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Manga / Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

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"This is Thunderbolt Sector, no border no war!"

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt (or Kidou Senshi Gundam Thunderbolt) is a Seinen manga set in Universal Century of the Gundam universe, written and illustrated by Yasuo Ohtagaki. The manga takes place concurrently with Mobile Suit Gundam.

In 0079 during the One Year War, Moore Brotherhood, once citizens of thriving colonies in the past, fight to reclaim their homeland with their effort backed by the Earth Federation. As the main front moved closer to A Baoa Qu, Thunderbolt Sector became more important than ever for the Zeon forces protecting the supply lines to the headquarters. In the middle of it all, charismatic and talented Ensign Io Fleming of the Brotherhood and calculating sniper Chief Petty Officer Daryl Lorenz of Zeon's Living Dead division, two young hotshots with drastically different music genre of choice and personal drive, became embroiled in a war not entirely their own.

A 4-episode Original Net Animated Adaptation, produced by Sunrise, premiered on December 25, 2015 via pay to watch service in Japan, with early access from the Gundam Fan Club app service on December 11, 2015 and ended in April 8, 2016. The first episode was streamed outside Japan for a limited time from December 25, 2015 to January 7, 2016. A Compilation Movie was released on June 25, 2016. A second season of the ONA was also released on March 24, 2017, with a compilation movie of that released in November 2017.

Viz Media holds the manga license and the series is part of their Viz Signature imprint.

Gundam Thunderbolt provides examples of:

  • Alternate Continuity: While it is set in the Universal Century, the series exists in its own continuity and doesn't fit in with any other existing Gundam work.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Graham, who looks like he's supposed to be Native American, or possibly some kind of Pacific Islander. Also, while Daryl himself is relatively pale, he has some features, most notably his hair, which suggest he may have some mixed ancestry. Oddly, he's the only member of his family who looks that way.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The Living Dead unit of Zeon is composed of amputees. See Artificial Limbs below for more details.
  • Artifact Title: Zig-zagged. Part 2 of the series is no longer set in the Thunderbolt sector. However, the Federation operation to stop the South Sea Alliance from acquiring the Psycho Zaku is codenamed Operation Thunderbolt. Also, the South Sea Alliance's symbol is a stylized Vajra, which is Sanskrit for "thunderbolt".
  • Artificial Limbs: Zeon's Living Dead unit is entirely composed of soldiers with cybernetic limbs. Its ace pilot, Daryl Lorenz, got cybernetic legs. In order to pilot the Psycho Zaku, he also had his arms replaced.
  • Asteroid Thicket: The first story arc takes place in the titular Thunderbolt Sector, which is littered with shattered remains of several colonies.
  • BFG: The Big Gun is a humongous beam sniper rifle operated by a Zaku II or Rick Dom
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Fleming family is certainly this in spades, and the Fleming siblings all despise each other for various reasons. One would say it is no wonder that Io isn't the most sane person around. This can possibly be attributed to their father's suicide.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Io's Mobile Suits start and end the arc on the receiving end of this; as this is Gundam, headshots aren't fatal. The GM he sends out in the first episode gets a blast from a Big Gun right through the head with enough of an explosion to blow the upper chest and arms off. In the Full-Armor Gundam he takes a hit from a bazooka round to the cranium, damaging an optic and cracking the V-fin, but leaving the mech more or less operational. The fight ends with Darryl sending a sturmfaust straight through the Gundam's head at point blank range, smashing right through without exploding.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to all of them at some point, most notably Karla, whose brain is mostly scar tissue by the end of the first arc.
  • Call-Forward: Bishop Levan Fuu's control of South Sea Alliance through Newtype Power act as an in-universe prediction to Zanscare Empire being run by a Newtype named Queen Maria, albeit under manipulation of Fonse Kagatie, in Mobile Suit Victory Gundam.
    • Like Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket before it, Thunderbolt features customized MS sporting design features that would become commonplace in the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam era and beyond, such as sub-limbs and comically oversized droptanks. The RPD itself seems to be a forerunner of the Rafflesia, integrating with its pilot's nervous system via cybernetics. Season Two's Atlas Gundam, said to be made with a combination of Federation and Zeon technology, is a prototype of the Hizack and other Zeta-era MS with this design philosophy.
    • A subtle one: at the start of Bandit Flower, the Solomon command center looks exactly like the one in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory.
