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Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

15 min read

MS 08th Team Blu-ray CoverBack to the basics, back to the Universal Century calendar and back to the year it all began, 0079. Just getting into the good old classic mode has re-energized me and these episodes were no let down at all.

What They Say:
Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team contains episodes 1-12 of the Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team OVA Series plus the Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team: Miller’s Report movie.

The year is Universal Century 0079. The Federation has begun mass production of prototype Gundams for use by its ground forces. Shiro Amada, commander of the 08th MS Team, must lead his soldiers through fierce fighting on the ground. However, the Zeons are developing a secret project which could tip the balance of power! Can Shiro and his ragtag team of castoffs, rejects, and bad attitudes save the Federation?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid all around as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo, the upgrade 5.1 mix that was done several years later, and the English language dub, all of which are in uncompressed PCM form. A good chunk of the show is naturally your standard stereo design material with dialogue and some of the basic sound effects of it all. The show does work some very good material when it comes to the action as the forward soundstage has a good bit of impact to it and the 5.1 mix adds a bit more bass to it so that it resonates more. As a forward soundstage design it definitely draws you into the action with the movement and depth as needed. The score itself is also a pretty good one with some engaging pieces along the way that swell with the action very well. Overall, it’s a very solid track that makes out with a nice additional bump with the 5.1 mix but is overall a clean and clear design that’s problem free throughout.

Video:
Originally released between 1996 and 1999, the transfer for this twelve episode OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio. The series is spread evenly across two discs while the third disc has the Miller’s Report special. Animated by Sunrise, the project is one that shows a different kind of maturity compared to some of the original works and the alternate material from the same period as it goes for a more earthy tone without becoming bleak or lifeless. There’s color here with all the jungle material and that comes across well, while retaining the natural grain of the source material. It’s not a show that’s going to look pristine clean but that’s also part of the appeal with the traditional animation and the details that comes with it. The encoding brings it to life well with solid color fields that are problem free and no visible cross coloration or line noise of note throughout. Having seen this in a few incarnations this is definitely the best it’s looked.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the three discs on hinges. The front cover artwork is a strong piece that’s rare for me in that it’s focused just on the mobile suit side that I think is spot on. With it set in the jungle, covered in muck and looking like it’s truly battle worn, the mix of colors and the camera positioning makes for an engaging piece that tells its own story. The back cover is kept black for the background and we get a little jungle piece along the top with the logo while the right has a good image of Shiro and the mobile suit in the same jungle. The premise is covered well and the shots from the show, while small, give you a feel for the overall design. The episodes are clearly listed by number and title as well as a breakdown of the extras. The technical information for the release is minimal but is mostly covered well along the bottom in a small font. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design riffs off of the packaging to a good degree with the black background along the left that features the military stencil logo and an easy to use navigation strip below it that plays like some of the command aspects of a mobile suit. It’s simple but the white text on black looks good with the overall design. The right half of the menu features some great illustration material that changes up with each volume that shows off key scenes from within that were used for the Japanese releases. These are visually striking pieces that are definitely fun to linger on rather than just getting past in order to get the show. The menus work well with easy functionality as both a top level menu and a pop-up menu but I continue to wish that the episode you were on was highlighted when checking as a pop-up menu.

Extras:
While Bandai produced some original extras back in the day that don’t make their way over, like the Encyclopedia material, we do get some good stuff here. The clean opening and closing is included, we get some good promos, and the “Battle in Three” short is included which is a welcome bit of little bonus animation.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the time that this series saw release, particularly in its original North American run, Universal Century material was few and far between, mostly relegated to the movies, 0080 and 0083. This series avoided the trend at the time for the pretty boys that were dominating the alternate timelines and capturing a lot more attention. While I enjoyed those, there was something about the more serious side – and the material that avoided things like Amuro – that drew me in more than anything else. With the show and the Miller’s Report special having gotten the high-definition treatment in the last few years in Japan, Sunrise has now brought it out here in a pretty complete and definitive edition for fans.

The story settles on the 08th Mobile Suit Team stationed on Earth during the war. We get introduced to the show via Shiro, the newest commander of the 08th Team whose coming down from the Side’s to lead this team, whose apparently gone through a few commanders. Shiro’s your typical young buck with a good deal of responsibility placed on him. He’s not dealt with Earthbound combat, but he’s pretty skilled with the space combat. He wants to do good by his team and to have everyone make it back alive, but he lacks the real charisma needed to really mobilize them. He’s also pretty cocksure during his first few encounters.

Our initial introduction to him comes as the transport he’s on is heading towards Earth and a Federation mobile suit and team of Zaku’s are fighting nearby. The mobile suite is hurt pretty bad and takes refuge in the massive amount of space debris while the Zaku hunts him. Shiro decides rather quickly that he can and must help the pilot, so he takes the Ball out into space. The Ball is basically your 2001 model spacecraft with a cannon attached to the top. Shiro heads out and tries to save the pilot and take out the Zaku.

