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Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation Anime DVD Review

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Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam A New Translation CoverNothing starts wars in the Gundam universe like stealing a Gundam. Sadly, it seems its all too easy to do.

What They Say:
Universal Century 0087. The Titans, a bellicose faction among the Earth Federation Forces, grows powerful and tyrannical, even using poison gas to suppress a civil unrest. Dissident soldiers from the same military stand against them, forming a resistance group called the A.E.U.G. Kamille Bidan, a civilian student, gets entangled in this conflict when he accidentally steals the Gundam Mk-II and joins the A.E.U.G., running away from his home space colony. Then he begins to fight along with Char Aznable, a former Zeon ace pilot who has infiltrated the Earth Sphere for reasons of his own.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A new Translation movies get a nice bump up in its audio presentation as we get a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. Sadly, we don’t get the original stereo mix included with this edition, something we had in the prior release. The 5.1 mix doesn’t add a ton of directionality but it makes good use of the bass to give the action scenes a lot more impact. The forward soundstage makes out better overall and there are some good uses of the rear speakers at times with footsteps and voices being thrown there when you least expect it. The 5.1 mix overall does a better job of presenting a more theatrical feeling to it, even if some of the sounds thrown to the rear don’t feel like they really needed to be.

Video:
Originally in theaters in beginning in 2005, the transfer for these film are presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Using footage from the 1985 series with a few new bits mixed in to tie it all together, the features look good overall though it’s very limited by its source material. The old show has a lot of grain to it and it’s very visible throughout, especially with the character animation in their faces as it stands out very prominently. This isn’t a feature that’s going to look good compared to other features out today, but it certainly works with the previous movie trilogy for the original series in terms of looking similar and providing continuity. The use of the original materials rather than re-animating it isn’t a surprise but it means we do get a less than stellar looking show because of the grain. Nightjar did a good job encoding the disc with a very high bitrate throughout, but it’s just hindered by the source material.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized keepcase that holds the three-disc on a hinge as well as the interior back side of it. With a few pieces to choose from as these were originally three films, we get the theatrical poster that I’ve always felt comes across as a bit odd. The main image here is of Kamille as he floats in space, sans helmet on head since it’s supposed to be of him inside a ship, but upside down and a little sideways. It makes sense in the whole everything is relative in space kind of thing, but as a piece of artwork here it just has you looking at it a little odd. The background is a nice space-scape with the Earth rolling up along the bottom and it does the unusual thing of mixing in a blood red background for part of the stars itself. His Zeta is used as well behind him which gives us a bit of mecha and there’s an inclusion of someone else in a spacesuit slowly making their way towards everything in the foreground. All of it has a very clean look with a solid logo that has the full on name and the individual movie name as well. The back cover uses a white background that works well as the character artwork that’s arrayed across it stands out well, looking fresh yet classic. The premise is covered simply enough as one would expect and we get a decent range of small shots from the film along the bottom. Add in some production credits and a simple but effective technical grid and it all comes together well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works a simple but very solid approach with what it does as we get a split screen design. The right side is the same throughout all three discs with a red filtered starscape that has the basic navigation in the center while below it the logo takes up a good chunk of real estate. The left side changes out with each volume as it uses the theatrical film poster artwork to good effect, making each stand out well while tying it to its original and largely strong marketing design. The menus are simple but effective and work without any issues at all.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal here with just the teaser trailer and full Japanese trailer to promote the films original release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Zeta Movie CAs Gundam was about to enter its twenty-fifth-anniversary phase, Yoshiyuki Tomino decided it was time to remind modern Gundam fans what Gundam was all about. Because of the length of the Zeta series, and the original already having movie compilations (that many consider better than the TV run), he opted to put together three movie compilations of the Zeta series from 1985. Gundam’s popularity has gone through a natural ebb and flow as they continually reboot it and then create more and more series aimed at specific audiences, so it wasn’t a surprise that Tomino would use a little pull to go back to his original work and try to make it concise and fix a few things along the way. Naturally, he’s added more problems along the way for the die-hard fans but they’re things a casual viewer won’t have any issue with.

It’s been some time since I saw the Zeta series but all of it comes back fairly easily upon rewatching it here in this condensed form. Taking place several years after the end of the One Year War, the Federation has absorbed much of the Zeon forces in a way and what we have now is a very powerful organization that’s branching out of it called the Titans. They have a strong Zeon flair to them with Bask as the man seemingly leading the charge there and they’re intent on stirring the pot after the theft of a new mobile suit. The combined Earth/Zeon organization, known as the AEUG, is viewed as corrupt in a way but it’s also the manipulation of events by the Titans as they’ve turned from their original mission of hunting down Zeon remnants and holdouts to building and acquiring more power for themselves. The group feels like it’s simply dedicated to war and power through mobile suits and goes to any extreme in order to achieve more, even if it’s killing relatively innocent people, such as Kamille’s parents after he ends up in possession of a mobile suit.

Kamille Biden is the main focus of this series, taking on the role Amuro had in the original series, by being the right kid in the wrong place at the right time. Young, brash and full of himself and his abilities, he literally lucks into gaining access to a Gundam suit after events play out badly on the Side he lives on and he becomes embroiled in the new war that’s started. His resentment of the Titans is strong and it’s even enough for him to work alongside the AEUG in order to stop them after they coldly killed his mother in deep space right in front of him. What helps him, albeit slowly, to gain control and move forward is that he’s under the mild guidance of Quattro Bajeena, who is living that life while hiding his true identity as Char Aznable.

Unlike the original Gundam series and its movie compilations, I’m not as enamored of this one. The opening film isn’t a bad one as it manages to retain a lot of what’s important in the early episodes to set the tone and introduce the characters. There’s obvious streamlining going on here as things are reduced significantly in a lot of areas, but it doesn’t feel like it’s losing a ton of things to the casual observer. Where it suffers, especially in comparison to the TV series that the footage is drawn from, is that it feels incredibly busy and very quickly paced, to the detriment of enjoyment at times. It’s one action scene to the next as the suit is stolen and as Kamille becomes a member, albeit it grudgingly, of the AEUG. The TV series was paced in a very specific way and while it felt drawn out or convoluted at times, doing a cut like this eliminates a lot of what made it so much fun because you could spend much more time with the characters.

About a third of this film is done with the newly remastered footage and it does stand out against the rest of it, even with all the added grain. The disparity between the two is pretty significant, especially in the amount of detail and the way the animation flows so smoothly, that you can pull out the major scenes easily. There are areas where small tweaks are added, such as some CG animation to the mechanical parts of the spaceships and such, but there’s also main sequences where the whole things are newly added in. I like what these scenes add, though I’m not familiar enough with the original to identify how much it changes the story from the original, but it adds a bit more of a human side when needed. Most of the new scenes tend to slow down the show a bit which is helpful, but overall the feature still feels far more packed and busy than it should.

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