  • Child Soldiers: The Federation later supplied Moore Brotherhood with a platoon of child pilots. A large amount of them never made it out of Thunderbolt Sector.
  • Church Militant: South Sea Alliance is under the control of religious fanatics that resembled Buddhism.
  • Combat Breakdown: The Full Armor Gundam and Psycho Zaku rip one another apart, gradually losing more and more of their weapons and even limbs as the battle continues. By the end, both are pretty much down to one last ditch attack, leading to a Mutual Kill with both Mobile suits completely demolished.
  • Compilation Movie: The December Sky and Bandit Flower movies, which compress episodes 1-4 and 5-8, respectively, into one movie each while adding new footage.
  • Crapsack World: As is the norm for the Universal Century, the world is not a very nice place. First, the Moore Brotherhood consists of the former inhabitants of Side 4, seeking to reclaim their home from Zeon, even if it's nothing but a useless wreck. As such, the Federation treats the Brotherhood as expendable troops, and aren't particularly concerned for their well being as long as they can achieve their objective. Meanwhile, the Living Dead unit is a group of Zeon soldiers forced to use cybernetic prosthetics in order to maintain pilot numbers, and are nothing more than guinea pigs for Zeon's cybernetic experiments.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: The Living Dead Division and their Big Guns have a firm grip on the Thunderbolt Sector at the start of the series and easily fight off the Federation Space Forces. The Big Guns have massive range even in such a Minovsky Particle drenched area, and the space debris are great to hide in for the stationary Zeon all the while being a hazard for the mobile Feds. When the Gundam comes into play their shortcomings are highlighted. Its speed and durability lets it evade the Big Gun's easily and it too can use the debris for cover much like they can. The Full Armor Gundam has a lot of powerful weapons on it that it can move freely while the Big Guns are all stationary. When they're destroyed, the LDD cannot replace the cannons and without their long range advantage they quickly lose ground to the Federation ships and GM's.
    • Daryl himself later suffered from this when he received full amputation to better interface with the Reuse Psycho Device. While he became unstoppable in the Psycho Zaku, after the Psycho Zaku was destroyed and he was forced to switch to a Gelgoog, his clumsy prosthetic hands could barely even grasp the control sticks. Though he apparently overcame this by the time of part 2.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: During their last meeting Io claims that Daryl sacrificed his humanity to be able to defeat the Gundam, but the Zeon sniper still comes off as more human than his rival. However, the ending montage shows the final amputation eliminated much of the remaining piloting ability Daryl took for granted when he still had one natural limb.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime, big time.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: The South Seas Alliance Mobile Suits that both the Spartan crew and the Zeon Remnants face in Season 2 resemble the enemies of either party. For the Spartan crew, they're pretty much refitted Goufs, while the Mobile Suits that engage Darryl's team resemble GMs somewhat.
  • Doomed Hometown: Side 4 for the entire Moore Brotherhood. Io seems to be aware of this and doesn't care much though. However, Side 4 does actually get a bit better.
  • Elite Mooks: Both Federation and Zeon soldiers crop up a few better suits and pilots.
    • The Gelgoog gets a chance to shine near the end of the first season where it's clear that its performance is above that of a normal grunt suit.
    • The Psycommu Zaku takes down Federation GM's with ease save for one outfitted with the G-Armor. It's still defeated but puts up more of a fight than the others.
    • The Gundam Head, a modified GM with a Gundam-style head, makes its first appearance here with a specialized squadron appearing equipped with Subarms and extra shields. They're a powerful sub-unit and quite effective in the field.
    • The Zabi personal-guard Zakus appear to be this with their ornate armor and role as something of a final defense. In practice, they're easily steamrolled by the aforementioned Gundam Heads.
    • After the war, the Spartan fields a new Ground Gundam variant called the Ground Gundam Type-S. They do their job well defending the ship from the South Seas Alliance Goufs that attack them.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The giant rifle used by the Living Dead unit Zakus is simply named as the Big Gun.
  • Expy: With the distinctive high mobility legs, color scheme, and elongated shoulder spikes, Psycho Zaku is a dead ringer for Johnny Ridden's High Mobility Zaku II but with more thrusters and a weapon rack. It's especially notable because Ridden's Zaku was upgraded to fight the standard UC continuity's Full Armor Gundam.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Claudia goes back to save Graham, the guy who spends his entire career berating and insulting her. For her trouble, he shoots her and tries to trap her on an exploding ship.
