Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation

Mobile Suit GundamAuthor: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Translator: Frederik L. Schodt
U.S. publisher: Stone Bridge
ISBN: 9781611720051
Released: April 2013
Original release: 1979-1981

The first part of the massive Gundam franchise to be officially released in English was a trilogy of novels by Yoshiyuki Tomino that were initially published in Japan between 1979 and 1981. The novels are a reimagining of the original 1979 anime series Mobile Suit Gundam which was directed and primarily developed by Tomino. Based on the trilogy’s 1987 edition, the novels were originally translated by Frederik L. Schodt and published by Del Rey between 1990 and 1991. They subsequently went out of print but were released again by Stone Bridge Press in 2004 in an omnibus edition with a revised translation. The omnibus, too, went out of print only a few years later. It wasn’t until 2012 that the license was able to be re-secured, but Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation is once again available in a newly redesigned omnibus. It also includes some of the concept design sketches form the original anime series as illustrations.

In Universal Century 0079, the colonists of Side 3 rebelled against the Earth Federation, establishing the Principality of Zeon. During the ensuing war, half of the solar system’s human population was annihilated before the two sides of the conflict could reach a temporary ceasefire. In less than a year, the relative peace came to an end. The fighting began again as the Federation and Zeon forces were caught up in an arms race. Each side continued developing more and more advanced and powerful weapon systems and mobile suits. Combined with the emergence of Newtypes—humans with astounding powers of intuition and expanded consciousness—the conflict quickly escalated. No one is entirely sure what the Newtype phenomenon means for the future of the human race or what dangers those with Newtype potential will present, but both militaries are resolved to harness their abilities in order to gain an advantage in the war.

I haven’t seen the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam anime series in its entirety, but I do know that the novels are a darker, more mature, and more detailed take on the story. The ending of the trilogy is significantly different from that of the anime, as well. My first real introduction to the Gundam franchise was actually through Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s manga series Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, which is also a retelling of the original anime. If I am to be completely honest, I much greatly prefer the manga over the novels. However, simply by the nature of the medium, the novels allow Tomino to explore the world of Mobile Suit Gundam in greater depth than either the anime or the manga; some of the specifics about the characters and their motivations can be found nowhere else. But this can also be a drawback—at times, Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation reads more like an insider’s guide to the Gundam universe rather than a set of novels.

I like the story of Mobile Suit Gundam as well as its setting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t nearly as fond of the novels’ execution. There was an annoying preoccupation with who was or wasn’t, or who could or could not possibly be a Newtype. Though frequently debated, the characters never reach a solid conclusion and constantly change their opinions on the matter. This is somewhat understandable since the Newtype phenomenon is a new step in human evolution that has yet to be strictly identified or defined, but it’s particularly frustrating when the author doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp of the concept, either. I do like the Newtype theory, though, and it is a very important part of Mobile Suit Gundam. I also like that the novels show both sides of the conflict between Zeon and the Federation from multiple perspectives. Mobile Suit Gundam is an ambitious war tale with a fairly large cast of interesting characters. But in the end, I have a feeling that the novels will appeal most to readers who are already fans of the franchise.

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  1. I’ve tried to like Gundam but the pacing is too slow and while I realize it’s significance to Anime and Manga it feels more like something I “should” like as opposed to something I would like or do like.

    • I certainly understand and appreciate the significance and influence of Gundam, but I’ll admit the only version that I’ve actually really enjoyed (at least so far) has been The Origin manga.

      • I couldn’t even get into The Origin manga it was extremely slow but that was a style of writing that was popular when Gundam was popular although the best advice I’ve gotten as concerns the Anime adaptations is “don’t marathon through it” in that it’s meant to be watched one episode a week.

  2. > Newtype theory, though, and it is a very important part of Mobile Suit Gundam.

    No it’s not. It’s just a narrative device that handwaves the part where the dumb teenager gets to be a pilot of a secret superweapon. Just as Minovsky physics is a handwave of the entire “robots with lasers in space” thing.

    To people who like UC Gundam i’d recommend Weber’s “Harrington” cycle, same thing only with actual allusions to reality and real history of warfare.

    • Newtype theory may be an excuse to place a younger generation in the pilot seat, but considering how much time is devoted to the concept and that it plays a major role in character and plot development, I would argue that at least in the novels it is important. They would fall apart without it, or at least be an entirely different story. Realistic world-building? Yeah, maybe not so much.

      I haven’t read the Harrington Cycle. Thank you for the recommendation!

    • You must have missed the part in several series where they talk in detail about what exactly it means to be a newtype. How despite understanding each other, conflicts will still continue. How people can’t even deal with the emotions they feel with, not to mention the emotions of others once they have a newtype connection.

      I mean, sure they have precognition and enhanced reflexes, but it’s very much a central theme on the nature of suffering throughout all of the UC shows.

      • That’s very interesting, thanks!

        Except for a few random episodes, I haven’t actually seen any of the Gundam series. So, yes, I did miss those parts. My experience with the franchise has largely been limited to the novel trilogy reviewed above and Vertical’s release of the Origin manga.

        For the purposes of this review, I was specifically addressing how Newtypes were portrayed and described in the novels rather than in Gundam as a whole.

        • My comment was in response to karrys comment, not your review.

          For the record I agreed with your review. Your criticisms were valid of the novel I thought. Its certainly a must read for gundam fans but I wouldnt call it literature by any means. I also prefer the origin.

          • Whoops, I see that now! Sorry about that. ^_^;

            I’m still really enjoying Origin and am looking forward to reading more, soon!

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