What They Say:
The Earth Federation stands victorious, but are they still on the right side?
In Zeta Gundam, we see the future world of the Universal Century through a dark mirror. Having defeated the Zeon menace, the Earth Federation has itself become cruel and oppressive. A new generation of Gundam mobile suits is created not to fight for peace, but to punish the enemies of the state, and yesterday’s villains must become today’s heroes in order to balance the scales of justice. When a young civilian named Kamille Bidan is caught up in the rebellion, he little suspects the price he will pay in the fight for freedom.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the previously created English language track, both of which are encoded using the uncompressed PCM format. The series is one that certainly is of its time and overall it’s a fairly straightforward stereo mix that doesn’t extend itself and doesn’t really have the ability to do so because of the original design at the time. What we do get is a solid track for both mixes that captures the show well and presents it in a very clean and clear fashion. The music sequences tend to stand out the most with better warmth and overall use of the forward soundstage, but the action has some good moments and the character dialogue is well handled throughout with some decent occasional placement and minor bits of depth from time to time. It’s not a mix that will wow you, but if you’ve only heard the super compressed DVD version before, you’ll like the greater clarity that you get here.
Originally airing in 1985, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame format in 1080p using the AVC codec. Being thirty twenty years old but being a staple of the Sunrise library, the transfer for Zeta looks almost pristine in its nature. And I had said that with the DVD release a decade ago. This high definition presentation, for the most part, is pretty striking. With the opening sequence and a lot of other scenes, particularly early on, you could imagine that this was animated today but using an old school style about it with how good it looks. Whatever problems we found with what we saw are all source related things and the bulk of it is just due to the time and age of the show, such as some small nicks and dirt on the cels themselves early on in the show. As it progresses it lessens and the show looks cleaner. This is basically what you get with older shows like this half the time and it’s something that I find that adds to its charm in a way since you know how it was handled and done back then. Having had a few versions of this show in my collection over the years, this is by far my favorite.
With a full series box set before, singles, and then half-series collections, we now get this series on Blu-ray. The packaging for this release gives us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the three discs inside with two on a hinge and one against the back. The front cover is probably one of my favorite pieces of artwork used for the Gundam releases so far with a great look at Kamille in the foreground with its coloring while the Gundam is behind him. Balancing it with a stark white background and the motion lines just gives it a distinctive and eye-catching look that’s hugely appealing. It looks crisp and modern while staying playing to the older designs that characterize it. The back cover definitely feels old school with its white background and simple design, but it has a very positive feeling about it. We get a full-length Gundam shot along the right half and under the series logo that should delight longtime fans while the left gives us a few shots of the show, providing for some variation in color while below is a simple premise along with a breakdown of episodes by number and title. Not really necessary, but for those that care about it, it’s at least there. The bottom has a clean and simple technical grid that lists everything and there are no included inserts nor a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works a simple and clean approach that mirrors the cover to some degree. Each disc works different character artwork with mobile suits that appropriate to it, such as the first one with Bajeena in the lower foreground and his mobile suit behind him. It’s all done in a wonderful painted style that matures it up a bit and provides for some richness while also standing out since the background is a dull white with a tint of gray to it. The navigation is kept to the lower left with the logo providing for some real pop of color, especially in the blue, and the actual selections to the right of it. It’s all very smooth, functional, and easy to use while fitting in with the theme of the releases design.
The only extras included here are the first clean opening and closing sequences.
The history of Gundam releases in the US, particularly for the Universal Century releases, has always been somewhat less than perfect or outright problematic. The worst offender is obviously the original series which wasn’t available with the Japanese language track back in the day. Zeta had its problems as well during its original release from Bandai Entertainment, but all of those problems disappear once you settle into this release. This is Zeta Gundam. For me, it’s one of the best of the UC series out there and it just hits a sweet spot for me in taking what was learned from the original series and progressing it. Both in story and character as we move forward in time, utilize some characters, introduce new ones, and slowly touch back on more of the original cast. It’s a rare sequel series that for the most part felt organic. .
Taking place around seven years after the One Year War, the series kicks off by focusing on one of the colonies that’s supposedly been built up in the recent years from the scraps left by the war and a lot of Zeon metal and parts. It’s a fairly standard colony and there isn’t much to stand out in it but as is the way in Gundam series, it holds a secret to it that’s not terribly well kept. While scouting out the region near the colony, AEUG pilot Quattro senses something inside the colony that makes him tingle, thinking it could be someone he’s been searching for. With it being peacetime, it’s surprisingly easy for him to make his way into the colony and sneak directly into the central chamber. With a handy little rocket pack, he’s able to zoom around and take some pictures only to discover that there are some new model Gundam’s being produced there. A quick fight and flight and he’s off to get his comrades to come and steal the new models so that the AEUG can see what’s going on.
Playing against this we’re introduced to Kamille, your typical teen that has a really strong temper that’s easy to light. He’s got little interest in a lot of his studies or physical routines he’s supposed to be doing and is skating out of one of them when we see him running off to head to the spaceport so that he can see the latest ship that’s arriving from there. Kamille’s the son of some fairly important people within the Federation, one being a key mobile suit designer and the other an armor/metals specialist. While he’s fairly smart and generally a solid kid, he’s got a huge chip on his shoulder and is extremely easy to set off. When in the spaceport, a couple of pilots for the Titans are there and catch wind of his feminine name and make fun of him. He simply leaps the barricade and starts attacking them. Later when in the Federation custody, he even takes a swing at the MP who tells him he ought to know better.
