U.C. 0123. Mobile Suit Gundam F91 is Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino's attempt to launch a new Gundam saga, set thirty years after Char's Counterattack.
The story of Gundam F91 revolves around teenage space colonist Seabook Arno, his friend Cecily Fairchild, and the efforts of the Crossbone Vanguard militia, led by Cecily's grandfather Meitzer Ronah, to establish an aristocracy known as "Cosmo Babylonia".
In keeping with Gundam tradition, the civilian Seabook is forced by circumstance to pilot the F91 Gundam, coincidentally designed in part by his estranged mother, Dr. Monica Arno.
Nobody does an attack on a civilian population better than the Gundam franchise.
The opening to this movie blew me away. When a gigantic bullet casing, falling from a mecha's weapon, bounced off a lady's head on a street far below, causing her to fall over and die, I instantly gave this a 10.
This is the kind of movie I was hoping Char's Counterattack would be. A coherent and compelling movie charting everything we love about the Gundam franchise. The horror and tragedy of war, the visceral action and drama, the complexity and ambiguities of ideologies, mecha blowing shit up.
Char’s Counterattack had all
that, but to me felt like you were tuning into a movie midway through; you were thrown into a situation that you weren’t introduced to properly. It had too much plot machinations and not enough breathing space for characters, too many ideas and not enough execution. F91 however does it all correctly.
Yes, F91 is the outcome of a full TV series being cancelled midway through pre-production, and turned into a movie instead, but the movie does not reflect that at all. It does not feel incomplete or flawed beyond redemption, it actually feels like a prologue to an epic 50 episode saga, one that we won’t mind missing out on because there’s too many ways they can end up generic and tiresome, much like the Gundam show F91 is the continuation of: Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ.
The only negative thing I can say about this movie is that some of the scenes with the Crossbone Vanguard aristocracy are a bit too long and feel obligatory, but they’re still essential to understanding their motives, so they’re not a complete waste of time. Obviously there’s no villain on par with Char Aznable, but it would be too much to expect one.
Where this movie shines, and what we should focus on, is the attention to detail, like the aforementioned woman-killing gigantic bullet, the reimagining of the tropes of the genre that Mobile Suit Gundam introduced back in 1979, such as survivors of an attack forced to become soldiers, and the ambiguous motivations that spur men to want to kill millions of human beings for a greater good.
Another negative thing about F91 is the total rip-off of the Empire Strikes Back bad guys theme. I'm not a SW geek so I don’t know the actual title, but it’s probably 'Imperial March' or something.
But other than these small nitpicks (and the fact that the MSG Random Slap ratio is pretty damn low) it’s an awesome movie with brilliant animation that puts A LOT of today's anime to shame. And it hilariously keeps up another MSG tradition: stupid names for characters: Seabook.
It’s not the name of a prize-winning race horse. It’s our main hero.
Remember it. Remember F91, don’t let it get overshadowed by other Gundam shows, this one is an accomplishment.
Ever wonder what happens when a fifty-episode series gets condensed to under two hours? The answer to that lies within Mobile Suit Gundam F91 -- a textbook example of wasted potential. Though F91's core story is a solid idea that draws plenty of inspiration from its predecessors, without any flesh on its narrative bones, F91 is reduced to an inconsistent and and very much rushed tale. However, boasting its nostalgic story along with great animation, F91 is still worth a look by fans of the gundam franchise.
Due to disputes amongst the original production staff, this ill-fated chapter of the universal century gundam saga was cut
down in size in a rather extreme extent. F91 tells the tale of Seabook Arno and the crew of the Space Arc, a spaceship of civilians trying to escape the conflict between the Earth Federation and the Crossbone Vanguard, a faction led by the Ronah aristocratic family. As usual, the protagonist is forced into the cockpit of the gundam in amidst of the chaos and destruction on the civilian population and is bound there by his obligation to protect friends and family. While F91 certainly does not make new ground in the way of plot creativity, it does incorporate many of the key themes in the gundam franchise with great success. There are a number of solid lessons and morals to be learned in F91, and though there is very little originality amongst them, they provide the film with much-welcomed substance.
However, after the first third of the film, the plot begins to lurch forward erratically. Viewers are expected to connect the dots in places where considerable lines of narrative have been truncated. Names, faces, places, and political intrigue are constantly thrown at the viewer and are gone before the viewer gets a chance to absorb them. The end product manages to be more or less coherent, but much of the plot is lost and damaged due to the lack of elaboration. Needless to say, this does not make for good entertainment.
