In the future, with Earth's population rapidly increasing, humanity has developed giant orbiting space colonies gathered in clusters known as "Sides." As the elites on Earth force most of the populace into space, rebellion begins to brew. In the year Universal Century 0079, one of the colony clusters known as Side 3 declares itself the Principality of Zeon and launches a war of independence against the Earth Federation.
Despite having only a fraction of the resources of the Federation, Zeon quickly gains the upper hand in the conflict through the use of giant humanoid robots called mobile suits. Chief among Zeon's mobile suit ace pilots is Char Aznable, a mysterious masked man known as the "Red Comet." When Char's squadron comes across the Federation developing its own prototype mobile suit called Gundam in the colony Side 7, his men launch a brutal attack. Amuro Ray, the son of the prototype's developer, gets in the Gundam and is able to fend off the Zeon attack. As Amuro soon finds himself directly in conflict with Char, he is forced to flee the colony on a Federation ship.
Mobile Suit Gundam: the Movie Trilogy is the definitive incarnation of the massively influential Mobile Suit Gundam TV series. It may not be perfect, but it definitely deserves its lofty status in the history of anime as a proven classic. As one cannot have one part of the trilogy without the others, this review will cover all three of the compilation movies.
The first question on any new viewer's mind regarding the story of Mobile Suit Gundam: the Movie Trilogy (MSG) would be: "Do the films condense too much story from the TV series to fit into its limited run time?" The answer to that is
"no". MSG takes the liberty to cut some of the flab from the original series and manages very well in terms of preserving the integrity of the story. The pacing may strike as a little faster than usual, but there are no glaring problems pertaining to the question above.
The story of MSG follows the crew of White Base, a secret earth federation battleship housing the RX-78-2 Gundam. The protagonist, Amuro Ray, makes the difficult transition from an ordinary civilian to the ace pilot of the federation military, along with a number of other civilians who were also pulled into the conflict against the Principality of Zeon when their space colony was destroyed by a Zeon attack, the purpose of which was to destroy the White Base, along with the experimental mobile suits being developed in secrecy. The long journey aboard the White Base exposes Amuro to many ugly facets of war far beyond the destruction of his home and the loss of life. In the midst of it all, Amuro is burdened with the responsibility of risking life and limb to protect his friends and comrades aboard the White Base, a target of constant Zeon attack, with the gundam. All this weaves an engrossing tale of struggle and growth, rife with challenges on and off the battlefield, making MSG a very interesting war story. There is an epic feel to the films, because though the adventure of the White Base stretches over many destinations, it is but a small part of the vast web of war and politics that makes up the interstellar conflict, and the characters' struggle for survival in the monstrous web makes them seem all the more vulnerable and the story that much more gripping.
The characters of MSG are some of the most iconic in the history of anime. Amuro, as mentioned above, is a very well-developed character. His teenage angst may strike as a little too much in the beginning, but his clear maturation throughout the story makes him an endearing character. The antagonists of MSG also also equally memorable, as they are some of the best antagonists one will come across in anime: the cunning and skillful Char Aznable and Ramba Ral, the bold and courageous Dozle Zabi, and even the cold and calculated Ghiren Zabi -- all of them have plenty of admirable traits that really makes the viewer respect the nazi-inspired Zeon. Even when these antagonists bite the dust, the viewer would still feel for them.
Hailing from the early 80's, MSG's visuals and sounds are quite aged. Though the animation has definitely improved from the sometimes laughable quality of the original TV series, it will not win over any new anime fans by itself. The frame rate is low, the proportion are sometimes warped, and the details are always shallow. Yet despite all this, MSG still manages to produce a number of memorable battle scenes, which is something to applaud for. The mecha designs, especially that of the gundam and zaku II, influenced mecha designs for decades to come. Even to this day, these old-school robots are sights to behold. The sound effects of MSG are almost as iconic as the mobile suits themselves. Fans will recognize the buzzing sound of the beam saber as well as blast of the beam rifle from miles away. Granted, the quality of these sound effects aren't anything amazing objectively, but they serve their functions well, and their nostalgia value is beyond measure. There are also a couple of very catchy battles tunes to be heard, as well as great sound acting, though Amuro's voice may be a little over-the-top at times.
In the end, Mobile Suit Gundam: the Movie Trilogy should be a must-watch for anyone interested in mecha anime or the history of anime in general. Its influence, popularity, and historic value is simply through the roof. There is a reason why even almost three decades later, model kits of the old RX-78-2 are still selling like hotcakes and the name "Char Aznable" remains recognized almost everywhere in japan. MSG is the very definition of a classic, and this fact cannot be denied. What lies in question is the modern viewer's enjoyment of the aged classic. But with a stellar story and memorable characters, MSG still has the quality to win over its viewers, a quality that will most likely remain as long as there exists people who watch anime.
The Gundam franchise holds a very special place in my life. Going back to my first exposure to it, my 11 year-old self was rather indignant that this new "Gundamn Wing" show was going to be replacing my favorite cartoon Dragonball Z. I now know that my local network was simply attempting to introduce a new, more serious anime and using the DBZ timeslot was a perfect test-drive. And I was hooked. A serious story, political drama, and giant robots, what wasn't there to love? As I put more research into this strange new series, I learned of course that it was only a small
part of a much much larger franchise which consisted of alternate universes and of course, the Universal Century. Of course, I did watch other Gundam shows in between, namely SEED, SEED Destiny and 00. However, nearly all Gundam fans kept recommending me to go back to one series of shows I've missed...
