Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket Anime Review

Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
Bandai Entertainment
Complete Collection - 2 discs
180 mins. - 6 episodes
$24.98 (2009)
$29.98 (2005)
$14.98 (2004) Vol. 1 & 2 ea.
$29.98 (2002) Vol. 1 & 2 ea.
ISBN 669198804663
Japanese/English Audio/English Subtitles
Director - Fumihiko Takayama
Studio - Sunrise

Synopsis: Universal Century 0079 sees an all-out war between the Earth Federation and the seceding Duchy of Zeon from the outer space colonies.  The war has been raging for months and both sides have suffered catastrophic defeats.  Mobile suit technology has changed the landscape of war and the Zeons have been particularly effective in developing powerful war machines.  The Federation has built suits of their own and one particular suit called the Gundam is single-handedly turning the tide of war.
A member of the Zeon Cyclops Team pilots a Hy-Gogg
On the neutral colony Side Six the war has not touched the lives of the colonists yet, but that is about to change.  The Zeon learn of a new Gundam being developed and dispatch a covert special forces unit called the Cyclops Team to find it.  New to the team is Bernie Wiseman, a rookie pilot shot down in the first skirmish within the colony.
Al daydreams at school about mobile suits and war
He befriends a young boy named Al who is interested in war and wants to have adventures to escape from his miserable home life where his father is constantly away.  Al's next door neighbor is a pretty girl named Christina (aka Chris) who happens to be a Federation test pilot for the new Gundam.  Al tags along with Bernie to help him spy on the Federation base, but things take a serious turn when the Cyclops Team must launch their mission to destroy the Gundam.  If they fail the Zeons will nuke the colony and kill everyone on it!
Bernie and Al spend time looking for the secret Federation base
Pros: Very nice animation (especially for a 1989 OVA), excellent mecha designs by Yutaka Izubuchi (updating the original Mobile Suit Gundam mecha designs like the GM, Guncannon, Zaku along with adding new entries like the RX-78NT1 "Alex" and MS-18E Kampfer), good story with a deep underlying anti-war message, writer Hiroyuki Yamaga crafts a heartwrenching tale with realistic characters, loved the character designs by Haruhiko Mikimoto (famous for SDF Macross aka Robotech in the US), decent music too
Bernie meets Al's next door neighbor the lovely Chris
Cons: An older show without the fancy CG assistance we have today, some plot holes (like how does that Zaku remain undiscovered on the space colony for so long?, how did Al get a spacesuit in his exact size?)
Bernie crash lands his Zaku after being shot down and Al finds him
Mike Tells It Straight: This is a classic mecha show and a worthwhile entry into the Gundam saga.  Instead of dealing with Newtypes (psychically gifted humans) like the first Mobile Suit Gundam this show focuses on regular people dealing with the tragedy of war.  It's a gut-wrenching story with an incredibly bitter ending.  Possessing mature subject matter and message despite half the show being spent following an immature kid running around.
Bernie does his best Char impression at the spaceport
The contrast of Al's naivete and desire to have childish adventures against a backdrop of deadly consequences was perfect.  Awesome story buildup with a genuinely good ending (tragic, yes, but also good).  The mecha battles were awesome and top notch robot designs.  I particularly liked the Cyclops Team's underwater mobile suits - the Z'Gok E and Hy-Gogg; the Kampfer was pretty killer too.
The cockpit seat of a Zeon pilot after a failed mission
Characterization in this show was the strongest point.  Al's father is away working (or his parents are separated) and Al acts out at school then behaves miserably at home.  You can tell he's suffering without both of his parents and his relationship with Bernie fills that big brother/father figure role.  Each of the Cyclops Team members has something unique about their personalities.  Chris and her doting parents are genuine.  You get to see the human side of these soldiers and then have it all ripped away by war.
A Zaku takes on the Gundam RX-78NT1 with a heat hawk
I really liked this short Gundam story based on human relationships, honor, frailty, and trying to do the right thing even when it means hurting someone.  It's an older show and was a great example to prove to people (parents, disbelieving friends, older family members, whoever thought cartoons were kid stuff) that these goofy robot cartoons from Japan could deliver a serious message.  I heartily recommend it if you're looking for something a bit more grown up (but with all the cool robot fights you really love).  You'll truly enjoy it if you can suspend enough disbelief in the science fiction story and focus on the people.

TO BUY and Recommendations: