May 22, 2018
CodeBlazeFate (All reviews)
In the hellfires of the battlefield, people are predestined to die. The tragedy of this reality doesn’t impact the dead, or usually even the survivors, but instead, the families of those who lost their lives. Seeing war firsthand can be as traumatizing as losing someone in it. In fiction, we often take for granted the sheer levels of brutality on display in shows like this, as we relish in the spectacle of the fights and the possible charm of the combatants, at least until one we care about dies. Gundam has nearly always embodied this as a franchise, but nowhere has the franchise been more poignant in regards to this than in 0080, where the effects are at its most tangible.

Putting this into perspective, there have since been anime that showcase scenes of soldiers scrambling in terror in vain attempts at survival, soul-crushing amputations and deaths, and the most heart-breaking rendition of the infamous colony drop from the One-Year War. For 0080 to be more emotionally resonant than this is a testament to this show’s quality, as two decades later it stands the test of time. There are a myriad of reasons as to why, but the most important is that it feels so real. Its characters are so lifelike that you can’t help but get attached. It makes a far greater case for getting attached to each of the people involved in 6 episodes than most other installments do in 4 or 8 times that amount.

It is very apparent that the those involved -particularly screenplay writer Hiroyuki Yamaga- truly understand people. Only with such understanding can such realistic portrayals be crafted. Most immediately, Alfred Izuruha, the protagonist of this harrowing tale, stands out as a wonderfully real depiction of a child in his elementary school days. Him and the other kids bickering about things only children would constantly tease and fight over, and succumbing to propaganda as they demonize one side and apotheosize the other. Just like a myriad of other children, he gets into trouble about homework and test scores, and he plays video games whenever he sees fit. My, what simpler times, but a child has to grow up someday. An integral part of growth is having to see the world for its darkest aspects. What more horrifying way to do that than to become part of an operation and witness the carnage firsthand? Seeing him change and mature due to interactions with those around him in this war is heart-wrenching, especially towards the end after a painful reminder that even with his growth, he is still a child, and therefore, will react like one in the face of lies and destruction.

The people he interacts with are exactly as stated: people. Bernard -Bernie, if you will- stands out especially as the most complicated person of the lot. A beleaguered Zeon rookie stuck playing the role of a brother to Alfred as they are swept up in an operation of war. Seeing the two bond as brothers -as false as the relationship is- is nothing short of heartwarming. The relationship the two have with nextdoor neighbor, Federation member, and sweetheart Christina is as classically real as it gets, most especially on Bernie’s end. This makes the reality of the situation all the more soul-rending, as the dramatic irony obliterates us as we brace for the impact of whenever these three cross pass...only for it to go in a more more poignant and real way than anticipated. The finale for these three is honestly beautiful, mournful as well, but above all else, it is peaceful.

The other Zeon soldiers the two boys are tied to are entertaining as well. We get to know little about them, but each have a moment in the spotlight, such as Ramirez’s concern for those who he outranks, to Steiner sitting on a bench with a friend, discussing the finality and futility of their situation. We feel more for the deaths of some of these men than we do for several of the caricatures that infest a myriad of lesser installments. The profound effect they have on Alfred is the most beautiful part about these endearing soldiers in this tragedy of war. The brutal manner their operation plays out is bone-chilling, and the aftereffects are soul-crushing in magnificent ways.

There are of course, oversights and conveniences for the sake of creating or escaping drama, as rare as they are. However, they detract little from the beauty and craft at work, both in writing and creating these people, and displaying the carnage in beautifully dreadful detail. The music that plays compliments the situations, and the ending theme deals the final blow to the fragile heart in its final rendition. The devastation feels so real...and yet, it feels so wonderful.