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"Gundam 0080": War is Hell, But You Knew That Already

Ah, the Universal Century. The original and by far the longest in Gundam‘s timelines, and still the mainstay of the series. Because of the popularity of the original Gundam, three side stories (the other two are 0083 and 08th MS Team) were made to capitalize on its success and offer a new point of view on the One Year War. The first of these side stories is Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.

Cover art for Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket Complete Collection.

The year is U.C. 0079. The One Year War is almost over and Zeon’s getting desperate. Zeon picks up word that the Federation is creating another Gundam Mobile Suit, so of course, they try to destroy it. On Side 6, a young boy named Alfred Izuruha is enjoying life like any kid. Getting in trouble, being annoyed with school, picking fights with a certain little girl, the typical stuff. Then, one day, the Zeon attack, looking for the hidden Gundam. Al sees one of the Zakus get shot down and ends up meeting its pilot, Bernie. After a troublesome start, the two become best friends and Al helps track down the Gundam. Things get complicated when Al’s old friend Christine MacKenzie returns home, as a soldier of the Federation. What Al doesn’t know is that Chris is, in fact, the test pilot of the brand new RX-78 NT-1 Gundam, nicknamed “Alex.” And if Bernie doesn’t destroy the Gundam soon, all of Side 6 will be demolished instead!

This series is a fan-favorite among Gundam fans and it’s easy to see why. For one, we actually get a look inside Zeon instead of the Federation, and not only that, they’re actually the heroes of this story. Then there’s the main character, who is a young child and not an ace pilot aiming to turn the tide of the war. This gives the franchise a new perspective and makes the entire story even more special, especially in the face of all the One Year War remakes like Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED.

The main characters have one last glimpse of happiness.

Side 6 feels like a small town, an odd shift after the epic original Gundam, Zeta Gundam, Gundam ZZ, and Char’s Counterattack. Though Chris is intriguing, and Al may be the star, Bernie is the most interesting character in the series, as he’s basically a whipping boy called upon to be a hero who doesn’t have the courage to follow through. The relationships he has with both Al and Chris end up driving the series all the way to its inevitable conclusion, which you can likely guess if you’ve seen any Gundam series whatsoever.

Unfortunately, this series isn’t perfect. For one thing, it’s only six episodes. Though the series doesn’t really need any more episodes, I would have certainly enjoyed seeing more of the characters. But my main problem with the series is Al himself. When little kids are put into a serious story they usually come off as annoying, and Al is no exception. For some reason, he has a tendency to slip into deep depression for no reason at all. He acts as though his life is really rough, and a passing mention of the war angers him, even though this behavior is inconsistent with his character. Of course, he has other annoying traits, including the clichéd “risk-taker” characteristic, which sometimes nearly gets his friends caught. While it may be realistic, it isn’t enjoyable to watch.

The Kemper is still one of my absolute favorite Zeon Mobile Suits.

Visually, the series is a mixed bag. While the animation itself is very good, and the colors, though bleak, work with the series, the character designs aren’t exactly the best. There are all these extra details on the characters that give them a glossy look. I didn’t like it in Gundam SEED/Destiny, and I don’t like it here either. On the other hand, the various Mobile Suit designs really rock, especially the Kemper, which should have been good enough to appear in other series. Hell, these Mobile Suits are actually realistic, which is a refreshing change from the various super-robots of Gundam SEED Destiny and Gundam Wing. The transfer is decent enough, though there are some instances where the outline of a character’s mouth disappears when he or she talks.

This series gains a lot of ground when it comes to the sound. The music, while not the best Gundam score, works with the series’ unique atmosphere. Animaze, not Ocean Group, worked on this side story’s dub and the result is pure awesomeness. All of the voices work within the story without any of the cartoony accents some Ocean Group actors tend to use on their performances. The Japanese dub works well too, though casual anime fans will likely gravitate towards the English dub since it’s so well done. Unfortunately there are no song-and-sign subtitles (since this series was originally released before that feature was available).

While it isn’t much, there are some decent extras on this 2-disc set. Three short music videos set to various songs from the series are decent, though nothing special. There’s also an “All that Gundam” promo that features the main Gundams from MSG, Zeta, ZZ, and Char’s Counterattack fighting each other. It’s way too short for my tastes, but it’s still neat to watch. Aside from that, we have your usual stuff: trailers, textless themes, credits, and a Mobile Suit Encyclopedia.

If you are a fan of the Universal Century, you’ll love this collection. But if you couldn’t stand the original MSG, Char’s Counterattack, or Zeta, then stay far, far away.

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