It’s stunts like this that earns him some amount of respect when he hits planetside but also gives the impression of recklessness. It also earned him the respect of the wrecked mobile suit pilot who now finds himself transferred to the 08th Team. This only serves to help in his mind his reputation as the unlucky pilot who lives while his teammates die. Once planetside, Shiro gets a hasty introduction to some of his team and then we get thrown into combat situations and dealings with the guerilla’s who aren’t sided with Zeon or the Federation. While things click quickly for longtime Gundam fans, people new to the UC timeline may find themselves a tad lost, but things make enough sense to work through things easily enough.

The secondary characters on the team don’t get a real full introduction, but they’re pretty much stock characters at first but done well so that you could get into their motivations even with it all being told through Shir’s eyes. These early episodes do that well, setting up Shiro and Ainsha, the Zeon pilot he meets early on in some interesting circumstances. The guerilla leader was also pretty well done and I’m not opposed to her introduction being of her swimming in the nude.

As the show gets more fully underway, it delves a bit into the problem that Sanders has. With this being the latest team he finds himself assigned to, he’s now on his 3rd mission with them. And all of his past missions have had the team killed on their third missions without fail. Suffice to say he’s rather despondent and resigned to the fact, and even talks about resigning to stop the curse that appears to follow him with it. Shiro’s got absolutely no time for such crap, and with a new field assignment on their plate, kicks them all into gear. What they discover while out on assignment is the background plot that runs through this arc. We’re reintroduced to Aina and her brother, with Aina piloting a massive new mobile armor called the Apsalus. This thing is just huge and heavily armored, yet piloted by an attractive woman who I keep thinking of as Belldandy. The first skirmish between the Apsalus and the 08th Team doesn’t go over too well for either side, with things left in almost a draw.

One of my favorite mid-series episodes comes when the team finds one of the testing grounds that the Zeon have been using to check out their new gear, and it’s been recently used. Now that the Apsalus is back in the air, they’re going to have to give it some test time and this is the logical place for them to go. The 08th Team gets the assignment of taking as much time as required to stake out the area and lay a trap for the mobile armor when it arrives. This multiday task really helps expand the knowledge of each of the characters as they’re forced to deal with each others personalities on a more constant basis while being out there alone on the field. Michel continues to complain about things, now that he has to do Eledore’s job as well, and about his desire to send B.B. his latest letter. To some extent, Michel just hasn’t learned what war is really about yet. Sanders and Karen both kind of just rub him off the wrong way, and Shiro’s just trying to do his best and to get this mobile armor.

With the addition of Kiki in this episode, being very affectionate to Shiro and very understanding to Michel, the dynamic between everyone gets a pretty good looking into. These aren’t the best people in the world and they’re all quite fallible. Being thrust into this situation really tests their tempers and their objectives, and provides a good show of character development.

Another arc that works really well, even if cliched, finds us with Aina in her Apsalus flying off with Shiro in his mobile suit holding onto the Apsalus. They end up flying wildly off course, and then just settle into a stationary spot above one of the mountains. Shiro, in a move that only the young and the stupid can do, gets out of his suit and makes his way towards the Apsalus’ entrance. All this while thousands of feet up in the air with hardly anything to hold onto. Both ships eventually end up crashing down into the mountain range, just as a storm starts moving in. This bit of convenience keeps either the Federation of Zeon from sending a rescue party for their respective piece of equipment and pilot. Zeon in particular as they don’t want to lose their Apsalus technology to the Federation.

Shiro takes things fairly hard, having ejected from his mobile suit during the descent. After a bit of time in the frigid windy cold, he finally comes across his suit, which is still exuding heat from its encounter. Aina also finally makes her way down from the Apsalus and joins him. This is one of those awkward moments on the field, when two opposing enemies face each other (though these two love each other) and aren’t sure if the trust can be extended. Yes, it’s cliche ridden and overdone, but it works well with the way its executed here and with these characters.

With help from Aina, they turn the mobile suits beam blade to its lowest power setting (which still packs a whallop) and use it to create a small impact crater near them, which results in really creating a small hot spring. It’s snowing madly, but the steam rises from the warm water. And we see both of these pilots, now naked, enjoying the new spring. It’s pretty surreal, and definitely Japanese-centric, but it really works. The imagery of the two against the stark black sky with the snow whipping by is striking.

Through their talking and trying to understand each other, we also get treated to an “origin” flashback with Shiro and his life aboard one of the colonies. The attack on the colony he was on by the Zeon’s is nice and vivid, and the destruction caused certainly gives him the mentality for doing what he’s been doing in the MS 08th. But the understanding he comes to with Aina about war, through their time shared, is one of the central themes of Gundam. And it gets nicely explored in the following episodes, when the guerrilla base is attacked and when he’s continually accused of being a spy for not killing Aina.

