Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin - Vol 1 Activation

Reading time ~6 minutes

They say you should never judge a book by its cover but wow look at this one. It stirs a wistful excitement in me rooted from a time long ago and far, far away.

The cover to Mobile Suit Gundam Origin vol 1 Activation

Be prepared for a long ramble about what I patchily know of Gundam. It is both comfortingly familiar to me and also a mystery. The familiarity stems from the whole brand being so iconic, yet a mystery because I never really delved into it. But before I bore you with my love of giant-robo mecha suits, let’s hear from someone who doesn’t really like giant robots.

Jake and the giant robots

Let’s start with what he didn’t get on with. He found it a bit of a confusing mess. Although he questioned whether he just wasn’t used to the genre, and was unable to fill in space. He also sometimes struggled distinguish the spaceships from the robots.

Jake couldn’t work out what was going on in the space battles. The confusion combined with Jake’s disengagement with the characters led to him admitting he didn’t really pay much attention to it. He was rather disinterested in the Battlestar Galactica plot.

What he did like was the art. Particularly the colour segments, calling it arresting. He wished it was all in colour. Despite not liking most of the characters, he did single out Char Aznable - the dashing arch-nemesis of our rather bland protagonist. He found it amusing how hard-assed Sayla Mass gasps at Char when he removes his helmet to reveal his handsome visage, noting it as superb.

Jake conceded that the book looked dead cool though.


Giant robots are not for me. There were no farting sharks.


Confused Dan

Dan echoed much of the same points as Jake, citing his loss of sense of scale in the opening scene. He didn’t realise the Zaku were giant robots at first. He was also unsure who were the goodies and the baddies.

He found some of the art absolutely gorgeous and looked absolutely amazing, but Dan wanted to understand what was going on.

He supposed that it could be good as a dark military story and quite hard hitting war story, and in some cases it was, but then red ferret with his super cape turns up (I’m assuming he means Char) and Dan found that he couldn’t stop laughing.

It went from some not particularly spectacular bits to truly spectacular. It feels like it’s of its time, although it’s like Star Wars in that it drawn as the future and cool. But you can feel that it was done in the late 70s/80s.

Dan had a number of quibbles but overall enjoyed it. Didn’t think it was rubbish at all but not intrigued/engaged enough to read more.


I will not be burning it or throwing out the window as I’m driving through Sally In The Woods.


Big Robot Love

As a fan of big robots in general having grown up with Transformers, Tom enjoyed it a lot.

Tom was reminded of this being quite typical of a science fiction setting “cylinder world” as Tom had seen that in other things such as Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C CLarke). In 2000AD’s “Brink” the Earth died, and their colonies were crates in space. Halo Jones too were tubes in space. And recently in The Fuse from Image.

Well Tom, here’s a fun fact: all of these stories are representing the O’Neil Colony, a proposal for space colony design by a physicist in the 70s.

Tom enjoyed the story and characters as it went along. Subtly different from “girls in peril” or “upskirt” you’d see. It was well restrained.

Tom also had the issue of understanding what was going on, but this was only in the “spacey bits. But I just carried on - I’m much more forgiving”. He definitely came away having enjoyed it more than the other two.

Tom mentioned a right hand problem: because he has to hold the book in his right hand, he couldn’t turn the pages with his other hand easily because the book was “backwards”. I suggested he could’ve held the book in his other hand.

I have to say at this point I’m a little fed up with the complaints about manga being backwards or “wrong way round” and minded to avoid picking manga for this reason in future. On the other hand more exposure might get rid of this problem. Or we’re just a bunch of cranky old men.


As a fan of big robots it really hit the spot.


Gundam nostalgia for something that never was

I was very much looking forward to this book and enjoyed it immensely. The art was as the others have already attested, quite stunning. I didn’t have any of the problems the others encountered and I do wonder if that is because I’m more used/experienced/open to manga? Gundam in particularly has always been something I’m familiar with but not to any real depth. I’m no expert.

I know that for Japan this is to them what Star Wars is for many others in the West. I cited a story about how staff from an official (possibly governmental) organisation were sacked because records found they had spent many, many work hours updating wikipedia articles on Gundam. I mentioned the Odaiba statue.

The RX-78 2 statue in Odaiba, Tokyo

It was fun to read about how the founding Mobile Suit Gundam TV series was cancelled, but it was the populairty of the licensed plastic model kits that revived it. Now those kits are called “Gunpla” (Gundam Plasic) and the series has spawned so many spin offs it’s ridiculous. There’s even a series on now about kids who have magical Gunpla that battle each other ala Pokémon. Gundam is the very epitome of iconic.

As a child growing up in SE Asia for a while I was exposed to Gundam but only as tantalising imagery. Never had I actually seen the original anime with my own eyes until a kind fellow in the 90s furnished me with VHS copies of the Hong Kong dubs. The guy was a member of the family who ran the best local Chinese restaurant, lived down my road and was a regular customer to the comic book shop I worked in. Sadly I as a hyperactive teen I couldn’t get into the anime. I felt bad as it took him an effort to make those tapes but also I was left underwhelmed.

This time I’d hoped that I would “get” what Gundam is and I really wasn’t disappointed. I think the artwork is what’s really won it for me this time. It’s exquisite in places. Sometimes breath taking.

I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that not all of my clubmates enjoyed this book. I was really hoping we all would and I had expected that it would be met with universal favour. Alas.


Beautiful rendering of a truly iconic giant robot


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