What was the tragedy that decided the fates of Char Aznable, the man later nicknamed the "Red Comet" as an ace pilot of the Zeon forces, and his sister Sayla Mass?
The two siblings' journeys, brought on by the sudden death of their father Zeon Zum Deikun who was a leader of the Spacenoids, are depicted in the four episodes of "Chronicle of Char and Sayla."
The Zabi family who seize control of Side 3 and lead the Principality of Zeon, the early days of many renowned Zeon ace pilots who later fight in the One Year War, the secrets of mobile suit development, conflicts with the Earth Federation Forces, and the road leading to the outbreak of war—all will be revealed.
(Source: Official Website)
Note: A re-edited TV version of the six OVAs released from 2015 through 2018.
#1: "Sora no Uta: Higher and Higher (宇宙の詩 〜Higher and Higher〜; Space Song: Higher and Higher)" by LUNA SEA (eps 1-4) #2: "Hisoubi (悲壮美; Tragic Beauty)" by LUNA SEA (eps 5-8) #3: "Beyond the Time: Möbius no Sora wo Koete (BEYOND THE TIME ～メビウスの宇宙を越えて～; Beyond the Time: Beyond the Möbius Universe)" by LUNA SEA (eps 9-13)
#1: "Meguriai (めぐりあい; Encounter)" by SUGIZO feat. GLIM SPANKY (eps 1-4) #2: "Mizu no Hoshi e Ai wo Komete (水の星へ愛をこめて; From the Aqueous Star with Love)" by SUGIZO feat. Komai (eps 5-8) #3: "A Red Ray" by SUGIZO feat. miwa (eps 9-12) #4: "Hikari no Hate (光の涯)" by SUGIZO feat. Aina The End (BiSH) (ep 13)
Real quick, the Gundam: The Origin anime is the best supplement to the original series. Period. Now, there are three ways to consume it! First is the Origin manga which retells the entire original Gundam story with additional backstory, and over the last few years the additional backstory has been adapted into a series of 6 OVA movies. This year, in true budget fashion, the OVA has been recut into a 13 episode series with minimal new content produced. The TV version, Advent of the Red Comet, is one of the best seasonal anime I've seen this year. The crisp animation and story make it
worth watching for any UC Gundam fan, and the shorter run time of the TV version may make it a more appealing option than the OVAs.
The animation in this series is literally movie quality. Sunrise dumped a lot of money into the animation because they knew UC fans would eat it up and buy the model kits (They were right). The line work on all of the characters is sharp and consistent, and adeptly adapts Yasuhiko-sensei's art style. There are a wide variety of backgrounds, all of which are vivid and detailed. All of the mobile suits are done up in conspicuous CG which looks fantastic. It lends these classic MS designs a sense of fierceness and rigidity that could only be inferred due to the soft, bubbly animation of the original anime. The colors used in the animation are somewhat drab, which also keeps The Origin from looking as candy coated as some of the original.
The soundtrack is every bit as grand as the scale of the One Year War. The crisp orchestration expertly conveys the tone of each scene, with infrequent guitars and synthesizers to spice things up. The opening and ending songs added to the TV version are hit or miss for me, some of them put me to sleep but a few left a good impression. I was especially taken with the first ending theme and its powerful refrain, as well as the final opening theme which is a remake of the classic Gundam song "Beyond the Time." I don't think I'll be defaulting to this new version any time soon, but I appreciate that they did remake it to include in this release.
According to Gundam Wiki, The Origin anime adapts volumes 5 to 7 of the manga, with Yasuhiko-sensei on board as the writer to aid in adapting his pages to the screen. It fleshes out the backstory of the One Year War, several characters from the original series, and most of all Char. We see Char's development from childhood all the way to the beginning of the original Gundam series. I think The Origin honestly does a pretty believable job setting up his character for the most part, but some plot points are needlessly contrived or depict Char doing extravagantly badass things just because he's Char. However, that did not hinder my enjoyment of it, and I still think this serves as a fine backstory even though it was not written by series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino himself.
