A war story that questions the ethics of violence.
When it comes to giant robot series, you can’t get any more famous than Gundam. The franchise has had countless installments in both anime and manga form over the last forty years. At AiPT! we’ve already been covering one such iteration–Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt–but this week we’re turning our attention toward another version: Mobile Suit GUNDAM WING Endless Waltz: Glory of the Losers. The series’ ninth volume was recently released by Vertical Comics, and it contains the manga’s 50th-55th chapters. This installment is rife with political strategies, philosophical debates, and, of course, giant robots. Is it good?
In terms of its politics and philosophy, this volume is quite well-done. We get to see numerous figures, including both soldiers and heads of state, discuss the morality of various potential military maneuvers. While readers will come to this manga for its action (this is a giant robot series after all) it’s nice to see the violence questioned and analyzed. The clear discussion of political tensions also helps the warfare feel consequential, like it both impacts real people and is being orchestrated by individuals with differing motivations and ethics. The character work in this volume is also strong. Writer Katsuyuki Sumizawa bestows all the major players with distinct voices, and the interpersonal dynamics are filled with unique and varied types of tension. Even though there’s not a lot of deep psychological introspection here, the characters’ choices and interactions still convey a lot about who they are.
This manga’s artwork is also impressive. Tomofumi Ogasawara’s line-work is very clean, which keeps events looking crisp and legible for the most part. The robots look bulky yet cool, and the backgrounds are lovely. This is especially the case for the skylines, where clouds and propulsion vapors twist quite elegantly. With that said, my favorite aspect of Ogasawara’s work is their compositions. There are many panels in this volume that simultaneously convey events taking place in multiple locations. These panels provide fantastic transitions from one scene to the next, all while being visually appealing and without looking too cluttered.
In terms of cons, my main complaints with this volume concern the characters’ faces. There’s some major Same Face Syndrome going on, which can increase the amount of time it takes to fully differentiate between similar looking characters. Once I got a ways into the volume I ceased feeling confusion over who was who, but it was an issue early on. Some readers might also find the volume’s discussions of warfare and nonviolence to be a tad shallow. While these philosophical subjects are interesting to read about in the context of a series so dependent on violence, they’re not actually delved into particularly deeply or with much unique spin. There are also some occasional pacing issues where the narration jumps around between different points too quickly, and where spending longer amounts of time on each plot point may have helped to make the book read more smoothly.
All in all, Mobile Suit GUNDAM WING Endless Waltz: Glory of the Losers Vol. 9 is a good read. The artwork is solid on most fronts, and it really shines in terms of compositions. The character work is also good, with some intriguing discussions of the morality of violence and war. On the down side, Same Face Syndrome is quite prevalent and there are some pacing issues. Nonetheless, I would recommend this volume.