What They Say:
It is the year 0088 of the Universal Century in Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. The badly damaged assault cruiser Argama docks at the run-down space colony of Shangri-La for much-needed repairs. While the Argama is in drydock, a young junk dealer named Judau Ashta sneaks aboard in an attempt to steal the Zeta Gundam. He wants to sell it in order to help his sister, but instead he finds himself coerced into joining the Argama’s crew. Unfortunately for Judau, the Argama is being pursued by a dedicated Neo Zeon officer named Mashymre Cello. In order to protect both his sister and himself, Judau must master the Argama’s newest mobile suit, the ZZ Gundam.
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Collection 1 contains episodes 1-22.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which is 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 1986, 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 ZZ looks almost pristine in its nature. Similar to the previous UC releases, 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..
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 the Zeta Gundam looming in the background with a starfield behind it while the lower foreground is given over to Judau in his Normal suit looking all serious and intense. The back cover definitely feels old school with a black 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 soft palette colors 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 clean opening and closing sequences as well as a few TV spots from the Japanese broadcast.
The big push from Sunrise in bringing over the bulk of their Gundam properties through Righ Stuf has been the kind of really great experience I had hoped it would be. Revisiting shows I saw a decade or more ago in newer clarity and by full marathoning changes perceptions of them greatly. At the same time, we’re also getting exposed to several first-time release shows, from Turn A Gundam to Gundam Evolve. With Gundam ZZ, this is a first-time release here as well. Coming out in 1986, right after Zeta Gundam ended, this season ran for forty-seven episodes of which this set has the first twenty-two. Building on the events that came before, it’s like a lot of Gundam shows in that the first half is all basic character setup and situational setup without a lot of deep politics or design. It really follows a similar pattern, almost too much so.
With that in mind, there isn’t a lot to say about the story points here of merit. The show sticks with the Argama as our main focused on the Federation side as Bright Noa is one of our biggest points of continuity here and that works well because it makes a certain amount of sense. While the Titans have been dealt with in their way, Lady Haman has now taken control of the Axis and is looking to make her imprint on things. That’s more coming in the future as she’s a subdued leader at this point, asserting control, building forces, and looking to extend her reach where she can through the right kinds of interactions with the various Sides and colonies that are out there. We get practically nothing taking place on Earth and it seems like Noa and the Argama have very little communication with the main forces in general, continuing their independent operating streak that works quite well.
The focus for this season is on Judau Ashta and his friends from Shangri-la, the original main colony in space that got passed over as time went on. The place has fallen to ruins and has the true broken down and despondent feeling about it that makes a lot of sense as other colonies sprang up and people migrated there, avoiding the first main colony. Judau and his friends operate as junk collectors that sell parts off to make money, which is tough but there are so many mobile suits abandoned and parts out there that it keeps them fairly well sustained. It’s an interesting angle to play and it gives the group its own bond that works in their favor for the most part. Judau does some of this for his slightly younger sister Leina as their parents are long gone, the same for all of them, and he keeps her going to school while he has no use for it. You can see his character writ simply through this.
The problem, of course, is that Judau is a Newtype. He gets drawn into things when the Argama arrives at the colony and Fa is taking the catatonic Kamille to the hospital for treatment, gently ushering him out of the series for the duration. Fa lasts a bit longer and has some decent action moments, but she too feels superfluous here as the writers aren’t sure how to utilize her nor how to give her a graceful exit considering her time in the franchise to date. Naturally, Judau ends up trying to steal the Zeta Gundam doesn’t quite get away with it in the end, but proves surprisingly natural and skilled at it. Captain Noa wants him to stand with them against the Axis and will bring his friends on board in various role to help – which means regular meals and more – but Judau wants none of it because he’s just interested in doing what he does. His friends are more interested in it than he is which makes for an amusing change of pace, but mostly you just see Judau being another very, very, very, slight variant on Amuro and Kamille in a way. He rebels against authority and adults and it leads to so many bad choices along the way.
So many bad choices. How Noa doesn’t really smack the crap out of him is beyond me. Like the other two, Noa sees what’s in him that’s special but he also sees like Amuro and Kamille just how many dangerous situations that they’re put in because of his reckless behavior. There are times when he prefers to go junk collecting in space when fellow ships of the Argama’s being attacked and half his junk team actually switches sides at one point and sorta joins up with the Axis side. There’s no loyalty among them when it comes to the big picture and they have no interest in it. Which I get, it’s a standard storytelling device, but it’s so overdone at this phase of the franchise – and this is thirty years ago – that it just feels almost insulting. Judau does start to change a bit toward the end of the set, mostly because his sister ends up captured by the Axis accidentally, but also because his Newtype abilities are expanding and he’s beginning to actually listen some.
Yet as bad as Judau and his crew are, you really have to cringe at what Axis has. Lady Haman herself isn’t so bad, she’s kept to the background but has a few moments toward the end that show her being a bit out of touch with things, but the rest are pretty terrible. Part of the problem is that with the war having gone on for several years now and gone so big at different points, the truly strong and talented military types are simply gone. They’re either dead, out of commission, or have gotten the hell out of there. So she’s not left with anything impressive and our view of the Axis/enemy side lacks a compelling villain. That our early Axis character is Mashymre Cello says a lot about the show in this perspective. He’s a true believer in a sense, but only in Haman and her incredible ways as he sees her. He’s the classic showy knight given a science fiction bent, complete with a rose of hers in his uniform.
The problem is that he’s utterly incompetent. On like a galactic scale. This is the crap rising to the top moment where you realize that the Axis really should have no chance of winning outside of blind stupid luck. We don’t see much of anything from the Earth side beyond the Argama so it’s hard to say how bad off they are there, but Mashymre really doesn’t do the Axis any favors and the supposed ace female commander in Chara Soon is just as bad as she ends up captured and rather enjoys hanging out with the Argama crew for a while. The only one that seems competent is Gottn, Mashymre’s subordinate, but when he’s thrust into a leadership position later in this set he proves to not have the chops to finish out missions successfully. He’s the type that would serve beautifully under a Char type, but when working under what’s left of Axis? He just can’t rise to the level needed – yet still comes across more competently than most of those above him.
In terms of story there’s not a lot here across the stage of the war between the two sides with the Neo-Zeon/Axis forces and whatever it is that’s opposing them, which we only really see in the form of the Argama. There are some neat bits when it comes to seeing different types of colonies out there, especially the forgotten one that has gone total native, and we get a little time at Anaheim Electronics on the moon as well. But mostly we get the familiar setup, the same set of problems with characters, and the same movements toward something bigger laid out here. The problem is compounded with this season of the series as none of the characters are compelling and some of them should be shot outright by their commanders for their incompetence. Perhaps it’s less noticeable on an episode by episode basis, but when watched in full there’s a lot of frustration to be had with ZZ. And just the opening lyrics for the opening theme song are enough to turn some folks away.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening 1, Clean Closing 1, TV Spots
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Right Stuf & Sunrise
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Running Time: 550 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.