Jul 20, 2018
CodeBlazeFate (All reviews)
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is an ode to excellence, an art habitually outdoing itself. It is the epitome of what Gundam is and was, and is the type of work only a master can craft. Origin is cinematic brilliance, and one of the finest in modern manga adapting and modern anime storytelling. As such, it is as charming and emotionally evocative as the franchise has ever been, continually asserting itself among the best animated series this decade has to offer.

It would be unwise to herald such a title as absolute perfection; there are blemishes in this magnificent work of art. The questionable overreliance on 3D CGI can be off-putting when non-mechanical objects rendered in such a style look worse than Dozle in a car accident. Additionally, the film series stumbles choppily at first before truly hitting its monumental stride. Some of the ending themes are forgettable and the music takes a while to truly match the scale and magnificence of the series proper. Certain moments regarding character relationships can feel rushed as well. However, in the face of an 18-meter behemoth of passion and glory, these issues the size of a small dent. They exist yet mean little; mere bumps and scratches in the left calf of a machine painted, oiled, and buffed with the utmost care.

The character designs by legendary Gundam veteran and original mangaka Yoshikazu Yasuhiko are absolutely perfect, perfect updates on both the iconic designs of yore and the art redesigns of the manga. The expressions are the liveliest in the entire franchise, striking the perfect balance between character detail and freedom of animation of the models. As for the mechanical designs of the pre-0079 era, they work exquisitely as the prototypes and predecessors of what would become the norm of the One-Year War. The CGI work for these mechs, in particular, is nothing short of commendable, as the clunky experimental designs of the iconic mobile workers --prototypes to the iconic mobile suits-- are capitalized on tremendously. The directing of the action sequences --courtesy of franchise veterans Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Takashi Imanishi-- is exquisite, most especially in regards to the iconic Custom Red Zaku II Char pilots. One need look no further than the spectacular opening scene in episode 1 or the battle in episode 6 to know exactly how kinetic and monumental these skirmishes are. The smoke effects work wonderfully as well, particularly in regards to the purple smoke and explosions of Federation ships and student artillery. Dare I say, if the CGI were present in the mechanical models exclusively, this would be Gundam’s visual magnum opus! It already achieves such marks from a directorial standpoint.

Even more care was taken to make sure that each development of the characters, narrative, and technology, kept the integrity of the original series intact. Char’s vengefulness was built up perfectly and shown to be as innate to him as humanly possible. Seeing him in a position of power is an absolute treat, whether it be him taking down a Guntank single-handedly as a child, or beating up a spy with his fists and a spiked plank. His malicious tendencies also originated from a place that feels both human and sensible, unlike a more direct counterpart in Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader and how the Star Wars prequels attempted to do the same. Additionally, witnessing other major characters from the original series in their younger forms was particularly charming. The biggest standouts were Dozle --the lovable oaf-- and Ramba Ral, both of whom were particular highlights in Origin. Even witnessing a younger Amuro Ray was wonderful, especially when everyone’s favorite troublesome little mascot, Haro began acting like the lovable goof fans know and love. The characters brand new to Origin held up as well and worked wonderfully in their roles, particularly Ramba’s father and the man who would take care of Char and Sayla in the second episode. Every second spent with these characters is wonderful and full of the type of bittersweet pleasantness you never get in anime, especially when you are familiar with where they end up in 0079.

The voice acting held up tremendously as well. Keith Silverstein did a marvelous job playing Char’s teenage and adult self, with just the type of calculated, semi-dominant, and slightly spiteful tinge that truly made up Char as a person up until the end of the original 0079. Kirk Thornton was splendid as a slightly younger but ultimately gravely Ramba Ral, and Doug Stone was splendid as his desperate, constantly stressed, and slightly deranged father. The most interesting casting choice was Mike Pollock -best known for his role as Eggman- whose performance as Char and Sayla’s caretaker, Don Teablo Mass. There are a plethora of other cast members who did wonderfully in their roles as well, such as Liam O’Brien, and other well-known VAs such as Lisa Ortiz and Patrick Seitz make great background character voices. Even Hamon’s singing in the penultimate installment --in both languages-- especially in the context of the original’s story, is as beautiful as it is soul-crushing. Everything melts into a wonderful English dub, lip-syncing issues aside.

There’s a sense of love and passion Origin exudes, a marvelous sense of charisma that exemplifies the joys of cinema. It may not be as thematically rich as Thunderbolt, as visually mesmerizing as Char’s Counterattack, or as inviting as Turn A, but in many ways, this exemplifies the best of what Gundam has to offer. Even when displaying a sense of brutality synonymous with Gundam, this love letter to the franchise never stops bringing a sense of whimsy and evoke visceral emotion to the silver and digital screens. You may need to watch other installments to truly appreciate this one, but in doing so, this is your reward: the absolute pinnacle of Gundam!