Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 1 -

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Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 147
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 1

By Paul Grisham     May 11, 2002
Release Date: May 07, 2002

Mobile Suit Gundam Movie 1
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
The Legendary Gundam Movies Now on DVD!

Universal Century 0079. Amuro Ray, a normal boy, finds himself the newest soldier in the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon when he becomes the pilot of the Federation's prototype Gundam mobile suit – their greatest new hope. Now, he and the rest of the inexperienced crew of the ship White Base will have to fight for their very lives as the enemy attempts to destroy this new weapon. And Amuro comes face-to-face with the man who will become his archrival, Zeon ace pilot Char Aznable.

The Review!
The original Mobile Suit Gundam series was a groundbreaking and influential series that was, quite literally ahead of its time. A commercial failure during its original television broadcast, the Gundam series was given a second chance at life through the movie trilogy – a 7.5 hour compilation of the original 43-epiosde series. While movies that simply retell a TV series usually fall flat, the Mobile Suit Gundam movies retain the epic feel and depth of characters of the original TV series, often surpassing the original series in excitement and drama. And thankfully, Bandai has brought these movies to DVD in a way that is worthy of these modern classics.

The Mobile Suit Gundam movie discs include both the original Japanese stereo and a new Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1. The stereo version sounds good, with excellent use of left/right separation. However, the 5.1 version is really something special. Everything sounds crisper, cleaner. The overall audio is a little louder, the bass is deeper and more intense, and the ambient sounds envelop the listener. Given that this is a more realistic take on military combat than many mecha shows, the attention to details in the ambient sounds, such as claxons, mechanical noises, wind, etc., really draws the viewer in. Purists may wish to hear the original stereo mix, but the 5.1 mix is much more satisfying, even on 2-speaker and ProLogic setups.

The original animation for Mobile Suit Gundam dates back to 1979, so you simply have to expect some print damage, but by no means should you lower your expectations. The video has been completely remastered, and this is a great-looking progressive transfer. This may very well be the best that Mobile Suit Gundam has ever looked. The video does suffer from quite a bit of wobble, especially the first movie. To combat this, the video engineers did something that may leave a few viewers a bit disappointed. All three movies are framed by a black overscan area. In some scenes, when the wobble becomes very bad, the frame moves around within the overscan area to keep the image centered on the screen. For those with a standard television that does not display overscan, there will be no problem, but for those with a monitor that does display overscan, the sensation can be quite dizzying. Fortunately, this only happens a handful of times.

The covers for each disc are iridescent, similar to the covers that Pioneer has been using for SoulTaker and Vandread. The spines are blue to match the optional box. Each of the three movies' front covers takes on one of the three colors in the Mobile Suit Gundam logo – disc 1 is predominantly red, disc 2 is yellow, and disc 3 blue. The images themselves are striking and dramatic. Excellent job, Bandai.

The menus are quite simple, but very effective. The main background image is the cover image, and an extended musical piece (approximately 2 minutes) runs behind each menu page. The music is good enough and the selections long enough that I frequently found myself listening to these audio clips in the background while writing this review. When a menu item is selected, the images and menu items are pulled away in an animated transition, to the sounds of heavy machinery, exposing the next level of menu options. It's not quite up to the high concept standards of NightJar, but it's a nice touch. The Japanese cast and crew credits are included as an option on the root menu. I'm really glad they included them, because the credits are completely untranslated in the movie itself.


(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)

Mobile Suit Gundam is a series of such expansive scope that it may be impossible to write a review without writing a book on the subject. Essentially, the story is about the complexities of war – how it can bring out the best, but also the very worst, in people. The series has always placed a high premium on realism, never taking war and its outcome lightly. Through war, our hero, Amuro Ray, may grow into a responsible man, he may find his calling and his destiny, but ultimately, he must lose his innocence and optimism and even his family and friends. Some people will live, some will die, and others will find fates worse than death. Mankind will survive, ultimately, and it will grow stronger through the conflict, but it will also be permanently weakened through its greed and violence. That is the theme of Mobile Suit Gundam, but its true genius is how it balances the hell of large-scale warfare with the private tragedy of its characters and how it allows the viewer to find his or her own answers about war.

The Earth Federation, ostensibly the ruling body of a united Earth, is at war with separatists from an orbiting space colony who have declared themselves independent of Earth and called themselves the Principality of Zeon. The war has already gone on for quite some time and appears to be stalemated, though neither side is willing to negotiate peace. The Earth Federation has developed a powerful new technology, called Gundam, and built prototype weapons. As the story begins, the Federation is bringing its new war cruiser, White Base to one of the Federation's colonies, Side 7, to pick up the prototypes. During the exchange, Zeon forces launch a surprise attack that will change the lives of everyone in the colony, and ultimately affect the outcome of the entire war.

Amuro Ray, an intelligent, though antisocial teenager, is living alone on that colony when the story opens. His father is an important research engineer for the Federation, and has been working on the Gundam prototype mobile suits (mecha) for the Earth Federation military. Amuro's father took him away from his mother on Earth to live on Side 7, but then, in turn, abandoned him to work on the Gundam. Amuro has effectively raised himself, but has become an imitation of his father, all drive and no heart, emotionally shut-in from those who care about him most. Amuro's neighbor and childhood friend, Fraw Bow, finds him at the start of the movie ignoring the evacuation alarms, hard at work. She drags him away from his workbench to the civilian shelters, but Amuro soon realizes they are doomed if they stay inside.

