Reviewby Paul Fargo,
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
As Bandai's first North American entry into Gundam's venerable Universal Century timeline, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team garnered a noteworthy fan base of seasoned Gundam veterans and Wing-acquainted newcomers alike. With its excellent visuals & audio, intriguing characters, and a story reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway, there's little wonder that it's often considered a favorable mech anime title by many who've seen it. The closing volume of 08th MS Team brings viewers a thrilling, well-crafted finale to what can arguably be considered one of the best Gundam incarnations to date. Then comes the real ending, dragging the whole thing down into the bowels of disappointment.
Clocking in at three episodes, this disc starts off with a bang, and ends in a rather pathetic flicker. The first two episodes, collectively titled "The Shuddering Mountain," bring the entire series to a head in what can best be described as one long battle. The actual combat is fierce and exciting, leaving viewers perched on the edge of their seats, and intermittent pauses only bring the kinds of plot twists and closing revelations that continue to leave viewers with little breathing room. Just about every loose end is tied up in a nice, neat little package, and the ending is a touching sort that very nearly brought tears to my eyes. In short, these two episodes alone bring 08th MS to an ideal, dare I say nearly perfect conclusion. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the producers just didn't know where to stop.
Back when this show had its run on Toonami, the viewers were lucky. There, the show stopped at "Shuddering Mountain," and that was all she wrote. However, such is not the case with the DVD, where there is indeed a twelfth episode in the series, entitled "Last Resort." It features two of the regular characters happening across a group of abandoned Zeon children living in the jungle, and ultimately ending up in a situation reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. To be blunt, this final episode is nothing more than inane filler; it brings nothing beneficial to the table, has little in the way of redeemable qualities, and the plot is as aimless and confused as the very children it focuses on. Perhaps the worst part though, is that it severely drags down an otherwise ideal finale by happening after the main storyline has already concluded. An otherwise excellent series ends not with the graceful bowing out it deserves, but rather a clumsy face fault offstage just as the curtains draw shut.
Moving beyond the horrible ending, however, the disc is something of an aesthetic treat. The animation is rather fluid overall with very few glaring faults, and manages to keep a consistently high level of detail throughout. Particularly noteworthy are the rather impressive animations for such things as explosions and smoke, as best seen in an early duel between the Gundam team and a Zeon ace. The mecha designs, mostly retreads of their old First Gundam counterparts, are similarly detailed with a grittier, more militaristic feel to them. Character designs and scenery are likewise worthy of praise, and further contribute to the overall visual appeal of not just these episodes, but the series as a whole.
Musically, this disc hits the mark on virtually all fronts. With much of the focus being on the series' climactic final battle, the loud, boisterous score helps to give the impression of a Roman gladiator duel to the clashing mobile suits. During slower moments, the score manages to adjust to a more somber tone in most cases, but there are moments in which an unnecessarily heightened intensity in the music leads some scenes to carry an awkwardly melodramatic atmosphere. Opening and closing themes remain as catchy and pleasing to listen to as ever, and the special theme attached to the end of "Shuddering Mountain" is a particularly touching piece that goes a long way towards adding emotional weight to the conclusion.
The voice acting presented in these few episodes is a mixed bad that fortunately contains more positives than negatives. The Japanese seiyuu do an effective job of portraying their respective characters, without any glaring faults coming to the surface. Unfortunately, the English cast does not fare quite so well. The last two episodes on the disc are decidedly well done, with voices matching the characters effectively and lines being competently handled for the most part. However, the first part of "Shuddering Mountain" is a strangely noticeable departure and detriment to the dub's quality. Several lines are delivered with an almost painful clumsiness, and some minor script changes seem to alter the meanings of some lines. It seems strange that this one episode can come off so poorly while the two that immediately follow it are somewhat large improvements.
Moving beyond the featured content, the rest of the disc and its packaging remain as well done as the previous three volumes. Extras presented here are largely on the informative side, featuring a full list of character bios with included artwork, a rather misleading "MS Encyclopedia" covering many of the non-mobile suit vehicles of 08th MS Team, and a collection of short vignettes outlining various historical points surrounding the closing moments of Universal Century Gundam's One Year War. Cover art is, as with earlier entries into the series, reversible. The default cover features two dueling mobile suits while the reverse features an unfortunately semi-spoiler picture of the series' two leading characters, Shiro and Aina. Also included is an insert featuring a nice introduction to the disc written in the style of a love letter by 08th MS character, Michel. As is also the case with previous volumes, the menu is presented in a mock news report style with easy to understand icons.
For just about any fan of Gundam or mech anime in general, this disc should prove to be something of a treat. Even with the highly inappropriate and ultimately degrading final episode, it's still worthy of at least a rental if you've seen the rest of 08th MS Team up until this point. With high quality visuals, a top-notch soundtrack, and the best action the series has to offer, the closing volume of 08th MS establishes itself, for the most part, as a worthy ending to an overall excellent series.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : A
+ Thrilling final battle, emotional & fitting conclusion with penultimate episodes, informative Extras
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