When Quattro and his comrades blow a hole in the colony and come in to steal the Gundam’s, Kamille sees this as a huge opportunity to mete out a bit of revenge. Using his status as the son of an important project leader and taking advantage of the confusing situation, he barges onto the Titan base and actually manages to really just go right up the new Gundam models and gets into one. Those around are surprised by this but his ability to control one so quickly strikes deep into one or two people – Captain Bright happens to be on scene and he has the same vibe as when Amuro practically did the same thing back in 0079. Hoping to take advantage of the situation and stop the theft of one of the suits, he tries to get Kamille to attack the invader.
But Kamille just isn’t that kind of kid. He’s no fan of the Titans and the pilot of the other Gundam is the one who was making fun of him earlier, which leads him to start attacking him. The AEUG pilots, hearing much of this, realize that they’ve got a surprise ally on their side and use him to their own advantage to be able to steal not just one but all three of the new Gundam suits and head out of the colony, which leads into a back and forth game between the two sides trying to keep control of the suits as there’s an AEUG cruiser out there that’s home to the pilots. This ends up going across a couple of episodes and brings in a lot of character changes and knowledge about how the solar system works in this new day.
From the start, Zeta really felt like a rehash of parts of 0079 to me which wasn’t too surprising. Amusingly, to my wife who hasn’t seen 0079 but is watching SEED, she caught a lot of repetition between those two shows. In a way, a lot of Gundam shows have similar origins but Zeta has so far won me over for the different direction that Kamille takes when he decides he doesn’t want to associate with the Titans or the Federation. Throughout the attack on the colony, we start to learn more about the Titans and how the Federation has started to lose its luster over the years. The Titans themselves are an interesting new change in the make-up of the Federation.
Being a separate branch but still under Federation control, the Titans are an elite group of space pilots whose goal is to eliminate the leftover fighters from Zeon and to deal with the AEUG and its terrorist elements that are threatening the peace. Unlike the Federation, these folks are much more harsh in how they go about it, both in regards to their enemies and friends. When Bright demands to know what’s going on since he’s higher in rank, the other Titan members actually beat the tar out of him. While he does have rank, he doesn’t have respect from within the Titans and their methods of discipline and conduct have grown so different from normal Federation standards that this is allowed there though it’s generally not acknowledged outside of there. The Titans have spread across the colonies, never asking but simply taking an interest and a base wherever they please, which has earned them much hatred. As we learn more of this, it’s easier to see why they’ve tarnished the never truly sparkling Federation luster and why more people dislike the Federation.
As Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam plays out across these twenty-five episodes, the show moves back and forth between the Earth and the colonies as well as the moon. The cast is expansive and all sides are looked at from different angles though the focus is still primarily on that of Kamille and his worldview. That worldview is changed from where he starts though as he has a sort of cockiness about him that needs to be tempered since he has a grudge against everything, especially after what his parents have gone through. At the same time, Kamille doesn’t feel like a normal healthy high school boy (or look like one either) with his minimal interest in women. Surprisingly, there are some that seem to have affection for him that he isn’t aware of, such as Emma, but it becomes more blatant when the Cyber-Newtypes like Four Murasame enter the show and start to get some one on one time with him.
The ensemble nature of the show is both its best asset and its worst. With so many sides to cover and so many different subplots that are borne out of it, characters that you may like get the short end of the stick pretty often. Even worse is that it’s hauling back in a lot of characters from the original series to play with who have their own grudges and issues to settle as well. Multiple groups and affiliations are introduced, from the AEUG to the Titans, the Federation forces and the Karaba. Add in smaller ones like the various Labs that are producing Cyber-Newtypes like Four and then those holdovers from the One Year War who gather together and it can get pretty overwhelming, especially when it shifts from one venue to another and several groups just fall out of the picture for awhile.
At the same time, it really is a strength as well that such a diverse cast and group of stories can come together as well as it does. While some subplots are weak along the way, being able to shift through so many different things makes for an exciting show as you can’t be sure exactly what ground will be covered with every episode. The series starts out as is fairly typical with a Gundam show in that we see Kamille learning the basics and getting thrown into service, but it then brings in so much more as the AEUG and the Titans don’t play in a similar manner to the way the Federation and Zeon did in the One Year War. When various characters we haven’t seen in awhile get back together, there’s a genuine sense of warmth to many of these scenes that flows out which makes it all the more engaging. This is also a very big plus when long time characters from the original series come together at long last, such as Amuro and Char after all they’ve been through.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost ten years since I last saw this series as you realize just how much anime you consume. But it also makes you realize which ones truly stand out over the course of time and this one is definitely one of them. When I first saw the series, volume by volume, I spread it out since it was part of a big box set and worked through small chunks. With this set, you get the first twenty-five episodes of the series and I pretty much gobbled it up over two days and enjoyed the differences in what marathon sessions offer. While there are drawn out moments to be sure, and subplots that feel tacked on, it holds together very well as a straight narrative. As the final episodes of this collection draw to a close and the past seems to haunt the present, it left me feeling very on edge and wanting the next set in my hands as quickly as possible. And that feeling is even more so simply because of the sterling presentation here with the high-definition release. As much as I enjoyed revisiting the original series on Blu-ray in marathon form, this is the one I was actively looking forward to. Right Stuf and Sunrise should end up with a lot of very pleased fans with this release.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening 1, Clean Closing 1
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Right Stuf & Sunrise
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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.