With an episode title of “The Second Coming of Char,” how can you not love it?
What They Say
With Banagher Links as its master, the Unicorn Gundam goes into action. The mobile suit that is said to be the key to Laplace's Box offers a glimpse of its incredible power in single combat against Marida Cruz and her Kshatriya. Full Frontal, leader of the Neo Zeon remnants known as the Sleeves and the so-called "second coming of Char Aznable," claims to be a vessel embodying the hopes of the Spacenoids. What will happen when he encounters Banagher on the battlefield?
Gundam Unicorn does it right out of the gate by providing a great bilingual presentation with both tracks in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The feature makes great use of its audio presentation immerse you into the feature with a lot of directionality going on in key sequences but also some exceptionally well done work with the forward soundstage. The placement and sense of depth is very solid here where it makes the whole thing even more alive than you'd expect. We played with both language tracks and other than the usual differences in dialogue recording levels that are sometimes apparent, both mixes are fantastic and capture the feel of the show wonderfully. Though it isn't to the same level as some theatrical presentations, the work here is just right for this show. In addition to the two TrueHD tracks, both languages also get done in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 640kbps and providing that showcases very clearly the differences between lossy and lossless.
Originally release in 2010, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080 using the AVC codec. Bandai Visual has done some stellar work here that's reminiscent of what we used to see when Honneamise released here with a high bitrate consistently in the mid 30's that gives us a beautiful presentation. The show is a marquee niche title for Bandai as the UC timeline doesn't have quite the allure it used to be they have not skimped in the slightest here which results in a fascinatingly beautiful show that is lush, detailed and amazingly vibrant. Some releases deserve the hyperbole when it comes to how they look and Gundam Unicorn is definitely one of them as it's pure showcase material.
Gundam Unicorn comes in a standard Blu-ray case which works well with the artwork here that helps tie it together with the color scheme. The heavy reds here stand out really well as we have Full Frontal's mobile suit dominating the right side of the cover and onto the left while a suited up version of Banagher adds some white to it with a serious look. Full Frontal himself makes an appearance in the background with a devious little grin that really is quite unnerving. The back cover is reminiscent of other Japanese releases I've had where it has a whole lot of text, the summary itself which is a bit lengthy as well as the various production credits and technical information sections, along with a number of decent shots from the show itself. The background image of Frontal's suit works really nicely here to give it a sense of power and presence. Like the first cover, I do find that overall it looks far too busy, but they provide so much useful information, especially in the technical section, that I can't help but be happy. There isn't any reversible artwork here nor any show related inserts though we do get the standard Bandai Visual sheet on what BD-Live is and how it works.
Being a worldwide release, the first screen we get is a shot of the space station against the Earth with a selection of which language you want. Depending on your choice, you get a different set of screens before coming to the main menu. If you choose Japanese, you get a skippable Honneamise logo and that's it. If you choose English, you get locked out FBI warnings and content warnings before the Honneamise logo and then the main menu.
Like most releases, the top level menu and pop up menu shares a lot of the same design elements. The menu has a great looking cockpit feeling as we see the screen as if we're looking at the stars with access points in front of us. Strangely, the top menu button won't take you here, you have to use the pop up menu and then select the main menu. Selections are standard and clean with the play, scene access and setup menus that are easy to navigate (especially if you selected English at the start!). In addition to that we get the BD-Live menu and the credits menu along with a restart the movie selection. The menu has a good two minute loop with instrumental music that builds up the cockpit view and then closes it down at the end. When in the pop-up mode, you only get the scene access and setup submenus along with an option to go to the main menu or close the pop-up menu. These are nicely in theme and they feel like they fit well and flow with the content itself. Having the pop up menu up during playback is even pretty nice.
The extras for this release that are on-disc are definitely useful if you're watching these as they come out as it presents several promotional clips from the first episode to reacquaint yourself with things. It adds to that with a brief bit of commercials and a series of highlights, with a few of the characters and the title mecha as well.