  • Flying Car: A rarity in the Gundam series, we finally get to see some in the hands of the Moore police force. They appear to be related to the Bloodhound hovertrucks introduced in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team.
  • Friendly Sniper: The Living Dead unit is a tight-knit group of Zaku pilots who snipe Federation forces with their Zaku's while listening to some pop music.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: At the very end of the Thunderbolt arc Io's cell where he's been stripped and tortured is opened due to an enemy attack. He then proceeds to kill the rest of the Zeon guards and free the other captives, and never bothers getting dressed.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Towards the end of the first arc we get to see, in excruciating detail, how giving a bunch of teenagers mobile suits and throwing them into battle would actually turn out.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Both Moore Brotherhood (Earth Federation) and Living Dead unit (Zeon) have sympathetic and villainous moments. However, the narrative seems to come down more with the Living Dead as A Lighter Shade of Grey due to the Moore Brotherhood's We Have Reserves mentality and their Jerkass pilot, despite them being on the Zeon side and they're unambiguously the black side of the One Year War.
    • And it only gets greyer in part 2, which turns into a Mêlée à Trois. The Earth Federation forces act like petty bullies in the South Seas Alliance's territory, and was perfectly willing to overdose captives on truth serum to get intel. The Zeon remnants are fighting for a lost cause, and one of their officers hijacked their search for the Psycho Zaku to rob treasures from SSA temples, ordering Daryl's team to slaughter countless innocents in the process. The SSA seems nice at first, but its leader uses borderline brainwashing to gain followers, and his ultimate goal, while seemingly noble, still amounted to nothing but terrorism.
  • Handicapped Badass: Several members of the Living Dead. Interestingly, Daryl later has his good arm voluntary amputated, but ends up becoming better able to control the Psycho Zaku because of it.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Io gives a scathing one to Daryl after being captured, imprisoned, and tortured, making Daryl question what he's done for the sake of the war.
  • Happy Flashback: Used to devastating effect at the end of part 2. Right after Io kills Cornelius, who revealed himself to be an SSA spy all along and tried to poison him to death, we finally see when that group photo of Io, Claudia, and Cornelius was taken. When all three of them were still the best of friends, filled with hopes and dreams for the future. Then it cuts back to the present, where both Claudia and Cornelius have been killed by none other than Io himself.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Invoked in the anime: Io proclaims that when enemy pilots hear jazz music, they will not survive. Being a Federation Ace Pilot, many Zeon soldiers learn to be wary if they hear jazz.
  • Hope Spot: Just as Karla and her comrades were preparing to detonate the Dried Fish, Cornelius was able to convince them to stop. However, immediately after, all except Karla were vaporized by a beam saber from the outside as Cornelius watches in horror. Just to add salt to injury, another Zeon soldier realizes that the others were taking too long and executes plan B, blowing up the ship's ammo storage, rendering it unusable as a shelter anyway.
  • Human Shield: Io grabs one of Daryl's squadmates and uses him as a shield, keeping Daryl from sniping him. Then Io attaches a rocket to the squaddie's suit and uses him as an Action Bomb.
  • Humongous Mecha: Per the Gundam series standard.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Flemmings were a prominent family who lost virtually everything in the One Week Battle. To a lesser extent, the entire Moore Brotherhood qualifies. Side 4 was one of the wealthier colony clusters, having access to much more futuristic tech like flying police cars than is typically seen in the hands of civilian organizations in the early UC timeline.
  • It's All About Me: J.J.Sexton big time. This man will do everything just to keep his research safe.
  • Ironic Echo: "I want to laugh from my heart." The person who said this ends up unable to do anything but laugh.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Io. To his enemies, he's a complete jerkass and Politically Incorrect Villain. Having survived a near-fatal sniper shot to his GM and putting a bullet through a Zeon pilot's head as he hijacked his mobile suit, he proceeded to gleefully taunt the dead pilot's comrades in the video feed (including Daryl) on their disabilities and taste in music. They were forced to watch the whole scene take place. Daryl, needless to say, did not take his comments on his prosthetic legs lightly. He's also rude and impolite to his superiors and several other Federal soldiers. On the other hand, to those he cares about he's much more reasonable, cares about his mother, and is rather friendly towards some of his comrades. His attitude toward Zeon is unsurprising, given that they were the ones who destroyed Side 4 and show their customary self-righteous attitude and breathtaking lack of self-awareness about their hypocrisy, while fighting among the mass graves of their victims no less!
