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Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Collection 2 CoverWe’re running out of colonies to drop!

What They Say:
In Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Collection 2, Haman Karn, leader of Neo Zeon, invades Earth to strike at the corrupt Federation government. In order to foil her occupation and rescue his sister Leina, Judau Ashta and his friends travel through the African desert on the way to Dakar. However, the more people they meet, the more Judau realizes the devastation and pain that the Zabi family has left behind.

Meanwhile, Haman will do anything to revive Neo Zeon, even commit genocide. Judau and the crew of the Argama must stop Haman before her terrible power brings devastation to all humanity!

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Collection 2 contains episodes 23-47.

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
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 mobile suits going at it in the center foreground with crackling blades while behind them we get the headshots of Judau and Hama in their helmets engaged in that combat. 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 mobile suit 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The only extras included here are the second clean opening and closing sequences as well as a few TV spots from the Japanese broadcast.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Digger into the deeper areas of the original Universal Century timeline has definitely been interesting and frustrating at the same time. Part of it is just trying to adjust to the period in which it was created and the lack of making certain things cohesive that we sort of take for granted now. With the original series being a favorite, albeit more in film mode, and Zeta being a show that I enjoyed a heck of a lot, ZZ has proven to be problematic for me largely because it’s suffering from a lack of compelling characters. I talked about it a lot in the first half of the series where, after a few years worth of war between various sides and factions, it would make sense that there are few true top players at work anymore due to attrition. That leaves us with less than enthralling players like Mashymre, who exited for a good while at the end of the previous set.

More problematic for me is the general makeup of the solar system at this point in terms of the factions. We get the basics here of the AEUG versus what the Axis is now under Lady Haman’s command, but leadership across the board is lacking, instead leaving us to just the kids and a lack of proper scale to it. So when we do get the scale it just becomes a reinforcement of “adults bad, kids good” mentality that can work and has worked in other properties over the years. The most egregious aspect of this is when the Axis side decides to really reinforce how committed they are to their mission by dropping another colony on the world. Watching this after starting After War Gundam X was like a kick to the head because at least that series showed some global scale repercussions of a colony drop. Here, when Dublin goes under the drop, the immediate area is wiped but it just serves to set the kids off to fight even harder.

It also doesn’t help that the AEUG and Federation command forces are actually good with the colony being dropped because it means fewer people that are alive which in turn means fewer people to feed. It’s a by the numbers game for them in the most simple of senses that you can see some making the case for, but dammit, there are no good leadership positions/players out there to even try arguing against it. It’s left to Judau and the others to make the case at a time and place where it won’t make any difference anyway. This just sends them over the edge a bit and reinforces Judau’s sense of wanting to end all of this because those in power aren’t taking proper responsibility for what’s going on. It’s a decent enough concept but too much of the show is given over to the travel/battle aspects instead of enough time with characters outside of this group to make them feel like they truly are part of a larger interconnected war. Even as an independent ship, for the most part, the Argama would have a lot more connection to events all around the war just by information alone.

The show works a lot of time on Earth, which starts in Africa before making its way to Dublin where the AEUG/Federation upper command folks are, and there are some fun battles along the way and moments of trying to adjust to fighting on a world as opposed to a colony or in space for the kids. Some of what we get makes you cringe a bit, such as bringing a future iteration of Rommel into the mix, but they also do better than I expected for the brief use of Islam in it. The earthbound side has all the usual hallmarks of this franchise in what it does so there are no true surprises here. What frustrates, sadly, is that we get a lot of back and forth time with Leina once again since her capture by Glemy. There are intentional moments of silliness to be sure as they try and drive home how different she from the Axis side and their more “proper” ways, but the show also goes to the well with one of the worst motivators out there. With Judau going as hard as he can so many times to save her, that she ends up killed in an action serves to drive him to grow up and really taking control of his own destiny in this war. It’s a far too familiar cliche – even back when this first came out – and seeing it in today’s light of storytelling methods reminds you just how badly done it can be. Judau’s growth throughout the series as a character almost invariably comes at the expense of others, either through their position or the loss of their lives. So when we do get him being fully on board and competent toward the end, well, it doesn’t feel earned.

When the show moves into its final arc, finally bringing back Lady Haman for a while, Mashymre with a new uniform but still the same rose in his mouth that I want to slit his throat with, and even the Psyco Gundam, it wants to show just how bad things are breaking up out in the Spacenoid realm by having Glemy break off his own faction to try and take down Lady Haman. Which I fully support since she’s nowhere near as in control as the Zabi family was and there’s just a sense of corruption and decadence about many of those in the upper echelon. This just makes everything even more complicated for the Argama and the rest of the “good guys” side that shows up, but this war has felt so woefully incomplete for so much of this show that it’s hard to tell just who is really fighting in it beyond the Argama. We’re admittedly following their story, but we don’t get a sense that they’re truly part of something far larger – even if a lot of it was decimated after events prior to this series.

And then there’s the Newtype angle. Even after all these years it never felt like anyone knew what to do with this side of the property and the real goal of it. That’s evident here as well as we get more people that “Become One” with space and communicate from time to time with Newtypes. We get more Cyber Newtypes in the mix with artificially created ones, but damn of Ple didn’t just leave me wishing the cloning facility was destroyed once she tried to take over for Leina by being Judau’s new little sister. The use of Newtype’s presence and pressure being a thing, the sensitivity to it, and the larger scale speaking to people, all of it just felt so loosely defined and disconnected in a way that it was like they were just making it up as they went along and trying to remember what rules they previously established for it. I like the potential as the whole evolutionary step amid a time of chaos, but it’s so poorly utilized and laid out as to be comical at times.

In Summary:
Having watched a whole lot of Gundam over the years, I’ll say that the property is a lot like pizza because even the stuff that’s problematic is good. This series has some great action sequences and works some less than conventional approaches to events that don’t always pay off but are at least tried. I like the state of things but find myself wanting a lot more of what makes it what it is as opposed to just the ragtag group of kids that Bright is shepherding through this war. At least his motivations make sense after experiencing both Amuro Ray and Kamille Bidan. Judau is not of that caliber and the group he’s with from his Side simply don’t resonate well, nor do any of the women that come into his life. There’s that part of me that wishes that the structure of the UC stories would be given to a hard science fiction writer to work with and expand upon and then animate that. But until then, Sunrise has now finally given us the ZZ series in great form to enjoy and experience and it’s definitely worth it for fans of the Universal Century timeline to sink their teeth into and connect with themselves.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening 2, Clean Closing 2, 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: July 5th, 2016
MSRP: $74.99
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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