is becoming so irredeemably evil that you start to consider her being the closest thing to a villain the series has established so far.
As much as I love Gundam Thunderbolt’s cast, one can only take so much character-specific meandering in one volume. It’s clear that Ohtagaki is planting seeds for the next volume to follow through on, but for the time being, we’re left with less story and more scattered moments that rely heavily on your loyalties to certain characters.
Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 19, 2019