~by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
~original story by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate
Before Vertical's 2013 release of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, Volume 1: Activation, I never had a particular interest in Gundam. I'm certainly aware of the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam anime series and the massively influential franchise it spawned, but beyond a basic understanding I'm not especially familiar with the metaseries. But while I may not be a Gundam fan, I am a huge fan of Yasuhiko and his manga; that is the primary reason I decided to give The Origin a try. The manga is a retelling of the original Gundam series. Yasuhiko's involvement was critical to the visual development of the anime, so it's interesting to see him return to the story. Viz Media originally began releasing The Origin in 2002, but canceled the series before it was completed. Vertical's release of the The Origin is based on the Japanese collector's edition which began publication in 2005. With color pages, a hardcover, essays, and glossy paper, it's easily one of the highest quality releases of manga in English in recent days.
In the year of Universal Century 0079, the space colony Side 3 began its war of independence from the Earth Federation. As the self-proclaimed Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation fought, half of humanity's total population died. For the last eight months the opposing sides of the conflict have entered into an uneasy truce; violence could erupt again with very little provocation. Unknown to the civilian population of the Federation's Side 7 colony, a new weapon is being developed by the military stationed there in the hopes of tipping the balance of the war. The Gundam mobile suit is the most highly advanced and powerful model to have ever been created. The Principality isn't about to let this pass unchallenged; its reconnaissance mission quickly turns into an attack on Side 7 and its people. The colony is destroyed and the survivors flee, pursued by one of the Principality's most notorious and feared commanders.
Yasuhiko's color illustrations are a marvelous addition to Activation but his black and white work is just as impressive. The pure white of flashes and explosions is a striking contrast to the blackness and quiet of space. Yasuhiko's line work is delicate but conveys the destruction and devastation of battle as well as the immense proportions involved in the conflict and the power driving it. The action sequences are dynamic in their intensity and danger. Debris, chaos, and detritus leave a visual impact that enforces the sense of desperation felt by those caught in the wake of the attacks. Yasuhiko makes it quite clear in Activation that there is a very real threat to people's lives. The consequences of war are terror and death no matter who claims to be in the right. Activation and the tragedy that unfolds at Side 7 is only the beginning.
After reading only the first volume of The Origin, I am convinced that the complete tale will be an epic an multilayered one. The world-building is fantastic and the scope of the story has tremendous depth. In addition to the larger overarching conflict between the Federation and the Principality are the smaller more personal conflicts between the characters as individuals. There is the clash between the military and the civilian population of Side 7 as they are forced together just for the chance to survive. A younger, less experienced generation is thrust into leadership roles when their predecessors repeatedly fail them. Sacrifices and growth are demanded from those who in an ideal would should have never been asked. Activation is and exciting and engaging beginning to The Origin. I am looking forward to the next installment in the series, Garma, a great deal.