  • Jettison Jetpack Attack: In the anime, Io ejects one of the Full Armor Gundam's propellant tanks to create a fake explosion to initially fool The Living Dead Division into thinking it was destroyed. Later, Io lodges the other propellant tank on a Zaku to send it flying ahead of him, then launching a missile at the tank to cause a huge explosion.
  • La Résistance: Technically, Moore Brotherhood could be considered this, as they're trying to liberate their homeland of Side 4 (or what's left of it...) from occupying Zeon forces.
    • When the conflict moves back to Earth, the Zeon Remnants become this as they wage a guerilla war against the Federation.
  • Laughing Mad: Karla after the horror of watching her comrades get vaporized by a beam saber burns out most of her brain.
  • Loose Canon: The canon is a bit...odd with this series. The biggest contention is the technology of the Full Armor Gundam and Psycho Zaku are far more advanced than it should be for the One Year War. It's generally considered the events are canon, but the suits are where the alternate universe aspect comes into play.
  • Mêlée à Trois: In the second arc, a third hostile faction, the South Seas Alliance, pops up on both the Federation and Zeon's radar. The Federation wants to suppress the Alliance due to their desire declare themselves independent, while Zeon wants to recover the Reuse P Device technology that was stolen from them.
  • Million to One Chance: Seems to happen more often than those odds would predict in the Thunderbolt Sector:
    • In their second encounter, Daryl manages to get the drop on Io and lines up a perfect shot with his big gun that would have likely destroyed the Full Armor Gundam, but a bolt of lightning strikes at just the right moment to deflect the beam.
    • It goes the other way in the final battle of the Thunderbolt Sector arc. As Io is coming in for the finishing blow on Daryl's damaged Psycho Zaku, a bolt of lightning reactivates the Zaku's main camera, allowing Daryl just enough time to react and lessen the damage done.
    • Karla's capture relied on a GM from outside the ship managing to pinpoint where she and the rest of her comrades were based on an internal camera, and incinerating them with a beam saber. They even lampshade how it was a longshot, but it worked.
  • Mook Horror Show: The last few minutes of the first OVA episode have a rather graphic one-on-one fight between a Zaku and the Full-Armor Gundam - from the Zaku's perspective.
    • On the Federation side we're later treated to the spectacle of the cadet battalion getting completely massacred.
  • More Dakka: Moore Brotherhood and the Living Dead lacked technology compared to their respective main armies, so they have to make do with copious amount of spare parts and weaponry. Psycho Zaku is a great example of this, having three spare MS Bazookas, and several machine guns.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Part of the design aesthetic for the Thunderbolt versions of the suits is the presence of extra manipulator arms. The Gundam and GM primarily use theirs to hold up shields to deflect debris in the Shoals, while Daryl uses the one on his Psycho Zaku to rapidly switch between weapons. One Zaku is also seen using a manipulator arm to push a car out of its way while firing out of the husk of Side 4.
  • Mutual Kill: In the end, The Full-Armor Gundam and the Psycho Zaku take each other out at the same time. Daryl is considered the "winner," but pretty much only because his reinforcements arrived.
  • Mythology Gag: In the English dub, when the Living Dead Division first sees footage of the Gundam, one of their pilots exclaims "It's a Gundam!" in the same memetic tone as the Gundam Wing dub.
    • When Levan Fuu uses his Newtype powers to dive into Daryl's mind, he uses the same "I can see through time" line as Lalah Sune had said in the original Mobile Suit Gundam.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman:
    • According to her XO, Claudia is only in commander because of her family. Given the fact the XO is a complete Jerkass, this may or may not be true.
    • Downplayed with Karla. She became a cyberneticist because of her father, but in order to help him after he lost his arm in a bombing. He was a history professor and political activist rather than a scientist himself.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When his team encounter a group of Zeon soldiers who are fully prepared to blow up their mothership with the Moore Brotherhood onboard, Cornelius pleads to them to stand down because, like them, he and his friends have suffered thanks to the destruction of their home.
  • Oh, Crap!: Zeon forces stationed at the Thunderbolt Sector have this reaction and then some when they realize that the Mobile Suit that's been killing off their comrades is a Gundam.