Compared to the OVAs, Advent of the Red Comet is a much quicker watch. There are almost 100 minutes of footage from the OVA that have been omitted from the TV version. Add on the fact that the OVA has viewers sit through a cumulative 30 minutes of recaps, and the TV version saves a pretty significant amount of time. The team that recut the OVA did well picking what to omit, because you still receive the entire main plot. The OVAs go out of their way to show tons of little details and character interactions which nearly amount to fan service, so you will miss out on some things watching this version. Being that it follows the main character growing up over so few episodes, the story pace is fairly unique for a TV anime. Finally, the new opening and ending sequences are all nice to look at, with the final opening standing out in my mind as far better than the rest.
So who should watch Gundam: The Origin - Advent of the Red Comet? I can safely recommend this to any fans of the original Gundam anime or the UC timeline. I might even go so far as to suggest it as an entry point into the franchise to be followed by the original, because the OVA version is loaded with extras that can't be as fully appreciated without seeing the older series first. If you happen to watch this before the original Gundam then reach out and let me know; I would be very curious what the experience is like.
*Spoilers ahead. TL;DR with the bottom two paragraphs*
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is one of my favorite anime of the decade. It is a prequel done exceptionally well, and it is easily one of the best installments in the franchise. While it did have some stumbles, its growth as an OVA series over the course of its three-year run is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had with an anime in years. It is one of the most compelling space operas and political anime I’ve seen, and it exemplifies a sense of wonder and charm that few in this franchise can match. As such,
you can imagine my worry when this adaptation was expecting a TV re-edit. I knew that no matter what, it would still be a good show and perhaps a more accessible way for certain fans to get into the series, but I also expected it to hinder the material with unfortunate removals and jarring edits. That's exactly what happened and then some, though that isn't enough to make this a bad series.
This is going to be a more critical look at how this TV version handles the material, rather than a review of everything we were presented, as I already did that with the review of the OVA which ended last year. As such, this review may sound more negative than the score would imply. The core narrative and feel of Gundam Origin is stellar enough that a good adaptation of such material almost inherently warrants a high rating. It's just that Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin - Advent of the Red Comet provides several inconveniences and removals that make this supposedly more accessible rendition serviceable at best.
The first problem this series has is its pacing and how the OVAs and by extension, the manga, were not designed with TV pacing in mind. This is most noticeable in how episodes end, often resulting in cliffhangers that feel limp instead of enticing, as these endings are generally abrupt, resulting in no fanfare or impact. The pacing also highlights how disconnected certain scenes tend to be. Some of it comes down to simple removals and awkward edits like when a scene in episode 5 goes from Char laughing when Garma tries to befriend him to an explosive mock battle that comes out of nowhere. Other instances are simply due to how rushed the pacing of some of the weaker episodes of the OVA --namely 1 and 4-- were. Truncating that even further makes the first and fifth episodes of this TV version feel like a series of disconnected scenes happening in rapid succession. Each episode of the OVA had a natural and visible through-line to them, and it sometimes took a while for them to reach their strides. Even when the pacing felt abrupt, it somehow still felt deliberate. It no longer feels deliberate when the true Char Aznable that our protagonist eventually takes the identity of only gets three scenes in episode 4, has an important scene demonstrating the rift between him and his family get cut down heavily, and then dies at the end of that same episode as opposed to having more of a presence in the second OVA episode before dying in the third. It also doesn’t feel deliberate when they further truncate the most rushed plot point in all of Gundam Origin, that being the relationship between Dozle and Zenna from the military academy.
Noticeable cuts include the removal of Amuro’s interaction with his father and some interactions with Frau Bow. However, the one I’m going to be focusing on as it’s one of the more detrimental alterations is the removal of how Astraea's house arrest was partially motivated by the house owner's jealousy. We know it was mainly done under Zabi orders but removing this detail while keeping the scene in instead of just altering it to make it solely an act made by the Zabis feels wrong. This makes it so the scene of the owner of the house bitterly reminding Astraea of how her husband sometimes used these chambers for his influential thought feel needless. Knowing where Zeon Zum Daikun, Char's father, sometimes thought of his speeches wasn't the important part. What was important was highlighting how Astraea was never an intellectual partner for him and what that meant for both her and the owner who resented her. Chalk this one up to a nitpick but it's omissions like this and the aforementioned scenes with the original Char that cause the characters to lose some of their vibrancy when the cast of characters was perhaps the most defining aspect of Gundam Origin. The main cast is largely as wonderful as ever but a lot of the side characters a tad hung to dry this time around. It isn't as egregious as the general pacing and scene sequence issues, but it emphasizes how this version is about rushing to get to the meat of the story regardless of how tactlessly it may do so. Then again, at least it didn’t play a scene twice halfway into episode 3 like Unicorn Re:0096 did when the people involved thought keeping both the end of the first OVA episode and the beginning of the second one was a good idea.
