Dozle’s arc in the previous volume will likely go down as the emotional high point of this series for me. But I’ll be damned if mangaka Yoshikazu Yasuhiko doesn’t serve up a chaotically epic final battle between the Federation and Zeon forces here. While the Federation forces were able to fry Solomon Base in the previous volume with their own solar array, Zeon’s Supreme Commander Ghiren has his own super-laser ready to unleash against the forces allied against him at A Baoa Qu. Even though this act decimates the opposition, it has consequences that will come back to haunt him as his sister Kycilia enters the battle. Meanwhile, the Federation forces are down but not out as Capt. Noa hits upon a risky strategy to keep them in the fight and Amuro looks to settle things once and for all with Char. Toss in Sayla/Artesia’s gambit and you’ve got a whole lot of moving parts in play that could wind up being a giant mess if they’re not handled in the right way.
Yasuhiko, however, is a consummate professional and he makes threading the narrative through all of the many plots and shifting ambitions look easy. There’s plenty of action on display as the Federation and Zeon forces clash outside A Baoa Qu, yet it’s the twists supplied by the human drama behind the scenes that will keep you glued to the page. I also have to hand it to Yasuhiko for giving a minor character named Willy Macho (of all things…) a surprisingly affecting character arc that changes the shape of the battle after he finds who this captive Federation soldier really is. Unfortunately, the mangaka never really got me to care too much about Lalah and her fate here -- despite its artistic pyrotechnics -- left me unmoved. At least the Amuro/Char rivalry starts getting some real traction here, even as it seems that Zeon’s ace is going through this narrative with some kind of “unlimited lives” cheat enabled. Still, the pace has picked up considerably, and the final volume can’t come soon enough for me as a result.