Mobile Suit Gundam 0080 Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, February 10, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2002



What They Say
The great war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon is almost over. At the neutral space colony of Libott, the federation secretly constructs a powerful new Gundam mobile suit. Untouched by the conflict, a little boy named Al dreams of mobile suits and space battles...until a Zeon Commando Team discovers Libot's secret, and changes Al's life forever.


The Review!
Gundam 0080, War in the Pocket, was my first exposure to Gundam. Part of the allure of it was my favorite character designer, Mikimoto, being involved. After owning a couple of versions of this now, it's nice to have what is probably the best presentation yet of this show.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese language track gets a boost here by being remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and unlike a lot of spots in the 0083 release, this one sounds a lot better and a lot less hollow. Part of this is due to less music in general, which means less hollow 80's songs. The action sequences make the most use of the new found directionality as well as some background voices going to various speakers, such as children in the school. The English track also got a 5.1 with pretty much the same results. My only real disappointment is that the original mixes were not included, since some older fans will have an affection for them and some audiophiles truly dislike how downconverted 5.1 tracks sound.

Video:
Getting a similar remastering as 0083 in Japan not so long ago, the transfer for these episodes looks great. The only problem we really noticed was mostly apparent during the first episode where you can see some visible cross coloration along the backgrounds and in some of the characters. But this does ease off after awhile and ends up leaving a very vibrant looking transfer, with great colors and mostly solid blacks.

Packaging:
Bandai scores again here by providing another reversible cover. The retail cover has a nice cast shot of the three main principals and three of the secondary characters who only help things along. The back cover gives a closeup on the three primaries as well as providing a few small animation shots. THere's a brief summary and a listing of the episodes and their numbers and titles as well as the various disc features. The reverse cover provides a great piece of artwork that I believe was used for the Japanese release that has Al and Bernie walking inside of Side 6. The back cover for this side is similar to the other one except it's a bit less busy on the top half. The insert here opens to give a timeline of these episodes as to where they take place, which you can use to check out against other One Year War timelines.

Menus:
The menu layout here is pretty basic and workable, but lacks something that's made other recent menus stand out a bit. The menus play with some animation and music but don't draw you in like the ones used for the MS 08th did. Moving between the menus is nice and fast with good access times. The layout in general works well, though I would have prefered to see the translated credits placed in the extras section instead of inside the DVD credits section. But i'll take this over having them in the show itself, which was nice to see the original print.

Extras:
There's a nice selection of extras included here for this release. The textless opening and ending is great, especially since I really love the opening song and can listen to it repeatedly. There's also a collection of commercials that were used to advertise the monthly releases of the original LD's and another block of entries into the MS Encyclopedia. Inside the credits section you'll find the translated opening/ending sequence, which looks like they were pulled directly from the VHS run a few years back. Just looking at these and then the actual show will give a clue as to how good of a job the remastering was.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Taking place during December of 0080, the War in the Pocket OVA series focuses on Side 6, one of the neutral and uninvolved Side's in the One Year War.

Of course, there's no such thing as being neutral when it comes to battles as large in scope as te One Year War. The show opens on Earth where the Federation has managed to launch into space a mysterious container despite an attack by a Zeon group of mobile suits. They don't know what's in this container, but they know it's not good for them and they either have to find out what it is or to destroy it entirely. They learn that it eventually made its way to Side 6, and launch a small attack in the Side to try and get the information.

During all of this, we're introduced to various characters inside of Side 6, with our lead "hero" being Al, a mixture of somber and carefree sixth grader. He and his friends are like most kids, talking about things they don't know and getting in trouble with teachers and parents. Al in particular has a concentration problem since he's always imagining himself being somewhere else, such as a mobile suit pilot.

During one spirited conversation with his classmates, he insists that he's seen a real Federation mobile suit since his father works at a shipping company and saw it in port. He gets dared to take pictures of it as proof, because as everyone knows at this time, only the Zeon's have mobile suits. So he takes them up on the dare and heads into the spaceport to sneak some pictures. But all he finds is large shuttles and... mysterious containers.

It's only a day later when a small force of Zeon attack Side 6 to get the information. Al and his friends watch from the top of the school as the Zeon forces move about and what little forces there are aboard the Side try to defend. It's a very telling moment for the children watching this carnage go on, and most run away but there are plenty that watch in enjoyment of seeing such massive machines operate. One of the Zeon's get shot down and falls towards a local park, which spurs Al to take his camera and rush off to get some great up close pictures.

Al manages to approach carefully enough for someone his age, and takes a good number of images until he comes across the pilot, the young Bernard Weisman. Bernie can't believe that all that's come out to get him is this kid. But Al essentially tells him that there's little real military here. Al begs to hold Bernie's gun, but Bernie just wants a look at the pictures that Al's taken of his mobile suit. So he gets it off of him and starts looking...

Only to find the images of the container that they're all after. While there's more banter between the two, Bernie's fairly quickly rescued by one of his team and with the memory card in hand, heads back to base to report.

The show then moves into the odd but I'd almost guess realistic mode of having a small team of Zeon arrive on board Side 6 and begin building their suits from the pieces they have so they can launch a surprise internal attack and capture the container. They find themselves aided by the unlikely help of Al, who just finds all of this to be very cool and just wants to help Bernie. The relationship between the two is interesting, with Bernie exaggerating his exploits only to have Al "tell" on him, which only embarasses Bernie further. There's a lot of interesting interplay between these two characters, with one who isn't quite sure of what he's doing and one who wants to grow up fast enough to do what the other is doing.

Then there's the girl next door to Al, Christine McKenzie. She'd just returned from Earth and unbeknownst to Al, she's part of a big Gundam project for the Federation. This brings some amusing moments into play when Bernie meets and falls for her.

Gundam 0080 isn't a big flashy project like most of the other Gundam series, especially in the first three episodes here. We do get some good mobile suit action pieces, particularly in the first episode, but a lot of this is focusing on the characters and the espionage side of it. As with most of the One Year War stories, I find it fascinating since they have such a huge canvas to paint on that they manage to make each of the stories distinct yet fit in well enough with the overall picture. And having one taken from an actual childs point of view is one that you'd normally bet wouldn't be all that interesting if done by a western studio. But here, it works perfectly. And as with most One Year War stories, it gets very difficult to really root for one side over the other.

Very recommended.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Commercial Collection,MS Encyclopedia

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam 0080