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Mobile Suit Gundam 0080 War In the Pocket Blu-ray Anime Review

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While a small side story in the greater scope of things, War in the Pocket is still relevant and engaging thirty years later and is a reminder of why UC Gundam is still the best.

While a small side story in the greater scope of things, War in the Pocket is still relevant and engaging thirty years later and is a reminder of why UC Gundam is still the best.

What They Say:
Universal Century 0079. When the Principality of Zeon learns of a new Gundam being built, the veteran spec-ops Cyclops Team is dispatched to the civilian colony of Libot to investigate. Their newest member, Bernard “Bernie” Wiseman, gets shot down in action and meets young Alfred “Al” Izuruha, who dreams of mobile suits and space battles. Al thinks of Bernie as a friend, and even goes to great lengths to track him down while on his mission. He doesn’t realize the potential danger he’s in. And Al’s nextdoor neighbor Christina “Chris” Mackenzie returns home with a new “government job.” She’s really the test pilot of the top-secret Gundam Alex – the objective of Bernie’s mission! As the story unfolds, three lives will be changed forever by this one small part of the war.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release works out well as both language tracks had 5.1 mixes to them, all of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. As we noted before about the 5.1 mixes, there’s a better presentation with this series in the upgrade as unlike a lot of spots in the Gundam 0083 release, this one sounds a lot less hollow. Part of this is due to less music in general, which means less hollow 80’s songs. The lossless upgrade definitely helps give everything a bit of a warmer and richer feeling, you really get to connect with that 80s music in a big way, and the end result is very pleasing. The action sequences make the most use of the newfound directionality as well as some background voices going to various speakers, such as children in the school. The English track 5.1 track comes across with pretty much the same results. It’s definitely a solid upgrade with some good differences to be had with it.

Originally released in 1989, the transfer for this six-part OVA series is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. After bringing out the DVD a few years ago which worked from a good video restoration/remastering in Japan, this encoding is almost like a revelation. There’s a lot more detail visible throughout the series but it’s the colors that just shine beautifully. Fleshtones are rich throughout, the green when they’re in the park has some really vibrant moments, and even the outfits feel like it’s just a fresh and modern animated project. There’s a real warmth to the animation here that’s showing through in the mastering. The high motion sequences look great and there’s a lot to like in the space battles with solid black levels and some real vibrancy to be had when we’re there as well. It’s a beautiful release.

The packaging for this release changes things up a bit, which is welcome after so many of them have used the same artwork choices, as we get a really nice wraparound piece focusing on Al spread across front and back, though the front focuses on his school bag with the mobile suit toy latched onto it. It’s a great way to touch on the innocence and youth of the ostensible lead character while also playing to something different than normal. I like that we even get part of the swiss army knife in there as well. The back cover carries the piece with part of Al’s face while he holds a Zaku in his hand as he continues along against the blue sky. The back cover provides a good summary of the premise that’s clear and highlights the basics in a good way. The extras are clearly broken out as are the episodes by number and title. While there aren’t any show related inserts included we do get a two-panel spread on the reverse side showing off the cast of the series in full color.

The menu design for this release is one that works nicely as it takes the full spread of the cover artwork and lets that fill the screen. It looks great with the clouds and how the colors are presented in comparison to the paper cover. The logo along the upper left is large and clean and we get a solid navigation strip that works smoothly in setting up the language options, checking out the extras, and going to the episode that you want. While you can’t get to the extras on the fly I do like that you can change languages mid-playback.

The extras mirror the original releases from 2001. This disc has the textless opening and ending, which is great since I really love the opening song and can listen to it repeatedly. We also get three Japanese music videos for Shooting Star at Dawn, M-2 and Distant Memories. The second textless ending gets its place here as well as more MS Encyclopedia pieces. There’s also a short (1:10) feature called All That Gundam with music by Kenji Kawai that showcases a brief Gundam battle that was used to highlight one of the 0080 releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s hard to believe that it’s the thirtieth anniversary of this OVA series and Sunrise has worked with Nozomi to bring it out to the market once again, this time on Blu-ray. After bringing it out on DVD a few years back I’m glad that they were able to as it’s almost like a new show visually, seeing it in a way I couldn’t before. Gundam 0080 has a special place in my heart as it was the first Gundam series that I saw when I first got into anime during the early ’90s. I hadn’t seen the original series until the movies came out from AnimeVillage years later, but 0080 was something that made me want to dig deep into the Gundam universe at the time. It had such a different view of war and it reminded me of the series that really got me into the idea of animation that’s intended for more than just childish entertainment with Robotech. The theme of war, sacrifice and the grey nature of it all is key here and it’s treated quite seriously. This is a series that I enjoy watching again and again.

Taking place during December of 0080, the War in the Pocket OVA series focuses on Side 6, one of the neutral and uninvolved Side’s in the One Year War. Of course, there’s no such thing as being neutral when it comes to battles as large in scope as te One Year War. The show opens on Earth where the Federation has managed to launch into space a mysterious container despite an attack by a Zeon group of mobile suits. They don’t know what’s in this container, but they know it’s not good for them and they either have to find out what it is or to destroy it entirely. They learn that it eventually made its way to Side 6, and launch a small attack in the Side to try and get the information.

During all of this, we’re introduced to various characters inside of Side 6, with our lead “hero” being Al, a mixture of somber and carefree sixth grader. He and his friends are like most kids, talking about things they don’t know and getting in trouble with teachers and parents. Al, in particular, has a concentration problem since he’s always imagining himself being somewhere else, such as a mobile suit pilot. One spirited conversation with his classmates has him insisting that he’s seen a real Federation mobile suit since his father works at a shipping company and saw it in port. He gets dared to take pictures of it as proof, because as everyone knows at this time, only the Zeon’s have mobile suits. So he takes them up on the dare and heads into the spaceport to sneak some pictures. But all he finds is large shuttles and… mysterious containers.

