The series comes to a satisfying end, even though I was expecting a bit more after the build-up from the previous volume. By all rights the highlight of vol. 12 should’ve been the cat-and-mouse duel between Amuro and Char given the way their paths have crossed over the course of the series and the sheer amount of pages that mangaka Yoshikazu Yasuhiko devotes to it here. While the visuals are as top-notch as you’d expect from the man, their conflict does wind up dragging on for far too long. Also, it winds up dragging in a good deal of the “newtype” business that has consistently felt out of place here. (Yes, I know it’s a key part of the “Gundam” mythos. I still think the manga would’ve been better off leaving it out -- especially since it’s used here simply to justify why a seasoned warrior like Char isn’t able to kill Amuro outright.) At least the mangaka still manages to turn things around at the end by giving us a more tragic version of Char. While a good portion of this series has been given over to painting a picture of the character as someone who can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome he is, here we see all illusions of that stripped away. What we’re left with is someone so committed to his dream of vengeance that he can’t give it up lest he be left with nothing at all.
It’s moments like that which make the final volume worthwhile, and there are several more where that came from. Both in the main story and the three novella-length epilogues which follow it. The epilogues are all worthwhile reading as while the first shows us the earliest days of Zeon as a movement and House Zabi, the two that follow provide essential closure to show us the state of politics in the Sol System in the wake of the war. They also show the series at its goofiest as Kai tracks down Sayla for an interview and encounters cross-dressing, a secret detachment of Zeon forces, and has a nightmare about breastfeeding. The story featuring Amuro has him being hunted by a hapless Zeon assassination squad while meeting up with Hayato, Fraw, and the kids in Japan, and is entertainingly silly for most of its run. I say most, because there’s a moment between Amuro and Hayato where the latter begs the former for something in a way that will really hit you in the gut.
Plenty of standout moments here, surrounded by some material that isn’t quite as strong or memorable. It’s a good summation of the series as a whole. That’s what I’m thinking right now, though that may change after I give this a re-read later this year. No, I’m not done with this yet. Expect a podcast later on where the shoe that I wore during the “Evangelion” one is put on another man’s foot. After all, if you’re like me then you have to have wondered how this series looks to someone who has seen the original “Gundam” anime.