What They Say:
A new force enters the Universal Century conflict. Can the A.E.U.G. fight a war on two fronts?
The Universal Century world is locked into an escalating conflict. While the A.E.U.G. resistance group strives to convince the world of the justice of its cause, the brutal Titans continue to suppress dissent through violence and fear. Now the struggle enters a new phase as a powerful third force enters the battlefield, and the A.E.U.G. and Titans race to enlist the support of the mysterious Axis renegades. Confronted with his past, Char Aznable at last decides to embrace his role as leader of the A.E.U.G. But his choice may have come too late, for the Titans have completed their most terrible and devastating weapon.
Contains episodes 26-50.
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 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 a solid piece of artwork with Scirocco given the dominant position here while still being against the lower left corner. It’s the color design of it that helps it to stand out really well. 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 and almost Japanese 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 from 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 as 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 second clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When we were talking about the first half of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, there was an immense amount of material to cover. Simply talking about the political make-up of this series that takes place seven years after the original opened up plenty to say. The changes in the characters that returned to the show helped balance it out as well as going into the major themes of the series as were being set up. A lot of things did culminate towards the end of that set and that has turned the focus of this one to the larger issues. At the same time, Zeta Gundam does feel a bit weaker when watched over the course of a couple of days as you see the ships going places but never really getting anywhere.
When looking at Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, there are two main paths that the show really follows. The first is the big social/political/military aspect that really does dominate things. The second is that of the characters themselves who are trying to figure out their place in all of this. The political side of the series is actually a fair bit of fun, especially if you do go into it with experience from the original series. The transformation of the Federation since the end of the One Year War is fascinating enough and the off-shoot of the Titans from it is poetic in its own way. Having the AEUG rise out of the remains of the conflict with a fairly more noble position for dealing with humanity leaving the cradle, the clarity of the sides is a bit more apparent. In the original, there were certainly reasons to root for the Zeon side as they wanted independence from a controlling central government. Here, there’s not much to love about the Titans or their methods.
What makes this round of episodes a bit more interesting, and problematic, is that a new group is brought into play. With the two sides getting closer to going as far as they can without going over the edge, the need to bring in more allies becomes the focus. The downside to this is that the main party out there that can be of use is the Axis group, which is the remains of the Zabi family who intend to rise again themselves and control everything. The leader of the family is a young lady named Mineva who is mostly guided and mildly controlled by Haman Karn. She has her own goals but the main one is to bring the Zabi family back to power along with eradicating everyone on Earth. No love is lost between here and those who aren’t Spacenoids. Char has a fairly long history with the Zabi family so having him work on getting them to join them certainly brings in a lot of fun little moments with the cast.
The downside to having the third group brought into the show at this point is that it really does start to clutter things up a fair bit. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam has had a large cast from the start but adding a few more just pushes it towards unwieldy. Especially since it pushes many characters off the stage for awhile. This is more of an issue for Titans based characters than the AEUG since they’re cast as the bad guys. But it does turn into a problem for the core cast since they’ve been fighting against them for so long. When events turn to resolution in the last half dozen episodes, you have people like Jerid and Bask who almost appear out of nowhere and find their stories resolved in the blink of an eye. It does fit within how war and life works, but thematically and from a storytelling perspective it feels weak.
When it comes to the character side of the series, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is still a whole lot of fun. Weird fun but fun nonetheless. Kamille’s ability to draw hot women to him knows no bounds as we see him work his way through Four, Fa, Reccoa and Rosamia. He doesn’t exactly woo some of them, such as Sarah or Haman, but he has a definite influence on them as the show progresses. The relationships that he has with the women who aren’t trying to kill him aren’t all that different since you get the feeling they want to smack him. A lot of it is simply the result of him being young, in a powerful position and having no clue how to deal with it. His interest in Reccoa is amusing but the way he treats Fa has you wondering why Fa hasn’t kicked him to the curb a long time ago. The weird relationship comes in with Rosamia who is reminiscent of Four but has the whole amnesia “I’m your sister!” gig going.
The introduction of the Axis cast and what they bring to the table certainly slows things down for the existing characters, but none more so than the introduction of Rosamia. Brought in as another of the Cyber-NewType experiments that Scirocco is working on, she ends up being extremely clingy with Kamille over her relationship with him. That everyone goes along with it is what’s very weird and even Fa ends up being taken in by her. Kamille seems to attract a very odd type of woman and Rosamia fits into it all quite well. What’s sad is that none of these relationships really get the time to mature and be worked on before events sweep everyone up into things. There are plenty of teasing moments, and much love for some of them such as Four, but Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is all about the drama and the atmosphere of events as the fate of humanity is on the line.
What makes the show work for me the most though is the way it brings in characters from the original series and shows their evolution. As much fun as the new characters are, like Kamille and other members of the AEUG, watching the older characters adapt to being older and supposedly wiser is just engaging. Amuro has very little material in this set overall but his changes were well documented in the first set. Seeing others like Hayato and Bright make good on their pasts brings a smile to my face. I was particularly pleased to see Bright in a commanding role in this without the kind of problems he had in commanding White Base. He is of course saddled with a rather emotional and childish crew though so it probably felt familiar enough for him.
The best, of course, revolves around Lt. Quattro, aka Char Aznable. Char’s role from the original to something like he is here is simply fun to watch, especially as everyone dances around who he really is for so long. Events will eventually force him to go more public with it, but that’s not where the fun is. The fun is in really watching him evolve from a hot shot but composed pilot for Zeon in the original series to one where he’s a father figure here and eventually someone who can shape the direction of humanity as it moves into space firmly. Much like Amuro, he’s spent his years going over things in his head and beating himself up while trying to figure out how to make it better, and seeing him beginning to make good on it is quite enjoyable. In particular, the way he sees much of himself and Amuro in Kamille but both of them realize he’s far more capable of dealing with it even at his age. The relationships that many of the men share in this series are what make it so much fun to watch, even in its fairly cut and dorky 80’s manner of storytelling.
While Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam feels weaker in its second half than the first, there is still a whole lot to love here. The expansive nature of the story as it brings in more characters and situations while upping the epic level of it all is highly engaging. The use of the Axis angle is a lot of fun overall and the Titans introduce their Death Star to the series. But what always gets me about it is that it really does want to make a statement about how everyone and anyone can buy the farm in a series like this. The death list grows quickly as the last ten episodes play out. The good is that it keeps you on your toes and you can’t be sure anyone will make it to the end. The bad is that some of them get killed too quickly and without the kind of importance that would be needed after nearly fifty episodes. All told, though, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is the kind of show that hits most things right in what’s doing from the time it was made it. It’s cold, cruel and occasionally a little silly. I’m still astounded that we’ve got this series here in North America, at this price, and at this level of quality. It has me beyond hopeful for what’s yet to come but utterly pleased with the foundations that fans are being given here with it..
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: April 5th, 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.