Saturday, April 17, 2010

Anime review: Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

As the One Year War draws to a close, the Zeonic forces are trying every card they’ve still got up their sleeve to hit the Earth Federation hard. One strike group plans to destroy the prototype RX-78 NT-1 Gundam, nicknamed the “Alex”, before it can leave Earth. However, the Zeon team’s assault fails and the Gundam escapes. Having lost one man, they are given a last-minute transfer named Burnie Wiseman to aid in their attempt to destroy the Gundam from within the neutral colony Side Six. Once onboard the colony, the Zeon team begins construction of the Kampfer mobile suit in order to destroy the Gundam, should an attempt to capture it fail.

A young boy named Alfred Izuruha is fascinated with the mobile suits and the One Year War, and finds himself constantly daydreaming at school. He becomes caught up in the affairs of the Zeons, and acts as a spy for them. Alfred is also neighbor to Chris MacKenzie, the test pilot of the NT-1 “Alex” Gundam. A happy-go-lucky kid who is eager to prove just how tough he is to everyone else, Alfred learns firsthand what the war can ultimately bring.

Though he doesn’t really fit in with the rest of his squad, Burnie gets along well with Alfred, and the two form a sort of younger and older brother dynamic. Ironically enough, Burnie also forms a fairly strong and positive relationship with Chris. It is not until late in the series that Alfred realizes the danger that Chris and Burnie are both put in by standing on opposite sides of the conflict and their direct interactions with each other.

As for the remaining characters, they are rather boring. The other Zeon squad members aren’t very diverse, and all fit the role of cocky soldiers picking on the newest member, Bernie. Alfred feels pressure from his classmates to prove just how ‘tough’ he is, though this is really nothing more than any typical schoolchild would experience. Alfred’s family is explored very briefly, and we learn that his parents’ relationship is not the strongest. This side story is resolved in the end, but doesn’t add a whole lot to the series, as Alfred is more focused on his mission with the Zeons.

The first three episodes are largely centered around the characters. While this does allow for more spectacular action sequences in the second half of the OVA, it also makes the story a bit slow-going. The fight sequences between the mobile suits are pretty cool, especially when the Kampfer and the Alex face off, and these take up a lot of the time of the last three episodes. There is a plot twist late in the series that changes the status of the Zeons’ mission, and the way in which it plays out makes for a tense atmosphere.

The animation is quite good, though the most impressive visuals are saved for the combat sequences. Overall, it looks cleaner than Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which is only to be expected, as War in the Pocket was released four years after Zeta Gundam. The backgrounds are very detailed and this works to the shows’ benefit, especially during sequences that involve little or no combat. The mobile suit designs are mostly variants from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, though the Kampfer and Hygogg show off some of the advancements made over the course of the One Year War. The soundtrack is pretty average – it isn’t bad in any way, but there aren’t any songs that particularly stand out as being overly complex in orchestration or more fitting to the series than another.

Gundam 0080 is one of a few Gundam series that ends on a sad note. Burnie’s story focuses on being accepted and proving himself as a soldier, while Alfred’s is mostly focused on the theme of growing up and the inevitable hardships along the way. While Gundam 0080 does deliver a solid story, the pacing is a little awkward and the characters vary from deep and interesting to underdeveloped and uninteresting. For a six-episode OVA, Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket gives an interesting change in perspective, but doesn’t really push the envelope in any way.

My rating: 7 (out of 10)

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