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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

The war may end but the fighting continues.

What They Say:
In Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt – Bandit Flower: Earth, eight months after the end of the One Year War. Captain Monica launches a secret mission, Operation Thunderbolt, and selects Io to pilot the Atlas Gundam. She leads the assault landing ship Spartan into a part of the ocean effectively controlled by the South Seas Alliance. Their objective is to secure or destroy the data of the Psycho Zaku, which the Alliance now possesses.

Daryl, who took the upper hand in his battle with Io, has descended to Earth as part of the remnant forces of the Principality of Zeon. He has also been given the mission of obtaining information on the Psycho Zaku.

Fighting alongside his new comrades, Io encounters Commander Peer, the South Seas Alliance’s border garrison commander. In the sea, on the ice field, and among the thick jungle, the mobile suits of Zeon, the Federation, and the South Seas Alliance battle each other.

The war is not over yet.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language dub that was produced for it. Both tracks are in uncompressed format which means the score, which is a huge part of the draw here, comes across very well. The action effects are great with some real richness and depth, but for those that have a love of music getting some uncompressed jazz like this is a real treat. There’s a great smoothness and richness to it that delivers wonderfully and really does make that a standout component for a lot of fans. Beyond that it’s a strong mix elsewhere as the action is tight and expressive while the dialogue has some great placement and depth where needed that keeps the action moving. It’s a strong mix overall that just left me wishing for a full 5.1 design to really take it up a notch.

Originally in theaters in the fall of 2017, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Sunrise, the show originally started as a four-part ONA series that was designed to be theatrical with high-quality animation. The film has some additional material inserted into it to smooth out the pieces as a single viewing and that helps to sand down the rough edges of it. What we get here is a strikingly beautiful film that has me wishing we had a lot more like it, especially the shorter running time. The mecha designs are fantastic, the mechanical animation strong, and the color depth and quality is amazing throughout with such rich blacks and vibrant colors. The encoding brings all of this with its very high motion action sequences to life in a clean and problem free presentation that delivers on what a Gundam fan wants. This is just a beautiful looking release through and through, especially on a larger screen.

The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case with the familiar key visual that has the mobile suit in the foreground with a nice expansion to it while the cult elements are looming behind it, which dominates the cover. The lack of accessible character visuals here does weaken it to some degree but there are enough interesting elements to draw the eye to it. The back cover has some small shots from the show that aren’t really discernible while it does provide for a good summary of the premise that breaks it all down cleanly and clearly. The technical grid along the bottom covers a minimal but important amount of information and we get the usual round of production credits and a breakdown of what extras are included. While we don’t get any show related inserts included we do get a nice two-panel spread of the main characters and their mobile suits in action that will appeal to fans.

The menu for this release uses the same artwork as the front cover to the right side and it looks a bit better here than on the cover without the logo on top of it and better color quality as well, which allows the detail to shine through even more. The navigation is kept to the left with a nice bit of thematic elements to it where we get the basic setup that’s easy to access and navigate. With the logo along the top it sets the mood right for the show while being easy to access and move around in with no problems.

The only extras included are several minutes worth of promos and commercials as well as the theatrical trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Yasuo Ohtagaki that’s running in Big Comic Superior, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower is an expanded theatrical version of the ONA that was released starting in spring 2017. The original manga has been going since 2012 and is licensed and released in North America by Viz Media where the original run is up to twelve volumes so far and more anime is coming. The use of the series as an ONA where episodes clocked in around eighteen minutes each similar to the first series. The result is a show that when taken together in this form, where there’s some additional footage and smoothing out of things, works in a very tight and engaging manner, making for a fun and exhilarating experience without a lot of fluff or sidetracking to slow things down.

I had really enjoyed the first series but I enjoyed it in film form more, so I didn’t get involved in trying to watch the Bandit Flower story when it first surfaced as it was obvious they were going to put it all together in this format again. The first series had a lot going for it in introducing us to a new area amid the One Year War and exploring something intense and dangerous with the Thunderbolt Sector and all of its craziness. This one takes us some months after the end of the war, but that’s just a formality. A war may end but there are so many other things that have to be dealt with that it can take years before it truly feels like everything has been wrapped up and forward movement feels viable again. With this being something like seven or eight months, well, everything is very fresh and when the battlefield is the entire solar system there are some significant differences.

There are a number of plot threads going on here and carryover from the first film to be sure, but the general big picture element at work is that there’s a new cult known as the South Seas Alliance on Earth. This radical group has gotten itself some pretty high technology with the PSycho Zaku and are looking to just go all out with it. There are some neat bits that come into all of this toward the end in regards to who is running the cult and their origin, but the main focus is on those that are dealing with the actual issue at hand in trying to stop it from getting out there more. Using the Spartan group to handle it and some of the remnants/survivors of the Thunderbolt Sector being on board works nicely as we get to follow Io here as he pilots the new Atlas Gundam against it while working with Cornelius once again.

The story for this film is pretty basic and there doesn’t’ feel like there’s a lot of meat to it, which is fine because I’ll admit that’s not what I’m really looking for here. The film keeps to its jazzy side nicely with Spartan member Bianca getting some solid time in with it, playing with io, and she’s just a damn treasure to begin with. She’s got a strong record having survived the One Year War in general but her almost cavalier attitude is fun when combined with just how much she’s trying to forget, as evidenced by her copious tattoos of teams she’s worked with. The Spartan also introduces us to Monica, a Federation captain who is traveling on the ship while dealing with the whole South Seas bit. Giving us an older woman and her particular style definitely works here because it’s not just another standard hardline hardass character.

And the film does some really interesting stuff with Daryl, who having survived the events before but went and had his hand amputated in order to handle the Psycho Zaku, is become far more machine than man in some ways. But he’s still got this kind of weird innocence about him that’s almost frightening because it feels like it’s a disconnect from humanity even as happy as he comes across. I really like the visuals for him and combining that kind of character work along with Io that delivers some fantastic battle scenes. That’s really the driving force here, whether it’s more time at A Baoia Qu, elsewhere in space, or dealing with a crazy kind of entry into Earth atmosphere before shifting to all the planetary side battles.

In Summary:
I love the Universal Century timeline and I love that it gets some good attention in the past few years through projects like this and others. There are a million stories to explore all while tying into mobile suit action with the ability to sell toys. Thunderbolt continues to expand to interesting areas and the use of the jazz elements to do some of that is a big plus for me. There’s so much more than just Amuro’s story from this period with so much in the realm of politics and social that I do keep wishing for some serious works to hit that don’t rely on the mobile suit side. But until then, this film does a really solid job even if it doesn’t feel quite as strong as the first – which makes me wonder if one should watch them back to back to get the bigger feeling with it. It’s well put together with a great encode that delivers a beautiful project from start to finish.

Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Promos, Commercials, Trailers

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

Released By: Sunrise
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
MSRP: $34.99
Running Time: 80 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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