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 colo-nies, the Earth Federation is storing and testing a new piloted robot for use in the battle against the Principality of Zeon. Now embroiled in the war Amuro Ray, pilot of the RX-78 battle suit called “Gundam”, must fight against Char Aznable to protect everything he and his friends hold dear.
Contains the conclusion to the iconic series (Episodes 22-42) in both English dub and Japanese with English subtitles.
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, it definitely got the good treatment.
Set in the standard PAL format (anamorphic), done in 4:3 on a vertical screen format (so it doesn’t fill the full screen, instead we have black bars on either side), 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 (aside from a couple of minor instances when the subtitles seems to be out of sync on a couple of episodes in brief spots), 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 with heroic visages of Amuro – 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.
On Disc 1, there is actually a good extra called the 30th Anniversary Interview with Staff. Done in 2010 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Gundam, a number of the staff get together for a sit down interview discussing the show, their feelings on it, how they worked together and their legacy. We have Yoshiyuki Tomino (Director), Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (Animation Director/Character Designer), Kunio Okawara (Mecha Designer) and Mitsuki Nakamura (Art Director) all getting together – mentioning how the show was cancelled half way through and how they managed to finish the series, the clashes in staff (Okawara who designed other mech for shows like Yatterman and Ultraman had several clashes with Tomino’s images and a number of arguments apparently spilled) – how they felt the series wanted to be looked at (comparison the Federation as like an American army with the Zeon’s as a German one) – throughout the interview you get to see the original art/sketches (including rough ones by Tomino) – it is a short but surprisingly in-depth look at Gundam folk lore with the original staff and is quite interesting.
If you ordered on day release you would get a limited art book as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The re-mastered version of Gundam was a pleasant surprise and one of many future Gundam releases Anime Limited have on the works (though I still joke about where G Gundam is) and whilst the animation hasn’t held up well for some reason the second half seem to hold off a bit better – I didn’t notice as much repeated animation for example as the era of Newtypes are being told – but how does the story hold up?
I think I can sum it up quite easily. A series of new characters get introduced, have a connection briefly with one of the main cast…and then die. This is pretty much the second half of Gundam – there are four instances this happens where you can see it coming – they enter, have a profound impact with someone (though not so much with the audience due to how brief their appearances are) – then they die, and the group quickly recovers to see off the next Zeon menace.
It is cheesy, it is predictable, it is clichéd as hell….and yet I can’t hate it.
It starts off with a character that was introduced with the previous set, in Matilda – a commanding officer of the supply team and a mature beautiful adult woman is pretty much the first time Amuro might have hit puberty – an early definition of a Mary Sue type character as she is great, attractive and everyone loves her like a guardian angel – however, after a few flirty moments she along with Amuro are sent in a large-scale military operation they are attack by a new group of Zeon soldiers known as the Black Tri-Stars. Matilda tries to protect her boys so to speak, but she is indeed killed much to the crews’ initial shock. I say this because this is the first instance of a character being introduced quickly on the good guys side and quickly dies, the impact initially is heart breaking, but they are soon over it as there is a war to fight (which is truth sadly with millions of people dying) – it is just she (like another character later on) was this perfect human being, but wasn’t on screen for the audience to really see her like the cast, hence the cliché storm this series brings about. There is a later episode where you meet Matildas’ fiancé, which brings back the conflicting feelings, but again, he dies pretty quickly in the same way as Matilda did so it is hard to get attached sadly. Amuro does get revenge and defeats the Tri-Stars later, starting his own development as a Newtype, as his skills are suddenly getting better than perhaps even he expected…
The second time the above scenario happens is when Kai leaves the ship, getting fed up of war. Kai is a character who was arrogant and initially unlikeable, but slowly develops as he is forced to fight and this time out is similar to when Amuro decided to leave – in his case, the character he meets is a girl named Miharu, a good person who is trying to look after her two younger siblings, but is practically bribed by the Zeon group to be a spy against the Federation, which she does when she sneaks on board back on the ship when Kai has a change of heart seeing what he has to protect. During a mission, Miharu goes with Kai (Kai knowing she was a spy yet saw the reasons why) and helps him in a battle, but also sadly dies. Again, there is momentary sadness for the cast, especially Kai but it does kick him in the butt and realise what he has to protect. But again, the audience can see this as basically a quick fix, and yet still enjoy it because of the clichés and predictability.
The third instance is a bit more interesting because it involves a new crew member named Slegger, a cocky veteran of war with a bit of a womanizing edge, yet he is actually quite likeable because he does get the job done, and actually bonds with the crew, calling people out when they are treated wrong or underestimated – he grows respect for them and as he is in for a few more episodes he does get through surprisingly good character development. The one thing which is out of nowhere is before he inevitably gets killed, he gets involved in a romance with Mirai, which is completely out of the blue and I was wondering where it came from. It does have a nice moment with him giving her a ring belonging to his mother despite telling her she is way too good for him, and there was some tears from her, but it came out of nowhere so much that it signals to the viewer ‘damn, he’s going to die isn’t he?’ The warning signs are there and it follows through, though at least the character was a lot more memorable.
