Reviewby Lauren Orsini, Feb 13th 2017
Mobile Suit V Gundam
Blu-Ray - Collection 2
Barely escaping with his life, Uso doubles down on his efforts to stop the enemy empire once and for all, along with the ragtag crew of the League Militaire. However, his goal is complicated by Zanscare's seemingly endless supply of beautiful female warriors set on demeaning and beguiling the young Gundam pilot. Even a reunion with his parents in space isn't the moral boost that Uso expects. Uso gets a brand new V2 Gundam that allows him to cut down more enemies at a faster pace than ever, but digging so many graves for his enemies, family, and friends has gotten him thinking: what if more war isn't the answer? What if his childhood friend, Shakti, holds the real answer to humanity's prayers for peace?
Rumor has it that director Yoshiyuki Tomino was deeply depressed while working on Victory Gundam, and that's even more apparent in the second half of the Blu-ray collection, episodes 27 through 51. Nothing goes well for Uso or his resistance crew at the League Militaire, and the better a development seems at first, the more disappointing it will be in the end.
The plot of Victory Gundam's second half can be characterized by one wedding and many funerals. While the League Militaire is kidnapped and sent to a labor camp (which honestly seems like the most cheerful part of the show, as characters unwind by doing laundry and farm work instead of fighting), Oliver and Marbet decide to get married as a “distraction,” but that doesn't undermine how much they genuinely love each other. It's all downhill from there. The increasingly gruesome deaths keep coming. A makeshift graveyard in Uso's hometown of Kasarelia becomes a recurring setting, where the crew keeps returning to put up ever more handmade wooden crosses.
In between grave-digging, Uso has a lot of strange, sexy feelings about the women he fights. You could call this Mommy Issues the show. The Zanscare Empire provides a revolving door of older women with violent and sexual plans for Uso, and a new one appears as quickly as a previous one is vanquished. It's no wonder Victory Gundam was never released in North America until now considering the uncomfortable content—at one point, Zanscare pilot Lupe decides to torture Uso by taking the nude, handcuffed boy into the bath with her. (He escapes by biting her breast, which feels like a bad joke to mask the obvious implications of imminent sexual assault.) Then there's Fuala, who wants to “play with the boy” in a psychosis so obvious that Uso directly tells her in battle: “If you want to be a mother, have a child of your own!” Maybe the worst offender is Katejina, whose aristocrat features are twisted in warped pleasure at the knowledge that she has forced adult Cronicle and kid Uso to fight to the death over her affections.
In the mix of these would-be mommies is Uso's actual mother, who you might be surprised even lived this long considering the series' mortality rate. Uso's mom serves a particularly violent role—it turns out she is the Gundam's designer and therefore the reason Uso is able to kill so many. We also see flashbacks of her training Uso in combat, compelling Uso to put the pieces together and believe his parents trained him for war (even as they deny it). Uso's father is equally disappointing, a small man who is jealous of his own son's combat prowess. He expresses this by neglecting and ignoring Uso's victories.
Indeed, a huge part of this story, as with many Gundam stories, is that adults are a mess. Perhaps this is most literal with Queen Maria of the Zanscare Empire, who claims she failed because she grew up: “More than anything, I became too much of an adult. Too possessed by wickedness and passions.” Instead it's up to Shakti to take her mother's role in the weirdest plot development yet—the prayer of Angel Halo.
Angel Halo is when Victory Gundam's story goes off the rails. It's a circular structure that contains thousands of unconscious psychics, centered around a woman with intense psychic abilities—first Maria, and then Shakti—who uses the psychics as a human battery to amplify a prayer. It's not dissimilar to the concept of Newtypes in Gundam, people with preternatural abilities brought out by living in space, but Angel Halo brings the Newtype premise to its most unbelievable stage yet, implying that a prayer led by an adept psychic can make humanity forget its warlike nature. But it turns out that this “forgetting” means everyone reverts to babyhood and lies on the ground in a semi-lucid state, decaying. Somehow the Zanscare empire still thinks this is a good thing, or at least better than war.
It does lead to my favorite episode of the collection. “Uso Dances in Hallucination” stands out for its storyboarding, as Uso moves fluidly between worlds in a dreamscape brought on by Angel Halo. As real life battles shift into hallucinations, I became worried for the first time that Uso would lose his life, because he alone has plot-armor in a show where everyone can die. This episode also showcases the way that Victory Gundam's art seems to have improved over time, with greater quality shots and detail. Perhaps it's because the second half of the show mainly takes place in space, where there is a broader spectrum of color and light.
On top of improved art, the show has saved the best mobile suits for Part 2. Best in show goes of course to V2, the powered-up version of Victory Gundam, which is exemplary in its literal design—a yellow chevron on the chest spreads out to wings for an obvious take on the “V” as in victory. Other creative suits came from the Zanscare empire. I've never seen anything like the Einerad, a tire-like transportation for a mobile suit which somehow functions equally well on land as in water, air, and space. Fuala's Zanneck, with its cone head, is also unique.
The musical accompaniment of the second half takes on an otherworldly feel.One major plot point is the sound of ringing bells. During the time of the French Revolution, the show tells us, people sentenced to the guillotine were forced to walk with bells tied around their waist. This is something Fuala (once sentenced to death herself) chooses to reclaim. The more adept Newtypes of the series, like Uso and Shakti and baby Karl, can sense their ringing. While the in-episode music creates a mysterious mood, the new introduction and conclusion songs, "Don't Stop! Carry On!" and "Mouichido Tenderness" are once again way too upbeat for the rest of what's happening.
It's hard to tell how much time has passed in Victory Gundam, as things tend to get repetitive. Twice, death gets in the way of two enemy pilots living long enough to get married. At least three times, Shakti engineers her own kidnapping in order to pull strings from the inside, while Uso rescues her over and over, despite her protests that she wants to stay put. Furthermore, one woman is pregnant for more than twenty episodes, yet the eventually born baby Karl seems to learn how to walk and talk overnight. And when it's all over, we get a bleak ending, as Uso and Shakti buckle down in Kasarelia for the start of a long winter. Aside from one another they aren't surrounded by much. Hardly anyone is left, and some are in such a mournful state that they look like they would have preferred death. There's an overarching theme in Tomino's work of “war is bad,” but in Victory Gundam, he truly drives home this message like never before. This downer of a show serves up endless depression, punctuated only by uncomfortable sexual feelings, in a story that makes you feel like humans don't deserve to pilot giant robots, no matter how cool they may be.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C-
Animation : B
Art : A
Music : B
+ Incredible mobile suit designs and a detailed art style that makes characters more expressive than usual for their time
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