Anime Review: Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 26.03.2017

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Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy (UK Rating: 12)

The Gundam series is more than iconic at this point, it's legendary. So many of its fans, though, have only experienced the most recent of its stories. Now, those fans have a chance to experience some of the very first stories with this special limited release from All the Anime. This release brings the original trilogy of movies from 1981 and 1982 to Blu-ray, and this trilogy completes the original Mobile Suit Gundam series launched in 1979 and is available from 27th March.

This release will be a pleasant surprise for anime fans here in the UK who usually rely on the panels of anime distributors at events like MCM Expo and the like for announcements for upcoming releases, yet this had gone completely unannounced. This release is a limited one, though, with only 500 being made and any fans hoping to get their hands on it will want to hurry and get their order in. It's not easy to see these films without this release either. Fans of the Gundam series who previously wanted to experience this slice of history for themselves would have a hard time doing so in the UK. While these films previously received a DVD release here, they have been out of print for some time and, as any anime fan can attest to, getting your hands on these types of older releases is never easy… or cheap.

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These movies took most of their content ripped and compressed from the original anime series, chopping the whole series down to three movies, each around two and a half hours in length. This editing included some major cuts to the more zany elements to deliver a darker and more serious tone that became synonymous with the franchise. Set during Universal Century 0079, as humanity began to colonise the stars, a faction broke away from the Earth to establish a new principality known as Zeon. Humanity has rarely dealt well with renegades and, predictably, a war breaks out between these two factions, one that causes huge casualties to both sides, and while the Earth Federation greatly outnumbers the Zeon forces, Zeon quickly takes an upper hand thanks to its superior technology and, in particular, its "Mobile Suits," huge mechs known as Zaku. The story of the first film picks up eight months into the war and opens on a secret research base known as Side 7 where the Federation is trying to develop its own Mobile Suits to try and level the playing field.

When the Federation sends the White Base warship to pick up the Mobile Suits - the Gundam - Zeon forces are monitoring and attack both Side 7 and the White Base. Side 7 is more than just a research base, though - it's a colony, too, and the inhabitants begin to get slaughtered by the attack. True to anime form, a teenage boy, son of one of the Gundam creators, manages to take control of the mech and fight off the assault. What follows is the journey of the survivors of Side 7, as they become the crew of the White Base and trek along the stars back to Earth, clashing with Zeon forces along the way.

The first story has familiar story threads from the many, many films and series that have taken inspiration from it over the years, from Neon Genesis Evangelion to Aldnoah Zero and a considerable amount besides. This story of young innocents thrown into a war so much bigger than them and a young protagonist with sudden power turning the tide may be a familiar trope now, but this is a chance to see the precursor to the countless stories that have come since. The first film introduces now iconic characters, designs, and elements in an indubitable '80s style. Villainous "Red Comet" Char Aznable, the classic RX-78 Gundam with signature shield and luminous pink beam sabre, and even little mechanical ball mascot, Haro.

The second film - Soldiers of Sorrow - sees the crew of White Base adjusting to the realities of life as soldiers in this devastating civil war across the stars. They also now have a huge target on their backs from the most powerful Zeon family after a misconception from the first film. There is also a significant focus on the "Newtype" pilots. It turns out Amuro isn't the only Newtype out there and their existence means big changes in the war. Meanwhile, Char's machinations continue to develop among the Zeon.

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The third film, Encounters in Space, sees these Newtype pilots begin to take their rightful places at the head of the forces on both sides. Picking up immediately from the end of the previous film, as the title implies, this takes the battles off Earth and into space, specifically taking the fight to Zeon itself. This finale places Char and Amuro on a collision course for their final showdown and manages to fantastically wrap up the numerous story threads into a truly satisfying conclusion. This entry in the series also contains lots of original animation compared to the previous two and the quality is noticeably improved.

The movies were produced by studio Nippon Sunrise, which was responsible for many big series of the '80s, like Dirty Pair and City Hunter, and this trilogy certainly looks very much "of its time," capturing the classic '80s anime aesthetic that is so very different to what makes up the majority of anime today, but still using designs and styles so iconic they remain the blueprint and inspiration of so much nowadays. It's always charming to see true hand-drawn animation with rich tones and colours, too - definitely worth experiencing for the newer fans who know nothing but computer created animation. There are, of course, downsides to the age, as well; the films were only released in 4:3 ratio and so, obviously, they are only available in this setup here, with large black bars down either side. There are two versions of the movies: 2.0 and 5.1, with the latter originally released as a "Special Edition" with a rearranged soundtrack. While the original anime series received a dub, the movies never did and a new one has not been produced for this release - just dubs here.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
There's a truly great story in Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy, told over the course of the trio of movies. Watching the rivalry develop between Amuro and Char is fantastic; the inclusion and events with Lalah in the third film deliver genuinely emotional moments. Satisfying and iconic, this is a must see for fans of Gundam, and anime in general. Many fans seem to dismiss the older anime series out of hand, which is a truly foolish thing to do, since as the great Terry Pratchett once said, "If you don't know where you came from, you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, you don't know where you're going."

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