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Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin: Chronicle of Char and Sayla Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin Blu-ray CoverGundam, Game of Thrones style.

What They Say:
Universal Century 0068. Side 3, the Autonomous Republic of Munzo. Zeon Zum Deikun, who has been leading Munzo toward independence from the Earth Federation, collapses and dies in the middle of a speech. As the Zabi family seizes control of Side 3, Deikun’s children, Casval and Artesia, take refuge on Earth and begin peaceful lives under new identities. But the Zabi family is preparing for war with the Federation, and the two orphans will find themselves drawn into the growing conflict…

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is definitely a strong one as we get the original Japanese language in stereo and 5.1 form as well as the English language dub in both, something that we saw when these were import releases. Done up in uncompressed PCM, the OVA series does some great stuff when it comes to the action as it flits about the various channels but it also sneaks in some small bits of dialogue and sound effects from time to time and a good balance on the music overall. The action when in mobile suit form has some solid impact to it with the mobile suits moving about or from some of the ship to ship action and their blasts and destruction and that enhances the scenes very well. The dialogue has some really strong placement in some key scenes with characters moving about or the use of communications to set things up and the encoding brings it all to life in a very clean and problem free way in high definition audio that makes it a great experience.

Video:
Originally released in 2015 and 2016, the transfer for these four OVAs are presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Each OVA gets its own disc with a high bit rate that lets it really shine and show off the animation from Sunrise. These are basically hour long films when you get down to it and the animation quality is fantastic with what it does, bringing to life some really vibrant and nuance colored designs, excellent mechanical animation brought to life, and some really wonderfully done detail in the backgrounds of the cities and ships that makes it feel fully realized. The encoding comes across in a completely solid form with no noise or breakup and the color definition is great. The high motion scenes, whether characters running about or mobile suit action, are breathtaking when they really engage and it makes it a fantastic visual treat to take in.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a thick Blu-ray case that holds the four Blu-ray’s on two hinges inside. The front cover uses one of the familiar key visuals from the Japanese release with Char in the center in bright red while everyone else is in shaded layers of red similar to what everything looks like to him through his glasses. It’s almost a bit too murky for my tastes but it makes it clear that even though it says Char and Sayla, this is Char’s story. The back cover is heavy on black space with a small Zaku along the lower right while the majority of it is given over to the summary of the premise and a breakdown of what episodes are included. The shots from the show are small and not really helpful while the bottom has some basic technical information and production credits that blend too much with the soft white text on the black. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is the same across all four OVAs and it’s a pretty bland one, unfortunately. With the logo taking up a decent part of the real estate center top that adds the subtitle for each show, the background is from the early part of the setup that shows a grim looking colony awash in grey and smog. It’s interesting but not the best way to set the mood with each disc nor to show off the really energetic and dynamic elements from the series. The navigation strip along the bottom is solid even if you can’t loop around and everything loads quickly and easily both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.

Extras:
The extras for this release are fairly minimal unfortunately as each OVA disc comes with a couple of promos as the only piece. The fourth OVA has a couple of additional pieces with a promo of the next OVA and a promo for the theme song.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko that began in 2011 and finished in 2011 with twenty-three volumes, Gundam the Origin was originally set as a four OVA project that ended up adding two more along the way that will come at some future time as they’re not out in Japan yet. This project was one that brought Yasuhiko to direct it with Takashi Imanishi and it has a really good sense of how it adapts and compressed (and excises) elements from the manga that expands upon the original Gundam framework. The revival in Universal Centnury stories in the past decade has been an absolute delight for me because this is, quite frankly, the only period worth really exploring. Though I enjoy some of the side pieces and alternate takes over the years (G-Gundam forever!) they’re also things that I can essentially do without.

