It seems like mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki finally got around to watching “Memento” before he sat down to create this volume-length story. I say this because the first half of vol. 6 has the same gimmick as that classic film: a story told in reverse. Things start out with Bianca, one of the veteran mobile suit pilots on the Spartan, in a tough position against Zeon forces on the Antarctic tundra while the narrative unspools in reverse to show us how they wound up at this point. This approach works well enough, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s pure gimmickry. There’s no reason this story had to be told in reverse as the gains from telling the story in this way -- some suspense over Bianca’s fate, amusement from seeing an obviously doomed crew member die before you realize she was just a redshirt -- feel pretty negligible overall. Ohtagaki could’ve told the story in the first half normally and I can’t imagine my overall reaction towards it changing all that much.
That the narrative approach to the first half is just a gimmick is also reinforced by the fact that normal service is resumed once Io shows up in his Gundam and takes the fight to Zeon’s undersea forces. It’s a tense, well-executed battle in which one of this title’s erstwhile protagonists demonstrates some ingenious quick-thinking to survive the conflict and its aftermath. All without any kind of gimmickry. Then you reach the end of the volume and realize that the only details meaningful to the overall plot of this current storyline have been saved for last. So maybe the reverse-storytelling gimmick does help distract from the fact that you’ve just read a volume of (well-executed) filler. When the series is over with, vol. 6 will most likely be remembered as “The One Where the First Half Was Told in Reverse.” Let’s hope future volumes wind up being a bit more memorable than that.