In UC 0133, a Jovian transport ship is attacked by Zondo-Gei mobile suits from the Crossbone Vanguard space pirates. Elsewhere, the passenger ship Smashion enters orbit of the planet Jupiter, and 17-year-old exchange student Tobia Arronax is very excited about reaching the distant planet. Tobia and the other exchange students gather together for the welcoming ceremony to hear a speech about the development of Jupiter. The presenter says that Jovian leader Crux Dogatie is working for mankind’s future. After the speech, Tobia thanks his instructor Karas for all the help he gave on the three month journey from Earth. As the Smashion approaches the space colony in Jupiter’s orbit, Tobia talks about Jupiter with the other students. One of the girls mentions that all the Jovians seem to have numbers tattooed on their hands, and they show each other their numbers before speaking. One of the other students guesses that it must be some sort of ranking system. Another student watches the news and points out that the Crossbone Vanguard has two Gundams that they use for their pirate attacks. Suddenly, a young girl named Bernadette Briette enters the room and runs into Tobia’s arms. Several men follow Bernadette and claim she’s a stowaway, but she insists that she isn’t. Just then, the Crossbone Vanguard flagship Mother Vanguard approaches and launches its Zondo-Gei units. The Jovians respond by sending out their Batalla mobile suits on Auxilio sub-flight units. As the battle begins, Tobia spots the black Crossbone Gundam X-2 fly by and destroy a Batalla with its shot lancer. Two Batallas riding on an Auxilio attack the Crossbone Gundam X-1, but the sub-flight unit is destroyed. The Crossbone X-1 uses its scissor anchor to slam a Batalla into the colony, and Tobia saves Bernadette from an explosion. Tobia tells Bernadette to get to safety and decides to take a Batalla because he thinks the battle is too one-sided. A mechanic tells him he can’t launch, but Tobia says that he has a license to manufacture industrial mobile suits. Tobia then grabs a beam Gatling gun and heads into space to take on the Crossbone Vanguard. Tobia fires the beam Gatling gun at the Crossbone X-1 and scores a direct hit, but the Crossbone X-1 isn’t damaged due to its anti-beam cloak. The Crossbone X-1 appears behind Tobia, and the two mobile suits grapple hand-to-hand before pulling out their beam sabers. The Crossbone X-1 slices off the Batalla’s right arm and leg, and the pilot warns Tobia to eject before he destroys the cockpit. Just as Tobia escapes, the Crossbone X-1 uses its brand marker to destroy the Batalla. Tobia sees that none of the other mobile suits were targeted, and he wonders why the pirates would do that. Tobia floats over to the Smashion‘s cargo hold and is shocked to find it filled with poison gas containers. Karas attacks Tobia from behind and says he’ll have to die for seeing what he shouldn’t have seen. As they struggle, Karas reveals that he’s spent a decade building up trust with the Earth Federation so that he could slowly smuggle the poison gas. He says that the Earth Federation will be destroyed so that Earth can become part of the Jupiter Empire. Just as Karas is about to shoot Tobia, the Crossbone X-1 smashes into the cargo hold, sucking Karas into space. The Crossbone X-1’s pilot, Kincade Nau (aka Seabook Arno), tells Tobia that he either has to return to Earth and say nothing, or face the truth and join the Crossbone Vanguard.
