What They Say:
Universal Century 0079. Amuro Ray finds himself caught up in the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. He unwillingly becomes the pilot of a prototype Mobile Suit called the Gundam. Now he and the crew of the White Base will have to fight for their very lives as the enemy attempts to destroy this new weapon at all costs.
Combatants will face triumph and turmoil as they battle their way through space to get to their final destination on Earth. The outcome of the war lies in the hands of the Newtype in the anime series that started it all.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good overall as we get the original Japanese language track with its 5.1 incarnation encoded at 448kbps. The film version isn’t a huge leap over what the original stereo mix was but it does add a bit more impact to a few sequences and overall has a very solid feeling to it. The origins keep it from really going out in a big way and there’s certainly more of a center channel feeling to a lot of it, especially with the dialogue, but for those that enjoy the film versions, it’s definitely nice to get the added boost of the less lossy encoding. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 1981 and 1982, the transfer for these three films are presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio. Animated by Sunrise, each film is given its own disc and plenty of room to work with as they’re about two hours each. The films certainly reflect the time and original source material but they did a really good job with the editing of it to bring everything together from the TV form and the smoothing out of it. That said, it’s also a standard definition version that’s several decades old so there are a few flaws with it that are essentially a part of the source. There’s not a lot of cross coloration but there are a few bits of it here and there in some of the more detailed areas. Similarly, we get a bit of line noise during various panning sequences, though it doesn’t really become anything truly bothersome, especially if you were like me and were first introduced to all of this through VHS copies.
The packaging for this release is definitely one of my favorites with the artwork we get for it. The case is a standard sized one that has the three discs inside, two of which are on a hinge. The front cover really looks great as it brings us a beautifully illustrated and painted version of Amuro, Sayla, and Char with the mobile suite in the background looming large. The colors are perfect, the detail in the character and costume design is spot on, and combining it with the original logo and giving it all a clean look just hits a sweet spot for me in how it appeals. The back cover adds a decent art piece with several of the mecha from the show from different parts of it while blending into a darker background along the top. It’s there that we get a small strip of shots from the show and the premise, which is kept simple but clean and clear. The bottom has a few production credits and a minimal amount of technical information that breaks it all out in an easy to read form. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works a simple and clean approach that should appeal to fans of the films in a big way. The right side works a nicely in theme sense of style about it with the logo looming large against a star filled background with a good filter over it. The movie number is listed below it and the navigation is kept exceedingly simple as outside of playing the movie there’s only a scene selection submenu. The rest of the menu is given over to a static image that changes with each volume where we get another beautifully illustrated and painted piece of artwork that’s reflective of each film and some of the characters included. Each has its own appeal and depending on which characters you like you’ll find one appealing more than others.
Coming into this trilogy, I found myself in a similar but different position to how I went into the Turn A Gundam movies. I recently just finished off the second half of the original TV series for Mobile Suit Gundam so the property is still very much in my mind. Unlike Turn A Gundam, however, I had seen these movies before and in fact I had seen the movies years before I saw the original Gundam TV series itself. It was an interesting experience going from the six-hour movie version to the roughly fourteen hour TV series experience since there was so much more there. At the time, and somewhat reinforced here once again, is that I do prefer the movies in terms of a tighter narrative and style of storytelling. Yet I find myself also really compelled with the TV series now that I’m older as well, as the expansion on cast and character – and silliness at times – helps to make it a lot more realized.
You can check out our reviews of the first and second parts of the beautiful high definition Blu-ray release from Right Stuf for our thoughts on the property and show as a whole. I’d just be recounting it here and that doesn’t really do anyone any good.
The world of Gundam is expansive and Tomino and others during this phase of it were really just having a blast with the premise as a whole. While there are plenty of documented things that went on with the show when it came out in ‘78 and how it gained a weird kind of popularity after its cancellation and the whole episode that Tomino doesn’t like, what it spawned definitely was open ended enough to go in a slew of different directions – and that’s even before it went with the alternate timelines. I’m still kind of frustrated that the alternate timelines are what dominated for so long because the early days post-TV offered up some really neat projects, particularly with War in the Pocket and numerous aspects of Stardust Memories. The story of a war spanning a relatively small period of time across the solar system is rich in tales. Tales that are now thankfully being explored more.
With this film trilogy, the show is distilled down to its main elements more, focusing on that of Amuro and his trajectory as the reluctant hero and emerging man of the future through the Newtype angle. After revisiting the TV series recently, I still find a lot of that to be very minimally laid out and kind of vague in a way that allows it to be whatever they need it to be, akin more to The Force in those early Star Wars stories but nowhere near as firm with it. But it’s an idea that I like which never felt like it was really explored well at the time and, this may be the age talking, something that I don’t think ever really was embraced in a big way to propel forward. It gets its due in this version of it since it is a key part to how things play out towards the end, but I like that it’s reduced even more and distilled down without becoming a huge focus of the final act.
What appeals to me the most about the trilogy in this form is that it really does make it clear that it all works in the standard three act format. It’s something that can be harder to see amid a sprawling TV series at times – and the TV series does sprawl (occasionally with poor geography skills), but doing it in this form really reinforces Amuro’s journey. I’m not a huge fan of the standard three-act approach but it certainly is a staple and it works well here, going from his being thrust into the position, grappling with the responsibility of it combined with the demands of others, and then forging his own path while becoming a part of a greater storyline. The downside is that while Amuro does have the strongest of the stories, the other characters aren’t as well served. Sayla’s story is one that I still think warrants its own full series, exploring her path from start to finish while working as a parallel to what Char went through. More of the structure of the White Base crew and the dynamic there beyond the superficial that we get and the middling of Bright would really work. There are so many stories to tell that it leaves me frustrated to a degree but also all the more enthused about the property because it is so rich in potential and there are always opportunities to mine it again in new ways, such as the (currently) new Thunderbolt series.
The Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy continues to be my favorite way to view the original work overall though that high definition transfer that came out for the TV series is really forcing a readjustment on my part. In terms of story and presentation, the films are more focused and more straightforward without the meandering that populates a lot of shows from this time period and that helps to make it a more engaging work. The films come across well here, but the view is certainly colored by what the upgrade the TV series received is like. I still find these films to be a fascinating look at the way things are recut and adjusted for different mediums and I’ve read and forgotten so much about it over the years that I want to bang my head on my desk. If you’re new to the world of Gundam, this is the best way to do it – and then to get the TV experience and really expand our view on it all. It’s a rare moment when I really recommend both versions heartily.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Running Time: 412 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.