The last instance is quite big though as it is a huge tie-in to the end of the series. The group are in a neutral zone named Side Six where no fighting is allowed so Zeon and Federation soldiers are both in this zone. This does lead to the first true meeting between Amuro and Char (with the fact that Amuro knows who Char is, but Char doesn’t know that Amuro is the pilot of Gundam) – however with Amuro having a stroll, he meets a young Indian woman named Lalah – who similar to Matilda he seems to fall in love for and have an instant connection…expect the connection is somewhat…different. She is in fact one of the earliest Newtypes – which is discussed throughout the second half of this series. It gives the user spiritual awareness and almost psychic connections – allowing them to predict and know moves and thoughts ahead of time. This coincides with the fact Amuro is predicting things way better that the Gundam can’t keep up with him. Char saved Lalah and she is hugely loyal to him, so when she starts fighting herself, Amuro and Lalah have a psychic fight as both believe the other to be wrong in this war – it sadly, does end in tragedy when Char gets involved and the classic moment of Lalah protecting Char from Amuros’ blade is deep with Amuro which sets up the finale – as up until then the Char/Amuro rivalry was more on professional respect, but both of them now take it personally (Char to Amuro for killing Lalah who was definitely his rock, whilst Amuro to Char for bringing Lalah into war) leading into the final battle.
As you can see, whilst predictable, it seems to improve in it from brief moments, to memorable characters, to a huge plot point. The Newtype ideology comes through gradually and you realise other people also have it(Char and Sayla, the three kids) to a mild degree amidst all this fighting. There is actually good story development as well as Char’s revenge against the Zabi family is slowly brought into task, showcasing his cunning and intelligence. We also get the confirmation of Char and Sayla being brother and sister, and despite the two following different teams and philosophies they don’t want to kill each other (Char even gives her some gold so she can leave the Federation, she refuses – and this is good as the crew still trusts her, she even is the one that helps stop the fight between Amuro and Char in the end), the set up is told gradually well because of how it contrasts with the Zeon family bickering.
Speaking of which, the show continues to showcase that outside of the big bads, the Zeons are actually quite capable of being likeable despite being the enemy. The character of Dozle for example, is a big scary looking commander…who sees of his wives and infant daughter during a battle because he does fear he may die, and is happy to see them go safe. When he feels all his lost, he makes sure his men escape before he takes on the Gundam himself in one of the more unique Zeon mobile suits, the Big Zam. Despite his death, it is the first big moment that starts the beginning of the end of Zeon and is a stark contrast to the brother/sister duo of Gihren and Kycilia, who are pretty much the two characters to remind you that Zeon are in fact, the enemy because most of the Zeon’s actually showcase good sides. The fact the two are pretty much ready to backstab one another, call each other out of their tactics (their father actually compares Gihren to Adolf Hitler, a comment he actually takes as a compliment) and leads to a few sudden but inevitable betrayal moments, you are all ready for Char to finally take his revenge in the final episode…
There are a lot of filler like moments though that try and tie in to the plot. Hayato for example actually feels more of a jerk than Kai did as he only sees a rivalry with Amuro and when he gets injured the show tries to give him a moment, but doesn’t really work – the three kids get an episode to themselves where they actually find and with help disarm a bomb, but a lot of the characters just get moments (Frau Bow, Mirai and even Bright seem to be not as used so much this arc) – the real focus is on Amuro developing as a pilot and as a person. There is one episode which is a legit heartbreaker where he reunites with his father, but his father doesn’t care about him and just focuses on Gundam…it turns out he suffered brain damage from oxygen deprivation and Amuro just goes along with it and realises that because of this war, things can never be the same again. His development of a pilot whilst still being a child is demonstrated very well throughout and is the prototype I guess for all future Gundam pilots, and can be seen as the poster boy (with Char as the poster antagonist – a complicated villain with some good points but still very calculated and driven).
Gundam is a classic – I’m not a huge fan of the mecha genre but I do acknowledge where it started and how it came to be, the series whilst cheesy, stock footage and very predictable nowadays was ground breaking at the time and probably didn’t even realise what it would bring for Sunrise and Bandai in the future. Whilst the predictability and recycling of plots are obvious, it actually does get stronger throughout the series and there is just enough development from our leads and villains where it is still memorable. Animation aside, it is definitely worth it for the origination and what it would spawn.
Is Gundam a masterpiece? In its own way, it is – it created a genre and a franchise yet the original series falls to a lot of clichés – it is predictable, it has poor animation, has filler, yet when the going gets tough, it does pull out a coherent story, some likeable and intelligent characters (though it may try too hard to make you feel for side characters who die), a surprisingly good climax, the development of new mecha throughout, some good feel moments, and Amuro and Char are both well developed characters through their motives and growing up. It hasn’t converted me to mecha, but as a series where it came from, it is definitely worth a watch.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: February 8th, 2016
Running Time: 525 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.