Hey all, I noticed that there haven't been any threads dedicated to personal favourite mangas for a long while, so I thought I'd revive the discussion and make a recommendation of my own. Please be sure to accompany your own favourites with hefty essays on why you love them should you wish.
As is probably apparent, I'm a big fan of Gundam, and while the bulk of the franchise lies in animated ventures, I think it's highest point is Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, a mammoth retelling of the original 1979 series in manga form. Yasuhiko was a character designer and animation/visual director for that original series, making him a natural pick for this project. Many fans of classic anime will have seen his distinctive and beautiful artwork here and there in the form of marvellous illustrations, and boy does he deliver in The Origin.
If you watched Mobile Suit Gundam and found it lacking in some departments, you will have no such issue here, as this version is bolstered with a great number of additional scenes, not least of which among them being a backstory for the legendary antagonist, Char Aznable (which has been by itself adapted into a good OVA), which lend a cast of classic characters (and the world itself) a richness and depth they have never had before. The story itself remains fairly unchanged. Despite some rearranging of major events, it will always be the tale of a ship full of young misfits learning to work together amidst a tragic WWII-esque conflict and an arms race built on bodies. There is a more notable consistency in tone here, as this manga is much darker than the anime was ever permitted to be. Fans of the OVAs will appreciate this I'm sure.
The highlight of The Origin however is undoubtedly its art, which I'm going to try and describe as concisely as possible without gushing too much. This is an example of classic anime style shining amidst a lot of gaudy contemporary manga and feels incredibly refreshing as a result. Always nice to harken back to an age when eyes weren't drawn like headlamps grafted into people's faces. The line work flows smooth, slick and natural, making the act of simply reading a page simple and enjoyable. This is helped greatly by the fact that Yasuhiko clearly understands what makes a dynamic composition, resulting in almost every panel being aesthetically pleasing in their own right. To top off what is already a tour de force of visual strength, key scenes throughout are gorgeously rendered in full colour with watercolour and gouache. These are by far the most arresting sequences and I always find myself slowly poring over them a second time immediately after the first.
Additionally, I really ought to dedicate a brief paragraph to address the actual physical release itself, because if any of you know of a better western release of a manga, I urge you to share it with everyone. This is the absolute zenith of quality for a manga so readily available to purchase on Amazon, especially for starving UK fans like myself. Each of its twelve volumes is a weighty, lavish hardcover complemented with a dense essay and/or guest illustration at the end and adorned front and back with one of Yasuhiko's paintings. The manga itself is printed on thick paper with a nice balance of matte and gloss finish to make the art comfortably pop.
Needless to say, I cannot recommend Gundam: The Origin enough, especially to folks who like the franchise, or possibly even sci-fi and mecha fans in general. It is a demonstration of a seasoned master's talent from start to finish, a timeless and definitive representation of the original Gundam mythos. I do hope my gushing hasn't bored anyone, but as I said before, this is also an invitation for everyone else to gush. So... do as thou wilt.