Sunday, July 29, 2012

Anime review: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation is a retelling of the 1985 sequel to the classic Mobile Suit Gundam. This version of Zeta Gundam is compressed from the original fifty episode format to three feature length films. The first film, Heirs to the Stars, run approximately an hour and a half, while the second and third films - Lovers and Love is the Pulse of the Stars, respectively - each run about 100 minutes.

The updated animation style - which looks downright gorgeous - was highlighted in nearly every promotional piece for this film trilogy. Lighting effects are handled superbly, the colors of the various mobile suits really pop against the dark backdrop of space, and the motions of both characters and mobile suits appear very fluid. What is rather curious, though, is the fact that only about one third of the footage in the first film is rendered in this new style. The rest is retained from the old 1985 hand drawn animation. The transition between the two is quite random throughout, with full scenes shifting back and forth multiple times in a matter of minutes. Both Lovers and Love is the Pulse of the Stars see more of this new animation style included, with roughly fifty to sixty percent of either film's footage receiving the facelift. But the fact that Bandai went to the trouble of rendering such a substantial amount of footage as such begs the question as to why they did not do this for the entirety of all three films. Also, there is a rather grainy filter over all of the 1980s footage, which was hardly noticeable on the Anime Legends collections of the full anime series.

Obviously the faster pacing of three films versus a fifty episode series calls for some substantial editing. Thankfully, all of the shortened scenes maintain a smooth flow with the grand story, and the few plot points that see minor alterations feel right at home. There are a few minor things that lack explanation, like where the Hyaku Shiki came from and when the Gundam Mk II was painted in AEUG colors, but nothing that throws off the plot. The one scene that does feel like it might have been beneficial for them to include, however, is Lt. Quattro's speech before the Earth Federation.

The film takes a sort of "pick-and-choose" approach when determining which subplots are most important. Amuro's involvement in the series was prominent at a few key points, but has been scaled back even more for these films. Four and Kamille's meeting is left mostly intact, and their romance develops well enough. But the capabilities of the Psycho Gundam are hardly shown off at all, and viewers who are unfamiliar with the series will likely not understand why the AEUG perceives it as such a huge threat. The history of Haman Karn and Lt. Quattro is quickly glossed over, and the brief conflict that Kamille brings up over the Lt. Quattro's identity never comes to fruition.

The new animation is at its best when the setting requires a high level of detail, like the Hong Kong cityscape, or when mobile suits are engaged in dynamic combat, like when Lt. Quattro and Kamille take on the Asshimar. The 1985 soundtrack is carried over, with new intro tunes performed by Gackt. Whoever was in charge of determining where the cut off points for each film should be did a phenomenal job, and the pacing throughout is darn near perfect because of this. The ending has been altered slightly to provide some more concrete wrap-ups for some of the minor characters, as well as present a slightly happier ending for the main cast. While I'm normally not much a fan of these sorts of compilation films, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation does well to cover all of the bases it needs to and deliver a successful shorthand version of the events of the 1985 anime. It might not have as much time to spend on developing the characters or plot, but it's a fun viewing experience - especially for fans of the series who want a quick and easy means for revisiting the glory days of the AEUG vs. the Titans.

My rating: 8.25 (out of 10)

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