What They Say:
It is the year Universal Century 0079 and the space colonies have declared war on from the Earth Federation under the guidance of the Principality of Zeon. In one of these colonies, the Earth Federation is storing and testing a new piloted robot for use in the battle against the Principality of Zeon. The experimental RX-78 Gundam mobile suit is forced into combat with a civilian pilot and an untested crew before it can be transported to the Federation’s HQ on Earth. With few resources available against the Zeon’s brightest and best, will they be able to escape, let alone deliver the RX-78 to Earth?
One of the few series that first aired before I was even born (1979, just one year out but it counts) you have the selection of a remastered track albeit in 2.0 for both English and Japanese – though granted I didn’t notice a huge amount of difference from other 5.1 releases – I didn’t need to adjust my sound for it and despite the basic options, the transfer has done very well to Blu-Ray (especially in comparison to the video), with no instances of any slowdown or off-synching with the track or any problems with synching with the subtitles. Considering the effects for the time and the music being very classic, it has transferred well onto Blu-Ray both in English and Japanese (with a very good dub with one time British con Amecon guest Brad Swaille doing a superb job as Amuro), it definitely got the good treatment.
Set in the standard PAL format (anamorphic), done in 4:3 on a vertical screen format, compared to the audio, the remastering to Blu-Ray didn’t seem to transfer as well sadly. Granted, this is a lot due to the animation being of the late 70s/early 80s and it has cleaned up quite well, with no problems with flow, distortion or synching, but the actual animation certainly doesn’t feel like it was needed to go onto a Blu-Ray – definitely more DVD quality. I’ve seen older shows on DVD like the Lupin series and Maison Ikkoku and the transfer looked better on those compared to this on a Blu-Ray. As a viewing experience, it is perfectly acceptable, cleaned up, flows nicely and the colours are great for the time (albeit a lot of short cuts were taken, like repeated animation and the setting in space, same designs for the Zaku suits for the most part, etc) but is a victim of the times and the remastering to Blu-Ray didn’t really make too much noticeable difference.
There was no packaging for this test release.
The menus have been cleaned up and are basic stills of the mobile suit Gundam in battle pose on both menus – each menu having basic selections that can be selected easily without any delay via Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on the first disc, Extras. Also as per the norm with Blu-Ray releases you can access a popup menu easily whilst the show is being watched if you wish to change things during the show (usually in my case to switch languages to compare). Very standard and basic looks wise, but looks nice and clean, and the menu accessibility is very good.
The only extras are the clean opening and ending.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Airing in 1979, the original Mobile Suit Gundam is practically a gateway of history. It caused the creation of the Gunpla models, spawned many MANY variants, sequels, movies, etc, a huge franchise and revolutionized the giant robot genre. Ironically it didn’t actually do that well airing in Japan at first, but with a revamp of three movies in 1981, it started its rise into conquering the world…
First thing people should know is that this is not going to be a regular review – mentioning the episodes with descriptions I still will, it is more on how it holds up today – also keep in mind I am not really a fan of the giant mech series. I did watch Gundam Wing when it aired on Toonami in the UK and shows like Evangelion and Nadesico were a big part in growing up in the anime scene, but I never was into the Gundam franchise, and I had never seen the original as well (though have seen the three movies) – so a combination of nostalgia and genuine intrigue in what basically started the Gundam explosion led me to watching this.
The interesting thing is, whilst the animation definitely seems dated despite the move up to Blu-Ray (and obvious short cuts which aren’t as apparent nowadays though still was used at least until the 90s with the repeated animation, granted a lot of western shows were also guilty of this, Hanna Barbara one that springs to mind), the show itself actually…I don’t think is that bad. In fact, I enjoyed it for the whole as someone who in a way, is quite new to the Gundam experience. It certainly has plenty of flaws, but I definitely can’t say I wasn’t entertained on the whole.
The premise of the plot is an independence story set in the future. In 2079 (or 0079) the principality of Zeon has declared independence from Earth (or the Earth federation) which almost can only be lived by the uber-rich, and has caused many space colonies and settlements. One such space colony however has a new secret weapon landed on it due to Zeon federations tracking them down – when it crash lands, a technological young man named Amuro Ray, basically takes it upon himself to actually pilot the weapon, a prototype Federation mobile suit far more advanced than any of the Zeon mobile suits. Along with the ship it came from, the White Base, the unknown young man as well as the civilians still alive on the colony (including Amuro’s friend Fraw Bow) escape onto the base as Amuro is forced to basically come along for the ride, being the only apparent person able to pilot the suit, known as Gundam RX-78 – whilst also facing off against the Zeon Federation’s ace pilot, Char Aznable, a cunning warrior who sees Amuro as a rookie but in something the Zeon’s can’t stop, and sees his skill rise throughout various battles, to the point of his own ideals inside the Zeon Federation using Amuro as a way for him to stop some of his insider rivals.
