What They Say:
Universal Century 0079. Humanity has turned even space itself into a battlefield, and the Principality of Zeon forces advance after wiping out half the world’s population by carrying out Operation British (the colony drop). In response, the Earth Federation Forces mobilize their overwhelming fighting strength to regain the advantage.
The complex intrigues of the Zabi family… Sayla Mass, as she contends with the whims of fate… the veteran Zeon soldier Ramba Ral and his lover Hamon… Amuro and Fraw, leading peaceful lives at Side 7… a dark shadow falls across them all. And the Zeon ace Char Aznable, driven by revenge, goes into action as the “Battle of Loum” finally begins.
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.
Originally released in 2017 and 2018, the transfer for these two 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 and then some 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 make 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.
The packaging for this release comes in a thick Blu-ray case that holds the four Blu-rays 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, though I like that Amuro gets done without that filter as he’s just behind his shoulder. The back cover is heavy on black space with the red 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.
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 provides for a nice still from the show that sets the mood nicely but makes me wish it was using action clips and some upbeat music to draw you in. 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.
The extras for this release are fairly minimal unfortunately as each OVA disc comes with a couple of promos as the only piece.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final two parts of the Origin series landed in 2017 and 2018 with theatrical releases, which they very much warranted, and then the home video side. The series got underway in 2015 with the first episode so it’s taken quite a few years overall to get through it but this is standard when it comes to OVAs, one of the reasons we don’t really see a lot of them anymore. The shift to doing theatrical runs for them, even in limited form, has helped to give them a nice little resurgence and the Gundam property is one that definitely makes the most of it. I’ve enjoyed what they’ve produced so far because this was one of those time I definitely got into the setup for the big story. Hell, as I’ve said before, I’d love to get a greater look at the first decades of the Universal Century and how we got here because it is a fascinating period with what we’ve seen so far.
The two OVAs here move us through the pace of a couple of weeks overall with the first getting underway on January 3rd, 0079 and the second on January 23rd, 0079. This is part of the pivotal period in UC history where a lot of things are going on, a lot of uncertainty by a number of forces, and then the shift into the war itself that would spill across the solar system. With war declared at the outset by Zeon after the events of Side 2, it’s filled with action and movement. There are assault forces moving across the moon, giving us some brief time in Von Braun and Granada, but also the start of the most iconic part of the series for many. The colony drop. Watching as the Zeon forces make their way into the Side, orchestrate what’s necessary to get it underway, and seeing the sacrifices made on both sides is harsh. But watching the drop happen in modern form compared to the original is even more powerful and slightly more drawn out to heighten the effect in all the right ways. While there are some small character moments to zero on in within this OVA, especially with Sayla, the reality is that the colony drop is one of the biggest moments of the war – one that the original 0079 series if remade I suspect would include as propaganda more.
The final OVA digs into things well with a lot of action going on that dominates a significant chunk of the episode. It’s fascinating as the story works to have the Zeon forces take Admiral Revil prisoner from his flagship and then see how it creates a rift between the main organizing forces of Zeon at the highest levels of power. I love how Revil is used as a tool to keep things going here in the grand scheme of things as it plays right into Zeon’s hands and as they set their forces underway. Obviously, there are few surprises here but I like seeing how M’Quve handles everything as he gets the dream assignment of leading the invasion just as much as I enjoyed seeing Char on his mission to find out more about the supposed advance suits the Federation has lands him in front of Revil as he’s being snuck back to Earth.
Honestly, though the moments that will stand out to me the most are the last few minutes. It’s here that we get to the day before and of the start of 0079 where we see Amuro trying to get information from the Federation about the Gundam project and then dealing with how his home was ransacked. We also get to see the other kids as they try to get Amuro to spend time with the, the quiet before the storm, in just going for a swim in the pond. It’s interesting to get just these few leisurely moments here, knowing the fates in store for them and having their names and short-term positions brought to the surface, as it makes clear that this really is just the beginning. It touches on others as well, notably with Sayla, but it’s the young generation that was most impacted by the war in the original storyline so the shift to focusing on them after spending so much time on others is welcome.
As a whole, I definitely enjoyed the Gundam Origin series as much as I thought I would. I’m generally someone who likes prequels and digging into the details of how things came about and we got a really good look at the lead-up to the events here, the people and decisions made, and just how the sweep of history was going to embroil all of them soon enough. This one is pretty tightly focused on just a few weeks but they’re pivotal weeks and they lead into the war that’s to come that changed a generation completely. It’s a great looking release from start to finish with a solid dub, the basic and expected extras, and a fantastic looking encoding that makes for an excellent viewing experience. This is an easy recommendation for Gundam fans that want to see more of the early stages of the One-Year War.
Japanese PCM 5.1 Language, English PCM 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promos
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sunrise
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Running Time: 168 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.