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|Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam (manga)||Good||I'm not really much of a manga fan, I generally prefer to watch something in motion, and while I will on rare occasions check out manga of anime that I enjoy, I almost never bother with manga that have no animated adaptation. But I'm a really big fan of the Gundam F91 movie, despite its (glaring) faults. I love the mecha designs (particularly the F91 itself), I really like the characters (rushed though their development is), and I like the pirate angle. If there was one thing I could change about Gundam in general, it would be to have the full TV series that was originally planned for Gundam F91 before it was scrapped and compressed into a single movie. That's not going to happen, so revisiting the story in this sequel manga is the next best option.
Overall I found Crossbone Gundam to be pretty entertaining, good but not great. The art style is a little jarring at first as all the characters look extremely young -- returning characters look at least five years younger than they did in the movie, although they're meant to be ten years older. This doesn't take very long to get over. The manga, particularly in the first couple volumes, has some lighthearted moments that the revamped character designs really help accentuate. In its more serious moments, they are ultimately not a liability.
The mecha designs are not quite on par with Gundam F91, but they're solid. Several of the mecha featured in the story were originally introduced in F91 anyway (including that movie's eponymous Gundam, which makes a few appearances); others, including the new eponymous Gundam(s), the three Crossbone units, are a little bit weaker in my opinion, but not dramatically so. The Crossbones mostly are just a little bit curvier than the F91, which was a very angular design that really suited my aesthetic tastes. But if we're being fair here, the F91 is one of my top favorite Gundam designs (next to Zeta and Turn A), so it's probably setting the bar a bit high to demand something that would please me just as much. In any case, the mecha are creative and competently designed, with some interesting weapons (some playing up the pirate angle, others not) that aren't really seen elsewhere in Gundam (plus a few nods to later developments in Victory Gundam with some proto-Zanscare designs, which are a nice touch).
Frankly my only major complaint with the story is that the main villain's motivations are pretty weak. We keep getting red herring explanations as the story proceeds and they're pretty much all more interesting, or at least more plausible, than what ultimately ends up being his real motivation. It's just a little bit underwhelming and sort of takes the wind out of Crossbone's sails (uhhh, no pun intended) just as the story is reaching its climax. All the same, it's a fun ride that sheds a lot of light on an otherwise rarely seen corner of the Gundam universe, the Jupiter Empire. For any fan of F91, or Gundam in general, it's a fast read and worth the time.
|Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Skull Heart (manga)||Decent||Went ahead and read this right after finishing Crossbone. There's not really a whole lot to say about it -- there's not really a single unified story like in the original Crossbone, it's more like a couple vignettes in the life of Tobia Arronax and the remaining Crossbone Vanguard a few years after the events of Crossbone. Much of the cast returns, we get a little bit of final closure (that wasn't entirely necessary, but doesn't hurt either) on Seabook and Cecily, etc. Also get a nice cameo appearance by Judau Ashta (who, I don't care what anyone says about Gundam ZZ, I like a lot). Unlike Crossbone, though, this doesn't really add a ton to the Gundam universe. The tone is somewhat lighter than Crossbone's and at times the story gets downright silly, but it's only one volume and a fairly quick read, so there are worse ways to spend the time.|