Due to network connectivity issues, we could not check out any BD-Live features.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The opening episode of Gundam Unicorn thrust us right back into the confusing and very interesting world of the Universal Century storyline. Advancing things several years, we've now learned that the Gundam unit that's been discovered is part of a new advanced top secret project, one that came up during the reorganization efforts following the wars that have happened, where some new tricks have been discovered. The technical side is laid out in a fair bit of jargon but the revelations that follow showcase a Gundam unit whose pilot can essentially think what they want the machine to do and it will do it. That's enough to be concerned about even if you're on the side that has it, and enough to try and get it securely stowed away somewhere. The label Gundam holds a lot of power even at this stage and those learning about it give it an interesting range of deference and awe.
The discovery that Banagher is the pilot of the stolen unit doesn't go over well either, though he may have a few tricks up his sleeve to try and assuage them considering he saved them and there's some lineage there he's trying to use. And it doesn't hurt that the unit is also registered solely to him, not that it'll matter much to the really strict military types who don't care to deal with him seriously since he's a young boy and a thief. Banagher has gotten himself into a rather big situation on a few levels because of it all and having it go from one attack to another has not given him any time to really figure things out, nor has anyone offered up any useful information to try and smooth it all out.
Gundam Unicorn does tease really well early on with the apparent second coming of Char under the guise of Full Frontal. Gundam has a long history of bad English based names and this one doesn't help ease that in the slightest. On the plus side, through Frontal and Banagher, we get one truly beautiful action scene as the two fight it out in space with their respective mobile suits. There is a really great sense of intensity and beauty to it where you feel the impact unlike in any other series before this. The visuals and the audio presentation really drives home the power of these machines and the people in them, especially as the music rises with each new aspect of the battle. Highlighting these men that are the next generation of warriors, the way they handle things instinctively and in tune with their mobile suits, has reached a new level with Gundam Unicorn.
While the action plays out well, a fair bit of politics and social issues are thrown in as well. The more public revelation, at least among the crew of the ship, that Audrey is Mineva is surprising to most and hard to swallow for someone like Banagher. Banagher does hold his own well though when he goes up against Full frontal in person, giving as good as he gets in the verbal sparring the two do and not being intimidated by the man in the mask in front of him. So much of what's happened has been confusing to Banagher with so many gaps in his knowledge that he's moire aggressive over it, reaching out for what he can with what he knows in an effort to figure out more but also to cement his own position as he knows it. It's an interesting situation to be in, being so assured of his position but not entirely sure that it's what will achieve what he believes since he's unwise in the ways of how life works for adults.
There's some interesting layers that do start to get exposed here as it covers some of what has gone on within the system in the last few years. What's really nice is that we see more of how people live this time around, something I don't think we've really seen since the 0080 OVA series. It's not so much a look at various families or someone in particular, but Banagher finds himself out there in the colony and experiences things we don't get to see, with the way there are run down areas and a sense of oppression and decline. Much of what we've seen of the colonies in the past has been largely utopian to some degree, or at least that's the presented image, so getting something dirtier and more lived in here works well to make it even more accessible and realistic.
Gundam Unicorn mixes things up rather well here so we get a lot to work with, though more questions than answers at this point. The action side is very well served, if too brief for action junkies, with the fight between Banagher and Full Frontal. The sequence works very well and really draws you in. The rest of the episode, the majority of it in fact, is playing more with a mixture of politics and interpersonal relationship issues. There's a lot of politics that get brought in here because of the Neo Zeon group that's made progress into the Federation space and set up bases as well as Mineva's presence out there. There's a lot of nuance at the moment where you can't be quite sure where it's going, and how much you can trust Full Frontal with what he's saying, but it hints at plans within plans that could upend a lot of what's going on. Though the wait is long, the episode is worth ever minute as the quality is on the screen. While more setup than anything else, it introduces a lot of elements that will be built upon until it all escalates, big time.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese subtitles, French subtitles, Spanish subtitles, Mandarin subtitles, Cantonese subtitles Promos, Commercials, Character Info
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.