While Gundam Wing may not be the best the Gundam metafranchise has to offer, after more then two decades the series remains near and dear to my heart as one of my first anime. As such when I heard its tie in manga The Glory of Losers was getting an official English release after more then a decade of serialization in Japan I was excited. How would the manga live up to the series I still think about so fondly? The answer like many things involving Wing is mixed so far.
The first thought that popped in my head as I was reading The Glory of Losers is how this is for fans of the original series and movies. If one is not already intimately familiar with Gundam Wing and Gundam Wing Endless Waltz you will likely be left feeling lost. Sensible pacing is non-existent, as in four chapters over eight named characters are introduced (sort of), four separate battles occurs with each receiving only a page or two of content, and the story jumps to at least five different time periods.
As such if you are experiencing the Wing story line for the first time you will be lost. However if you’ve already been exposed to the story in many ways the first few chapters feel like a highlight reel of the best part of what is an admittedly very slow start for a Gundam.
In this case The Glory of Losers makes use of its status as an adaption and one made for the fans of the series at that. Effortlessly blending in elements from both the main series and Gundam Wing Endless Waltz. It is quite clear what The Glory of Losers is trying to do; reconciling Gundam Wing with the series prequel/sequel(s) differences to provide the first unified telling of its full story.
For fans of the series I am sure they will enjoy the Volume, as the mecha designs are the far superior models from Endless Waltz. Furthermore it is the opportunity to see alternate designs of iconic Mobile Suits like the Wing Gundam and Gundam Deathscythe - known as “Kai” versions. Beyond the mecha fanservice, the art hews quite close to the established Gundam Wing style. In fact the manga seems lovingly drawn to capture the spirit of Wing, which it succeeds in.
The design of the manga is also top notch. Complete with variable paneling and interesting page lay out. While it is not the prettiest manga out right now it has an artistic flair one should not ignore. With a glut of Gundam manga making its way West despite being one of the oldest in serialization The Glory of Losers holds up.
However where much of what the Volume succeeds in pales in comparison to how it does not. That being the disjointed narrative structure which was spoken of above. It seems almost as if the series is deliberately designed to throw the reader off guard, not knowing if something happening is a flash back or in real time. With hints of future events scattered through out it can be as confusing as a CLAMP manga.
The focus on Duo and Heero as main characters of the Volume clearly illustrates this. While Duo’s story is pretty straight forward, interestingly one of the major difference from the series has Duo being focused on first. However Heero’s story, it is charitable to call it that at this point, jumps around far too much and Releena’s introduction is marred by this. Especially as she is to become a key character to the whole work, her introduction is atrocious.
At the end of the day these narrative issues I like to think are temporary. As the series moves away from its inaugural Volume I expect the manga will settle into a more traditional format, however the two month release schedule for manga volumes will likely hamper this series flow. As of now if you are a fan of Gundam Wing as I am Glory of Losers is a fun manga, if you are not... Stay away. At least for now let the series grow and mature before investing ones hard earned money.