Sunday, May 16, 2010

Anime review: MS IGLOO: The Hidden One Year War

MS IGLOO: The Hidden One Year War shows various events during the One Year War from the perspective of Oliver May, a Zeon engineer. As a non-combatant from the side that would eventually lose the war, May presents a most unusual yet intriguing perspective. He is stationed aboard the Jotunheim and tasked with overseeing tests on various weapons for Zeon. As the OVA is only three episodes in length, The Hidden One Year War focuses on specific characters for each episode, with only a few – including May, Lieutenant Commander Monique Cadillac, and Captain Martin Prochnow - becoming major recurring characters.

Each episode focuses on a separate experimental project for the Zeons, and while the series does flow together as one overarching story quite seamlessly, each story is focused enough to solidify itself as a standalone story. This works to both the series’ benefit and disadvantage, as each episode sees fitting conclusion, but the dynamics of the characters aren’t very solidified for viewers until late in the show.

The series pays some tribute to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, with May being witness to the start of Operation British and even briefly encountering Char Anzable in the midst of a major battle. The RX-79 makes a brief cameo via recorded footage from the battlefront. Little things such as these, as well as the inclusion of Zeon propaganda commercials, engages viewers greatly in the story and closely ties it to the original Mobile Suit Gundam.

The computer animation works well for the most part. The characters’ body motions and facial expressions show off an extra level of effort in creating a more realistic look for the series. The ships and mobile suits are well-detailed, though their motions and reactions can be clunky and ragdoll-like at times. Most of the animation issues are corrected after the first episode and things flow smoothly afterwards. Each episode receives a noticeable increase in detail in regards to both the character and mobile suit models. The action sequences are some of the best in any Gundam series, combining realistic tactics with flashy and stylish maneuvering.

Though the OVA is rather short, the almost complete absence of an original score is surprising. There are portions of The Hidden One Year War, such as the Hildolfr’s fight against EFSF-commandeered Zaku IIs, that are tense and uncertain for the characters and silence seems appropriate. When the soundtrack does accompany a scene, it is fairly quiet and low-key.

MS IGLOO: The Hidden One Year War provides a distinctly different take on events familiar to Gundam fans. It is an impressive OVA for how few episodes there are, and I can’t say I’m surprised that the creators went ahead and continued the story with Apocalypse 0079. Oliver May is one of the few major Zeon characters to set himself apart from the typical grunt pilot, let alone survive long enough to develop and seem human when compared to major players on the side of the EFSF. The Hidden One Year War will certainly make much more sense for hardcore fans of the Universal Century series, but is nonetheless a great addition to the Gundam saga.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

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