Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anime review: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

In similar vein to Gundam OVAs 0080: War in the Pocket and 08th MS Team, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt presents a small scaled conflict that is but a sample of a widespread war. It spends ample time detailing the life and struggles facing both Federation and Zeon soldiers, with the former hoping that a prototype Gundam and one hotshot, self-absorbed pilot will grant them victory over a ravaged sector of space marked by the debris of abandoned space colonies. The main Zeon forces, meanwhile, stand out from the pack as being almost exclusively amputees, with their main pilot out to prove his worth in beating back the Federation forces, while also looking out for his friends and comrades-in-arms.

Gundam Thunderbolt is a very short watch. Four episodes clock in at less than twenty-five minutes a piece. But the series does not lack polish – following in the footsteps of Unicorn and The Origin, the digital animation nears movie quality, with a decidedly darker atmosphere to many environments, further playing up the desperate measures taken during the One Year War. This visual style is strikingly appropriate, given that Thunderbolt explores the motivations of the two lead pilots in great detail, as well as explores the horrible atrocities both factions carried out in hopes of securing their victory over what is essentially a mole hill compared to the ‘mountains’ of Zeon strongholds like Solomon and A Baoa Qu. If there was ever any doubt that both the Federation and the Zeons could be responsible for some morally questionable, unsettling tactics, you need look no further than Gundam Thunderbolt.

And that’s a large part of what makes Thunderbolt such a worthwhile watch; it packs a hard punch, with mature themes and few real ‘heroes’ in the mix. It also boasts an incredibly catchy, upbeat soundtrack that samples jazz, funk, and love ballads, all of which presents an eerie, yet wonderful contrast to the narrative themes at play. If nothing else, Thunderbolt is worth giving a shot for its Cowboy Bebop-flavored tunes, and worth sticking around for the escalation of power and subsequent devolution of humanity.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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