Hello again, Lusites! It is once again time for another anime review. So far, the reviews have covered a couple of staples to the genre, sports anime and swordplay anime similar to old Japanese cinema. This week, the topic will be based around another staple of anime: giant robots. There are a seemingly endless number of anime based around the concept of either giant robots or giant mechanized suits that someone can pilot, most commonly referred to as mecha. Which is better is often debated, and everyone has a preference within each genre, but there are several names that stand out among the rest as ones that people immediately think of when the name “mecha anime” or “robot anime” is mentioned. This week, the anime in question falls into the mecha category, and is a part of one of the biggest mecha series that has been running nearly as long as there has been anime. That series is Mobile Suit Gundam. It is impossible to cover a series in the Mobile Suit Gundam universe without at least touching a little bit on the history of Gundam itself, as there is much to do with timelines and continuity to discuss.
The Mobile Suit Gundam series is massive, to say the least. Debuting in 1979 with the aptly titled Mobile Suit Gundam 0079, and continuing with a new series nearly every couple years, with the most current being Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans. The universe itself is mostly connected to each other in one way or another, but there are a couple big jumps in timelines and continuity. Everything that takes places in the original universe is knowns as being “Universal Century”, or UC for short as far as the timeline is concerned, and almost every series outside of the original continuing timeline has its own abbreviation. One of the key differences between UC and everything else is that UC typically has a few types of Gundams that the cast uses, and typically focuses on one or two major pilots, with the major war at the time being the main focus. Everything outside of the UC typically has a team of pilots, each with their own very specialized Gundam, and with these it becomes more clear that the series is being used to sell models. The sheer number of suits, along with the fact that the majority of the series is produced by Bandai Entertainment, makes one think that there is not much more to these series than flashy effects and cool suits to make into toys for kids. There is always a great amount of depth to the characters, and drama surrounding the war and everything on top of the cool suits and action sequences. As the series this re takes place in the Universal Century, there will be a brief description of the major points that are needed to know about the UC timeline.
The primary events of the Gundam series start off in the year 2124 in a fictional universe, also labeled as 0079 according to the specific calendar that the Gundam universe uses. The human race has expanded into the stars, colonizing a few planets and setting up large space colonies, essentially a giant floating cylindrical space station wrapped in solar panels with the inside designed to look like actual land. The Principality of Zeon, a group of people who live and have mostly been born in the space colonies, decide they want to be independent from Earth rule, and this eventually leads to a bunch of wars spanning over the next several years. Zeon has fought Earth to a stalemate at the beginning of the series, as their mobile suit technology is far better than any weapon that Earth has to offer. However, the series kicks off with Earth designing their own suits, the Mobile Suit Gundam. This is the major turning point in the conflict, and where the majority of UC stories at least kick off from.
08th MS is also set in the year 0079 in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon are locked in a brutal close quarters conflict for control of this part of the globe, and all the resources that can be found there. Zeon’s best hope for victory in the region rests with an experimental mobile armor and its pilot, Aina Sahalin. Meanwhile, the Earth Federal Army, receive reinforcements in the form of Ensign Shiro Amada, newly named commander of the 08th MS Team. Amada is far and away better than any pilot they have had thus far, and shines on the field in favor of the Earth Federation. There is, however, a small twist. In the first epsiode of the show, there is a small space battle between Zeon and Earth forces, and two pilots end up on the same ship trying to land it and survive, working together even though one of them is Zeon and the other is Earth Federation. Those pilots just happen to be our main characters, Aina and Shiro. This added layer of conflict is something that is not a majorly common theme, at least for a Gundam series. The pilots are both in trouble with their respective sides once it is found out that they know, and did not kill each other. Shiro is actually arrested for treason. The Federation offers Shiro one chance to prove his allegiance is actually with the Earth. He must take the 08th MS Team deep into Zeon held territory to find Zeon’s hidden base. With the Zeon backed into a corner, and the Federation dependent on Shiro and his team for victory, the star crossed lovers must decide where their true allegiances lie: with each other, or with their respective sides.
As a fan of the series, this author has seen several different stories in the universe of Mobile Suit Gundam. Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team is far and away one of the best things that the universe has to offer. The UC Gundam tales all follow a pretty similar story, but some of the side stories in that timeline shine compared to the main series. This is an example of that. Though one of the shortest Gundam series, considered to be an OVA series with only 12 episodes, the animation is gorgeous, the story is smart and funny, and the overall action and conflict is quite good. Each character is interesting, which in a 12 episode time span is a rare thing. For once, the bad guys and good guys are not as well defined as normal. Granted, in the original series there are many times when you are unsure the bad guys are wrong in what they want, but they almost always go about it in very wrong ways. With 08th, it is two teams that are just soldiers on the front lines, not commanders in power or massive fleets, there is a sense of personality and closeness to each side that is gained. Add to this a Romeo and Juliet style love story, and the mix of drama and action is about as perfect as can be expected from a mecha series. Romeo and Juliet plus mobile suits is a surprisingly good combination, it seems. Overall, the biggest misstep of the series is that it is too short, making some of the plot points seem rushed. Still, the story itself is contained. Sunrise, the studio that handles the animation, shines as well. The main problem with a lot of the UC series is that it is very old, so the animation is lacking, though the stories are pretty much all great. 08th has a chance to tell a UC story with modern art style, and it shines. Overall, the series is a big success among robot shows, deserving of an A grade. And with that, we have once again reached the end of our little trek! Are there any fans of giant robot shows among Lusi-readers? Any Gundam fans specifically? How are people enjoying the series reviews? Leave a comment below and let this author know thoughts and feelings on anything asked here! For now, this author has reached the end of this week’s post. The Summer season of anime is fast approaching, so expect a change back to the original style soon! For now, Thanks for reading Lusitards, and keep on watching.