As a quick aside from the episodic reviews, I’m going to cover the short manga adaptation of the first arc and first three episodes of the anime. This adaptation is quite different from the source material, which the anime follows pretty closely, but in my opinion does some things better and in general is much funnier. Rather than a straight review of the manga though, I’m going to run it more as a comparison to the episode reviews I’ve already done to highlight the differences.
And immediately, those differences are apparent. The manga starts off with Heivia and Quenser already having gone on their deer hunt, and then adds in a bear, because why not? It also, right away, shows you what Heavy Object is all about: Those two legging it from trouble and running their mouths as much as their legs. We get an instant indication of the difference between Heivia and Quenser with Quenser’s statement that he cannot “even legally hold” his gun, and then the bear ceases to exist. Quenser identifies the weapon that obliterated it, and they both look over to where the Baby Magnum is out in the field. Whereupon one of its main cannons waves at them, and we get our first look at Milinda.
So that’s some pretty encompassing scene-setting done very ably in a short space of time.
Moving on, we meet Froleytia chewing out our two
heroes idiots, complete with large male gaze panel on her boobs, after which she again blithely steals the meat and assigns them a 10-mile run, little difference there. Quenser and Heivia digging themselves a yet-deeper hole is then interrupted by Milinda entering and mentioning that Quenser is being hunted by the Old Lady maintenance chief. Froleytia dismisses the two, casually ordering Heivia to go clear the runway of snow (familiar!) and as they all leave, Froleytia mentions to Milinda that they will be coming soon. You can see how the manga deviates from the source material quite sharply, only to reconnect after a short period of time to ensure it doesn’t lose touch and become too different a story.
Milinda encounters Quenser waiting for her outside the office, who suggests they walk over to the hanger together. They’ve seen each other around often but never really spoken, so Quenser figures this would be a good opportunity. And so this serves as how these two start their friendship... except it kinda goes differently, again, as this version of Milinda is a little... odd.
In the material, Quenser describes Milinda as “a girl who’s kind but a little weird” and the manga really dials up the latter. Personally, I prefer her so as opposed to the excessive timidity the anime seemed to lean towards in her attitude sometimes (in contrast to her actions).
Quenser then gets told to work on the escape mechanism, and in the process of asking questions about the Baby Magnum’s logo...
... and the hanging rapier...
... we get the explanation of why he chose to come and study Milinda’s Object, and a touch more of a serious side to Quenser as he talks. Noteably, he also only breaks the restraint system when he’s retorting to the Old Lady after getting narked at. Though the scene with his mental debate about groping her still occurs, it isn’t as overwrought as the anime presents and so is one of the few examples of the manga being closer to the LN than the series. Also that rapier falls down when Milinda ejects and almost cuts his balls off, which is some excellent punctuation for the end of the scene.
Another wild change from the source material follows, with the whole base knowing about the deer our two
heroes idiots brought back and Froleytia allowing portions based on sumo wrestling. Because why not. Heivia enthusiastically volunteers, only to find Froleytia herself will be his first opponent.
As it turns out, Heivia might be the only person in the entire unit that doesn’t know Froleytia is a sumo champion. His humiliation continues as practically the entire base enjoys tossing him around for stress relief, meanwhile Quenser is demonstrating why nerds will inherit the Earth by being the one grilling the meat, and thus eating his fill by “taste testing”. As he passes over her share, the two chat about Froleytia’s command history and, crucially, what happens when an Object is defeated. It’s also implied that the unit’s conventional military capabilities are unusual and due to Froleytia’s preferences, and then the first chapter ends in the same place as the first episode.
The story then continues with the fight between the Baby Magnum and the Water Strider, with Quenser and Heivia in the command room spectating the fight, and “spectating” really is the word. Significantly, Quenser is analysing the Water Striders construction during this time, and so begins to realise the advantage the legs of the enemy Object provide. His musing catches Froleytia’s attention and she realises the trap just as it is sprung, adding an amount of tension to the development of the fight as we are provided the belief that Milinda is winning quite ably before a dramatic reversal occurs and undercuts the everything before it.
The attack on the base proceeds, except Froleytia calls out to the two as she arranges the evacuation effort before Quenser notices Milinda’s SOS signal, and his innocent naivety is almost painful as the reality if the situation is delivered to him. He forgoes his rant however, and takes off on a snowmobile (tracking Milinda’s signal). Instead, we see Heivia’s reaction after Quenser has left as he less emotionally (but still passionately) echoes many of Quenser’s arguments to Froleytia, but about the student rather than the Object pilot. As a result, we also see Froleytia’s obvious pain about the fate of the people she cannot spare the effort to save. Also, that girl in the background there looks familiar. Where have I seen her before?
Returning to the Knight in Shining Digicam, he manages to ride his steed off a cliff and wreck it, but is close enough that the use of the directional microphone seems like less of a Deus Ex Machina than him just happening to be close enough after getting lost. As in the anime, Milinda has been captured and Quenser works through his issues regarding killing other people. As the fight progresses though, Milinda saves Quenser from the grenade by tackling the soldier in question but fails to stop him firing, and so thinks Quenser dead in the blast. Heivia’s grand entrance is then saving her from the last member of the enemy patrol, and then the two drag Quenser’s ass out from under the snow and wake him up. Milinda has her breakdown before the Water Strider returns, but here the manga again demonstrates a better method of progressing the story by having Quenser rig Heivia’s snowmobile as a distraction while they make for the cave Heivia knows about. After successfully escaping notice from the Object, the three seem to be in a much better situation, only for another difference in the material to appear: Milinda collapses.