  • Outfit Decoy: In the manga, Io, piloting the Full Armor Gundam, manages to flank Daryl by distracting him with detaching and launching his Gundam's backpack towards Daryl.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: During the final battle for the Thunderbolt Sector, the timely arrival of the Siren Fleet ensures a Zeon victory, with the the Brotherhood Fleet wiped out, the Gundam destroyed, and the survivors captured. However, in return, the entire Living Dead unit is essentially wiped out as well, their Super Prototype Zaku is destroyed and Zeon is forced to leave the sector to the Federation.
  • Real Robot: Part of the design aesthetics of this series is that every space-use mobile suit has a whole bunch of extra verniers and propellant tanks added to their backpack, as well as covering on joints to prevent debris from getting in, inspired by real-life space shuttles. Also, the GM's new backpack was based on the life support system of real-life space suits. In the anime, the cockpit designs were also modernized, with touch screen displays instead of buttons and dials.
  • Scenery Gorn: Inside and out, Side 4 looks like hell: the cities within the colony desolate and barren as cars, buildings, and other debris float around in the surrounding space.
  • Shout-Out: Blonde ace pilot hero with a girlfriend named Claudia and a best friend with blue hair and glasses? The shoutout to Super Dimension Fortress Macross could only be more apparent if Io had been named Roy.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Always fairly common to Gundam, the OVA may take it to new lengths. Io blasts jazz as he slaughters soldiers, while the Living Dead unit listen to cheery J-pop as they snipe enemies.
  • Space Is Noisy: As usual for a Gundam series. The titular "Thunderbolts" let out loud blasts of thunder when they strike.
  • Super Prototype: The FA-78 Full Armor Gundam, Psycho Zaku, and RX-78AL Atlas Gundam.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: Vice Captain Graham and his ilk repeatedly send Io Fleming into dangerous missions in hopes that he will die and be a martyr for the rest of the Moore Brotherhood, never mind Claudia's consent. Partly because they blame the 'incompetent elites' for the occupation of Site 4 by Zeon forces. Io Fleming didn't die as they expect. In the end, it's the other way around...
  • Taking You with Me: Claudia is murdered by her XO who considered her an awful leader and wanted to just kill her before he died. Subverted in that she survives.
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub: In the second arc of the manga, Viz left several terminology untranslated such as the Big Bad's title "Sōjo" (High Priest) and his faction "Nanyang (South Seas) Alliance".
  • Took a Level in Badass: After years of being mocked by fans for being weak and pathetic, the Acguy series receive several upgrades to its weapons, from additional warheads to melee blades. Combined with competent and skilled pilots, the Acguys wiped up squads of Dahles on ground and in water without a single loss.
  • Used Future: Debris are everywhere in Thunderbolt Sector, and everything is worndown.
  • War Crime Subverts Heroism: Overall, Zeon forces are given a great deal of sympathy with the work having Gray-and-Grey Morality, with the second arc introducing another faction that both the Federation and Zeon consider their primary threat, so seeing the Zeon squadron massacre South Sea Alliance monks, torch their bodies, and attempt to rape their women serves to remind that War Is Hell and Zeon is still, you know, Zeon.
  • War Is Hell: One of the more brutal entries in Universal Century settings. Comes with being a seinen Gundam manga.
  • Warfare Regression: On top of Minovsky Particles, Thunderbolt Sector itself is full of electrical discharges that interrupts communications inside it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A Zeon soldier finds his 6-month old baby son under a bunch of rubble. This series has no mercy.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Some of the mobile suits featured here use familiar names but look vastly different than their original counterparts:
    • The normal Full Armor Gundam was the RX-78-2 with extra armor mounted onto it with a few special weapons and was abandoned for making the normal Gundam slower. The Full Armor Gundam here is a Walking Armory that makes short work of Zeon suits and has no problems at all with speed.
    • The normal Perfect Gundam is another armored variant of the RX-78-2 Gundam that was never pushed through. The Perfect Gundam here is the Psycho Zaku's skeleton wearing the "skin" of the Full Armor Gundam.
    • The normal Perfect Zeong is the Zeong with legs. The Perfect Zeong here is a thruster-laded monstrosity piloted by two people. It's also a Federation suit.

"When you hear jazz, it'll be your exit music."