What They Say:
After causing terrible pollution on Earth, humanity began to colonize space. In the current era, mankind has become fully adapted to life beyond its home planet. But just as on the surface of the Earth, humanity has begun to relive its history of war out in space…
It is the Universal Century, year 153. The Zanscare Empire, which rules almost all of Side 2, has declared its independence from the old government, the hollow and corrupt Earth Federation. Under the justification of creating a new, space-based order, it has begun an invasion of Earth; and Point Kasarelia, the illegal residence area in Eastern Europe where Üso Ewin and Shahkti Kareen live, is no exception. As they are caught in the fighting between Zanscare and the opposing resistance organization, the League Militaire, fate draws Üso and his friends into the midst of battle.
Üso wants with all his heart to protect those around him, so he becomes the pilot of the Victory Gundam. He’s about to experience firsthand the absurd reality known as war…
The audio presentation for this release delivers on what’s wanted and expected at this point as we get the original Japanese language track in the uncompressed PCM format in stereo. The show doesn’t work a huge soundstage but it’s pretty representative of material at the time and it works well for what it’s trying to do. The dialogue side is mostly center channel based with a clean approach to it where there’s depth and placement as needed in some scenes but mostly just problem beyond that. The action scenes boost things up a bit more as there are more events going on but it’s not something that works the flashier designs of the past ten or fifteen years to make it more immersive. The end result is something that hits the right notes and presents the mix as it was originally designed in a clean and problem free way.
Originally airing in 19983, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-six episodes for this half of the series are spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format. Animated by Sunrise, the series is one that looks very much of the time and shows a shift from the previous series that came out with the designs, notably in the color design. Colors tend to be a bit brighter in just about all tones while still sticking to the real world design that it has when on Earth and a clean simple approach in space. While not hugely detailed, the show does things right with the design of the ships and mobile suits while backgrounds are largely pretty well done considering how minimal they could go if they wanted. The transfer definitely brings all of this together well as it’s a clean looking piece that avoids problems like dust and dirt or scratches and the color saturation is spot on. There’s some film grain noise to be had, often in the ship interior scenes with the beiges and grays they use, but even that’s very minimal overall and doesn’t distract. For fans of the show this is the best it’s probably looked in general
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds two of the discs on a hinge and the third against the interior wall. The front cover works with an appealing image of Uso running with Haro at his side while the background has his mobile suit and some white space. THis all stands out well against the blue of the case and it’s a look that catches the eye as much as it can with its still fairly muted colors. THe logo adds some nice pop of color and the mix of red and yellow continues to work well for me. The back cover works the traditional layout for Sunrise releases with a good mobile suit image along the right, some background material given a little time, and a very clean and easy to read summary of the premise. This is also where we get the listing of the episode count and extras so you know easily what’s in it. The strip of shots from the show are decent with what can be done in that space and we get a full listing of episodes by number and title, a practice I still find a little bewildering. The technical grid covers everything in a clean and easy to read format so you know exactly what you’re getting. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release work a simple but solid approach that may not be flashy but it’s appropriate and works well. Each disc has a static image of some sort from the show that highlights different characters and settings, such as the first with the Gundam being worked on with Uso inside of it, and they have a solid gray banner stripe along the bottom where everything is for the navigation. With a really fun logo kept to the left with bright yellow and red, the navigation itself is done with a small white font with a lot of empty space to the right. That gets used up for the episode selection submenu where you get the list of what’s on that disc by number and title. The discs have little beyond the show so the navigation mostly serves as something functional but it’s kept simple in the right way and works smoothly and without problem.
The extras for this release are a bit standard fare as we get the clean versions of the first opening and closing sequences, which are always welcome, as well as the end of episode previews for the first five episodes. The odd but interesting extra is the eye-catch animation piece, a 40-second full animation bit that’s broken out in the individual episodes a few frames at a time. So we get to see about half of it during the show but here we see it play out in full. It at least explains why the eye-catches are so odd during the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally airing in 1993 and running for 51 episodes, 26 of which are here, Mobile Suit Victory Gundam was at the time the last of the Universal Century series to be produced. It came at an odd time for Sunrise as they were in the midst of being bought out by Bandai Visual and there were all sorts of things going on in trying to get younger audiences involved in the shows since the SD kits were all the rage, hence the protagonist here being the youngest one at the time. Director Yoshiyuki Tomino later talked about how different things would have gone had he known about the corporate changes and desires more clearly, especially since this show caused a resurgence in the “classic” kits being bought at a time when Bandai wanted to push the younger stuff more.
Victory Gundam is an odd project from the start, though some of that comes from watching this in a historical sense. At the time it came out you knew this was a Universal Century series because that’s all that had been produced. Coming at it now where there are so many alternate universes there’s a much hazier feeling to it because it’s not until almost halfway into this set that we even get a reference to it being a part of it. So much of this could easily be one of the alternate setting series, a lot of which stems from the fact that it takes place around the UC 150ish time period and there’s no real reference here to what happened in the past outside of some throwaway minor references that go by quickly if they even register as well. And that’s problematic because everything here either feels static to where we left off in the UC 90’s period or it even feels like it’s regressed a bit.
