Monday, October 1, 2012

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory Anime Review

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
Bandai Entertainment
Complete Collection - 4 discs
325 mins. - 13 episodes
$49.98 (2009)
$49.98 (2005)
$14.98 (2004) Vol. 1 to 4 ea.
$29.98 (2002) Vol. 1 to 4 ea.
ISBN 669198804670
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Mitsuko Kase/Takashi Imanishi
Studio - Sunrise

Synopsis: It has been several years since the spacenoid (people born/living in space on massive artificial colonies) uprising by the Principality of Zeon was defeated by the Earth Federation.  Zeon initiated the One Year War (OYW) in Universal Century 0079 by dropping a space colony on Sydney, Australia causing massive devastation and casualties.  During the OYW a special mobile suit was developed called the Gundam which gave the Federation an edge against their Zeon opponents. 
Anavel Gato smirks as he boards Unit 2 on the Albion
On the remote Torrington base in Australia two prototype Gundam mobile suits arrive for land-based testing.  They are transported on the assault carrier Albion and accompanied by head engineer Nina Purpleton from Anaheim Electronics.  The base is home to a group of test pilots led by Lt. South Burning, a veteran of the OYW and nearing the age of retirement from field combat.  Kou Uraki and Chuck Keith are two young test pilots at the base who become fascinated by the Gundam prototypes upon their arrival.
Unit 2 powers up with Gato at the controls
Gundam "Unit 1" (GP01) and "Unit 2" (GP02) are advanced mobile suits with decidedly different purposes.  Unit 1 is an upgrade to the original Gundam developed in the OYW while Unit 2 is a heavily armored suit built to withstand a nuclear blast at close range.  Unit 2 is also equipped to carry a nuclear powered weapon which violates the Antarctic Treaty banning the use of nuclear weapons in warfare due to the scope of their destructive power.
Unit 1 and Unit 2 clash in the fog as Gato makes his getaway
After the OYW the remnants of the Zeon forces retreated to an asteroid colony called Axis, but a select few went underground and hid from the Federation.  Among these are Vice-Admiral Aigulle Delaz, who commands the Delaz fleet and was present at the final battle at Solomon (the former Zeon stronghold).  Under his command is Lt. Commander Anavel Gato, also known as the "Nightmare of Solomon" for his fearsome piloting skills during the Battle of Solomon.  In addition Commander Cima Garahau, who commands the Cima fleet, joins forces with Delaz at the protests of Gato.  He believes she lacks any true conviction to the principles of Zeon and doesn't trust her.
Delaz announces the resurrection of Zeon with Gato by
his side and the stolen Unit 2 behind them
Delaz puts into motion a daring mission to resurrect Zeon and deal a crushing blow to the Federation - it's called Operation Stardust!  He dispatches Gato to steal Unit 2 and a nuclear warhead to power it's nuclear arsenal.  During the "Gundamjack" Kou ends up piloting Unit 1 against Gato - the "Nightmare of Solomon" vs. a rookie pilot.  The Albion launches into space to follow Gato and Unit 2 in order to recover it before the nuke can be used.  Despite being a rookie, Kou becomes the pilot of Unit 1 and develops a relationship with the Nina.
Unit 1 ready for combat duty in the hold of the Albion
Kou is put to the test as he witnesses the horrors of war and death firsthand.  Does Nina care more about recovering Unit 2 or Kou?  What is the true face of Operation Stardust and why does the Federation pull support from the Albion?  Will Gato crush Unit 1 and Kou?  Was Gato right about Cima?  What about Unit 3?  It's a devastating thrill ride as the ghost of Zeon rears it's head to strike once more at the Federation!
The last working mobile suits at a secret underground Zeon
base stage a daring assault to help Gato escape
Pros: Great mecha designs by legendary designers Shoji Kawamori (Super Dimensional Fortress Macross) and Hajime Katoki (many, many Gundam series: V Gundam, G Gundam, and Gundam Wing Endless Waltz), slick and highly detailed animation, excellent mobile suit battles (both on land and in space), no Newtypes (typically spacenoids who have developed mild psychic abilities allowing them to pilot mobile suits with more skill than non-Newtypes and some clairvoyance) with convenient abilities to make them invincible in battle, the bad guys are pretty cool
Unit 1 fitted for space combat performs maneuvers with
the GM's stationed on the Albion
Cons: Character interactions are immature - Kou is a whiny kid apt to throw temper tantrums (in a big toy Gundam) and veteran mobile suit pilot Monsha was the worst with his constant over-the-top lecherous behavior, the relationship between Nina and Kou was confusing and frustrating
Monsha gets shot down by Nina in another failed attempt to get a date
Mike Tells It Straight: Gundam is a major anime franchise and has a complicated timeline starting with the original series Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) in the fictional Universal Century 0079 (actual year of release was 1979).  The sequel to MSG was Zeta Gundam (ZG) which took place in U.C. 0087-88 (released in 1985) and Stardust Memory (released 1990) fills in some of the backstory between the two series.  In ZG the Federation had become a group called the Titans and we get to find out why this happened as the Zeon launch one final, brutal assault.  

The Albion rushes to save a space colony from disaster
0083 had some really great character moments and held to the roots of MSG's message - the cost of war is brutal and terrifying.  We get to see the ragtag Zeon forces who held out for three years after the end of the OYW with only their burning ideals to keep them going.  In contrast the Federation forces are shown as uncaring bureaucrats with no true ideals except hollow shows of power.  It's obvious the writers wanted us to see the Federation in this light and to root for the Zeon as underdogs.
Gato pilots the powerful mobile armor the Neue Ziel
Delaz and Gato hold to their ideals of liberating spacenoids from Federation oppression with Kou contrasted as the naive rookie without any true ideals of his own.  The bad guys were the real highlight of this show along with the mecha.  The animated battles were great and mobile suit/armor designs by Kawamori are incredible (they're still considered classics today).  They still hold up today and are a treat for any mecha fan.  Unfortunately the character designs and personalities were lacking as they don't really make sense all the time.
Unit 3 outfitted with the Dendrobium bursts into action
I swear Gato's hair changed from white to blonde and back again. Having two directors shook the consistency as the viewer can tell subtle differences between the first seven and last six episodes (split between the two directors).  Interactions between the crew and pilots on the Albion were ridiculously immature (rivalry between Monsha and Kou as a prime example).  No Newtype action to be seen (original MSG director Yoshiyuki Tomino pushed the theme of Newtypes in almost all Gundam series he was involved in) and thank goodness.  I always felt it was a convenient way to explain why Amuro Ray never lost in the original series.
Space combat - what is the Federation building in the background?
Overall Stardust Memory stands as a decent mecha show with awesome battles and some memorable war scenes.  It's very dramatic and a solid entry to the Gundam universe.  The characters and their interactions are the low point to the show as they can be quite annoying at times.  I thought the message was conveyed fairly well and enjoyed the roller coaster ride through to the end despite the weak characterizations.  The GP03 with Dendrobium armor and Neue Ziel mobile armor were worth it alone.

TO BUY and Recommendations: