"Mobile Suit Gundam 0083-The Afterglow of Zeon": Turn Out That Light!!
When you create a smash hit, it’s natural to want to spread the hype as far as you can. As Pokemon became a world wide phenomenon, Bandai/Sunrise hoped for similar success with the Gundam franchise…..so far, Haro plushies aren’t quite outselling Pikachus. Whilst the focus of this campaign has been America, other parts of the world have also been targeted. In Europe, the franchise has had differing amounts of success. Whilst a hit in countries such as Italy and France, things have been slower in the UK. This is likely due to Bandai sending mixed signals; they’ve mentioned interest in cracking the UK market but seem to flip flop on the idea. After a less than successful attempt to market Gundam Wing over here, more recent attempts have taken the form of DVD releases through European distributor beez Entertainment.
beez has been handling various European releases of Bandai titles, including .hack//SIGN and Cowboy Bebop. The relationship seems to have started with Gundam Wing, which was the first beez release I picked up. I was far from impressed with those- poorly thought out extras and various technical glitches plagued these early releases. When I couldn’t find copies past volume 4, I switched to the US releases and eventually sold my existing 4 discs and replaced them with the US equivalents. As the UK continued to be left in the dust I stuck to importing the various Gundam series. The beez releases have done little to convince me to change strategy (other than actually managing to include the SEED epilogue on the final DVD, something the US had trouble with) seeing as how their Gundam releases have been mostly kept to only the movies. However, it’s because of that fact that European fans get something of an exclusive- the 0083 movie. Owing to its less than sparkling reputation and small amount of new content, Bandai America ignored this title in favour of releasing the original 13 episode OVA. The slimline strategy for Europe means just the opposite for us. Given my morbid curiosity, I picked the release up.
Other than the actual quality of the discs, another issue I’ve had with beez is the type of cases they use. There’s been some minor improvement but they’re still using one of those annoying “push down two tiny buttons in centre to release disc” types of cases in place of something more logical, like an Amray. I’ll certainly be swapping the case for a better one. There’s no insert but the cover art is quite nice, depicting our lead Kou Uraki, his nemesis Anavel Gato and the GP-03 Gundam in all its Hajme Katoki designed brilliance. The back presents two blurbs which provide you with the basic story and try to hype it up. Nothing too bad, though they do make the space side of the story sound more reaching then it actually is.
As the title implies, the film takes place in Universal Century 0083 and is thus set between the original series, Mobile Suit Gundam and its sequel Zeta Gundam. The main theme of the storyline is an attempt to explain how the world of the original series transitioned into the harsher world of Zeta. Fans still argue if it was a story that really needed to be told, but I think most would agree the OVA handled this transition pretty well. We begin with the less than perfect Federation of Mobile Suit Gundam and watch as they transition through the story into the more fascist and corrupt force we see in Zeta. This is an angle which I think the movie loses rather quickly.
The movie begins with things underway, roughly three episodes into the OVA. We’re caught up to speed via the narration of Nina Purpleton, a company rep/engineer working on two prototype Gundams for the Federation. She explains how they were transported to Australia for testing but one of the prototypes, equipped with a nuclear weapon, was stolen by a disguised Anavel Gato claiming it for a revival of the defeated Principality of Zeon. Starting the movie off like this is a poor choice as it removes a lot of earlier moments where we get to see the characters before they get swept up into events. These scenes add some humanity to the Federation side and without that angle a lot of the story loses weight. One of my personal favourite minor scenes remains but is edited down- a Zeon Dom slicing a Federation captured Zaku. In the OVA we get to see the Dom pilot’s reaction to seeing the backbone of his countries efforts of resistance being used by its intended enemies and believes he’s putting it ‘out of its misery.’ Our protagonist, Kou Uraki, is now introduced fawning over the Gundams before taking out the remaining prototype to try and stop Gato.
If 0083 could do one thing right it was battles so it’s a shame that even those are victims of the flashback opening. The brief Earth-based portion of the show is quickly side stepped with the space arc gaining most of the time. Whilst this could have played out quite well, a lot of time is wasted and given to plots that could have better used it. One of the more bizarre plots of the OVA involved Kou befriending a former Zeon pilot and helping him to rebuild an experimental Zeon Mobile Armour, which in turn the pilot in question uses to battle Kou in an attempt to prove his worth. This plot thread was bad enough but in the movie it ends with the Mobile Armour being repaired and neither it nor pilot is mentioned again. It’s just a complete mess, especially since very little is shown to explain the motivations of the Zeon leaders or explain the One Year War. Cima, a wildcard Zeon, was hard enough to pin down in the OVA but here she comes across even worse. Likewise, Delaz comes across as just a talking head with the loss of a sequence which began the OVA and explained his motivations. This really creates the feeling the movie was made for a limited audience, namely the existing Gundam fanbase. There is a similar feeling to the OVA but here it’s made much worse. In my opinion, this makes it a poor choice for beez to release over the OVA. Along with the references to past continuity, the story ends on an irony that unless the viewer has seen Zeta Gundam will be completely lost on them.
Animation and music are generally strong. Bearing in mind I have headphones in place of a high quality sound system the sound mix was top notch. The video was ok, except for some slight glitches when there were rapid shots being fired. After over a decade the animation still holds up, if looking slightly dated. As I noted earlier, 0083 knew how to do battles and what remain are a treat. These are heightened by the wonderful mecha designs by the like of Hajime Katoki. The designs avoid the annoying super robot elements of recent series such as SEED Destiny. This is an example of ‘real robot’ at its best. One of my personal favourite design elements is Gato’s pinched GP-02. Although clearly a Gundam, it has a more Zeonic look to it with the oversized legs and such making it fit in well with it’s comrades and giving a subtle hint to it’s fate when we first see it.
The DVD is ok if not spectacular. beez presents a generic looking tech-themed set of menus, with random footage and character/mecha art plastered around. Nothing amazing but I wasn’t expecting much. It’s worth noting that for the main menu, they use the footage of the CGI Sweetwater colony from Char’s Counterattack. There are no extras other than trailers for Gundam SEED and Char’s Counterattack. These are rather poorly done; the SEED trailer is just the first opening (text and all) with a note shoved at the end saying all ten DVDs are now available. The Char’s Counterattack trailer is just the two original Japanese trailers presented as extras on the R1 DVD, with no form of translation.
The film is presented only in its original Japanese audio, with a choice of English, French, German, Dutch and Polish subtitles. The subtitles are ok but there are some inconsistencies. After getting used to reading “Ensign Kou Uraki,” it’s slightly jarring to read “2nd Lieutenant Koh Uraki” here. The first one can be explained as being the UK equivalent to the Ensign rank which is fair enough. Kou’s name being mispelt however should have been caught, especially since the actual case spells it correctly. It also gets it correct on a similar and much larger mistake- “The War of Year One.” This consistent mistranslation of “The One Year War” is easily the biggest mistake and combined with the movies own lack of information on the conflict could easily further confuse. The One Year War is named as such because the conflict lasted roughly a year. “The War of Year One” gives off a completely different impression, especially since the first things the movie touches on are the changing of the calendar system and the colony reconstruction project. I’d expect to see this kind of mistake in a fansub or bootleg but not on official product.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 – The Afterglow of Zeon is difficult to recommend. The film itself isn’t too enjoyable, even for a Gundam fan. There’s not even anything else on the DVD to really justify the purchase. Even the new footage (which is only about 5 minutes or so) adds nothing of worth. Whilst I don’t want to blacklist beez, they still haven’t impressed me even after avoiding their product for the last two to three years. I can only really recommend this DVD to Gundam fans who are curious like myself or completists. In general though my advice is to not waste your money and to spend it on something more worthwhile. This is a disappointing release of a disappointing title.