As it turns out, she was hit by debris as she ejected and was gashed pretty badly along her side. The injury itself can be treated (though Milinda also expresses symptomatic Tsundere) but she remains weak at a time when they need to keep moving in order to survive. As the three continue for the cave mentioned before, casual conversation drops the exposition about the Object’s method of propulsion, the differences between the Baby Magnum and the Water Strider, and the focus on the Water Strider’s legs and its twelve hour cycle. The casualness continues as Heivia observes that the ridge they’ve been climbing offers a very good view of the surrounding area. A view that happens to include the Water Strider in the valley below, having returned. And if they can see it... They leg it to the cave (taking advantage of the enemy’s desire to capture Milinda alive) and another excellent piece of minor detail is added in, with Heivia confirming his suspicions that the tunnel is man-made as he prepares to collapse the entrance. Important because it makes their locating another exit far more likely. Again, Deus Ex Machina countermeasures. I would also like to point out that the manga does not have Quenser’s face encounter Milinda’s chest as the blast occurs. That’s anime-only stupidity.
The council of war between the three after their exit of the cave then occurs, but with the focus of this excursion being more about saving Milinda than buying time for the rest of the unit to escape, another reason to not just go to ground is needed. This is provided by the previous injury suffered by Milinda; Quenser deduces that, in addition to her body, the damage to her suit means it can no longer maintain her body temperature, something she had been stoically hiding. Thus, Quenser suggests making for the only likely source of heat in the area: the enemy base.
One failed toboggan ride later (these two are such glorious idiots) followed by a walk, and the three approach the enemy base. Yet again vital information is provided in a few words, with the initial scope-over of the base revealing the lack of conventional military forces and the lax attitude of the base personnel after their “win”. They manage to reach a utility tunnel underneath the facility unnoticed, where they leave Milinda on lookout duty (due to her injury in this case) as they go to destroy the spare parts of the Water Strider. Whilst infiltrating the building, Quenser comes across the maintenance manual right away and starts reading through it whilst Heivia continues to look ahead, making the discovery about the number of turbines. Quenser has his realisation about a course of action much faster in this case though, due to his reading of the manual already, but otherwise events happen the same until they withdraw. It isn’t until they return to their hiding place only to discover Milinda missing, and follow her trail into the base, that they observe her having been captured.
The last chapter begins with what happened to Milinda; her realisation of any radio transmission being intercepted and her absolute determination to save Quenser and Heivia, even at her own cost. Those two are obviously personal to her now, above and beyond her commitment to the unit as a whole. After the flashback, we see Quenser make the same deduction of those events and the two start squabbling over their next course of action. At this point, Quenser seems to tell Heivia at least part of his plan for defeating the Water Strider, which did not seem to be the case in the anime, and it’s this that gets Heivia to do his trick with the transmitter (though just with the rifle, he didn’t bring his to-be-trademark missile launcher here). Quenser calling for help is perhaps the only instance of the manga making less sense than the source material, as he holds a two-way conversation with Froleytia to convince her to send reinforcements; something which would not be possible by the mechanism Heivia describes for getting the transmission through. The two then heroically charge forth to rescue their Object-pilot-in-distress. Also: there’s that oddly-familiar girl again...
Their efforts go about as well as you’d expect, but Milinda once again displays far more personality than she does in the anime, sassing her would-be rescuers and being intensely pissed off in general that her efforts to sacrifice herself have again been wasted by these two. Milinda in general comes over as far more an equal to the two leads in the manga, as opposed to being somewhat objectified (pun not intended) by the anime.
We then get our look at the base commander, who as I noted in the episode review seems to have been the design the anime used over the illustration in the LN, and who is as vile and slimy as said design suggests. Quenser manages to detonate the turbine in the leg after getting a kicking, and the manga here inserts a highly amusing back-and-forth between him and the commander as they each one-up the other over the consequences of Quenser’s actions, each instance brilliantly executed across page-breaks for maximum impact.
Quenser gets to practise his own evil villain laugh as everything goes down, and the three then pick themselves out of the rubble and congratulate themselves on a job well done a little too soon. Before the enemy soldiers can open fire however, Froleytia and the unit save the day (apparently the Old Lady knows Gun Kata, and with dual shotguns) and we get to see that Froleytia especially cares for Milinda by way of an impressive glomp; something the anime only really hints at in the commercial break splash cards. I’d also like to note that the manga has the 37th C.M.B. be far more gender equivalent than the manga did, in terms of background cast. Also: there she is again!
Everything rounds off with the awards ceremony for our two
idiots heroes, though importantly Milinda is stated not to be present as she’s getting ready for her next assignment. Quenser mentions it’s too bad they’re all separated now, which prompts Froleytia to start to say something only to be interrupted by the announcer of the event. Who merrily declares that the two are going to be part of Froleytia’s new unit, and would everyone please look outside. To where Milinda and an all-new Baby Magnum are RIGHT THERE.
All in all, I am very fond of the manga adaptation. It does a better job telling the story and a better job making the story more consistent, with one notable exception. As well, it also makes the cast more characterful, and in particular ensures Milinda is equally as nuts as the people she appears alongside, and so doesn’t get marginalised or overshadowed. Right, now on with the episodes. Let’s see if I can catch up before the end of the cour...
PS. That girl with the flower hairband isn’t the only cameo to feature. If you decide to read through, keep an eye out for any others.
This manga can be read on Batoto.