Sunday, February 6, 2011

Anime review: Mobile Suit Gundam F91

Taking place thirty years after the conclusion of Char's Counterattack, Mobile Suit Gundam F91 centers around Seabook Arno and Cecily Fairchild, two friends living aboard the space colony Frontier IV, as they are caught up in the conflict between the EFSF and the Crossbone Vanguard. Early on in the film, viewers are shown that the two share romantic interests in each other, but it is implied that currently they are just friends. A short while after the Crossbone Vanguard attacks Frontier IV, Seabook and Cecily become seperated, and it becomes clear that Cecily is not entirely certain of who she is, as members of the Crossbone Vanguard claim she is an heir to the Ronah family, the most prominent figures in the Crossbone Vanguard. Escaping the colony with a group of his friends, Seabook eventually takes refuge aboard the Federation ship Space Ark, and discovers that his mother had been devloping the newest Gundam, the F91. Determined to rescue Cecily, Seabook agrees to aid the Federation and takes up the responsibility of being the F91's pilot.

There is a lot crammed into the two-hour film, a result of the plan to originally release F91 as a series. Things do seem to fly by at a bit of a fast pace, but it isn't to the point where the characters and events are simply glossed over. The film's events flow in sequence quite smoothly and refrain from being particularly choppy in a sort of cut-and-paste manner (which easily could have been the case, considering the project's history). The story's conclusion surprised me a bit, as I thought things might simply end in the fashion of Gundam SEED, but instead it is paced out just enough to provide a fitting wrap-up without overstaying its welcome.

Though there are relatively few major characters that the story of F91 is centered around, this works to the film's advantage as viewers are able to connect with them more so than if Bandai and Sunrise had chosen to spend an equal amount of time developing every character in F91. While viewers aren't given as much time to familiarize themselves with the likes of Zabine and Iron Mask, they still come across as rather well-rounded, even if they don't match the level of infamy of other Gundam villians (or anti-heroes in the case of Zabine) such as Char Aznable or Paptimus Scirocco . The secondary characters are developed well enough to come across as believable, though they certainly won't stand out as the greatest supporting cast in the entire Gundam metaseries. The strongest of these are Seabook's sister Reese and mother Monica, the latter of whom doesn't actually appear until rather late in the film, and the two play important roles in influencing Seabook's actions. Seabook's friends from Frontier IV, however, are left largely underdeveloped. A few of them do aid indirectly in the fight against the Crossbone Vanguard, and if nothing else, they provide a glimpse into the effect the conflict has on civilians.

While I would accuse few Gundam series/films of having a poor dub, Gundam F91's really stands out for how well the English voice actors portray their characters. Their emotions come across as genuine, whether in the heat of battle or fearful of loss. There really are not any significant improvements over the quality of the animation in Char's Counterattack, but F91 still looks well done for a 1991 release. The soundtrack is classic UC Gundam, and - in a similar fashion to Char's Counterattack - balances tense battle themes with light flowing pieces.

When it all boils down to it though, Mobile Suit Gundam F91 is classic Gundam. It doesn't try and throw in too much flash and flair like some of the Alternate Universe series, and it manages to balance the political aspects and character development in a near-perfect manner. The film's pacing is a bit fast and perhaps Bandai and Sunrise could have improved certain portions of the story had they allotted more time to F91, but if you are a fan of Gundam's Universal Century storylines, this is a film worth checking out.

My rating: 8.25 (out of 10)

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