Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Oct 11th 2006
Mobile Suit Gundam: Lost War Chronicles
As it becomes obvious that mobile suits will be a decisive factor in determining the outcome of the war, the Earth Federation decides that it needs to improve the quality of their mobile suits. To achieve this, they need actual combat data. Enter the Experimental Unit, a group of hard-bitten misfits whose job it is to field-test new mobile suits. They're very good at their job, but things would be a lot easier if only they could just stop butting heads with a certain group of hard-bitten misfit Zeon mercenaries.
How do anime/manga army teams end up so uniform in composition? The recruiting process must go like this:
Recruit: I'd like to join the army.
Recruiter: Hmm. You look like the handsome, charismatic, efficient yet humanitarian leader type. Let's see. (Flips through his papers.) Team A has an opening for a sharp-tongued tomboy, but they already have a handsome, charismatic, efficient yet humanitarian leader type. What about Team B? Let's see... Two hell-raising no-goodniks who are crackerjack pilots in a pinch, one sharp-tongued tomboy, and a spunky female assistant commander, but no handsome, charismatic, efficient yet humanitarian leader type. You're assigned to Team B, welcome aboard.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Lost War Chronicles details the adventures of the Experimental Unit; an elite, mobile-suit using, combat data gathering, Earth Federation unit composed of Matt Healy, a handsome, charismatic, efficient yet humanitarian leader type, two hell-raising no-goodniks who are crackerjack pilots in a pinch, a sharp-tongued tomboy and... you get the idea. Over the course of the war, they repeatedly run afoul of a Zeon mercenary unit made up of Ken Bederstadt, a handsome, charismatic, efficient yet humanitarian leader type, and his subordinates: two hell-raising no-goodniks who are crackerjack pilots in a pinch, his spunky female assistant commander, and a sharp-tongued female mechanic who is not a tomboy (vive la différence!). Still holding down your lunch? Good. The Experimental Unit then proceeds to: ride high on their success, suffer the agony of defeat, learn the glory of overcoming adversity, and demonstrate that they have what it takes to make sure that everyone gets home safe from their mission. If that doesn't turn over every cliché rock known to man in search of the moldy military pastiche underneath, I don't know what does.
Do not despair though, when encountering the Lost Chronicles, there is reason to hold off on feeding it through the nearest paper shredder. Familiar faces from the original anime series pop up here and there, and the Mobile Suit action is truly exciting, drawn as it is, with professional skill, by Masato Natsumoto. His dynamic, clean artwork is also generally pleasing to the eye; his characters attractive (if generic), and his mecha detailed and faithful to the aesthetic of the Gundam enterprise. Inventive, fragmented paneling also contributes to the effectiveness of the action scenes. The action is fast, furious, and not all that confusing as long as you know your mobile suits. Unfortunately the book suffers from a glut of these quality elements, which at best reduces their effectiveness, and at worst turns them into liabilities. There is so much artwork and action crammed onto every page that it soon becomes tiresome. One can't help but wish for a quiet moment of introspection or some blank space. Anything to slow the pace down. The breakneck, action-clogged pace also leaves little to no time for character or plot development. The unit gets orders, deploys, wreaks mecha havoc, and returns. End chapter. Repeat.
Other than a two-page preview of the next volume, there are no extras on this volume, which is a disappointment given its short length. Sound effects are left in situ in the artwork, untranslated.
The Gundam franchise is home to some fine war stories, and it's always interesting to see its various manifestations across time, but the sheer creative bankruptcy of this effort is worrisome. I mean, does every tomboy have to have a tan? (Recruiter: You say you want to be a sharp-tongued tomboy, but your tan just isn't up to snuff. I think you'd do better as a spunky assistant commander, or perhaps a beautiful tactical advisor from HQ). Let's just hope that the next Gundam story to reach American shores is something worthy of the franchise, and not some half-baked "go team!" claptrap that plants its foot in every steaming pile of cliché-poo on the field in its mad rush to achieve narrative oblivion.
Overall : D+
Story : D-
Art : B
+ Another story under the belt of Gundam completists.
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