What They Say:
Experience the ultimate visualization of the Mobile Suit Gundam Universe with fifteen short films featuring a mix of traditional and digital animation styles. You’ll find adventures from multiple Gundam series, including side stories of characters such as Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing, and a retelling of episode 39 of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series!
Features fifteen short Gundam films by directors like Kenichi Suzuki (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), Shukou Murase (Gangsta., Ergo Proxy), Takashi Imanishi (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin), and more!
The audio presentation for this is fairly simple as we get the original Japanese language track only in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. With the episodes made at different times over the years with different teams there’s some variance to be had, but in the end it’s a rather straightforward piece that doesn’t have too much to stand out with. There’s a regular dose of action throughout and some decent dialogue at times but it’s mostly standard stereo material that doesn’t have a lot of room to really push any boundaries or anything. Everything comes across clean and clear even if it doesn’t stand out much.
Originally released between 2001 and 2007, the transfer for this specials are presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio. The aspect ratios within that changes depending on the director and intent, more so in the later ones than the earlier ones, but the results within the animation itself is decent. Similar to the audio there’s a lot of variance to be had here, especially when you have the first one that’s a reworking of the original TV episodes. The CG based episodes show the growth and changes in the capabilities over the years and that’s definitely interesting to watch but it also introduces its own problems with some shimmering and line noise on top of some of the minor cross coloration and grain issues we have early on. There’s not single look to the show and the transfer captures things well enough but it’s mostly reflective of the source itself and the type of presentation.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard sized DVD case that has the single disc that holds the entire run of episodes. The front cover gives us a decent image overall with the mecha to the right and some Amuro character artwork on the left behind it, but considering the nature of the show it’s no surprise there’s no really strong imagery to work with here. It feels different from other Gundam properties jus tin the color design alone with the heavy reds that I don’t think we really see often with these kinds of releases in Japan. The back cover works a simple low down along the top of the premise while below we get three rows of shots with an image from each episode while between them we get three blocks that break down the episodes by number and title along with the directors involved in it. The bottom finishes things out with the simple but solid technical grid that lists it all clearly and cleanly. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menu design for this release follows a similar and kind of different than usual design for a Gundam show as we get the static main image that has some bright over the earth imagery on the right with Amuro and the mobile suit while the left has a larger and longer image with some interior imagery that really sets a nice mood about it. The bottom has the logo and navigation which there isn’t much to, though at least the episode selection is a submenu so we don’t have it clogging up the main menu much. It’s simple and easy to navigate which is what you want from it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally produced as five short films back in 2001, Gundam Evolve was designed as a chance for directors and creators to step in and basically work with short-form storytelling in the Gundam universe in whatever area they wanted to. There’s an array of attempts made here that fit into the mold of side story material, fun little bonus pieces when you get down to it, or a look at a scene from a different perspective. In some ways, it’s a chance to revisit a property that wasn’t going to get touched upon again, which had me delight when we had a G-Gundam sequence. After the first five stories were produced it took a few years to get back to more, but another eleven were worked on beginning in 2004 and ending in 2007 – which includes an SD Gundam piece as well that will surely frustrate some fans who want nothing to do with that property.
That said, this is the kind of release that really is just for the absolute die-hard absolutist completist collector. I haven’t seen every Gundam show out there – though I’m getting close – and this was one that I was definitely curious about when they were announcing the new round of them in 2004. It’s the kind of material that rarely makes its way out of Japan because of the oddness of it and the lack of larger mainstream appeal, hence it being very appealing in that Sunrise rolled it out here and relatively early on. For me, it’s a big boost of confidence in their plans overall that they will bring out projects like this because the fear is there that there will be overlooked gems for some fans that won’t get attention. And yes, I have that fear with G-Gundam because that show means so much to me.
In watching these episodes I found myself really interested in it in a single way as most of the stories, if you can call them that, really don’t connect well for me. The appeal was seeing the changes in style overall as it progressed This is less so in the first four since those were designed early on and without a real push for CG, but seeing the changes in the remaining episodes is definitely fascinating. I’m still mixed on it to some degree but I’m not as flat out against it as some folks are. Of course, even within this, there are huge differences depending on the style. While we have some serious cel-shaded material that works a solid storytelling point to set the mood, we also get the SD Gundam material that works the cartoonish approach.
But as I said, we also have a brief G-Gundam episode and that just makes the whole thing wonderful in a sense.
With episodes running between four minutes to fourteen minutes, there’s a lot of variety here but also nothing that I found truly compelling. We know short-form storytelling can work well and within the Gundam universe there’s plenty of potential to tell interesting smaller stories. But with these not being planned out and spread out across several years, it lacks a cohesiveness to really drive it in a compelling way. It’s a fascinating look at what can be done and just seeing some of the talents involved makes it worth exploring if you’re into that. But this is going to be a really hard sell for casual fans and even for a good number of very strong fans. I absolutely love that it got a release here and that it’s treated as well as it is because of it’s unique place in the Gundam universe. But it just didn’t click for me as much as I had hoped.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sunrise / Right Stuf
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016
Running Time: 120 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.