The premise introduces us to a period where things on Earth are again at a kind of almost agrarian nature for most people as they’re just trying to survive, particularly since it seems like the Earth Federation forces are in a holding action and just trying to keep things stable and steady. Unlike past UC series that start off in space or the colonies, this one works from the perspective of a resistant group called the League Militaire, as they’re the ones standing up to the events going on in space. It’s up there, in a kind of loosely defined way, that we learn about the Zanscare Empire that’s run by Queen Maria, as she sends the BESPA forces to deal with conquering Earth so it can feel the warm embrace and joy of the Empire itself. The problem is that the Empire is one that’s pretty damn cruel, though they believe that it’s how they have to be to ensure peace, as there are regular executions of people with guillotines of all things. It’s an interesting nod to the distant past within this timeline to see brought out and one that causes much anxiety among the populace. The space side itself is dealt with in the second half of this set and there’s a lot of unclear things going on with different elements that the Empire is dealing with.
But, frankly, the Gundam universe in its 70’s and 80’s writings has never been great at really presenting its political, governmental, and military aspects well. The Earth Federation is such a non-player here as is the government that they’re like the parents you never seen in school age comedy series. You know they’re there and you know they should/do have a big impact on how the world works for the characters, but they’re invisible. And that makes it frustrating because so many things don’t work because of it. But that’s even more of a problem with this show in how certain things don’t work. While most of these series open with a kind of crazy way that our lead character acquires a mobile suit this one takes the cake a bit. We get to see thirteen-year-old Uso in his Eastern European town of Kasarelia flying his paraglider right into a Zanscare mobile suit just as their chasing the League Militaire and their just being tested white Gundam.
That Uso literally flies into this and takes over one of the mobile suits, piloted by Cronicle Asher, the younger brother of the Queen, just makes it all the sillier. Asher, of course, flies a red mobile suit and wears a white face mask because every show must have that. It doesn’t take long for Uso to get caught up in the League since he ends up showing a natural gift at piloting mobile suits and he ends up drawing in his friends from the town because it’s the only way they can survive. That naturally includes a potential future girlfriend with Shahkti, who we later learn is the niece of the Queen, because everything must be connected. It’s around that time toward the end of this set that we also get the first whispers that Uso may be a Newtype. It’s just so many coincidences that are brought out at odd times and just feel so forced that it feels like the series was being composed by very different people with different timelines of when things should happen.
The first half of this set largely works the basic character introductions and what you could very generously call the world setup, because that part of it is just plain weaker than weak. The character material is decent because Uso is exposed to some really heavy stuff along the way with how the League is being hunted down and how some of them upon capture have their heads chopped off. What I appreciate with that is that it actually does make an impact on Uso to the point where he has repeated nightmares about it over the course of the series so far. Considering his age and lack of experience in matters like this, it’s shocking that he’s not truly suffering more. He hasn’t grown up in an age like kids today with entertainment and exposure to things, though that doesn’t diminish the impact on them, but his more innocent self here is one that really bears the brunt of it and seeing the adults trying to steel him to it and sometimes provide comfort is one of the better parts of it. Especially in comparison to how Amuro was treated back in the original series.
The back half of this set gets us into space, not without some loss and trouble that makes things harder for Uso, but it at least shakes things up a bit. The Earth based side is a bit of a slog to get to something meaningful and the expansion of the scope to what’s going on up in space helps a lot as there are more forces, more support, and more intrigue as the Zanscare side is explored a lot more. The political side of the Empire is still a mess but it at least adds a little more context. Uso does have some trouble with being in space at first but it’s little surprise that he adapts quickly. But the challenges grow nicely as well as the Zanscare folks are naturals in space for obvious reasons but I just liked having the colonies, the larger ships running through things, and more interesting tactics with the mobile suits in how they fight. The larger threads of the story are, sadly, pretty weak, because at its core it’s just another Spacenoids Take On The Earth kind of thing with the Earth resisting. There really isn’t anything fresh to it but it’s made a bit worse by the fact that the threads to what went on back in the past aren’t felt or referenced here in any meaningful way, giving this a very isolated tone when it should be operating under the shadow of what once was.
That said, as much as I may seem to be ragging on the show, there are a lot of fun aspects to it. Part of it is just the discovery of something new as V Gundam was a show that I had only ever heard about but never seen anything of, so trying to piece it together and figure it out was enjoyable. The cast is also seemingly a lot more expendable than it has been in some of the previous shows, and much earlier as well, and that adds some good uncertainty to things that keeps it hopping. The biggest sell is that there’s just a lot of really good action to it. In fact, it at least feels like there’s a lot more regular action here than other shows in the franchise at this stage, especially once it hits the space side and there are a lot of different things in play. I like the potential of the series, I like what it’s doing in reminding of the real impact of war and the psychological side of it, and I love how great it looks through this release. Fans of the show will be delighted while those who haven’t seen it may feel a little put off by it at first until you figure out its rhythm and groove.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening 1, Clean Closing 1, End of Episode Promos, Eyecatch Animation
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: October 4th, 2016
Running Time: 650 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.