Jul 13, 2008
The first question on any new viewer's mind regarding the story of Mobile Suit Gundam: the Movie Trilogy (MSG) would be: "Do the films condense too much story from the TV series to fit into its limited run time?" The answer to that is "no". MSG takes the liberty to cut some of the flab from the original series and manages very well in terms of preserving the integrity of the story. The pacing may strike as a little faster than usual, but there are no glaring problems pertaining to the question above.
The story of MSG follows the crew of White Base, a secret earth federation battleship housing the RX-78-2 Gundam. The protagonist, Amuro Ray, makes the difficult transition from an ordinary civilian to the ace pilot of the federation military, along with a number of other civilians who were also pulled into the conflict against the Principality of Zeon when their space colony was destroyed by a Zeon attack, the purpose of which was to destroy the White Base, along with the experimental mobile suits being developed in secrecy. The long journey aboard the White Base exposes Amuro to many ugly facets of war far beyond the destruction of his home and the loss of life. In the midst of it all, Amuro is burdened with the responsibility of risking life and limb to protect his friends and comrades aboard the White Base, a target of constant Zeon attack, with the gundam. All this weaves an engrossing tale of struggle and growth, rife with challenges on and off the battlefield, making MSG a very interesting war story. There is an epic feel to the films, because though the adventure of the White Base stretches over many destinations, it is but a small part of the vast web of war and politics that makes up the interstellar conflict, and the characters' struggle for survival in the monstrous web makes them seem all the more vulnerable and the story that much more gripping.
The characters of MSG are some of the most iconic in the history of anime. Amuro, as mentioned above, is a very well-developed character. His teenage angst may strike as a little too much in the beginning, but his clear maturation throughout the story makes him an endearing character. The antagonists of MSG also also equally memorable, as they are some of the best antagonists one will come across in anime: the cunning and skillful Char Aznable and Ramba Ral, the bold and courageous Dozle Zabi, and even the cold and calculated Ghiren Zabi -- all of them have plenty of admirable traits that really makes the viewer respect the nazi-inspired Zeon. Even when these antagonists bite the dust, the viewer would still feel for them.
Hailing from the early 80's, MSG's visuals and sounds are quite aged. Though the animation has definitely improved from the sometimes laughable quality of the original TV series, it will not win over any new anime fans by itself. The frame rate is low, the proportion are sometimes warped, and the details are always shallow. Yet despite all this, MSG still manages to produce a number of memorable battle scenes, which is something to applaud for. The mecha designs, especially that of the gundam and zaku II, influenced mecha designs for decades to come. Even to this day, these old-school robots are sights to behold. The sound effects of MSG are almost as iconic as the mobile suits themselves. Fans will recognize the buzzing sound of the beam saber as well as blast of the beam rifle from miles away. Granted, the quality of these sound effects aren't anything amazing objectively, but they serve their functions well, and their nostalgia value is beyond measure. There are also a couple of very catchy battles tunes to be heard, as well as great sound acting, though Amuro's voice may be a little over-the-top at times.
In the end, Mobile Suit Gundam: the Movie Trilogy should be a must-watch for anyone interested in mecha anime or the history of anime in general. Its influence, popularity, and historic value is simply through the roof. There is a reason why even almost three decades later, model kits of the old RX-78-2 are still selling like hotcakes and the name "Char Aznable" remains recognized almost everywhere in japan. MSG is the very definition of a classic, and this fact cannot be denied. What lies in question is the modern viewer's enjoyment of the aged classic. But with a stellar story and memorable characters, MSG still has the quality to win over its viewers, a quality that will most likely remain as long as there exists people who watch anime.
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