Monday, January 25, 2016

Manga Monday: Gundam Wing (Tokyopop / Mixx Manga)

Back in May 2000 Tokyopop, still using their early Mixx Manga "Pocket Edition" banner, released the first manga volume of Gundam Wing. As with most manga titles that were licensed in America around that time, it was presented in the flipped, left-to-right format common with the typical Western comic. Not long after Tokyopop changed their policy and only released manga in the right-to-left Japanese-style formatting (which they proudly described as: "100% authentic manga").

I picked up the first volume of the Gundam Wing manga in Borders back in summer of 2000 for $9.95 (this was also when manga would be included in the graphic novel section, before Borders had separated them). I was obsessed with all things Gundam back then and was thrilled to read the Wing anime in manga form. But, even then, there were some things that felt 'off' about this manga.

For starters, the plot seems so rushed in comparison to the anime. At times, the story becomes nearly incomprehensible, and this is coming from someone who watched Gundam Wing in its entirety more than once. I'd imagine that a reader with no knowledge of the show would be completely lost by the third or fourth chapter. The characters are pale imitations of their anime counterparts and major plot points are glossed over at such a breakneck pace that it's hard to get a feel for anyone's motivations, much less the gravity of the events taking place.

On a positive note, the art looks great, and the characters and mobile suits are spot on. Koichi Tokita clearly does the best he can with what little he's given here. He's clearly saddled with the notorious "comic book movie-adaptation" dilemma, when a writer and/or artist is given a 120 page script that comprises a two-hour film that needs to be condensed into a single 48 page one-shot. Well, here Tokita is compressing a 49 episode series into 3 volumes (Tokyopop didn't release the second and third volumes didn't until February and April of 2001, respectively).

Another questionable aspect of the manga is strictly due to Tokyopop. I understand the conversion to the Western left-to-right format (especially in 2000, given that this method was still common), but why is the text in the word balloons all lowercase? I can't think of any other comic I've seen where they do that, usually standard comic practice is to capitalize all text. Also, anytime a character mentions the words mobile suit, it's abbreviated to "MS," which is weird and makes for some awkward sentences.

Even stranger, to likely pad out the page count, Tokyopop inserted a "bonus story" titled Domon W, which were yonkoma/4-koma gag strips of Domon Kasshu and a few other characters from G Gundam interacting with the Wing cast. Maybe some of the humor was lost in translation (some of the jokes are just head-scratching and make no sense), but the strips were even more confusing circa 2000, when G Gundam had yet to air on Cartoon Network. G Gundam wouldn't air until two years later, on August 5th, 2002 during Toonami's afternoon anime block.

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