Side stories are nothing new to Gundam. You just have to look at the Universal Century where it seems there is always some new story set in the time frame of the original series ready to pop up to sell manga, games and plastic models. What makes Gundam: The Last Outpost (Japanese title Gundam Wing Dual Side Story G-Unit) stand out is that this time round it’s a side story to one of the alternate universe series. Released at around the same time as Endless Waltz and authored by Koichi Tokita, The Last Outpost long looked to be ignored for a translated release. Perhaps riding the last waves of Gundam Wing hype, TOKYOPOP finally released the series in three volumes a few years ago.
The series picks up at roughly the start of the second quarter of the anime. Having recently removed the Earth government from power after a decade’s long conspiracy, OZ begins its attempts to unite humanity under its own banner. One of the many colonies which gleefully accept this offer is MO-V, a small backwater asteroid that is conducting its own top secret tests into a new kind of Gundam called G-Units (no relation to annoying rap groups). What sets the G-Units apart is their ability to be reconfigured as the mission dictates and their experimental PX System which pushes a pilot’s abilities to superhuman levels. Testing the units are MO-V natives Odel Bernett and his younger brother Odin. When Odin’s Gundam is accidentally filmed by a secret OZ scouting
Personally, I found the story to be interesting and a logical fit for the AC timeline. Given that OZ specialised in building MS and training pilots for them, it makes sense that they would have a ‘best of the best’ unit for their own private missions. It’s also nice to see some custom Leos, ranging from heavily armoured models to Crossbone Gundam-inspired cape wearers. On a similar note, the whole plot with the G-Units is also nice, mainly because it adds a much needed dose of realism. The idea of a modular adaptable MS is clever and it’s nice to see things like actual full body shields and machine guns in place of Gundams who just let the shots ricochet of them before firing off some superweapon. Tokita has obviously taken a note from UC in more ways than one. The original duo of Geminass for example are clearly based on the Gundam Mk II from Zeta (one’s even painted in AEUG colours and the other in those of the Titans) whilst their optional high mobility modes bring to mind the Gundam GP-01Fb. I should mention though why I don’t count this as lazy rehashing. For starters, this is a manga sideline project and not a major focus work like a TV show. Secondly, Tokita is clever with how he handles these influences. The later Gundam Griepe for example is obviously Zeta inspired but you can also see strong roots from the Deathscythe Hell and other MS which have already been established in the AC universe. This brings some credible design logic and feels far removed from Gundam SEED’s habit of just taking existing designs and tweaking them slightly.
Of course, nice mecha designs are worthless if the human cast isn’t likeable (except in the case perhaps of 0083 *rimshot*). Tokita serves up a cast who may not be the most memorable but are several steps up from the regular Wing cast. The Bernett brothers are your classic sibling pair, with Odel being a wise mentor to the younger Odin’s rashness. Tokita seems to love making his leads be big kids who believe in the good of humanity and Odin isn’t much difference. He is though a well rounded character, with hopes and fears that put him above the cardboard cut out that is Heero. One of the most well handled angles has to be Odin coming to terms with the fact he now needs to become serious about MS piloting. Whilst he has some brief angst, those who despise that kind of lead should be happy to know it’s the tiniest fraction of his character. I actually feel Odin’s response to his situation is how a real kid in his shoes would likely respond. The rest of the MO-V cast don’t really stand out except for Lucille, Odin’s mechanic/caretaker/apparent girlfriend. She and Odin have the classic ‘Odd Couple’ relationship.
Over at OZ Prize, it’s a G Gundam reunion! Well, maybe not but there’s no denying that two of the Prize trio look similar to Argo Gulskii and Michelo Chariot. The starring trio, known as the Stardust Knights, are a group of bishounen aces. Easily the most interesting is Roche, who ends the story far from where he started off and acts as an interesting rival for Odin, initially refusing to let Odin be killed by anyone but him after he beat Roche with his Gundam’s PX system. Said system is the series equivalent to the Zero System, a merging of the pilot and machine which basically feeds both off a massive adrenaline rush. It’s the other major development of the G-Unit’s creator, Dr Berg. Berg is your typical power hungry villain who pits both sides against each other in his quest to build the ultimate G-Unit.
Some will likely want to know how much the story ties into the existing series. The truth is not much, which gives it a wider audience. An early scene with Lady Une explains why none of TV cast mentioned the G-Units, helped further by Prize blockading MO-V. The Operation Meteor Gundams are primarily only mentioned to inspire Odin to use his own Gundam to fight for freedom. There’s also later villain Valder Farkill who seeks to use his custom MS to fight against Treize in the Epyon. There’s enough references to stop you going “Oh, how convenient!” but a new reader could likely hop on and have all the information they need to enjoy the story.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tokita manga without SD comics! We get a good heap across the three books including the characters of this manga, G, Wing/Endless Waltz, X and even the Universal Century. They’re as hilarious as always with Tokita dropping witty jabs against the Gundam series and of course not being ashamed to mock his own stuff (this includes the earlier mentioned UC inspirations). Perhaps the one thing that makes these less enjoyable is TOKYOPOP’s translation. Obviously humour is different across the globe and what is hilarious to one country falls flat in another. The problem is, TOKYOPOP have gone nuts trying to localise these comics resulting in them being full of very forced references and ghetto slang. Dialogue such as “Aw snap!”, “I’m gonna whack you like a goomba!”, “What the dulock?!” and references to things such as Radio Disney and having Doctor J talk like Professor Frink from The Simpsons. Considering that with their earlier Gundam translations they managed to avoid this kind of thing it’s annoying and feels like they’re talking down to the reader. Pop culture references don’t make a joke automatically funny and I’d rather see the jokes as they were originally presented. Despite this the comics are still quite good. This was essentially the end for the long running Go For It, Domon!” series and we get a fitting send off.
The third volume also contains a brief preview for then forthcoming G Gundam manga. It’s Domon’s first Gundam Fight with some minor dialogue differences from what appeared in the final book. What do I make of that manga? You’ll know soon enough.
Ultimately, I think The Last Outpost is an enjoyable series and perhaps superior to the show that spawned it. Although essentially a retconned entry it’s well intergrated and presents more of the After Colony universe which fans can’t seem to get enough of. Recommended.