Ever since I first encountered Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt with Vol. 6, I’ve been singing the series’ praises. Yasuo Ohtagaki’s robot warfare manga is back this week with Vol. 9, which collects chapters 71-79. It centers around the Federation’s attack on a floating city called the Rig, and the future Psycho Zaku pilots’ underwater escape attempt. There’s action and impressively detailed line-work aplenty as per usual, but does this volume have the character beats needed to make the conflict feel significant? Is Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt Vol. 9 good?
This series continues to shine as far as its visuals are concerned. The sheer level of technical skill on display is amazing. A lot of scenes depict explosions and combat on a city-wide scale, and Ohtagaki packs a lot of detail into these wide shots. The perspective work is fantastic, even when there are swarms of overlapping figures with different degrees of distance from the foreground. The mecha look sleek and imposing as always, and the shading throughout is top-notch. The contrasts between the different values in the line-work help keep everything readable and well-balanced, adding to the overall sense of polish. Sound effects are also effectively incorporated into the art, bursting out alongside flames and debris.
This volume also has great pacing and solid character work. We get to see Fisher grow as he chooses to abandon his past duties in favor of helping his lover Vivi and her son Alex escape the Rig. They don’t have a lot of time to talk things out in the middle of the crisis, but the short moments they do get to share are heartwarming. Ohtagaki also does a good job conveying the frenzied pace of the escape attempt while still keeping events easy to follow. The pacing is also solid in terms of how Ohtagaki reveals military strategies and maneuvers. The reader gets to learn about evasive actions at the same time as the characters, which helps add a touch of suspense to the drama.
As per usual with this series, I don’t have many complaints. The main con that comes to mind is that some of the action scenes suffer from clarity issues. These are never major enough to leave one utterly baffled and clueless as to what’s going on, but they do make it necessary to go back and reread pages once it’s revealed that different characters are speaking than initially seem to be the case. Some scenes also feel a bit too decompressed due to an abundance of panels that convey the same information. This is particularly the case when explosions occur; there’s only so much to be gained by showing the same flames and shattered buildings from slightly different angles.
Overall, Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt Vol. 9 is yet another strong installment for the series. Ohtagaki’s artwork is stunning as always, and Fisher gets some solid character development. On the downside, there are some occasional issues with the visuals in terms of clarity or Ohtagaki lingering on the same subject matter for a needlessly long time. With that said, I would still gladly recommend this volume to anyone seeking out an exciting and polished mecha manga.