"G Gundam" Manga: You Too Will Want to Communicate With Your Fists!
G Gundam. The name is infamous in anime circles as the black sheep of the long-running Gundam franchise due to its bizarre mecha designs and very un-Gundam story. But the series has its defenders. When it was released in America in 2002 this now decade-old debate took on a new angle. As is standard these days, the show was quickly followed by a translated release of the official manga adaptation, this one by Tokyopop. But even G Gundam‘s staunched supporters are going to have a hard time enjoying this one.
Released in three volumes, the G Gundam manga follows the story seen in the show. It’s year 60 of the Future Century calendar. With Earth having seen better days, the majority of humanity begins emigrating to nationally designated colonies in space. It was decided that rulership of this new existence would be determined by a Gundam Fight competition. Every four years each nation sends down a Gundam and its fighter to Earth, representing their physical prowess and technical skill. By the end of the year-long competition the last Gundam standing through a series of one-on-one battles wins rulership for their homeland. The 13th annual Gundam Fight looks to be like any other, but there is something far greater at stake. Neo-Japan’s entrant Domon Kasshu is on a duel mission: win the title and destroy the rogue Devil Gundam seized by his brother Kyoji before his older sibling can conquer the world.
In anime form, I love G Gundam. Director Yashurio Imagawa crafted a wonderful tale with realistic characters and effective drama while having fun and showing respect to what had come before. But it’s for these reasons that the manga adaptation leaves a lot to be desired. It’s helmed by now-Gundam regular Koichi Tokita who at this point appears to have yet to hit his stride.
I can respect that having to adapt a work in progress can lead to changes, but this manga adaptation suffers from unfortunate assumptions and changes from the original. For instance, in the manga it’s implied Domon was present when the Devil Gundam was stolen, while the anime clearly shows Domon being told afterwards. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say this creates a large plot hole later on. Other elements suffer from the breakneck manga production schedule: The early episodes are heavily rewritten and Domon’s reunion with his former master is terrible. In the show Master Asia plays a complex game using an alias in an attempt to get Domon to once again side with him. Here, they meet up and within 5 seconds he’s declared, “Hey, I’m evil and working for your brother. Join us!” Not only is a lot of effective drama lost, but this has a major effect on Master Asia’s character. Tokita sees fit to present him as the stereotype moustache-twirling villain, and this becomes awkward when we later learn he has much deeper motivations.
The other fairly notable change is the treatment of the female cast. In the show Rain is Domon’s voice of reason, a nice and intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to put him in his place if necessary. Tokita’s Rain always seems to have some kind of beef with Domon and gets increasingly jealous when he develops so much as a friendship with another woman. Even a flashback to Domon and Rain’s childhood is ruined by Rain’s newfound brattiness.
The element that sends this treatment of Rain into overdrive is Allenby. Allenby is a female Gundam Fighter who shows up in the second half of the show and develops a minor relationship with Domon, since she’s essentially a female version of him. Tokita himself admits being to a fanboy of her in the Thank You note at the end of the final volume, and that’s about all the warning you need for what he does with her. I myself am a bit of Allenby fan, but Tokita spends way too much time on a character who, to be fair, is just there to to add a little more tension to the relationship between Domon and Rain. Allenby is even made the focus of Rain’s most extreme act — hijacking a spare Neo-Japan Gundam to help in the final battle. In the anime Rain’s motives were pure, but here she exclaims, “I have to show Domon that I can be of more help than Allenby!” This is far from the respectable Rain fans know from the TV show and perhaps more in line with the bimbo Faye Valentine wannabe we’ve seen in recent Rain figurines. The only positive change is a slightly upgraded Nobel Gundam.
In this sea of wasted opportunities, there is one thing to be happy about. Tokita launched his now-famous four-panel comics here with the Go For It, Domon! series. Starting in volume two, these comics parody various elements of the series. If you’ve ever wondered why the Shining Gundam always makes a flashy entrance, or to what lengths Domon will go to find out who the man in the picture is, check these out. Thankfully the four-panels are free of the American flavor of the Last Outpost English translations, with only minor, barely noticeable changes.
If there is one translation error I have with this release, it’s the Gundam names. Worried about offending American viewers as they had with Wing’s Deathscythe Hell, Sunrise ordered several renames which were used on all official English language merchandise. Tokyopop uses these renames, and as a fan of the original presentation of the series it’s annoying to have to keep mentally substituting the new names for the originals, especially when you consider the company originally used the old names in previous releases. Another beef I have is the cover art. Tokyopop originally announced these books with the original Japanese covers, but instead we get art from the actual manga coloured in Photoshop. It looks amateurish (especially on volume 3), and considering the original covers are the first page of each book I have to wonder why they didn’t just use those instead. As an odd extra, volume one has a brief multiple choice quiz on the story. No idea if this was in the original release, but I doubt it. It’s preceded by a preview for the next volume where Schwarz seems to be channeling Serpentor (“Come back next time, this I command!”)
Overall, this is a bad adaptation of a great show. Tokita is definitely a G Gundam fan, but his attempt at re-telling the story is nothing more than a curiosity for hardcore fans. If you want to sample G Gundam more positively, pick up the anime, and if you’d like to see a stronger effort from Tokita, give Gundam SEED Astray a shot.
CORRECTION: Originally this article said that Tokyopop used the original Gundam names in publicity materials. In fact they used them in previous releases.