The only things left to cover are the opening and ending themes, as well as a few thoughts regarding the audiovisuals in general. The OVA boasts a fair amount of terrible environmental CGI, so the removal of several scenes for the TV version means the removal of some of said CGI. The rest of the CGI outside of the first episode still ranges from good to downright stellar, with the mechs being particularly great in several instances. The direction is mostly kept intact and along with the crisp animation and expressive character designs, it leaves the series looking gorgeous. The dub retains the same level of quality as the dub of the OVA, so much so that they may have just been ripped straight from that. If not, then the rerecording must have been impressive.
The music is still well-composed, with a few particularly incredible tracks such as the main theme of the OVA and the remix that plays when Char launches into the battle of Loum later into the series. The OPs performed by LUNA SEA are generally good, although visually the first two are nothing more than spoiler-filled montages. The first OP, “Higher and Higher” is easily my least favorite, though things only pick up with the more inspiring second OP, “Hisoubi”, which sports the feeling of a folk tale. The final OP, which is a cover of “Beyond the Time” from the film Char’s Counterattack, is my favorite opening of the year, with a sense of pride and finality matched only by the visuals, which present the current state of affairs with incredible transitions before whisking us away to the original Mobile Suit Gundam from 1979 and returning to the events of this TV edit from 2019. I can’t even begin to do justice to how much this works at celebrating 40 years of Gundam far more than the show itself does. As for the ED themes, almost none of them are particularly worth mentioning in my eyes aside from the colorful visuals in the second ED, as I don’t particularly care for the first two and I only find the third one to be a decent song. The only one I genuinely like is the ED that plays in the final episode, that being a somber song known as “Hikari no Hate” by SUGIZO by Aina The End (BiSH). The final OP and the later EDs provide the only bits of genuinely new content in this show, though since you can simply look them up elsewhere, they don’t necessarily provide much of any real advantage for this version of the series.
I won’t lie when I say I am disappointed with this TV re-edit. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, especially given how spectacular Gundam Origin tends to be. However, there were times where I was actively bored or annoyed by the handling of certain episodes, which was never the case with the OVA. I expected some of the pacing and editing issues presented here considering they needed to adapt from a more theatrical OVA format to a more controlled and limiting television format. However, even considering that, sometimes this show failed to properly do even that material justice, like with the first and fifth episodes. Certain characters feel particularly left out to dry compared to previous iterations of this story, and the pacing occasionally leaves the show feeling like a series of disconnected sequences. Often times, episodes end without the final scene having any impact or even feeling like a proper conclusion to an episode. It’s even worse when said episodes include a scene that feels like the proper end to an episode occurs long before the actual end, and they work much better than the limp cliffhangers and conclusions the show gives us. On top of that, most of the faster-paced moments and certain plot points that already felt rushed were condensed even further. It leaves the pacing feeling a lot more awkward and disjointed than before. I see no benefit to separating the contents of the episodes in and of itself, but the way they truncated and edited them only puts this version at a further disadvantage.
Some may consider most of these nitpicks, but even then, these issues snowball into a substantially inferior experience. Some may not even notice these faults, however, especially if they haven’t seen the OVA or read the manga. Hell, some may even prefer the more truncated version as it allows for binging or digesting the material at a slower pace of 22 minutes a day compared to 55-95 minutes a day or what have you. It’s their choice, honestly. Even a mediocre retelling of wonderful material still leads to a good show. As for me, I’ll stick to the OVA and begin wondering if manga fans had similar feelings regarding it to what I felt here.
Written and Edited by: CodeBlazeFate
Proofread by: Peregrine
**Warning: contains spoiler** (More so if you are unfamiliar with the UC Gundam stories.)
Mobile Suites Gundam: The Origin is first and foremost a powerful human story. It is also a war and politics epic. Of course, at the same time, it is a gundam show.