The show is one that works the military science fiction side well and keeps things moving with plenty of action that delights a lot of the fans of the original work. Though Shiro’s not one of the best pilots, he’s not one of the kind of pilots that despises what he’s doing, he just gets in there and does the job that he sees fit to do. So he’s still got that maverick feel, but he’s not trying to run away from it all in general. With the One Year War now going so poorly for the Zeon forces, the base Ginias had been using is to be abandoned as his Apsalus is nearly ready and can handle most any foe. Aina uses this time to get everyone on board a med evac craft so she can at least save someone. She also spends some time talking with Norris, who she reveals to that she thinks of him like a father. This display is most surprising to Norris, but it only serves to further his resolve in making sure she gets what she wants. And now that her goal is to save the lives of those in the base, he’s taking it as a personal mission.

And it’s a dangerous battle. With the mountain base being abandoned and there being so many pieces of Federation hardware in the area and the city below it, they’re practically surrounded. The Federation is moving in large mobile tank hardware to begin a massive bombing campaign to get the last of the Zeon out, so the few remaining mobile suits the Zeon have are put to use in tracking down and eliminating them as they move throughout the city. They’re defended by the 08th Team though, and some great block by block city fighting between the group and the Zeon goes on, with some excellent sequences between Shiro and Norris.

And to make matters worse for everyone, Ginias gets his Apsalus flying with Aina at the helm. This massive beast lays a searing line of fire down across the entire valley and practically shocks the Federation commanders into a stupor. With this larger newer enemy now proving to be a real player, the sheer stupidity of some commanders shows up in great form here when something of a truce is offered. The nastiness and the stupidity of these kinds of wars is showing quite clearly here. Of course, this is also made worse with Ginias’ further sinking into insanity as he revels in the power of his creation.

The epilogue episode takes things down a notch by taking place in 0080 after the war is over, which is fun to add into the placement of the larger storyline from other series and what was going alongside this in other locations. Only Kiki and Michel are involved here as they try to bring resolution to everything. The episode works in the end, but it feels like an uneven epilogue as it introduces things that just don’t seem to really fit well into the overall universe and don’t really go anywhere since it’s just an epilogue. But the end pays off nicely making it worthwhile.

Miller’s Report:
Miller’s Report is a recap of sorts of the first seven or so episodes of the 08th Team series with some new footage mixed in. While not really groundbreaking, it was somewhat surprising at the time to see a niche title like this make it over but it was fully dubbed previously and gets the full high definition treatment here as well. Episodes like this are useful to try and draw people into the project, especially when it was just a home video only release, and looking at events from a different perspective can work if done right.

The story of Miller’s Report opens with the battle between the 08th Team and their sneak attack trap on the Zeon forces that are testing their mobile armor. The show opens to this fast paced battle and then shifts to a later date, when the remains of various mobile suits from that encounter are set aside in in a warehouse. It’s here that we’re introduced to the calm and very serious Alice Miller, a woman who has been assigned to figure out whether the leader of the 08th Team, Shiro Amada, is a Zeon spy or not.

The special then flashes back to tell the story of how Shiro and Aina first met and survived that encounter and then shifts the story forward to their subsequent meeting after the opening battle. Interspersed throughout this is some of the new footage with Miller and her questioning of Shiro as well as new segments with the rest of the 08th Team and parts of his inquiry with his superiors.

Miller’s Report is a special that’s very hard to recommend as a standalone release to the casual fan because in a sense it’s saying “Pay for it again”. For the die-hard fan, it’s rare to get these kinds of specials so to that crowd it’s a lot easier to push and say “Get it so we can get some of the even better specials!”. It’s definitely great to include it in this larger set and I’ll say that it was interesting to revisit it in this format just after finishing the TV series itself. It’s obviously familiar but with the new bits mixed in and the perspective used it becomes something worth checking out, though perhaps a bit after watching the show for everyone else.

In Summary:
The 08th MS Team is one of those series that I had seen long after my initial exposure to the UC timeline won me over with the movies, 0080 and 0083. Coming at a time originally when we were getting pretty boy alternate timelines, this one reminded me of my original love of the franchise and delivered on it in a big way. The tighter focus on the war and the impact of it on multiple fronts was spot on, it was very well animated with some great character designs, and it provided an at the time updated look at the classic mobile suits and more. There’s a lot of style with this show when it comes to the Zeon side, which is a familiar pattern, but I enjoy that just as much as I love the more traditional military attire. Military style SF continues to be a hard nut to crack for far too many studios and creators, but this is definitely one of my favorites. Sunrise and Right Stuf have put together a strong release here that will please fans who have long hoped for a high quality release as they deliver it here.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, Japanese 5.1 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Animation short “Battle in Three Dimensions,” Clean Opening, Clean Ending, Special Animation Clip, Promos

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment/Sunrise
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 355 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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