In Universal Century 0079, forces of the Earth Federation and Principality of Zeon engage in a battle within the Thunderbolt Sector during the One Year War. This section of space—known for its constant strikes of electricity—proves to be a deadly battlefield, as Federation pilot Io Fleming leads a charge against Zeon's ace Daryl Lorenz and his squad of snipers. With the fighters on both sides proving to be formidable soldiers, neither side is willing to back down, fighting strategically amongst the remnants of colonies.
But when Io gets a hold of a prototype Gundam, Daryl will have to make a sacrifice in order to obtain enough power to crush his enemy and ensure that Zeon is victorious, or watch as his comrades are slaughtered by a single man.
I understand the appeal of having gorgeous mecha blowing each other up in a well animated battle spectacle to the tune of snappy upbeat jazz, I really do. It’s just a shame that Gundam Thunderbolt couldn’t deliver much more than that. It’s definitely a good looking and sounding show, but its narrative and characters fall short in comparison. Not to say it can’t be enjoyable and entertaining, but your experience will greatly vary on what you look for in your gundam shows.
The main duo weren’t particularly bad, yet come off as very underwhelming. Not much effort on giving them personality outside of making sure they
were polar opposites. Io Fleming is reckless, rebellious, and purely driven by his desire to feel alive in the battlefield. Daryl on the other hand is the calm, kind soul that fights to protect his comrades. After the motivations for hating each other are presented early on, these two contrasting individuals fight to preserve their ideals. This dynamic has been played out to death already, and the show doesn’t attempt much to try to change it up.
There is nothing memorable about Daryl besides his limb loss, that’s all he is characterized by. While Io's much more entertaining, he's also a one dimensional jerk. Had there been better characterization, the show would have been more than gorgeous war misery porn. I found it hard to be invested in the cruel war being depicted when the characters are just there to be pitied. Show me more aspects about them, anything besides how much they rather be somewhere else. Towards the climax, the characters are conflicted with tough moral choices, which could had much more impact had they been fleshed out enough for me to care about them.
The aesthetics are by far its strong point. Space battles look detailed and the character designs are appealing. The setting of debris and ruins isn’t particularly great, though the constant light effects keep it from looking dull. The flashback song's a little too corny but it'll mostly come down to whether you’re into jazz/country folk even though they fit the scenes well for the most part.
Its main theme is the harshness of war. Crucial decisions must be carried through, and the people in charge have to live on with its consequences. It’s a fine concept; the problem is that it doesn’t do much with it. “Hey did you know war is sad? Well it is, let me show you, and tell you…constantly”.
There is some strategy behind the battle scenes, but it usually comes down to who has the bigger robot dick. If the Gundam is on screen, be ready to watch a lot of defenseless Zeon mobile suits act as target practice. Enjoying the over powered Psycho Zaku and Gundam face off is the main appeal of the show, since the narrative behind it all isn’t strong enough to warrant a watch. I would recommend this to any mecha fan who wants pretty robots beat the crap out of each other in what is probably the darkest addition of the franchise yet. Fans of the UC gundam storyline may also enjoy it for its setting, references and solid action scenes.
The story for Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is great even though it does not adapt the entire manga because that's still ongoing and unfortunately if we want to continue the story that's where you're going to have to go at least until season 2 comes out as far as this review. But as far as what little story they gave us it has capture the initial war story and atmosphere that the original Gundam set out to bring to the table. The presentation alone on every level definitely help more so than before because I did read the manga
and about 9 of chapters were out before the anime aired and I didn't feel it was as great as the anime made it out to be. From an anime standpoint it is definitely presented far better than the manga which is a good thing because that's what every anime's goal should be is to be better than what it's adapting not because anime has movement, sound and color but because it's just something that as an adaption should be taken into consideration and Thunderbolt succeed at presenting the struggles of war far better than it's manga counter part and as a war/rival story in general which at the end of the day that's what we like to see in our Gundam, the struggles of war and a good rivalry between ace pilots.
Art and Animation (10/10) Masterpiece
The art and animation in Thunderbolt is not only unique but is straight up a masterpiece. It's constant switch from rough art style and clean/fluid animation is such a good combination that I hope more Gundam series in the future take this approach because it fit's the Gundam universe so perfectly. The CG on certain scenes didn't bother me enough to have any negative statements on it as I felt it was left to a minimum.
Sound (10/10) Masterpiece
The sound is straight up a masterpiece, not really too big of a fan of jazz especially the type that is played in this series but what really stood out to me and what usually does in Gundam series is the voice acting and sound effects on the weapons used in Gundam series as everything sound so crisp to my ears and the even though I'm not a fan of jazz it didn't bother me enough to complain about it either since that would be more on the subjective sides of things.
Characters (9/10) Great
The characters in Thunderbolt are great, not that many but granted this 4 episodes and the characters that we do focus on are extremely memorable and exciting to follow whether it's Daryl Lorenz or Io Fleming bother of them have a amazing chemistry as rivals and both of their backstories are great.
Enjoyment (10/10) Outstanding
My enjoyment for Thunderbolt for every second of these 4 episodes was outstanding. I was going to wait for the dub if the series ever got on because that's usually how I like to consume my Universal Century related Gundam series but seeing as we never got any confirmation of a dub even to now (update the dub did come out and it was awesome). I went ahead and watched it sub and I'm glad I did because none of my enjoyment was lost not watching it in Dub. The fight scenes and tension in this series and in every single episode made me craving for more.
Overall (9/10) Great
More Specifically (9.60/10) Great+
This is a great quick and short series that I can recommend to anyone even if you aren't a Gundam fan or even a fan of Mech series because not only do I feel it succeeds at being a great Gundam series and a great mech but also just a great anime because it even does stuff in the realm of Gundam that hasn't been done to this degree ever. I highly recommend this one and I might pick up where the manga left off because I wasn't really feeling the manga by the time I put it down for the anime but hopefully I feel different after watching these 4 episodes.
First of all, I don't read the manga nor a musician.
My first impression, Gundam Thunderbolt is a brutal story.
Second, the background music contains at least five different kind of musics. Ranging from classical, gospel, country, motown kind of music (i dont know), and jazz.
If I correlating anime music with anime theme itself, to name a few, Lupin III pick a jazz because of their spy agent theme, Bubblegum Crisis doing rock/pop/synth-pop with their industrial theme, and GiTS Arise OAV electronica/chill with their cyperpunk theme, then I find Gundam Thunderbolt is a bit confusing. Why?
Because if I try to correlating
it with the jazz theme (In the 1st episode, the audience I believe is conditioning that this ONA is a jazz theme, with the introduction of Io Fleming plays some free jazz with his drum stick), then after a while actually it isn't happening.
In the end I actually like to correlate this ONA with jazz theme wihere it explore what a jazz music can do with different kind of music. But hey it's just me expecting.
The jazz part itself is fine. It's not like Joshua Redman playing free jazz nor Ann Hampton Callaway sings Good Morning Heartache anyway, but it's fine.
Meh. it's just me doing review. Just enjoy the show as is it. No more. No less.
The sweat drips off his forehead as he enters the cockpit. He sits in the rigid yet comfortable cockpit. He closes his eyes, begins to block out the environment. It distracts him. He talks out his Walkman, places it on the dashboard in front of him. He turns to his favorite genre, fusion jazz. It is chaotic, unstructured and full of passion. It is just like him. He gets filled with the adrenaline from the impending battle. This thrill, this feeling is what gives him life. It is in these moments that he truly knows what it means to be alive.
The Gundam series has always
been about the never ending battle between two entities, The Earth Federation, and the Principality of Zeon. The mainline Gundam series have always been grand, touching on both the military and the political sides of the war. Gundam Thunderbolt, however, takes a more intimate look at the war and focuses on a battle between Zeon and the Federation on the remains of the space colony, Side 7. Ace pilot Io Fleming is sent to the battlefield where ace sniper, Darryl Lorenz awaits.
The first thing I noticed about this entry in the Gundam franchise is, the tone is much darker. There was a somber feeling lingering in the air as if someone important had just died. This Gundam is much grittier than any other entry in the franchise that I had seen. When a pilot dies, you see their last gasps, their eyes rolling back in pain, the coughing of their blood. All these details are minor but change the entire tone of the series. There is a lot of death in this show, and each death weighs heavy on the characters. People aren’t killed and shrugged off moments later. There is a lasting impact.
Thunderbolt focuses on both sides of the war, both the Zeon and the Federation. We are shown the dynamics of both groups of soldiers and their personalities. The show does a magnificent job at humanizing the cast, giving them a level of importance above nameless henchmen. However, the stars of the show have to be Io and Darryl, the two ace pilots. They are characterized masterfully, not only through dialogue but by the music they listen to. Io is a jazz head. He loves how chaotic it is. Jazz also parallels his personality. Io is reckless and unpredictable. Darryl likes slow pop songs; they are harmonic, gentle and melodic. Darryl, likewise, is kind, patient and orderly. This is the first time I have seen an anime use music to describe effectively a character. The show uses flashbacks masterfully. They do not occur in an intrusive matter, but rather, tie into current events, giving new meanings to certain scenes or interactions between characters.
The animation is superb. The battles are fluid, and the character designs are very well done. Each character has a distinctive design, whether be a hairstyle or some unique feature that makes them distinguishable from one another. The sound editing is fantastic. How the soundtrack compliments each encounter, whether on the battlefield or off it, made those scenes much more impactful.
Gundam Thunderbolt is a great anime. The only problem is, you end up wanting more. The show ends on a note that leaves the watcher unsatisfied. I hope there is a second season.