Char Aznable is a rich character. And Gundam: The Origin shows why. The Origin follows the trajectory of Char's life from his early youth to the establishment of his fame as the ace pilot of Zeon. Along that trajectory, Char's life started in one of the most privileged families, then thrown by external forces to the worst bottom, and later climbed
back to moments of glory. In his childhood, Char saw his father murdered and had his family torn apart in midst of political intrigues. He had to fend off assassination attempts while in exile. Nevertheless, he grew up intelligent, strong, sensitive, but also bearing a sense of deep hatred. My English is not sufficient to depict the heart-wrenching and absorbing stories of Char's early life. But Gundam: The Origin is.
Gundam: The Origin takes the care to develop the personalities and growths of Char with as much care in moments of thrill as in mundane details -- how he consoles his sister Artesia upon the news of their father's death when he was barely elder; how he stays firm at the last sight of their mother, when he understood it was the last sight; how he became aggressive with a spy upon hearing his mother's death. Those moments make you relate and root for Char. And the experience is enhanced by solid voice casting. In that moment Char is angry with a spy, his voice is angry. In the moments Char is calm but also cold, his voice is gentle but aloof and also masculine.
Char is not the only one The Origin excels at depicting and voice casting. Dozle and the Black-Tri sound like the muscular men they are on screen with their coarse voice and swift intonation. Artesia's voice cast has a nice gradient of pitch change -- from childish to mature -- as she grew more confident and independent in the series. The Origin offers a cast of characters each with their convictions and vices, virtues and flaws. For example, the monologue of Dozle vowing to protect his wife Zenna, while seemingly lacking in intellectualism in his choice of words, strikes at the core of wars in metaphoric terms. I enjoyed how Kycilia is shown to have conflicting traits -- honorable at times, cruel and bloody at times; ruthless and efficient at times, soft and gentle at times. The Origin (and to an extent the original '79 Gundam series) does not shy away from having characters who are conflicted internally -- just as how in real life humans are. The Origin also does not shy away from showing nuances in politics: from Gilren's zeal to Degwin's moderation, from riots on the street level to backroom negotiations. From yet a different perspective, in anime terms, Char is shown to be extraordinarily talented yet he does not come off feeling OP in a contrived way. That showcases the strength of the series.
With strengths come relative weaknesses. The character pool of Gundam: The Origin is on the bloated side. Its ties to the seminal Mobile Suite Gundam in 79' blesses The Origin with an abundance of attention, and with it funding and production quality, but also curses it with unique restrictions. The Origin has to make connections to all major characters in the 79's Mobile Suite Gundam. The characters on the Federation side, however, are less connected to Char's early life. They are thus spared less time to develop, which only adds to the feel of disjointedness. The flaws in the 79's original haunt The Origin. The group of civilians fighting as well as professionals left so big of a plot hole that only proper developments for all of them can do justice. The same can be said of Ramba Ral and Black Tri-star on the Zeon side who in the original were only 2-dimensional mini-bosses for Amuro Ray to practice on. I love what is done. Still, with 13 episodes, The Origin does not have the time to develop them all. And if it did, the disconnect can still remain an issue. Having said all the above, it is a paragraph of equal length to critique the weakness in characters of The Origin as to praise its strength. In actuality, the strengths easily eclipse the weaknesses.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the gundam. Gundam: The Origin is somewhat focused on mechas just like the other gundam series. That is not a vice to me. I think it is ok to assume and accept some elements of fantasy as long as the fictional universe comes with a rule set: in which fantasy elements blend with real world physics and social interactions to create something believable. So I have criticisms in that regard. Since war and mecha make a focal topic, quality and precision is called for. Impractical as they are, I can ignore the (lack of) rationale on having arms, legs, sensors in a "head", etc on mobile suits. I can ignore the impracticality of directed energy weapons against armored targets (along with their inexplicable colors). I still need other believable elements of warfare in order to not laugh at what is supposed to be a politics and war epic. In other words, realism inspires immersion. There needs to be enough realism to support immersion. In some places, Gundam took particular care with realism in combat and succeeded. In others, not so much. For example, I appreciate the depiction of spaceship turret mechanisms and ammo racks based on battleships of WWII -- it later helped to explain why Char is able to take out warships quickly with precision shots. I appreciate the depiction on battle formation -- although scant, recon rotation, the effects of Minkowski particles -- although also scant, the normal suites, the actions of the auxiliary thrusters, etc. They all played a role in building up the intensity of battles and the sense of realism in operating in space, which is a theme of the series. Nevertheless, certain things are wrong: spaceships do not sink; there is no deflection shooting in space; HEAT warheads need to raise elevation in flight and then drop on to MBTs in order to kill them; accelerating with Zaku does not create airflow in the cockpit; particle cannons do not have recoils; Ortega's Zaku flies backward relative to thruster direction when killing Revil's flagship; etc. Most disappointing though is the way the revolutionary strengths of Zaku is foreshadowed. And that's done by one thing only: [pointing to guncannon, Tem Ray shakingly said] this is not the Mobile Suits of Dr Minkowski! "Boss A is super strong. Because A is 10x stronger than B!" Why? No why. How? No how. So there we are back to kindergarten. _Not_ the politics and war epic we can immerse in.