Kincade takes Tobia to the bridge of the Mother Vanguard to meet its captain, Berah Ronah (aka Cecily Fairchild). Berah tells Tobia that she can’t answer all his questions, and that everything will be decided by his choice. She asks Tobia what he intends to do, and he answers that he wants to learn the truth. The ship’s crew remove the poison gas containers from the Smashion, and the passenger ship takes off to return to Earth. Tobia asks Kincade if it’s okay to let the Smashion leave on its own, and Kincade answers that the Jupiter Empire won’t harm civilians, yet. Kincade tells Tobia he has to do some work because they’re shorthanded, and the two begin to peel potatoes in the kitchen. Tobia asks if this is what he’s going to end up doing, and Kincade answers that even though he’s a pilot, he does this duty on his free time. Tobia asks Kincade about the Crossbone Vanguard, and he recalls the rebellion from ten years earlier. He says that he learned about Meitzer Ronah and his plans for Cosmo Babylonia in history class, and that the organization collapsed after Berah opposed their plans. He remembers that Kincade was the pilot of the Gundam F91, and Kincade tells him to forget the past. Tobia also recalls that Berah and Kincade were supposedly killed five years ago by terrorists during the launch ceremony of the Babylonia Vanguard, and Kincade says that they’re officially dead. Berah admires herself while taking a shower and notices that someone is in her room. Tobia asks Kincade if Berah plans to revive Cosmo Babylonia, and Kincade answers that they’re merely using the Crossbone Vanguard name because it makes it easier to recruit people and get supplies. Suddenly, Bernadette runs out of Berah’s quarters and knocks Tobia to the ground. Kincade asks who Bernadette is, and Tobia explains that she was being chased on the Smashion. He says that she must’ve seen something she shouldn’t have, and he thinks she should be sent back to Earth. Berah says that she can’t do that because the Smashion is already gone, so she decides that Tobia will have to take care of Bernadette. Berah asks Kincade if it’s right to rely on Tobia as part of their plan to capture a Jovian pilot, but Kincade believes that Tobia is up to it. On the bridge, Berah is informed that an asteroid named Meteor 202 is a Jovian base, so she orders battle stations. Several Zondo-Geis launch from the Mother Vanguard, followed by Kincade in the Crossbone X-1 and Zabine Chareux in the Crossbone X-2. Berah calls Zabine and reminds him to not kill any of the enemy pilots. The Mother Vanguard begins bombarding Meteor 202, and the asteroid base fires back missiles and launches its Batalla suits on Thostede sub-flight sleds. Berah tells Tobia that the Jupiter Empire has hidden its existence while it builds its forces to destroy the Earth Federation and conquer Earth. A nuclear missile is fired at the Mother Vanguard, but Kincade uses his zanbuster to destroy it.
At a Jovian colony, Dogatie is informed that the Crossbone Vanguard have destroyed Meteor 202. He decides that now would be a good time to test the Pez Batalla and Elegolela to destroy the pirates. One month later, Tobia practices his piloting skills in a Batalla in space. After returning to the ship, he briefly speaks with Bernadette, who is now assisting with cooking. Tobia thinks about his daily routine, which involves hearing lectures on mobile suit engineering from Kincade. Berah tells Kincade that they’ve received a distress call, and Kincade thinks it might be trap, so he decides to launch in his Crossbone X-1 and takes Tobia in a Zondo-Gei. Tobia asks Kincade about Zabine, and Kincade explains that they were enemies during the days of Cosmo Babylonia. Tobia says that he’s determined to become a good pilot so that he can eventually use a Gundam, and Kincade asks him if he wants to give it a try. Kincade stays behind and allows Tobia to launch in the Crossbone X-1. Zabine asks Kincade what he’s doing, and Kincade tells Zabine that he doesn’t trust him to stay alone on the ship. Zabine says that he defected from the old Crossbone Vanguard because he didn’t agree with their cruelty. Kincade counters that Zabine may have disagreed with how the war was waged, but he still agreed with the ideas of an aristocracy. Tobia reaches the damaged cargo ship, and as soon as he makes contact, several Pez Batalla mobile suits blast out of the ship and head for the Mother Vanguard. The mobile armor Cangrejo then appears and attacks Tobia. Bernadette is impressed by the ship’s beam shields, but Berah tells her that if they don’t win the battle in 20 minutes, the ship will lose power and fall out of Jupiter’s orbit. Berah calls Kincade to return, but he tells her Tobia is in his Gundam, so he launches in a Core Fighter. Zabine launches in his Crossbone X-2 and moves in to kill a Pez Batalla, until he remembers Berah’s orders. He dodges the Pez Batalla’s beam axe and attacks from the side, which is the Pez Batalla’s weakness. Tobia attempts to attack the Cangrejo at close range, but he is grappled by one of the Cangrejo’s claws. When Kincade approaches, Tobia ejects his Core Fighter and allows Kincade to dock. Kincade kicks the Cangrejo to break free, and he uses his beam sabers to slice into the Cangrejo and destroy it. The remaining Pez Batalla units retreat, and Zabine asks Kincade if he trusts him now. Afterwards, Berah decides that it’s time to use the plan she’s been wanting to avoid. She orders Kincade and Tobia to infiltrate the Jupiter Empire and locate their main base, along with the location of Dogatie. In addition, she assigns Tobia to a week of toilet cleaning duty for using the Gundam.
