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Mobile Suit Gundam Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

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Mobile Suit Gundam Original Volume 2 DVD CoverHumanity is beginning to change, but will it survive long enough?

What They Say:
The White Base is the target of constant attacks by Zeon, and Amuro and the others have officially become soldiers of the Earth Federation Forces. They return to space to fight in the final campaign, and here Amuro meets the mysterious and beautiful Lalah Sune.

As the war builds to its conclusion, the final battle pits Federation against Zeon, brother against sister, and Newtype against Newtype. The Federation is weakened! Zeon is in turmoil! Will the Zeon fortress of A Baoa Qu stand or fall? It all ends here!

Contains Episodes 22-42.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in mono and the previously created English language adaptation in stereo, both of which use the uncompressed PCM format. The show is naturally limited a bit by age and that’s a given here, but it certainly does stand out above what we had with previous DVD incarnations by a good degree. There’s not a lot in the way of action directionality or placement, particularly in the Japanese track, but it has a stronger, cleaner and more appealing sound with what we get here. The music makes out the best overall though even that is naturally limited a bit with the original encodings. The dialogue itself through is clean and clear while the action effects have some good impact overall with how it plays out, giving it enough of a sweeping feeling without being overpowering of the scene or any dialogue. It’s definitely a strong improvement in general and well worth it.

Originally airing in 1979, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-one episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a ten/eleven format. Since it’s a full frame show, there’s more than enough room to do this on top of the mono Japanese track. Animated by Sunrise, I’ve seen this series in a few incarnations over the years and this is by far the best I’ve ever seen it. The transfer brings out such a richness in color that it feels like a whole other show much of the time. There’s a wonderful solidity about it all that just helps to elevate it in a great way. Details come through very clearly and the animation itself is spot on with the heightened visibility of everything. This is a beautiful transfer of material that’s nearly forty years old. That said, there are things that some will pick at because it is a film source show and you can see some bits of dust and dirt at times that couldn’t be cleaned up in the original Japanese restoration. This is more noticeable early on and there’s less of it in later episodes. But even this is something that I find to be critical to the look of the show in really making it a part of the period it was made. Frankly, I just love how this turned out in general. It’s a great looking release.

The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The cover for this installment is one that fits within the context of things but just looks odd because of Amuro floating upside down while everyone else is upright. I do like the color tone of it and especially the star filled background while the character artwork is solid and with some nice detail in places. The back cover is a bit more traditional and text heavy as it goes for a largely black background with mostly white text. The premise and the importance of the series is kept to the left and well covered while the top has a brief slot of character and mecha shots alongside the title. It’s next to the premise that we get the traditional Gundam with beam sword image though it’s darkened up enough here to make it a bit more menacing and appealing. The bottom has a minimal technical grid that lists everything cleanly and accurately and above that we get a breakdown of the episodes by number and title. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release really works well in setting the mood from the start and keeping it during playback. The menus for both discs are laid out the same but use different artwork, the first with the image of the RX-78 going up against some great Zeon mech with a deep black background that lets their colors pop even more. The navigation at the top level is kept to the left with the logo at the top and the selections below where it’s set against a star filled background, giving it some really neat richness. When viewed during playback, the pop-up menu shifts to the bottom with a horizontal layout that works better for that moment. Both menus work great, are easy to navigate and are easy and clean to read.

There may just be one extra included with this release but having the 30th-anniversary interview piece with the staff. This was from the Japanese release and lets them really talk about the show in a fun and engaging way which is definitely a big plus for longtime fans that may not have seen this before.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Mobile Suit Gundam series had a very solid and fun first half, owing for the time and context in which it was created, and a lot of it still stands in its own way over the years. Seeing the way the series has been re-adapted into new forms over the years has had mixed results across the board and I admit that I keep just wanting a really deep dive modern novelization of the series from a Western perspective in the hard science fiction genre. That said, I continue to really enjoy the UC timeline the best and going back to its roots with this second and concluding half of the original series hits all the right notes, albeit with some obvious padding along the way.

This half of the series has a lot going on overall, but there are mixed aspects to it. The first half is still largely Earth-based and that aspect of it really felt drawn out for me. The journey across the surface may not be quite Macross level in terms of its use of geography and moving around, but there’s a lot going on as it shifts from continent to continent and has a seemingly quick shift from Northern Europe before it ends up in South America. These journeys have their own stories and slowly but surely add a little more color to several of the characters. Kai, in particular, gets a decent episode, again shortened due to the nature of the show, where he ends up getting involved with a Zeon spy, going so far as to bring her on board for a while. There’s some nice emotion brought to it overall as Kai was looking to get out of the mission in general but kept finding himself drawn back in. Kai doesn’t get a lot of time in the series overall so it was welcome to get something like this.