The real underlying reason is, supposedly, Zaku's Minovsky reactor has much higher output -- both in energy and in the quantities of Minovsky particles produced. (The series should clarify this for itself -- not through me.) The thrusters of mobile suits are supposed to use Minkowsky particles. Hence the enhanced mobility. Minovsky particles absorb/deflect radar and other electromagnetic waves. Thus guided weapons are useless in battles of the Gundam world. That explains the kind of warfare we see in Battle of Loum. Shying away from technical details creates serious plot holes. The Origin did spend time on technical aspects of warfare. It just all went to Tem Ray mumbling nothingness. So that is a failure of the series. Also, even after excusing the omission on Minovsky particles, it is not excusable how imprecise AA fires are without explanations and how fighters of the Federation fleet seemed to have done nothing. They resemble plot armor too much and thus hurt immersion. For full disclosure, actions of Federation fighters are cut away in the TV series from the original OVA series.
That brings to the next topic, which is editing. My above complaint with fighter scenes, among with a rare few others, are the only issues with the TV cut. In all other places, the TV cut adds to the fluidity of the series. For example, while Garma can certainly be meek, insecure and driven by emotions at times. He nevertheless was able to follow Char in military academy exams. Garma is shown by the series to have true abilities and he works hard for it. I am glad the TV version cut away the numerous flicking hair scenes of Garma. Being superficial and infantile to such an extent would undermine the narrative with Garma. So the TV version did away with them. Along with other edits, the cuts propelled the series to a different level.
A quick note on sound. I watched the series through Crunchyroll. And boi that site sucks in so many ways. (I pay a yearly subscription so I have the right to complain.) It completely butchers the audio track. For example, remember episode 10 when Char heads out with his Zaku? (Ignore his waving clothes, ofc. That's silly.) The drum beat sounds like a toddler's murmur with the Crunchyroll version. If you just came from Crunchyroll, you probably didn't know there are drum beats. With that in mind, I have found the BGM in Gundam: The Origin mediocre. By all means, I have no quarrel with Takayuki Hattori's compositions. To the contrary, I revere him as a composer. I particularly enjoy the use of brass in the series' compositions. Brass, along with other orchestral instruments, sound.. a bit old... but in a good way that adds to the feel of politics and war epic and it feels like a nod to the series' long and lasting history. What I do have complain with is that the soundtracks do not seem to organically interact with the scenes much. Without access to the alternative, I am really not sure if Crunchyroll is the only one to blame.
All in all, I loved the series. I loved the human stories. I enjoyed the sense of scale. I liked the subtleties that the series did not shy away from depicting -- be it in personalities, in politics or in warfare. Although it being a war focused series, I do wish for more attention to details in combat and warfare. If only The Origin can continue into an alternate version of the original Mobile Suit Gundam in '79.
To Gundam haters: this series is worth your time. With a bit of open mind and willingness judge a series by its content, you won't find the feature of mechas a burden. To Gundam fans: re-joice, Gundam: The Origin is a treat. More likely than not you will find it the best Gundam series -- and I say that with classics like 08th in mind. Gundam: The Origin brings new depths to the whole UC universe. Enjoy the show.