Story & Art: Yasuo Ohtagaki
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
What They Say
Only the dead know the end of war. – Plato
The Federation assault ship Spartan sets course for the Nanyang Alliance’s Psycho Zaku manufacturing base in the Taal volcano and begins preparing for full-scale combat operations. Io Fleming and the members of the Trust Squadron bond before the struggle to come, as Daryl Lorenz and his crew of Zeon defectors do the same. On the Spartan, Director Humphrey lays out the challenge of the mission– in addition to the Psycho Zaku the Federation will be facing Alliance forces under the psychic control of Sojo Levan Fu. However, Levan Fu will not be the only Newtype in the looming battle…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Ah, the calm before the storm. In a series so entrenched in war as the Gundam franchise is, it should be noted that “endless” war is only as endless as their cast is willing to take. And even in the most hot-blooded of anime, that means having to take a break every now and then.
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt Volume 12 follows the same basic format of “setup, then fight” as all other action series must adhere to and as this manga has already done a number of times to good effect. By this point in the series, readers should be incredibly familiar with the ebb and flow of how author Ohtagaki treats his epic space fights. Except this time around, things feel a bit lacking. Situations that would have tugged at your heartstrings in earlier volumes feel a bit recycled this time around. Moments that try to gain sympathy for Levan Fu’s Alliance forces by showing the sheer amount of child soldiers feels weak on comparison to when similar was done with the Federation because you don’t really spend any time with any of them. Furthermore, the force behind them, Levan Fu, is still mostly masked in mystery, with Carla serving as the closest thing to a driving force behind anything from that party.
Additional scenes building up to the eventual fight focus on the camaraderie among the cast and yet this too feels a bit lacking. Scenes of the Federation getting matching tattoos or Daryl and his fellow deserters sharing a dip in the local hot springs feel cheap because by this point you know it’s to build up anticipation for the fight that the latter half of the volume covers. The moments aren’t bad by any means, but when you’ve been exposed to similar scenes in the past, you start to feel how formulaic the writing is getting.
On the complete flip side of things, the latter half’s fight feels oddly higher quality than normal. It’s clear that Ohtagaki has gotten more skilled at fight choreography, as the giant mech fights feel much easier to follow this time around, without sacrificing any attention to detail. Both panel layouts and Ohtagaki’s sheer artistry flow in such a way that makes the action easier to follow, and thus easier to enjoy. The story beats within the fight have a certain ebb and flow that feels natural. You cheer when a good thing happens, and you clench yourself when someone starts fumbling with their gun for too long.
They’re simple steps on paper, but the execution feels much cleaner than in earlier volumes. And while the added twist of both forces having Newtypes on their side hasn’t come in at full force just yet, there’s enough intrigue to have you wonder where Ohtagaki will take such a plot point that could clearly be overpowered in the wrong hands.
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt volume 12 is a slow burn with its more character-centric scenes feeling like diminishing returns the more we see them , but it offers at least the beginnings of what looks to be an explosive fight in the never-ending match between Io Fleming and Daryl Lorenz. Even with its shortcomings, it’s still another solid entry to the Thunderbolt series.
Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: Older Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: August 20, 2019