Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Volume Six Review

Continuing its funeral meditation on the brutality of war and the struggle to keep sane and what keeps one fighting in it. The sixth volume of Gundam Thunderbolt focuses on one battle out of chronological order starting at the beginning of the present time and going all the way back to thirty-five hours before the battle and ending with its aftermath. While showing everything from Io finding a kindred spirit in fellow Gundam piolet and former professional musician the heavily tattooed Bianca Carlyle whose tattoos which cover her entire back while representing all of the previous military actions she has been involved in. In short, she carries a proverbial graveyard of her dead comrades and past battles quite literally on her back. Even at one point, the series takes time to focus on the traumatized Alcoholic Commander Kauffman in the Zeon forces who is forced to sober up and fight the Federation to avenge his dead child and carry out his mission. While the religious fanatics of the last volume lurk in the background, while Gundam units fight on frozen ice and in sub-arctic seas intense almost claustrophobic combat with often wordless panels laid out giving a sense of impending dread or the human face to the enemy in the gun's crosshair. While never a "fun" title Gundam Thunderbolt continues its strong balance of introspective character writing and meticulously crafted mech design and emotional truth. Using war less as a grand romantic adventure and more as a crucible in which the characters are broken down and either made stronger for it or irreparably damaged physically and psychologically or die ignominious deaths. Even the deaths of small secondary characters are given respect be it the simple detail of the crew of a ship all drawn to be visibly crying. Or Kauffman's transformation from lachrymose drunk to "angel of vengeance" being shown in posture, framing, and facial expression. All is not grim military battles and an extended jam session between Bianca and Io receives just as much loving detail as the Atlas Gundam and its beam cannon. Capturing the spontaneity and exuberance of two fans and performers being able to play their hearts out on stage. It's one of the little elements that continue to keep the series human as it would be very easy to reduce the cast to cannon fodder as a series like Gantz (a series I like)does with most of its secondary cast. While the super detailed art makes every Gundam look meticulously crafted the Mech can often have this cold overly processed look compared to the expressive characters while also at times seeming out of place with the backgrounds. While I liked the non-chronological nature of the story because it gave a chance to get to know and grow with the characters. Keeping the flow of time straight can be cumbersome and take someone out fo the story. Still, I think the non-linear narrative structure is an adventurous attempt none the less at telling a story that is so cut and dry and straightforward.

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