Finding myself with plenty of free time and in need of much relaxation after a hard semester, my summer this year will consist of me watching every single UC series, OVA and movie (well, maybe except G-Savior) Beginning my arduous task was this movie, which was recommended to me over the TV series. I was expecting something a little more light-hearted during the opening minutes as I had watched the OP for the original series on Youtube (KIDOU SENSHIIII GUNDAMUUUUU) No, it was during those opening minutes that I realized the Universal Century was something entirely different from the alternate universes I was familiar with. It was a rather awkward situation for someone who was used to the slickly animated AU shows to be so disturbed by relatively crude images of colonies falling. Yoshiyuki Tomino's vision was simply uncompromising.
A couple of very common criticisms of later Gundam shows are awkward characterization and slapdash plot, two criticisms which cannot be leveled at this movie. Amuro's characterization is rather realistic, showing plausible battle fatigue and interpersonal tension. From the get go, the viewer is drawn into the mysterious relationship between Char and Sayla. Captain Bright establishes a commanding presence on screen, just as he should. The great extent at which we sympathize with the characters and believe in them really lie on the shoulders of the seiyuus whose performances result in very believable overall characterization.
As mentioned above, the plot cannot be criticized, mainly because there really isn't one. The movie is simply a series of battles, albeit entertaining ones. A situation is established, and the characters are thrown into it. Rinse, repeat. Glimmerings of underlying story do shine through, namely Char's. The famous SIEG ZEON speech gives a good impression of the inner workings of the enemy who up until that point were simply cannon fodder.
Visually, the movie shows all of the hallmarks of 70s anime, a bit of a negative. Bright, pastel colors punctuate every scene. Explosions are eye-assaulting fireworks shows. Uniforms resemble those of the super robot animes that Tomino fought so hard to differentiate from (this probably stems from executive meddling) Everyone wears ridiculous looking tights for some reason. However, it is because the designs are so eye-catching that they stick in the mind. Having 30 years to get to know their beloved characters, everyone in Japan will know who Amuro Ray, Sayla Mass or Kai Shiden is, what they look like, how they act. Even more iconic than the characters are the mecha. I remember first seeing the Zaku model kits, thinking "what a weird design" Placed within the context of the UC, they are excellent designs and do what they were intended to do: evoke totalitarian militarism. The titular mecha is by today's standards bare-bones, but it's presence on screen is always attention grabbing through it's actions and it's color scheme. To sum up, every character and mecha is distinctive.
In conclusion, the first movie gave me an incredible first impression. Hitting hard in the opening minutes, the movie carries action and character development consistently all the way through. Though marred by some questionable art choices, this is overshadowed by how distinctive each and every design is. A great way to start, but I just wished there was more of a plot.
Story: At first it seemed pretty messed up. I couldn't distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys but then innocents got killed so yeah. The story started slowly with a little display of conflicts, nothing wrong here. The problem is that it kept dragging on till the first hour and a half. I got sleepy there and had to take a break. However the "second part" got a lot better because the actions made more sense and some characters got development.
A mix of good and bad so 5.
Art: The art part was good for such an old movie, the chara design was great,
no look-alike. That's a plus for me. However some scenes were weirdly drawn like one where Amuro puts a sad face but the way I see it, it looked like he was high on mushrooms with eyes gone white and staring at the wall like a broken robot. Not much to be considered a flaw but had to be noticed.
Good old stuff: 8.
Sound: The film had good music and the ending was great too. The main theme is a plus (the dvd menu theme). I give it a 8.
Character: Some guy need some development (Char: good introduction as the Akai Suisei but then fall into oblivion). Maybe I'm asking too much with just the first movie but then I'll see how it goes. The same goes for Sayla Mass. She seems like a strong female lead character but the only thing I know about her is that she hates cowardice. The main character Amuro is getting more interesting as he has some inner conflicts with war stuff but there's a chance he just turns out to be an ace pilot who's good at saying "Yes Sir!". A 6 for now might get better for the second movie.
Enjoyment: I couldn't watch this movie as a whole so no plus here. A 4 because it wasn't shitty yet nothing amazing.
Engaging from beginning to end and holds up like a gem. And despite having a fair amount of action, it's the the fleshed out characters and sharp, tense writing that surprised me, and make this a great intro into the series.
Story & Writing: 9/10
Beyond just the action and intense mecha battles, Gundam I also has a terrific balance of drama, character development, a flawed protagonist, memorable enemy characters that you slightly cheer for, and very realized factions on each side. The story starts off quickly, but takes time to world build and allow for slight realism of letting us watched inexperienced
'good guys' trying to figure out how to fight back and survive. But after the initial build-up, it doesn't let up, surely buoyed by cutting out hours of extra time from the original show. The slowly developing "Newtype" concept is intriguing as well.
The writing actually most excelled for me when building characters, taking time to show their personalities, the power plays, motivations, and dilemmas they deal with. Char, without much screen time, steals the show on a charismatic level. Amuro is frustrating and melodramatic, but he's also a moody teenage boy, and not a soldier, and it would be less believable if he behaved otherwise. They build appeal with side characters as well, who are understated but distinct, and grow on you. This movie shows instead of tells, doesn't waste time, and takes itself seriously enough that you can immerse into the world of the Universal Century.
The art is passable but surely good for its time. Oh and can we talk about that sound editing!? Great Japanese voice acting, and music, but the sound when it comes to ships and mechs as they take off, fire weapons, and the dynamic stereo utilization of passing mechs and vehicles, is impeccable. Underrated in my opinion.
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