I have often written in the past about the impact that the first series of Mobile Suit Gundam had on my generation and on me in particular. I think the best evidence of how much it impacted me is the fact that I am still watching the cartoons – no longer as a start-struck teenager, not as an otaku (I never was that), but with an eye to narrative structure, themes, character arcs, patterns.
It was a story with a large cast, that mixed action and politics, high tech and melodrama, and that maybe for the first time (certainly for the first time for me) portrayed war as something traumatic instead of romantic.
And a few minutes ago I was discussing with my brother how much I’d like to be able to collect the whole run of the Mobil Suit Gundam: The Origin manga, that has been published in a dozen high-quality hardbacks in English a few years ago.
It would be like starting a mortgage, and I already have one pending, so I am quite reluctant, as you can imagine. And talking of mortgages, buying the whole run would mean spending exactly as a monthly payment for my house mortgage.
Not straight away, at least.
Not in one go.
I decided I’ll get me the first volume of the series for my birthday. I slipped the book in my Amazon wishlist and then I reflected that buying Japanese giant robot comics at the tender age of fifty-two is somewhat weird.
I mean, even were this a late mid-life crisis, people normally go for red cars, motorbikes, trekking trips in the Himalayas or a wild weekend in Monte Carlo with an exotic dancer or two, or something.
Well, sue me.
I don’t know if I’ll live enough to complete the series one volume at a time (one per birthday, I’d complete it by the time I’m 64 – like the Beatles song), but this is, so to speak, a part of my life.
I can justify this decision with my perpetual fascination with graphics and art, because I am artistically helpless and I admire anyone who’s able to draw, paint or sketch. I could mention my admiration for artist Yoshikazu Yasuhiko in particular (we’ll have to discuss of his Arion fantasy epic one of these days).
Or I can once again point out the deceptively simple but actually highly textured storytelling, and say, see, it’s research, I want to see how it’s done, to improve my writing, and write better stories.
I could talk about the quality of the books, about their collectible value…
But do I really need to justify my choice?
I don’t think so.
We don’t live only to pay our bills and eat our soup and then go to bed. We also need some small gratification, once in a while. To me, a 450 book about a story that fascinated me as a kid is better than a red car, or a weekend in Monte Carlo. Certainly more accessible, and closer to my heart.
And if seems like I’ve been lost in let’s remember, if you think I’m feeling older and missing my younger days… well, that’s a Billy Joel song I first heard when I was in high school, and it’s all right with me.