It’s only a day later when a small force of Zeon attack Side 6 to get the information. Al and his friends watch from the top of the school as the Zeon forces move about and what little forces there are aboard the Side try to defend. It’s a very telling moment for the children watching this carnage go on, and most run away but there are plenty that watch in enjoyment of seeing such massive machines operate. One of the Zeon’s get shot down and falls towards a local park, which spurs Al to take his camera and rush off to get some great up close pictures.

Al manages to approach carefully enough for someone his age, and takes a good number of images until he comes across the pilot, the young Bernard Weisman. Bernie can’t believe that all that’s come out to get him is this kid. But Al essentially tells him that there’s little real military here. Al begs to hold Bernie’s gun, but Bernie just wants a look at the pictures that Al’s taken of his mobile suit. So he gets it off of him and starts looking… Only to find the images of the container that they’re all after. While there’s more banter between the two, Bernie’s fairly quickly rescued by one of his team and with the memory card in hand, heads back to base to report.

The show then moves into the odd but I’d almost guess realistic mode of having a small team of Zeon arrive on board Side 6 and begin building their suits from the pieces they have so they can launch a surprise internal attack and capture the container. They find themselves aided by the unlikely help of Al, who just finds all of this to be very cool and just wants to help Bernie. The relationship between the two is interesting, with Bernie exaggerating his exploits only to have Al “tell” on him, which only embarrasses Bernie further. There’s a lot of interesting interplay between these two characters, with one who isn’t quite sure of what he’s doing and one who wants to grow up fast enough to do what the other is doing.
Then there’s the girl next door to Al, Christine McKenzie. She’d just returned from Earth and unbeknownst to Al, she’s part of a big Gundam project for the Federation. This brings some amusing moments into play when Bernie meets and falls for her.

Gundam 0080 isn’t a big flashy project like most of the other Gundam series, especially in the first three episodes here. We do get some good mobile suit action pieces, particularly in the first episode, but a lot of this is focusing on the characters and the espionage side of it. As with most of the One Year War stories, I find it fascinating since they have such a huge canvas to paint on that they manage to make each of the stories distinct yet fit in well enough with the overall picture. And having one taken from an actual child’s point of view is one that you’d normally bet wouldn’t be all that interesting if done by a western studio. But here, it works perfectly. And as with most One Year War stories, it gets very difficult to really root for one side over the other.

The final three episodes of Gundam 0080 are some of the stronger Gundam episodes I’ve managed to see over the years across a whole range of properties within this franchise. With most military and war-oriented anime, the general theme, be it prominent or underlying, is generally that war is bad. It’s a simplistic thing of course, but it’s one that can be told in many layers and told in a variety of ways. With 0080, the war between the Federation and the Zeon gets up close and personal for young Al.

While he’s befriended the Zeon infiltrators and proven useful to them, they’ve all come to realize what their real mission is, with the likely exception of Bernie. The team has essentially been tossed aside once they were told to find their own way out and by assigning such a novice in Bernie to such an apparently critical role. But the captain has decided that they’ll do their duty regardless. So it’s with that knowledge that they go undercover and worm their way into the Federation base that Bernie and Al have proven exists.
While the plan is to destroy the Gundam that’s in there, they have more than one reason to do so. If they cannot destroy it within a certain timeframe, the Zeon high command will send a ship with nuclear weapons to destroy the colony. Side 6 was one of the few who did not sign the treaty prohibiting such weapons, so they can find themselves open to such an unbelievable attack. During the brief time the team has been in Side 6, they’ve gained an affection for it, but not the usual full-turnaround you see in less complex shows. These men are still Zeon through and through, but some things are just too much.

The resulting actions leads to a massive rampage across the colony between the one working Zaku and the Gundam as well as the damage the team infects on a human sized scale. This is where things really hit home for Al as he starts to see people he knows and thinks he knows well dying in front of him, seeing his own school practically obliterated and everything else around him. This affects him profoundly but in a more internal way than you’d expect. When his friends try showing him all the cool shells they’ve found and other parts, he can barely hold back his feelings about it all.

As with most Gundam shows, things move towards the characters doing what they believe is right from their perspective and following through on it. There’s little namby-pamby stuff here as most of those involved outside of Al are adults and actually act like it and make good on what they say. Bernie’s evolution throughout the series parallel Al’s to some extent in how they both grow up under some form of duress. And thankfully the potential love story doesn’t overwhelm things but instead turns incredibly bittersweet.

In Summary:
With it being thirty years since it came out, this was like watching it for the first time. I have a strong predisposition toward the show as unlike a lot of others that I watch that are fresh and new to me, I’ve seen this a number of times over the years and discussed it at length. To me, this show stands the test of time with its story and its animation. Mikimoto’s characters have something that a lot of series don’t with the way you can connect with them. The story has a wonderful steady progression to it that doesn’t feel forced. It provides a sense of wonder within this seemingly mundane life that the normal people here lead but which to the audience is spectacular. And as a side story, it doesn’t make any dramatic impact on the larger story and works to enhance it. This time period within the Gundam UC universe has so many stories to tell and this set the stage for how to do them. Gundam 0080 is one of those “desert island” titles that I will always want a copy of and will continue to acquire in whatever new formats they put it out in. I’m beyond thrilled that we finally have it on Blu-ray and that it’s as much of a revelation as it is, making it a must-own part of the collection.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Endings,Japanese Trailer Collection, Music Videos, and ” all That Gundam” Video

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

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment/Sunrise
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
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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