(This review contains minor spoilers for the second season, along with spoilers from the first. Spoilers from the second season are rather minor details, so they will not affect your viewing of the show.)
The first season of “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” is, in my opinion, the defining Gundam entry for this generation. Many Gundam series attempt to convey the message of the brutality of war to its viewers. For an entire franchise centred around the idea of gigantic robots fighting one another, the Gundam series has always had some anti-war undertones amongst its exciting stories. That being said, the first season of “Thunderbolt” was no exception. It weaved a tale of pain, brutality, and tragedy unprecedented in any Gundam series before it. Not even the dark “Iron-Blooded Orphans,” a recent Gundam series about child soldiers, was close to demonstrating the dark nature of war and conflict like “Thunderbolt” was able to.
So how does the second season fare?
Thankfully, very well. “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt Season 2” (which I will call “Thunderbolt 2” for the duration of this review) is another look at the struggles of warfare.
In this season, both Io Flemming and Daryl Lorenz, the leads of their respective factions, are given further insight in regards to their lives after their fateful duel. Viewers are given a look as to the aftermath of the horrific events of the first season. Both of our heroes (or villains, depending on your outlook) have to come to terms with their losses incurred. For Io, it is the loss of Claudia, while for Daryl, it is the loss of Karla.
Of course, this season isn’t just about these two characters’ losses. Rather, it is the ongoing conflict between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. I have one complaint this season however, and that would be that there is an imbalance between the stories of both sides unlike the first season. To put it bluntly, the Earth Federation’s side of the story was far more interesting and exciting than that of Zeon. While this isn’t an issue in itself, I would have liked to have more of a balance between the two, as I felt at many times that the second season was more Earth Federation-centric than usual. The first season really gave us a chance to look at Zeon from a more human perspective, and while that still continues in the second season, I felt that it was rather dampened.
I won’t go into too much detail, but expect the show to begin introducing themes of religious extremism into the mix.
Yes, that’s right. While hints of a religious cult have always been in the shows, viewers are about to see their entry into the series.
“Thunderbolt” has some great animation.
The art style has a rugged look to it that fits with the style of the series. In addition, the fight sequences are well-choreographed and look like legitimate fights. Many Gundam series venture into the fantastical when it comes to combat, but the combat in “Thunderbolt” is realistic, brutal, and well-thought out. By the way, if you like GMs and other grunt units, this is going to be like heaven.
I'd also like to add that there is a jaw-dropping amount of details in regards to the mechanical aspects of the mobile suits. Take some time to pause every once in a while. You'll notice some insane amounts of detail.
Jazz has been a major component of the musical score in the first season of “Thunderbolt.” This continues in the second season as well. Some might disagree, but the dissonance between upbeat jazz music and the brutality of war depicted on screen is perhaps one of the best things to come out of this series.
The voice-acting is great. I’ve never been able to articulate my opinions adequately in regards to voice acting in general, but I will say that the voices behind Io and Bianca are outstanding.
For this section, I will be focusing only on Daryl (who I feel has had the worst characterization this season) and Bianca (a newcomer who I felt was a fantastic addition to the series).
Daryl Lorenz is my favorite character, but I felt that his story this season was severely underdeveloped. I am aware that strong character development should not be expected in a four episode net series, but this does not hide the fact that he had relatively little growth. Many may disagree, but it is my opinion that Daryl was somewhat inconsequential in this season, which is disappointing given his massive role in the first.
While there are many new characters in this entry, the most notable would be Bianca, who is a fellow Earth Federation pilot alongside Io Flemming. Her chemistry with Io Flemming is some of the best I’ve seen. Their combined love of jazz and their impressive piloting skills make them a fun pair to watch on and off the battlefield.
The rest of the characters are pretty great as well, but it was Daryl and Bianca that really shaped my score for this category.
This show is a blast to watch. There’s more intrigue and action than you can shake a manipulator at. The gritty and mature plot will certainly appeal to those looking for a darker version of this beloved franchise, while the excellent animation will definitely appeal to those simply wanting some mecha fighting action.