A Jupiter hydrogen collection station receives a distress call from a Zondo-Gei, and Tobia claims that he and an injured Jovian soldier are attempting to escape from the Crossbone Vanguard. With Zabine, Umon Samon and several Zondo-Geis pursuing Tobia, Lt. Barnes Gernsback’s Batalla team launches and attacks. To keep up appearances, Zabine uses his long beam rifle to blow away several of Tobia’s appendages. Barnes attacks Zabine, and after a brief battle, the Crossbone Vanguard suits retreat. On the station, Tobia says that he was captured by the pirates and forced to work for them, but he and a captured Jovian soldier (Kincade), escaped. An officer asks Tobia what he knows about the pirate forces, but Barnes says that Tobia should be taken to the sickbay. Tobia thanks Barnes for the help, and Barnes tells Tobia that if his son were still alive, he would be Tobia’s age. He tells Tobia that his son died in an accident three years ago, and that Tobia should mention his name if he has any problems. Tobia goes to Kincade’s room, and Kincade knocks out the soldier standing guard over him. Earlier, Berah released several Jovian pilots who were captured in the previous battle. Tobia asked her if she always did that, and she said that the Jupiter Empire’s actions were Dogatie’s mistake, not the people’s. Tobia asked if they could use her prisoner release to sneak a spy into the Jupiter Empire, and Berah answered that they’d tried it many times. Tobia asked what happened to the spies, and Berah asked him if he really wanted to know. Tobia went to the sickbay and saw that Kincade had a Jovian tattoo and changed his fingerprints. Tobia thought about what the Crossbone Vanguard was doing and wondered if not killing people was just their way to justify their piratical actions. Zabine told Tobia that he agreed with Berah’s cause, but he questioned her way of fighting. He told Tobia that if he worried too much about not killing people, he could hurt his own comrades. Bernadette asked Tobia why he has to infiltrate the Jupiter Empire, but he told her not to worry. Kincade said that Tobia will do well, but Bernadette believed he could die. Umon said that he thinks Tobia is a Newtype. He told Tobia that he’s a Newtype himself, and that back in the One Year War he destroyed six Zeon Rick Doms with just a Ball. He told Tobia that if he had several more brushes with death it would awaken his Newtype abilities. Bernadette gave Tobia a necklace to keep him safe, and Zabine told Kincade that he’d protect Berah. In the sickbay, Tobia and Kincade dress themselves as medical personnel and wheel the guard through the halls as a patient. Tobia hears a woman’s pleas for water and realizes that Jupiter is short on resources. A boy asks Tobia for water, and he gives him a container, saying that the patient is already dead. Everyone is shocked by Tobia’s action, and Kincade attacks Tobia, asking him how he could give away Dogatie’s water. Kincade warns Tobia to be more careful, and a patient wearing a mask spots Tobia. Tobia and Kincade enter the residential blocks, and suddenly an alarm sounds. Several Cucarachas approach them, and Kincade wonders if they were discovered somehow.
To date, Crossbone Gundam marks the only foray of franchise creator Yoshiyuki Tomino into Gundam manga. His 1991 film Gundam F91 ended with the teaser that the story was just beginning, but as far as Crossbone is concerned, that story is over. The manga makes a few references to the fall of Cosmo Babylonia and the bitter rivalry between Seabook and Zabine, but none of that is fleshed out. Instead, we jump ahead and find that the Crossbone Vanguard, led by Cecily, has turned to piracy to fight the secret ambitions of the Jupiter Empire. In classic Tomino fashion, many of the Jovians we see are fanatically devoted to their leader, the creepy old Crux Dogatie. One notable exception is Barnes, who comes across as the Ramba Ral stand-in for this series. Tomino’s story is interesting enough at this point, but I’m not particularly a fan of Yuichi Hasegawa’s retro 1970s style, nor his character designs that make almost everyone, including grown adults, look like children. That, unfortunately, is a key characteristic of his art style, and you either love it or you don’t.