Reviewby Lauren Orsini,
Mobile Suit Gundam
Blu-Ray - Collection 02
In the year Universal Century 0079, the Principality of Zeon has declared independence from the Earth Federation. The resulting war obliterated half the population and affected every continent and space colony. As the war grows in scope it also comes closer to home, as siblings, friends, and lovers find one another on the opposite side of the battlefield.
In one of the earliest episodes of the Mobile Suit Gundam: Part 2 Blu-Ray collection, Amuro apologizes to a superior officer for a mutual comrade's death. Amuro believes that fewer people would have died “if I were better at using the Gundam.” The lieutenant immediately brushes off Amuro's apology. “The Gundam can't fight the war by itself,” he tells him.
Amuro and the Gundam are certainly at the center of the story of Mobile Suit Gundam. But as the lieutenant tells Amuro, they aren't the whole story. Part two of this 1979 series hammers that point home repeatedly. This isn't only about Amuro and his high-powered weapon. It's about Kai and his quest to determine where his loyalties lie. It's about Mirai and her confusing love triangle of suitors. It's about Kycilia Zabi and the political intrigue she navigates along with her brothers and father. To create a space opera on this scale, it takes an enormous and varied cast, something at which Mobile Suit Gundam greatly succeeds.
With a likeable crew, an equally charismatic bunch of returning antagonists, and the backdrop of an interstellar altercation, this 1979 anime might remind you of another show from that era, Star Trek. The similarities aren't all positive. Just like Star Trek, Mobile Suit Gundam was canceled midway through the season, forcing its creators to wrap up on episode 43 instead of 50. The creators' sense of urgency is palpable in the second half, but the conclusion doesn't suffer. Rather, it seems to be helped along by the rush. What began as an overly slow build becomes an explosion of action with characters that sometimes perish almost as suddenly as they are introduced, and a drive toward packing episodes purely with stuff that builds the plot. As the series wraps up and the war reaches its conclusion, the story becomes something much bigger than the one of a boy and his Gundam. Instead, it's a story so powerful that it lives on through spinoffs, remakes, and remasters like this one decades later.
The second half of Mobile Suit Gundam benefits hugely from moving on from the myopic focus of Amuro and his (admittedly intense) teenage problems. Rather, we learn that everybody has problems, on both sides of the war. The widened scope echoes the premise introduced in the first half of the show—whether there is such thing as pure good and pure evil. There are those like Miharu, who would spy for Zeon and put White Base in danger, but only so she can feed her two young siblings. There's Lalah, a vivacious Zeon soldier who awakens supernatural abilities in both Char and Amuro. There's the whole idea of Newtypes, which previously was not explored and later becomes the crux of nearly every Gundam series to follow—people who have supernatural abilities and how they navigate the additional responsibilities that come with their possession. And there are plenty of memorable, short-lived characters, like Challia Bull and Sleggar Law. Everyone plays a part, including the three young war orphans—whose position on White Base is ludicrous to begin with—who prevent a bombing. Gundam characters face difficult and sometimes even supernatural problems that probably none of us will face in our lifetimes, but the human way they are each portrayed is what makes this story timeless.
Mobile Suit Gundam is a pretty old show produced with few resources that was literally canceled halfway through, and that's readily apparent here. From unfortunate animation shortcuts to egregious repetition, you will notice the cheapness of the visuals, while the Blu-Ray restoration (which is the same quality as the first set) features an over-active digital noise reduction that blurs out the 16mm visuals even further (again, in fairness, there isn't much more they can do with a 16mm master). But while they suffer, the music is taken up a notch. You'll hear the familiar refrains from the first half, but there are also a few brand new songs, like one that's all about Char. The voice acting remains tinny and low-quality, including the dubbed version, but the heightened melodrama of this half of the show makes for some markedly more memorable acting than in the first part.
“Usually when you see a work of fiction as a child, it's gone by the time you're an adult,” notes Gundam's mecha designer Kunio Okawara. Not so with Gundam, which continues to inspire creative spinoffs to this day. Mobile Suit Gundam is pushing 40 and looks it, but its too-human story is still relatable and affecting to viewers today.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : A
+ Compelling characters and story, memorable musical score, and highly emotional voice performances through which the timeless story of Gundam lives on.
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