With 21 episodes on this release, a lot of it is basically what is the mecha equivalent of ‘monster of the week’. Amuro basically has to fight off particular enemies, Zakus or a new battle with Char, whilst intermixed with new things, such as additional weaponry like the Guntank and Guncannon, with fellow rookies being brought in from friendly and competitive Hayato, to snarky and cowardly Kai, to the strong but having a history with Char in a ‘is she a spy or not’ way Sayla, the problems with his co-workers and superiors, or the innocent wanting to leave White Base despite the danger going outside can bring for them. Their skill is always under question as higher superiors think they can’t do it, but constantly proved wrong, potential cease-fires as both Zeons and Earth federations have officers who are genuinely caring (at least one of the Zeon commanders deaths is actually quite touching because of his love for his wife and just how respectful he is to Amuro despite being his enemy), whilst also developing the simple fact that Amuro has to grow up – a young man in war, he has temper tantrums and clashes with the higher ups, causing him to change orders or even desert at one point.
A lot of the stories that happen are in short arcs – there is always the battle between Zeon and Earth as Zeon now begins to approach how to defeat this new mobile suit whilst Char’s skills as the Red Comet are being questions and others hope to get glory, Char tries to use this to his advantage (after a particular sequence, he isn’t shown at all for the last 7 episodes of this release but his influence is still there thanks to Sayla) – mini arcs including a higher officer Garma trying to one up Char yet Char himself manoeuvres him to his death – which in turns leads Garma’s father and brother to rally the Zeon troops – also a mini arc of Amuro finding his mother, but he has changed so much due to this war that she feels she doesn’t recognise him – some episodes seem filler ish like the one where they have to find a supply of salt, but it also reminds the audience of an earlier episode when Char and Sayla seem to recognise each other, reminding us that they are indeed related. The episodes with the Hamon led troops are particularly nice as this is when Amuro temporarily deserts the crew due to too many clashes with Ensign Bright, yet Hamon and his wife see Amuro and like the look of him and give him some water, yet you can sense they know he is somehow involved with the Earth federation, leading to some tense battles and proof that some of the Zeons are very likeable, and just have the bad luck to be on the wrong side. In fact Char himself is extremely likeable – he is intelligent, skilled but also admitting to when he is wrong or how he underestimated Amuro – his absence from the series is a stopping point for everyone waiting for him to come back.
The majority of it is very basic animation, and mostly Amuro fighting off rebel Zeons – there is however some decent character development, especially with Amuro as he does have to learn the consequences of his actions – whilst Amuro is very smart, he is still a kid and makes rash decisions, by the end of this arc he accepts he has made some mistakes when he is incarcerated compared to earlier in the series when he has a tantrum or six when he doesn’t get his way. There is a lot on the background cast and whilst all sporadic, do at least make an effort to make them known (though there is almost filler moments with Fraw Bow looking after three kids in each episode almost to the point of stretching the series out) – the intrigue is there with Char sitting out despite knowing that Amuro already feels a real rivalry with him, and there is a part where one of the characters in the White Base does actually die which seems to be the turning point for Amuro – which hopefully we will see in the second half of the series knowing the Zeons are looking to turn the tables on the mobile suit.
The original Gundam definitely has nostalgia written all over it, but I can’t help but enjoy it, and this is from someone who isn’t a fan of the genre. It has some good voice over work in both languages, the animation whilst hasn’t held up brilliantly even in Blu-Ray has the cheese factor working for it, the main characters are well defined (even if the background ones aren’t so much bar Bright and Sayla), the action sequences are quite decent for the time despite the animation woes, and there is definite potential for the story to advance. Will it convert me to more Gundam? Unlikely, but as a series of ye olden times, it definitely is good to pass the time.
The original Mobile Suit Gundam series get a UK release and fans for the most part should be happy. Whilst not the best transfer to Blu-Ray that is more due to the animation rather than the technology. Whilst it does feel dragged out with the robot of the week scenarios, there is just enough character development, action and intrigue to make people realise what Gundam is about – it isn’t too technical, just enough blowing stuff up with two well defined and growing characters, combined with enough political intrigue and mystery to set up for the second half. A show despite not being my genre, I simply cannot hate.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: November 30th, 2015
Running Time: 525 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.