DISCLAIMER: This review will a combination of a traditional text review and a film analysis based on a specific theme present throughout. As such, this “review” contains heavy spoilers. If you feel like reading my thoughts on the film without being spoiled, quickly scroll to the bottom of the review. Otherwise, proceed with caution.
Thunderbolt 2, Humanity, and the Consequences of War
The idea of being human has a myriad of components many would look into from a biological and philosophical sense. Some of the most commonly discussed components used as the defining factor for what makes someone “truly human” include: a sense of individuality and identity,
the ability to communicate with people in a natural way, tact in regards to the dead, and the idea of dealing with trauma. The second season of Gundam Thunderbolt, and by extension, this film compilation of said season’s episodes,\ tackles each and every one of these facets naturally, without actively trying to dwell on it as the main selling point. As such, this integral facet of Thunderbolt 2 has undeservedly been ignored or brushed off entirely.
Before we dive deeper into this analysis, I feel we must first address the audiovisual component of this film, as regardless of your views on Thunderbolt as a whole, this is what the side-series is known for. We should also address some of the non-thematic additions made and any problems second season and this compilation of said season contain. Studio Sunrise, the main corporate entity behind this film’s production, did a wonderful job in creating another visually stunning work full of incredible and varied character designs, vibrant gunfire, blue flames, laser beams, and beam weapons, and the incredible new designs and updates to older models. The action is as stellar and destructive as ever, taking the carnage from the electrified and abandoned terrain of the abandoned Thunderbolt Sector of the first season, to a variety of mostly aquatic locations, whether they be attic or tropical. Whilst the Federation mobile suits of yore looked childish and out of place compared to both the Zeon suits and Thunderbolt Sector Federation models, each and every suit looks grittier and more at home with a carnivorous war environment.
The music, composed once more by Naruyoshi Kikuchi, is as fantastic as before. Like with the previous compilation film, it shuffles around the tracks to mixed results, often starting in the middle of the track, such as with the first two action scenes regarding the fantastic tracks “Thunderbolt New Theme” and “Groovy Duel”. Unfortunately, there weren't any new tracks added towards the end like “Ronald Reagan Other Side” was in the new footage found at the end of the first film. The wonderful jazz and blues tracks of the second season are as electrifying as ever, with vocal tracks being better than some of the first season’s, and non-vocal tracks that directly rival those of season one.
As for additional scenes, the first two tie into the analysis so we will save that for later. The third additional scene has Io being temporarily assaulted by Zeon forces who chained and dogpiled his mech, with it solely annoying him before he managed to break out and obliterate them. The final one has Bianca questioning to Cornelius why Io is going after Claudia, in which he responds that it's Io’s ex and they thought she was dead. It doesn't alleviate how silly it is that Claudia and Sergei (Karla’s superior) survived since while we already knew they were picked up somehow, it was still an unknown amount of time after surviving a situation they should not have survived to begin with. However, it was odd that Bianca didn't question it to begin with, so it’s good to see her do it here.
The English dub slightly less solid than last time. While we did see good returning performances from characters such as Io and Cornelius, and the background characters were largely better than last time, a few performances, such as Laura Stahl, were rather hit or miss, and the line changes were somewhat grown-inducing. The prospect of hearing “you selfish prick” being casually told in dub was burnt asunder. Additionally, Johnny Yong Bosch somehow does an inconsistent performance despite this being a reprised role. At least we seem to have got Patrick Seitz here, even as a background character.
In addition to the increased amount of new footage compared to its predecessor, the episodes of the second season flow better into a film than the episodes of the first. Even with the fact that there is no additional piece of music unlike last time where one was added at the very end, I would consider this to be the be superior compilation film of the two, regardless of if the content present in December Sky is overall stronger.
Needless to say, I feel that the sequel to the events of Gundam Thunderbolt is every bit as rich as the original, though in different ways. While Season 1 (and by extension, December Sky) was a savage and grueling endeavor and electrifying spectacle of sheer pain and misery for both sides involved, with the embodiment of this being the two ace pilots who were effective our main characters in the first season, season 2 is a more relaxed and humorous but still brutal spectacle of chaotic battles that ended in similar levels of sorrow for those we followed. Season 1 was a look into the sheer horrors of war and both the stakes people have put into the war with their personal lives, and just how far people are willing to go for the sake of winning a war. Meanwhile, Season 2 was a look into the consequences of such a war beyond it whilst looking into the various things that make people human. The fact that season 2 is only mildly less brutal and chaotic must be emphasized given the complaints of entertainment value being lost when the story takes itself too seriously, and that the story apparently was just boring exposition most of the time. Saying the former discredits Gundam Thunderbolt arguably even more than the second season, the primary target of these complaints, as season 1 took itself even more seriously as this unflinchingly brutal display of carnage and lights. Saying the latter is an exaggeration at best, as while the second season’s battles were not as beam and destruction-intensive and there is no raw rivalry, there was still a fair amount of fun, incredibly well-animated, and only mildly less flashy battles to be had. This isn’t entirely as strong as the first installment was, and it does leave with a lame cliffhanger, but it is most certainly a worthy successor to the original, especially this Bandit Flower compilation version. With that diatribe out of the way, the electrifying analysis begins now!
Humanization is defined as giving more human elements to something, usually in fiction. When used in regards to characters, it is often used to mean the idea of showing characters off as more human than simply a character that is written as a role in the narrative. Seeing realistic banter what they do in their free time beyond what is directly tied to the concept or narrative of the product in question, showing background characters doing minor yet real things, etc. Modern anime are occasionally criticised with not having much of any of this show off. Simply put, both Second Season and Bandit Flower have this in spades. In the events covering episode 5, we see two seemingly random soldiers exchange a quiet yet enthusiastic fist bump before flying into battle. In the events covering episode 6, we see Io and his new friend, Bianca, not only discuss Jazz, particularly in regards to famous Jazz artists and how the genre has evolved over time and what made it so special to begin with, but have a 96 second scene of them playing a favorite song of theirs. Said song brings back fun memories of the Thunderbolt Sector days back in the first season. We then see a soldier drinking and crying over the death of his six-month-old son whilst showing pictures of him to a comrade. He is one of the antagonists of this part of the story, as it is largely a battle between the Federation and members of a certain cult who salvages and reused uniforms and mecha of both sides of the One Year War of 0079. 10 minutes later, we see another enemy soldier move out, flicking a baseball player bobblehead he has stationed right beside him, only to later see an entire collection of them in his room at the end of the episode, or in this case, the events covering said episode.
Throughout the series, the banter between Io, Bianca, and Cornelius is shown to be charming and humorous. They act like real, sassy friends who have each other’s backs even with their misgivings with one-another, even discounting the fact that it is a given to survive in a situation such as war. The mildly agitated name-calling, the more friendly type of violence akin to lightly pounding bonking someone on the head with your fist or a plastic bottle or whatnot, and how open they are to each other about their hobbies and small requests. We did get to see the running gag of Io asking Cornelius for tissues back during Season 1 and December Sky, but the rest is completely new to this second season, particularly due to the inclusion of Bianca. It’s cute to see them warm up to each other so fast and get into long, passionate discussions about their favorite hobby in such a short amount of time, again, in the middle of what is effectively turning into a 3-way war.
Little touches like these add some minor depth to even the most insignificant of characters, making things feel more alive. They also freshen up the cast a bit more and make the time spent with them more fun as they know how to actually communicate like real people would rather than simply in a more constructed and narrative-continuing or character-justifying (the latter of which is never a good sign) type of way.
Referring back to the raw savagery that was the events of season 1, it was a standoff so devastating that major physical, mental, emotional, and even reputation-based consequences were inevitable to occur. When Karla had her mental breakdown towards the end of the time spent in the Thunderbolt Sector, it turns out that her mind regressed to that of a child as a result. Since Daryl’s mechanical hand resembles the mechanical hand of her father’s, he has to take care of her occasionally as a way of treating her mind so that it can become stable once again. During the Thunderbolt days, there was a mission where a bunch of teenage rookies was sent into battle to be mowed down viciously so that Io and others could break through into the Zeon ships. As a result, some of Io’s peers detest him. While he never has to confront them about it or even interact with them, it’s clearly something that will carry over to a possible third installment as they, over the course of the second installment, find themselves conflicted about him over time rather than simply resentful of him. Meanwhile, Daryl is considered a legend by some Zeon remnants for besting and capturing Io, including the Living Dead division. As a result, some members, specifically Billy Hackam, indirectly try to test him to see if he lives up to his reputation.
With everything having been said, it is only fitting that the main antagonist of this second installment is a cult wherein people sacrifice themselves for the same of a mission and one figurehead. This cult is known as the South Seas Alliance. Whereas episode 5 showed two kamikaze Zeon remnants cursing their superiors over the mission the more they thought of it, these cultists are more generally willing to sacrifice themselves. Clearly, some members were too scared to die, or at the very least, didn’t want to die until their contribution to the objective was fulfilled. However, there were plenty who actively suicide bombed themselves to distract the Federation or otherwise make way for their comrades. Not every member was entirely convinced, however, like Claudia, who felt entirely conflicted when Io tried and failed to get her out. The leader of the cult is a newtype named Levan Fuu, who was revealed to be a patient in a newtype facility created by an old lady who now runs the ship Io is working in. The awkward scene added in at the beginning was a younger Levan Fuu waking about the nature of sacrifice and humanity, whilst showing them with the necklaces we see in the show proper. This only makes him stronger of a character despite being such a non-presence until the very end as he is revealed. We already see what he has done, but to see that he developed this mentality due to his time in this facility helps make him more interesting, and made the idea of him becoming a real presence in a third installment all the more tantalizing. After all, he discovered what he believed people can do, and exploited that to turn his followers into mindless, self-sacrificing drones with no real interactions with each other whatsoever. How fitting that these nameless, hive-minded goons are mowed down by Io and Bianca, the diametric opposites of these people. How perfect that they were so easily scammed by one who claimed to be of their own. It's almost the perfect punishment for those who have sacrificed some of the most basic human qualities.
Gundam Thunderbolt Bandit Flower is very nearly the epitome of the human side of the Gundam franchise. While it may not hit as hard or be as brutal or tightly-constructed as the first season, what it conveys is equally interesting and it manages to continue to showcase some of the best audiovisuals in non-film anime. In many ways, Bandit Flower is the tragically underappreciated, definitive version of the content of the equally mistreated second season. With all that said, as always, I bid you adieu.
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower Review
Story (7/10) Good
More Specifically (7.50/10) Good+
In comparison to the episodic format previously release just like December Sky I feel that having all 4 ONA episodes combined into one movie makes it easier and understand and consume. Unless it's either been a while and I forgot or if they actually did I noticed a few additional scenes but not too many.
Art and Animation (10/10) Masterpiece
The animation and art-style of Gundam Thunderbolt never disappoints unique, rough and classic hand-drawn full as always.
Sound (8/10) Very Good
Nothing has really changed this time around that wasn't in the
ONA episodes the sound still very good and I guess some of the BGM didn't bother me as much this time around as it somewhat did when I watched and reviewed the ONAs even though it's the same.
Characters (8/10) Very Good
The Characters Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower are very good quite easy to follow everyone's motives and characterization. Although the Claudia stuff did get a bit confusing nothing else really stood out as a big issue. None of the characters had any mind-blowing character development or characterization to make it any high than an 8/10.
Enjoyment (8/10) Very Good
More Specifically (8.50/10) Very Good+
I enjoyed watching Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower a bit more than I did watching the ONAs because like I said before it feels it's easier to consume one movie with out the pauses of binge watching four episodes or in my case when the ONAs were airing waiting monthly for them.
