What we have here is an action-centric volume and thankfully a gimmick-free one this time around. After the Spartan crosses the border of the Nanyang Alliance’s territory combat breaks out between the two sides. While that sounds simple enough, there are two complicating factors at work here: One is the Alliance’s efforts to get onboard the Spartan by any means necessary in order to deliver a message to their agent there. The other is that the Alliance forces are being commanded by Io’s childhood friend and former captain Claudia Peer. Whenever the action focuses on either of these two things, it has a real charge to it that’s genuinely captivating. It also helps that mangaka Yasuo Ohtagaki clearly had fun choreographing Io’s crazy ship-to-ship fighting efforts in normal gravity towards the end of the volume. Whenever the volume isn’t focusing on these things, it’s just fine. I just find it hard to care about the crew members whose names I can’t recall and effectively come off as redshirts at this point.
While Claudia’s return helps drive the drama during the battle, Ohtagaki also delivers some key developments to open and close the volume. We check back in with Darryl at the start to find out that he’s helping Karla Mitchum, creator of the Reuse P. Device, recover from the trauma she sustained during the fighting in the Thunderbolt sector. It’s kind of a gut punch once we find out the nature of her trauma and see how Darryl copes with it through the chapter. Then it’s revealed at the end just what the crew of the Spartan is up against when Capt. Humphrey lets everyone know about her personal connection to the leader of the Nanyang Alliance and how he’s also a member of an elite club of “Gundam” characters. It’s a moment that raises the stakes for everyone going against the Alliance at this point while also raising some interesting questions going forward. It’s a very solid effort all around from Ohtagaki and one that gets things back on track after the shenanigans of the previous volume.