The original series with its shortened order that gained popularity when recompiled as three films launched a wave of projects in the 1980’s that resulted in fantastic stories such as 0083, the new feature films, and an expanded view of the war between the Federation and Zeon. This period of material is in many ways the kind of thing that I wish there were some truly serious attempts at putting into novel form ala Robert Jordan or George R.R. Martin style in order to explore and really dig into because the original series was light on the politics and intrigue that put all of this into motion as it had to sell toys. We got character expansions and world building through 0080 and 0083 among others, but it hasn’t been until the relatively recent revival that in anime form we’ve gotten that richer exploration. And a lot of that is thanks to the very well received Origin manga from Yasuhiko. Though the manga gives us a look at the events of the One Year War it also takes us back in time and shows how so much of this came together.

This OVA series works on that prequel period almost exclusively and it isn’t until the fourth OVA that it catches up and sets the stage for the original TV series by giving us some time with Amuro Ray and others. What the rest of this wants to do is highly intriguing as it takes us back to 0067 with Deikum Zum getting ready to declare independence in the colony, setting the stage for an event that’s not ready to go yet within Zeon, only to end up being assassinated and putting a lot of strife into play. Through this the biggest exploration of the formation of Zeon comes through the politics and backstabbing of the Zabi family and this really does an incredible job of fleshing things out so that when you see them in the other works you have a greater understanding of how they came to be, what they sacrificed of themselves and others, and the greater feuds at hand. It’s incredibly rich in so many ways and while it didn’t make me sympathetic toward any of them it made me enjoy what they do and the why of it all the more.

The real focus, however, is on Char and Sayla. At least according to the billing because Sayla is a minor character at best once you get past the first OVA and we don’t really follow her story all that much, which is unfortunate as it has its own intriguing path to follow. The early parts involving their father’s death, how the Zabi family sets them up for their own gain, and then the movement of the kids to Earth all works well. The bits with the Ral family feel far more “old school” than I expected in how the elder Ral acted but we also get to see these kind of strange days before everything falls apart and the characters have this sense that it’s all very much on edge and uncertain. That’s a hard thing to bring to life in most things but it achieves it very well here through Ramba Ral and what he does to orchestrate helping Casval and Sayla head to earth while their mother stays in the colony. It has some classic spy elements, intrigue, politics, and danger that all flow very well even if it feels like it could have unfolded over a dozen episodes with even more detail and tension.

The OVAs work the path well from there as it moves forward several years at a time with an occasional nod backward to show the kids on earth, the introduction of Char Aznable and how Casval ended up taking that name, and some fantastic time through the special military academy that he and others went through. This is probably my favorite area if only because it showed Char hiding who he is and dealing with those that know the truth but more so for seeing the way that Garma Zabi was handled. With the character being one that frustrated me in the original series this shows exactly how Char used him to his own advantage and those catalyst moments for the full on resistance and move toward independence that put the earth sphere into a war footing for decades to come. This also does some fantastic things in showing the inner workings of the Zabi family dynamic and all that it represents, which when expanded upon through both the One Year War and later actions really builds something fascinating.

In Summary:
Gundam: The Origin covers an immense amount of ground and has to skip over large chunks that could make for really fascinating viewing and reading. Hell, I want a series that takes us back to “0000” in order to see how the Universal Century came about and explore the timeline through the One Year War. This OVA series covers one of the more interesting areas of the timeline that really does something that others fail to do by making a prequel incredibly intriguing and interesting. There are so many interwoven moments that it just drew me in and made me want so much more of it. It’s beautifully animated with some fantastic action sequences – especially the lunar fight or just the first attempts at getting mobile suits to work – and it fleshes out characters that never connected well for me before, largely within the Zabi family. This is a strong work that helps to further cement that the Universal Century material is the best of all the Gundam material.

Features:
Japanese PCM 5.1 Language, English PCM 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promos, “Chronicle of the Loum Battlefield” Preview, “On the Other Side of Space” Music Video

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

Released By: Sunrise
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
MSRP: $64.99
Running Time: 243 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

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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