Several Chibe ships launch Gelgoogs as reinforcements for the Living Dead Division. Inside colony wreckage, the Gundam chases the Psycho Zaku and dodges its machine gun fire. Daryl switches to a bazooka, but Io dodges and fires missiles and his beam weapons. Daryl is amazed that he has more control over the suit than his own limbs. The surviving crew aboard the Space Launches decide to raid the Dried Fish since there isn’t enough oxygen for all of them on the lifeboats. The thought of having to fight makes Cornelius realize why Io listens to music in the battlefield. The crew deploy inside the ship and begin searching for Zeon soldiers. Io continues to dodge Daryl’s attacks, so Daryl hides and fires a bazooka round, causing Io to miscalculate and crash into a building. Another bazooka round damages the Gundam’s head and one of its main cameras. Cornelius is ordered to take several men to the engine room to seize control and repair the engines. Io hides among colony debris and ejects his large backpack. The Moore crew pull their guns on the Zeon crew, who are gathered in one room and listening to music. In the engine room, Karla and several other crew prepare to blow up the ship. Io manages to damage one of the Psycho Zaku’s arms, but his shield takes damage as well. Cornelius interrupts Karla’s group and pleads with them to stop. He asks how much longer everyone has to hate and kill each other. The Zeon say this is revenge for their loses, but Cornelius counters that he’s also experienced loss because his home colony was in this area. One of the men behind Cornelius uses a targeting scope, and as Karla steps away, a GM Cannon rams its beam saber through the hull, killing the rest of her group. Karla is sucked into space and grabbed by the GM Cannon, but she cries in shock over what happened. Io purges the rest of his armor, leaving him with only a shield and a beam saber. The Zeon soldiers trade weapons fire with the Moore crew, and one of the Zeon blows himself up to take out enemies.
Daryl imagines that he’s able-bodied and running on the beach to see Karla and kiss her. Io rushes in to stab Daryl’s suit, which is inactive and laying atop a destroyed building in colony ruins. However, lightning strikes the colony, and the energy courses through the Psycho Zaku, reactivating the suit and waking Daryl up. He’s able to fire a sturm faust at the last second, which beheads the Gundam and continues on before hitting part of the colony. Daryl cries and says that meeting Karla was his miracle. As the two suits drift through space, Io and Daryl exit their cockpits, and Io can’t believe he lost to a cripple. Several Gelgoogs arrive and capture the Gundam, while the Psycho Zaku is set to self-destruct to protect its technology. The heavily damaged Dried Fish explodes. Daryl is reunited with Karla on another Zeon ship, but she’s catatonic. With the rest of the Moore Brotherhood crew captured, Cornelius tells Io that Claudia probably didn’t make it. Daryl thanks Fisher for calling reinforcements and regrets the loss of the Psycho Zaku. Fisher notes that the Reuse P Device works and could be mass produced, thus preventing more suffering Daryl’s fate. Daryl thinks the system could turn even the most mediocre pilots into super soldiers – if they get amputated like him. Daryl visits the brig as two soldiers finish torturing Io. Daryl confronts Io, who asks how he could control a suit with his butchered body. Daryl says that he thought killing Io and destroying the Gundam would free him from this nightmare, and Io accuses him of playing the victim. Io notes that Daryl gave up his body to gain the power to defeat the Gundam, and he adds that people simultaneously loathe and crave war. He believes that the two of them are destined to fight each other, and he laughs because the war isn’t over yet. The Zeon ships approach the space fortress A Baoa Qu.
Gundam Thunderbolt reaches a conclusion of sorts, or rather, it just stops in the same spot where volume 3 of the manga ends. The climactic battle between Io and Daryl ends with a stalemate, and I think they would’ve kept going hand-to-hand if the Zeon reinforcements hadn’t arrived. Cornelius is pulled into a raid on the Dried Fish, and he’s about the only character I sympathize with for being in a crazy situation. He did sincerely want to talk down the Zeon, but his comrades had other plans in mind, leaving Karla traumatized. Daryl’s romantic dreams of Karla seems to come out of nowhere, as he hadn’t shown any particular interest in her earlier. Overall, there isn’t too much of a story at work here, which to be fair is also true of the manga. You have two sides fighting each other over a worthless sector that is important only because they both say it is. None of the characters are developed, and the character designs themselves aren’t appealing. The mecha combat is nicely done, but everything else is just excessively grim with no real substance. This series suffers the same problem as STARGAZER, which debuted online a decade ago. Both were saddled with short running times that weren’t adequate for telling the story they set out to. Sure, there’s a lot more of the manga out there, but at this point it isn’t clear if Sunrise will do that. At this point, I’d say it doesn’t matter to me either way because Thunderbolt doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression.