Friday, August 4, 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin

My favorite piece of art from the whole series 
Over the last couple years I have been slowly reading Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, a manga retelling of the popular animé show.  Set in the Universal Century year 0079, the story follows a now standard trope of inexperienced youths thrust into military conflict by circumstance, and then growing to excel in various roles as the war progresses (itself a type of Bildungsroman).

The animé was first broadcast in 1979, and this manga was started in 2002 and is written and drawn by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, who was the original character designer for the TV series. Rather than being a strict retelling of the TV show, The Origin adds considerable material and restructures some of the TV show events into a more plausible order.

In 2013 Vertical started releasing the books here in the US in a hardback format.  These are amazing books made in the aizōban style, which means that they are thick hardbacks, super high end paper, numerous color pages, and generally a limited release.  Each volume also has accompanying essays about the importance of Mobile Suit Gundam in Japanese culture or in the anime/manga industry.  Ending with 12 volumes, the work is quite spectacular. Really recommend this series.

Zenon forces at the battle of Odessa

The Blackstars

The two main characters at Gibraltar

Gundam at rest

Battle Scene from book XII
War in the Gundam universe is mainly fought by small warbands of mechs, 60 feet tall, with short range automatic tank caliber guns and close combat weapons, which are prevalent due to the hand-wavium of "Minovsky particles" which prevents such things as radar from working at all, and degrades higher frequency sensors as well.

Gaming the Gundam universe is probably best suited by a set of rules that allows for detailed skirmishes between the warbands, where each Gundam is perhaps treated more like a fighter plane with pilots of different skill rather than using detailed mech rules.  Since ranged fire is only for eliminating mooks and large targets, some sort of dueling skill would be needed to dice off the close combat.  Tanks and infantry and so on are prevalent, but then are often mere annoyances to be swept aside with a single hit.

In terms of figures "Gunpla" is a huge source that can not be ignored.  The term refers to the hobby of building scale models of Gundam (and other robots), and there is such a huge market in Japan (and elsewhere) for these figures that they are available for all configurations of Gundam seen on screen or page, and probably more that never were.  Kits range from your standard plastic model from the early 80's to the totally poseable HG (High Grade) kits with internal skeletons, replaceable hands, and pieces molded in multiple correct colors to minimize or eliminate the need for painting.  The majority of the kits are 1/144 scale, which roughly equates to N/12mm, which is a bonus given the popularity of that scale for model railroad buildings.  Happily this also works well with the boom in 10mm scifi gaming, at least for terrain and civilian vehicles, if one is a purist about military vehicles.


Sean said...

Interesting. For some reason this genre passed me by. I'm not really sure why. I thought Ganesha games did a robot fighting game. Then there was also battle tech, but I don't remember the differences between it and Mobile Suit Gundam.

Mark said...

There's a home-brew ruleset out there now for using the small trading fig- scale mobile suits with X-Wing rules, complete with custom cards and dials. It seems like a pretty good fit.