Overall (8/10) Very Good
More Specifically (8.40/10) Very Good
Not much is needed to be said about Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower, although I wish Io and Daryl confronted each other that's what made Season 1 aka December Sky so amazing which was their climatic rivalry but oh well and the last about 20 minutes of the movie was a bit of a challenge to follow but not too bad either way if you were wonder if you should watch the ONAs or this movie choose this movie it's better don't believe the score on this MAL page for either this or December Sky in comparison to it's ONAs.
Plain horrible except for the art, and the gundam.
Unlike the prequel which at least had an interesting plot, this feels all over the place. They didn't even complete the whole plot cycle here. It sure feels like this movie is just an intermission to whatever movie that they have next in line. Few continuation to what happened previously in December Sky.. and that's it.
Even if they replaced the entire character with a totally different one, it wont really make that much of a difference to the story so yeah, it is that bad.
The only redemption this movie have is the fairly interesting
fight scene. The movie itself is an introduction to a different story. If you can wait for whatever's next, just wait.
(Note, I use series and movies almost interchangeably)
Nice animation and presentation
Has a cool fight scene
Doesn't ruin the first season
Literally everything else, so much so that I can't do it justice here so I will talk about my biggest concerns.
SPOILERS (You should only care if you haven't seen the first season/movie)
1. Builds up to nothing.
The entire first season built up to the fateful dual between EFSF pilot Io Fleming in his Full Armor Gundam and Zeon pilot Daryl Lorenz in the Psycho Zaku. From the first scene we know exactly where the story is headed, who the players are, and what's driving everything forward. But
this movie has no such drive. There was something about both the Federation and Zeon trying to get their hands on [SPOILERS] from a new faction called the South Seas Alliance but much of the movie doesn't seem to be pursuing that. Even the fight scene that was cool doesn't make sense given what the characters were after. But what really takes the cake is that the ending is not an ending, it is a prelude to another season/movie making this season utterly pointless for the time being.
Coming off of the small yet strong cast of season 1 we are given a set of bland characters who only look like people I cared about
Io is no longer crazy. That would not be a problem if they gave a reason for why he is a much better person now but there is none so now we have an ultimately bland protagonist who is nothing like the person from the first season. Even worse is that his soundtrack (Free Jazz) no longer holds the same meaning it did in season one, now Io just likes Jazz.
Daryl is equally boring because he has been stripped of all personality. He is no longer an idealistic dreamer patriot like in the first season. On a surface level this makes sense given what happened to him in season one except he is just so boring to watch here, he doesn't even voice up when his teammates are in trouble.
Bianca is cool.........I guess, except the most memorable thing she does is show the audience her ass one time, nothing else to say about her.
And there was also some newtype guy who had one funny line but that is all I can say about him
3. The Atlas Gundam
This is not the worst design for a mobile suit, but I still don't like it. The proportions are weird and it looks too round, plus at certain angles the face looks hilariously dumb. Part of what made the Full Armor Gundam from season one work so well was that its glare and sinister colors reflected Io's personality. The white color scheme of the Atlas Gundam could represent the fact that Io is a better person but since that is never explored the suit is meaningless. Also because this series is just a preview for the next one the Atlas Gundam doesn't even appear in the climax. I know this may sound a bit nitpicky to be talking about a design, but it goes to show how the symbolism was stripped from one season to this one.
There are characters that should not be alive. How they survived, you tell me, because the series will not. It also completely reverses one of the character's traits from the first season making them completely different.
5. Why does this exist?
Season 1 of thunderbolt was a perfectly self contained story that only required a little bit of knowledge of the political and technological landscape of the UC. It delivered its message withing the four episodes/ 80 minutes of the movie and did so with style. Honestly the biggest crime of this season is taking away the exceptional use of music from the first season which automatically takes away so much of Gundam Thunderbolt's style. This series is utterly pointless on its own and is not worth watching.
Just pretend this doesn't exist and enjoy the first season/movie to your heart's content.