If you’re wondering who this Garma person is and why he’s so important that this volume bears his name, you can rest assured that your questions will be answered by the end of the volume. As head of the Principality of Zeon’s North American forces, it has become his job to capture White Base and the Gundam after their atmospheric re-entry onto the continent. Though Garma is clearly an antagonist in this story, he’s an interesting presence for a couple of reasons. While he’s eminently hateable for his aristocratic haughtiness, the man is ultimately a pawn in this greater conflict and at the mercy of forces more powerful and clever than he is. Char’s words to him near the end of the volume also reveal that the Red Comet is ultimately one side in this conflict -- his own.
The other interesting thing is that it reveals that inserting pretty boys, or “bishounen” if you will, has not been a recent trend in the “Gundam” franchise. I thought it started, or at least became popular with “Gundam Wing,” but unless mangaka Yoshikazu Yasuhiko is doing some visual retconning (which could also be a possibility) it would appear that giving the ladies something to fawn over has also been a franchise tradition as well. That said, he’s not the one who winds up getting a completely gratuitous shower scene in this volume. That would be Char. Again, always something for the ladies.
As for the protagonists, the crew of the White Base finds themselves under siege from forces within and without here. While Garma’s forces hound them for a good deal of the first half, the refugees that were taken on from Side 7 start to become restless with the cramped quarters, low supplies and not being able to set foot on Earth even though it’s right there. Their concerns are understandable even though it’s hard to have any sympathy for them since they’re dumb enough to be asking to be released into enemy territory. There are some good scenes involving a mother and her son who Amuro gets to know. Though the mother’s discovery of what happened to her home is unsurprising, the encounter she has with two Zeon soldiers is. However, a couple decent scenes don’t make me regret the fact that the refugee situation is dealt with in a somewhat deus ex machinal fashion halfway through the book.
Then you come to Amuro himself, a character who should come off as annoying and insufferable due to the angst he displays as well as his reluctance to fight in certain situations. At first I thought that his refusal to join White Base’s fight against Garma’s forces was an unbelievably selfish decision. In case he hadn’t noticed, there’s a war going on out there. As the Gundam’s pilot, he doesn’t have the luxury of sitting this out just because he’s a kid. And Cyclops was right! …Ahem.
Well, the fact remains that he is a 15-year-old kid thrust into an unbelievable situation with all the stress that accompanies it. Toss in the fact that the volume begins just after he found out firsthand that the Gundam can survive atmospheric re-entry, and it’s not surprising that he’s feeling a bit traumatized by the whole experience. All this creates a certain amount of leeway in my mind for the character, even though Yasuhiko continues to place him in dramatic/traumatic situations, such as the reunion he experiences with his mother later on. In fact, a lot of the drama in “Gundam: The Origin” can be described as melodramatic in the way that the stakes are placed incredibly high for each conflict, whether they be personal or physical. I can accept it all because I like the character and the overall scope of the story. Those of you averse to any kind of ham-fistedness in their drama may not find this to be entirely to your liking.
Of course, that could also be down to the translation which still hovers around the area of “acceptable.” As nice as the series’ physical presentation continues to be (gotta love those color pages) the text is more functional than literate and its stiffness continues to be a bit distracting. Even with issues like this, the good continues to outweigh the bad here and I’m looking forward to what the series has in store with the next volume.
<sarcasm>(Maybe it’ll even have a better guest tribute next time. The ladies from CLAMP are the choices this time and while their “roundtable” was amusing, their artistic tribute is puzzling. I, for one, cannot figure out why they thought that drawing Suzaku from “Code Geass” holding Haro in the snow would make for a fitting contribution. You’d think that Amuro would be a better choice, but I guess not.)</sarcasm>