Published in the west by Tokyopop
Price - $12.99 (US) - Find it on www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk
Technical Manuals Overview
These are small pocket sized books released in the west by Tokyopop. They are translated versions of books from the Data Collections series in Japan, which were rehashings of the superior Entertainment Bibles. Each technical manual comes in standard English format, left to right and front to back, with roughly half of it devoted to a colour section for lineart and half in black & white, mainly text with illustrations and extra lineart. Several of the books have a few mislabelled illustrations in the black and white section and some mistranslated text (usually quite obvious if you know the subject matter).
What's in the book
The fourth technical manual covers the pinnacle of the early UC storyline, Char's Counterattack. The colour section's print quality is once again different to the manuals that have preceeded it. The first section of colour is all mobile suits and the printing there seems to have been a little dark. They all look slighty to dark and colour heavy and a couple have changed colour slightly (Hi-Nu Gundam has gone a totally different purple colour). However the quality is otherwise good. The colour lineart for the ships drops in quality to somewhere between 08th MS Team and Wing manuals. It's passable I guess but could be much nicer. The colour character section drops completely back to the Wing manual's printing standards, very poor.
As you'll have just gathered, the colour section for this manual varies in content from the previous books. It begins with the usual array of mobile suits from the movie. As there are very few in comparison even to a short OVA like 0080 it fills the section out with all the variations you will probably have seen. There are a multitude of ReGz and Jegan variants as well as prototypes and variants for the Geara Doga, Jagd Doga and Alpha-Azieru. Also there's the welcome inclusion of the novel versions of the two main suits the Hi-Nu Gundam and the Nightingale. It's handy to have all these MS put together into one reference and the extra lineart (angles and detailing) is always a minor bonus but there are still too few of them. As a result some of the ships and some of the characters get their own lineart sections. Whilst doing this for the ships is fine (though it brings little new lineart), doing it for the characters is pointless and wastes space. The space would have been better served displaying the missing GM III and its variants.
The black and white half of this book is broken down into the usual two main sections of 'MS Development' and 'History & Background'. The first two pages of MS Development are given over to the more minor technical developments up to Char's Counterattack - cockpits (and their airbags!), dummies and control systems. This is a welcome inclusion and makes a nice break from the usual overall development history that continues with a two page piece on Zeon/Neo Zeon mobile suits, too brief and repeating too much information from previous manuals to be more than average. The next three pages cover development of Federation mobile suits up to the Nu Gundam. This is better at covering the Zeta and Double Zeta years and results in a more interesting read (perhaps because there is less information to repeat).The final four pages to this section cover newtype mobile suits and weapons. The first two pages are devoted to the Neo Zeon newtype mobile suits, but doesn't realy tell you much more than their respective mobile suit profiles. The final two pages go over the development of bit/funnel/fin funnel weapons from 0079 through to 0093. Whilst brief it does cover the progressive ZZ era and therefore is an interesting read.
The second half of the black and white section goes into the history and background of Char's Counterattack. The first page is an interesting yet brief coverage of the attitudes and events of the Zeon people (or more accurately leaders) up to the end of the One Year War. The next page long section repeats the information from the 0083 manual on the beginnings of Axis and the rise of Haman Kahn, which is annoying to see nothing new added here. There is another page devoted to explaining the events of Double Zeta, which is very handy for those people who haven't seen the series. There is a similar summary of Char's activities up to the beginning of the movie which gives interesting background to the beginning of Neo Zeon. The next two pages give a good background to the creation and circumstances of the Londo Bell force and the two pages after that do the same for Anaheim Electronics. There's the obligatory waste of space page devoted to retelling the movie amongst the section that details some of Char's reasoning behind his plan. The reasoning is nice inclusion but the retelling is never appreciated. There are then two pages that summarise the events of Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam (useful for those that haven't seen them but pointless for those, like me, that have) before spending another page on summarising the movie again! Running through the beginning of this section is an updated timeline too. The extra vehicles lineart is well printed yet short and the character lineart covers those not already seen in the colour section.
Overall I'd say this book was somewhat of a disappointment for me. Though it pains me to say it, it's probably the worst of the three UC tech manuals available at this point. It suffers greatly from not having enough content to actually include. The original authors seemed to have restricted their level of detail and depth in the information during the previous books and refused to break that mold here, despite the potential for greater detail the increased blank space offered. It's nice to have all the mobile suit variants in one quick reference (though why they didn't include the GM III, which did appear in the movie, is beyond me) but the colour section alone is not even close to being able to carry the whole book. There is some interesting and new information in the text section and the timeline is pretty good for the space it occupies. However there's a general feeling of empty space and the repetition of information from previous books (and even this book!) grates more than usual as it's not padded out with fresh material. I'd only reccommend this book to die-hard UC/CCA fans or people who just have to have all the manuals out of completeness (that would be me!). There is some worthwhile material but from a UC technical manual at this price you expect more.
Written to Static-X - December
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