Shelf Life Mobile Suit Gundam F91
by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,
I finally got started on my "watch popular anime that I skipped the first time around" New Year's resolution this week. Since the second season of Konosuba is airing now, it seemed like as good a time as any to marathon the first season. While it didn't completely blow me away, I had enough fun watching it that I'll probably try to catch up on the new episodes when I get a chance. If nothing else, this is easily the most entertaining resolution I've ever tried to keep. Welcome to Shelf Life.
Jump to this week's review:
Mobile Suit Gundam F91
On Shelves This Week
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Extra: A few of this week's releases don't have their own encyclopedia pages as of this writing, so their title links will go to the main show pages. You'll find a review of the first set here, and the first of several streaming reviews here. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Viz.com.
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Shelf Life Reviews
Gabriella's on review duty this week with a look at the Mobile Suit Gundam F91 movie.
The movie takes place 30 years after the events of Char's Counterattack. There have been decades of peace, but things start getting rowdy when a private militia known as the Crossbone Vanguard gets the bright idea to start its own galactic empire. They begin seizing Earth Federation colonies, which raises the ire of one of their residents, the teenage Seabook Arno. Things get personal, however, when his girlfriend Cecily is revealed as the Crossbone Vanguard's lost heiress. This turn of events leads Seabook into the pilot seat of the latest Gundam, the F91. Can he protect the colonies and rescue Cecily from the machinations of her evil family? Or will he be forced to strike down the person he loves?
Apparently, this film was originally planned to be a 50-episode series, cut down to 13, and then further compressed into this two-hour film. That's all extremely apparent, since the whole thing is plotted in fits and starts that feel like they would have been the central conflicts for individual episodes. This ends up wrecking the characterization pretty hard. The worst victim is Cecily, whose level of commitment to her family's cause seems to vary by the scene. I get that she's supposed to be a conflicted and indecisive person, but lacking any indication as to why she's changing her mind all the time, it just feels like I'm being jerked around. In the end, she amounts to a particularly weak character, even by the rocky standards set for Gundam's women. The plot ultimately consists of her boyfriend trying to reach her in order to give her the resolve to stick up for herself. The rest of the characters aren't much better, but they at least land on “underdeveloped” rather than “confusing.” In its current format, the film's story doesn't work at all – and on top of that, I'm not sure that it ever possessed anything distinct enough in order to make it compelling.
Mobile Suit Gundam F91 feels like a reheated mash of ideas that I've seen in pretty much every other Gundam. I realize that the Gundam franchise has a pretty strict kit of story elements that it uses in pretty much every series, but this one is particularly bad on that front. Tell me if you've heard this one before: a wannabe space empire invades some innocent colonies, a naïve young woman is propped up as their figurehead, and our teen protagonist bungles his way into fighting them off in in the titular mobile suit. Sound familiar? This repetition even extends to small details, like Seabook's relationship with his mother, in yet another incarnation of Yoshiyuki Tomino's workaholic mommy issues. While I personally derive enjoyment from seeing a creator's personal fixations come through in their art, this doesn't always result in a compelling story. Beyond that, the film's derivation isn't even limited to its own franchise – the villain and resident Char-alike, Carozzo Ronah, is a transparent Darth Vader clone.
If anything redeems this film, it's that it looks pretty nice. This is probably the best-produced version of the original Gundam aesthetic featuring Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's character designs. I'm a big fan of the style and enjoyed seeing it brought to life in film-quality animation. If you just want to wallow in original Gundam visuals, this film is a decent candidate for that – just keep in mind that the action is drowned out by long sequences of people talking. It's paced like a compressed 12-episode series, so there's a scene of them messing around with the robots every twelve minutes or so. Other than that, the major action is concentrated in the last 20 minutes.
This Blu-ray release is pretty sparse but on par from what I expected from other discs. The big asset is the dub, which is solidly listenable. My big gripe with this release is that there's no closed captioning alongside the English dub. Otherwise, extras include the usual slate of trailers, as well as a quick recap timeline of the Universal Century and an English commentary track.
While it ostensibly takes place within the Universal Century timeline, the story doesn't really have anything to do with its main events, besides maybe some background lore. As a consequence, it's far from required viewing. While the film doesn't have anything to recommend on a narrative level, I'll spare it from a Perishable rating by virtue of its visuals and for the sake of Gundam completionists. Still, crippled by its tumultuous production and a poor attempt at condensation, Mobile Suit Gundam F91 is mostly a bust.
That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Damian:
"My Name is Damian Metzger and I'm 33 years old. I've been watching anime pretty much since I finished high school. But didn't really start collecting until 2010. My of my stuff is imported from the US but I also have quite a few here from Australia. Recently I'm not getting as much anime as I used to due to the exchange rate and shipping costs. And I'm planning on going to Japan for the first time in May for my birthday. End of last year I started collecting Light novels and manga. Only reason I managed to get so many so quickly was because I got a $350 prepaid visa card for Christmas. Anyway hope you enjoy the pics."
Those international shipping rates can get pretty nasty, so bonus points for putting up with them. Enjoy the trip to Japan, and thanks for sharing!
No matter what part of the world you're from, this is the place to show off your collection to your fellow anime fans. Send me your photos at [email protected]!
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