One of the things that’s reinforced during the Earthly adventures is that those civilians that are on board and performing well aren’t in the best of positions even because of that. When there’s a potential jumping off point, they learn that it will involve them being held in military jail for at least a year because of the secrets they’ve been exposed to. When it’s mentioned that it would normally be for life, well, that just makes it even more damaging mentally to everyone involved – especially when you realize that they’re talking about the kids here as well. And even most of the older characters involved are just teens themselves. There’s an understandable element to it when you consider what they have been exposed to, but they’re basically blackmailed into keeping their positions, taking actual ranks, and sticking with the dangerous mission that has a huge target painted on them. They all react to it, but you know Amuro kind of takes it the hardest in his own resigned kind of way.

Amid a number of attacks from M’Quve and Char along the way, it all comes down to Jaburo to bring things to a close earthside. It’s done up in about two episodes total with what they have to face and it’s a really well-executed battle overall, but it requires ignoring a lot of logistical and political issues of having the Zeon making a move like this in South America and more. Again, this owes to the simplistic storytelling of the time that really leaves me craving something more. Pardon me while I dream of a Frank Herbert novelization series of this property. Anyway, Gundam works this all well to provide the motivation for the White Base to carry through on their mission and the impetus to get into orbit while dealing with Char and the stepped up weapons development on their side. The chase between the two sides has been engaging overall and moving it into space was a big plus for me as I tend to like these adventures taking place there and on the Sides more than anywhere else.

That said, the space side has its own awkwardness. The positive side is that as the tide begins to turn against the Principality of Zeon we really get to see some great battles and some big moments as various locations are dealt with. There are moments where I really wish we had more of a Legend of Galactic Heroes feeling to it in order to truly know both sides, but the focus is on the core cast and not how the rank and file really cope with this. As the push goes forward and the massive station gets dealt with and events turn huge at Ao Boa Qu, it’s great to see simply because it harkens back to what we were shown early on in the series with how the Earth Federation was struck by Zeon with a colony drop. The same thing isn’t done here, but it has the same kind of intensity overall because the struggle is so very real for both sides.

In terms of character material, there’s a mix here as well. While a number of characters get time, the pairing of Sayla and Char is a wonderful undercurrent to play with. Learning of their relationship to each other, the lies each of them have told to get where they are on their respective sides, and the goals they have are intriguing. Char’s is certainly one that comes across as standard male driven revenge that changes along the way while Sayla’s is about finding another path and wanting Char not to be swallowed up by his revenge. Char has his own trajectory to follow past this series, but I really enjoyed the way he had an almost kind of playful side to him when dealing with his superiors throughout much of it but also such an intensity when going up against Amuro. Complementing that with the carefully concerned side of his in regards to Sayla fleshes him out well.

The area that I have more of a problem with comes in the form of Amuro, Lalah, and the whole newtype angle. This never really feels like it’s explored well enough here and is kept more to a mystery with no real resolution or understanding of it. The ideas behind it are right and using that as a means of humanity moving forward into space is a solid one, but it’s given too much of a mystical element here without being pushed forward enough in a way to feel like it’s really making a statement. It’s simply too loosely defined. The same is how I felt about Lalah, whose introduction feels forced as does her presence throughout the back half of this set of episodes. There’s the natural connection with Amuro, but it falls into the trap of her being killed in order to spur him into changing who he is, which gets even more grief today than it did then to be sure. I like the potential of what Lalah represents, but like the newtype angle itself, she’s never really given time to develop and be more than a prop for both Char and Amuro in the end towards their own goals and growth.

In Summary:
Despite my issues with the show in what it wants to accomplish, some of which is minimized in the movie form of it all, I really enjoy the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. It’s spawned decades of material across numerous platforms and is that rare kind of openly interpretive work that we don’t see often in Japan on a mass level. Revisiting the series after almost a decade and seeing it in such quick succession simply reaffirms my interest in the show and much of what followed. This release is solid across the board and with the amount of content involved, the quality of the encoding and presentation, and being in high definition, this is the dream of many a fan for many years in one tight little package. It’s a great release that belongs in just about every anime fan’s collection as the cornerstone foundation of what anime was and became.

Japanese PCM 1.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, 30th Anniversary Staff Interview

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sunrise
Release Date: December 1st, 2015
MSRP: $74.99
Running Time: 525 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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