Fortunately, the production value of F91 is that of a feature film rather than a TV series. Like other Gundam OVAs and films of its era, the action looks great -- arguably superior to the modern TV productions. The new generation of mobile suits (three decades past the technology of Char's Counterattack) have a number of new tricks, which makes for eye candy that will please most mecha fans.The 1991 character designs also hold up well to the test of time, though looks alone would not be able to veil the considerable flaws in characterization. Though Seabook Arno is a mature and charismatic gundam protagonist, due to the limited runtime and the large cast, most key characters are not very well developed, hence some of their actions they take seem incomprehensible. Thankfully, none of the characters manage to be obnoxious and repulsive. F91 is accompanied by a mediocre musical score that is sparingly used, though viewers will find a great theme song and plenty of classic sci-fi sound effects, for better or for worse.
There's a great story in F91 dying to get out -- a story forever lost to the squabbles of yesteryear. Chances are, if you're a gundam fan, you will leave Mobile Suit Gundam F91 satisfied to some degree under the laments of disappointment over its lost potential. If you are new to the gundam franchise, there are much better choices than F91 for your entry point into the metaseries. And if you're not a fan of gundam or mecha in general, F91 is not going to convince you otherwise.
- Great animation
- Gundam veterans will be able to appreciate the remains of the amputated plot
Potential is something that can be rather frustrating or even tragic when unfulfilled, depending on the circumstances. If nothing went wrong in terms of production and the product simply wastes its potential on bad writing, it can be rather irritating. For better or for worse, Gundam F91, Yoshiyuki Tomino’s attempt at creating a new UC Gundam saga, is certainly the latter. It's like a rising college football player dying of CTE; tragic, as the victim was unable to tap into its potential for reasons far beyond its control. What was planned as a full 52 episode series reduced to a mere 13,
and those 13 being gutted to create a film that was clearly not meant to be one. It's ultimately not the movie's fault that it's bad, it was never meant to be one in the first place until executive meddling damned this project. As we lay this tragic figure to rest, I can hear you ask: “what happened to it in its life that made it lose all the potential it had?” Well, as we look back at what happened to it, let's find out, shall we?
You know, anime like this are a testament to the importance of pacing. Since the events of this movie were originally meant to be 13 episodes, it only makes sense that a lot of information and character/world-building would be taken out. Unfortunately, this is of huge detriment to the movie. I mean, starting your saga almost verbatim like the original and having other important similarities is already not much of a good thing, but when character progressions/decisions and deaths are unexplained or not explained well at all, that's when we have a problem. There are multiple emotional scenes in this movie such as the initial attack on the main cast’s homeland, the death of Seabook’s dad, and the reunion of Seabook and his mom, all of which don't leave nearly as much of an impact because the bad pacing didn't allow us to establish anything properly, giving us little time or reason to care before tragedy or even tear-inducing happiness strikes.
There are other problems, some of which also involve cutting. The subplot about Cecily’s earrings goes absolutely nowhere since I think it probably would've become more important later on if this were to have been the 4-cour series this was meant to be, at one point, they cut from the middle of a major battle to a scene way later where Seabook snuck out on his own (how and when did he do that, and where is the city he want back to in relation to the base he and his friends are at?) which raises a ton of problems, even aside from the ones above, since it's probably the worst and most unnecessary cut yet. There is no reason we couldn't have seen Seabook’s first major battle in full since it probably would've only lasted a few more minutes. Did they really need this movie to not go past the two hour mark? If so, there were probably other ways to trim the movie down a bit more. The finale is ok and probably the most interesting part of this movie, but the ride to get there got gutted badly. Regardless, we’re not getting a more fleshed out retelling of this (or the rest of what Tomino wanted this to originally be), and that saddens me because this movie really needed to be the way it was intended for it to actually be good.
As mentioned previously, part of the reason the characters aren't very good is that the pacing doesn't allow us to really get invested in them whatsoever, sullying a lot of the emotional impact behind the drama they face. When the introduction is a bunch of our protagonists bickering at each other, it's hard to really feel a sting when their homeland gets attacked, and when some of them die, not only is it not that impactful since we hardly get to establish a connection with these people before the attack that happens 5 minutes into the movie, but some of these guys we don't see until sometime into the attack, mere minutes before their death. The main villain is a typical royal imperial who doesn't remove his mask or have much of a personality, and the grandfather is only there for a few brief moments and is just a father who has to put on the royal guise of the Rohan family, but there’s hardly much to them. Like with the protagonists I’ll be mentioning, if they allowed this to be as it was intended, we probably could've fleshed them out a bit more to make them more interesting.
Seabook is basically another Amuro Ray in practically every sense of the word, including the fact that a parent of his left to work on the Gundam he would end up piloting by chance. Hell, his mom just appears in the movie with no introduction and then they bond but thanks to the aforementioned issues, it doesn't sell as well as it should. His sister is initially very perceptive of her mom’s true feelings and self for her age but then when she actually meets her she acts like her mom is not a good person, which is rather inconsistent. It's not like the former is realistic for a child but then to switch to the latter for no apparent reason other than their dad dying while escorting Seabook, is really jarring. Cecily is a princess character who hangs out with and sympathizes with the common people, enough so that she initially forsook the throne like her mother did and then did so again just to be with her friends after realizing that the Rohans are just as bad as ever. At least it's a fresh spin on a trope that would be as tired as a sloth. No other character is with really bringing up however, like the typical arrogant prince character, a girl who only switches to the good guy side because her master took interest in Cecily (why she has disdain for her, we'll never know), and her master who has a grudge against the Rohans and let's the good guys go in the end. I don't need to reiterate the potential lost for character building, do I? No? Ok, moving on.
Studio Sunrise did an amazing job with the animation for this movie. The character designs look pretty appealing, the mech shading is great, and the action and animation is all very fluid and simply a wonder to look at. The sheer detail and fluidity is something to grasp at and all of this simply executed the best of what 90’s animation had to offer, even though it came out very early into that decade, and it looks even better than Char’s Counterattack, which already had some of the best-looking and most fluidly animated visuals of the 80’s. The mech designs look great as well, especially the F91 and the Vigna Gina (what a laughable name by the way). Even with everything bad I've said about this film, at least it was able to look so gorgeous that to this day, it is still a top contender for the title of most well-animated Gundam anime.
For most part, the OST isn't that memorable, but at least the tracks here sound actively cinematic, unlike all of the tracks on Char’s Counterattack. The main track of note is “Eternal Wind” by Hiroko Moriguchi, which wants also the ED theme. It's a peaceful yet somewhat emotional track, though I do find it a bit odd that it sounds like it was recorded live instead of how songs usually sound in all non-live venues. Regardless, this is a decent OST for the movie.
Bad pacing and cutting aside, this film feels rather milquetoast, minus the emotional scenes that invariably fail to strike a chord with me. The action was somewhat entertaining and well animated, and it was pretty cool to see all of the new developments in technology since the events of CCA (I especially love the laser flag) but overall, my experience felt rather meh, not even in a borderline zen way but like when you watch a show with your kids and feel nothing other than just “well this is a thing I'm watching”. The fact that I have no real emotion at all during the film barring certain minor points really sells how ineffectual this film really is.
OVERALL: 5/10 RAW SCORE: 53/100
This movie feels like the first special edition recap to a series we were robbed of. It's a real shame since this was supposed to be a grand and involved jumpstart of a new saga in the Universal Century timeline. We all know the story now, and I think it's really sad what happened here. Now, all we're left with is this unfortunately mediocre movie, regardless of how visually stunning it is. Well, with all that said, I think it's time to bury this one and pray for a revival or the long awaited adaptation of Crossbone. I bid you adieu.
A new group, the Crossbones Vanguard conquer the Frontier IV colony in a surprise attack after years of peace. Caught in the crossfire is college student Seabook Arno, who sees many of his friends killed during the skirmish and discovers that his girlfriend Cecily Fairchild is actually Berah Ronah - heir to the Ronah family clan and the Crossones Vanguard. He then finds out that his mother is alive and has been working on a new mobile suit codenamed "Gundam Formula-91". Seabook reluctantly pilots the Gundam at first, but slowly discovers the Newtype abilities within him and uses them and the Gundam to
turn the tide of the war.
To be fair this was a lot of character development to try to squeeze into a movie and it isn't very well executed. Plot holes with Cecily's father abound, not to mention that most normal people wouldn't be able to "buy" the love story between Cecily and Seabook. Seabook is likeable but Cecily is a bit of a mess mentally and emotionally, having come from a very messed-up family.
Overall there was a good story but the characters weren't developed very well and this could have been executed so much better than what was presented. I keep wondering how much better this could have been if it had just been expanded to a 10 or 12 episode series - there was certainly enough meat in the story to justify it.
Art/Animation and Sound
Very old and dated. Didn't detract much from enjoyment of the story - the problems were inherently in character development, not in the animation and sound.
I felt a little let down by this. The premise and set up were good, there was a lot of conflict built into both lead character's histories, which was fully exploited but didn't have as much emotional impact as expected because both lead characters just didn't "click" with each other the way you expect romantic leads to click.
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