He runs out to find his father, who was traveling aboard White Base but gets caught up in the fighting instead. Finding a technical manual for the Gundam, he climbs aboard the giant fighting machine and attempts to fight off the attacking Zeon soldiers. Thanks to his help, the Earth Federation soldiers are able to evacuate many of the civilians into the White Base and escape. Thus begins Amuro's long quest to uncover his destiny.

Once the White Base escapes from Side 7, and they are able to assess their situation, they find they are in dire straights indeed. The captain has been seriously injured, placing command of the White Base in the less-than-capable hands of first officer Noah Bright. Most of the White Base's pilots and technicians have been killed during the attack, and Amuro finds himself the only passenger onboard with combat experience in the Gundam. His friend, Fraw, becomes a medical assistant and cares for the orphaned children on the ship. A civilian pilot, Mirai Yashima, becomes ship's navigator. Another civilian, Sayla Mass, assumes the job of communications officer. Amuro's friend, Hayate, and another civilian, the cowardly Kai, also become pilots. The Zeon forces, led by the formidable Char Aznable, pursue the White Base from Side 7 back to Earth in an attempt to capture the Federation's top-secret research project and uncover its secrets. From these humble beginnings, this simple cast of characters has become one of the most memorable and beloved in anime history.

The White Base's plight seems hopeless, as she is damaged, under equipped, and crewed exclusively by civilians and an inexperienced crew. Amuro and the rest of the crew experience some early victories, when the Zeons underestimate the strength of the new Federation weapons. As the fighting become more intense, Amuro withdraws, no longer wanting to fight in the mighty Gundam. The first movie is primarily about Amuro's progression from boy to soldier. At first, he fights merely for survival, then because he is ordered to. As the pressure intensifies, Amuro's reluctance to fight also increases, leading to several showdowns between Amuro and the command staff. At one point, Amuro is reunited with his mother, who is shocked at the cold-blooded soldier her son has become. She expresses outwardly the conflict Amuro is feeling within himself. By the end of the movie, Amuro has come to understand his place on the ship, and has made a kind of peace with his role as soldier. Though Neon Genesis Evangelion would mine this territory later, the conflicts and internal turmoil of the unwilling soldier were never stated as eloquently as they were here, in Mobile Suit Gundam.

Running parallel to Amuro's story is the story of the mysterious and talented Zeon warrior, Char Aznable, who will become Amuro’s greatest rival. Char is one of the most charismatic villains ever to grace anime and has been popular ever since his first appearance in Mobile Suit Gundam. He is simultaneously a gentle nobleman of great honor and a ruthless killer. His pursuit of the White Base is at first driven by the orders of the Zeon ruling family, then out of sheer curiosity about the powerful new Gundam and its skilled pilot. Char is not simply a loyal warrior of the Zeon military, though. He operates under a hidden agenda, which is only briefly hinted at during this first movie. At one point, a battle pits Char against Sayla Mass, but when they come face to face, they recognize each other as long-lost siblings who have taken different paths since childhood. Later, when the White Base is pursued through Zeon-controlled territory, Char betrays his commanding officer, a member of the Zeon ruling family.

By the end of the movie, the White Base has returned to Earth, and is well on its way to the Federation's secret base in Jaburo. For the most part, this movie flows briskly, taking the White Base from one conflict to the next relentlessly, achieving a level of dramatic tension the TV series never reaches.. The pacing is excellent, for the most part, and retains most of the story from the original series. The abridgement is not without a few losses, however. For the most part, the situation of the non-combatant civilians onboard White Base is almost completely ignored. Their reactions to losing their homes and adjusting to the military environment were an important part of the early episodes of the TV series, showing how they viewed the war as nothing more than an inconvenience, with an outcome that would never directly affect them. Though the loss of that subplot eliminates some of the human interest in the story, it does let the story move along more tightly.

Also, missing are a lot of the various introductions and descriptions of the enemy mobile suits. Much of the show emphasized the development and use of new mobile suits for a variety of encounters. The movies avoid that, allowing the Gundam and its components to take center stage, ignoring, for the most part, the variety of Zeon mobile suits introduced throughout the series. While the toys based on the mobile suits have been popular for the last two decades, de-emphasizing them for the movie turns out to be a wise move, since it only strengthens the theme that the tools of war aren't as important as the men who use them.

In the end, the first Mobile Suit Gundam movie captures the spirit of the TV series, showcases the generally excellent writing, and leaves behind the less interesting and redundant elements. After two and a half entertaining hours, the story is set, the actors are in their places, and the real tragedies of war are yet to be revealed. If the first Mobile Suit Gundam movie has a flaw, it is simply that it ends without resolving the larger conflicts of the war between the Federation and the Zeon. Though the movie stands well on its own as the story of a boy becoming a man, the trilogy was meant to be seen as one continuous story – chapters in the same book. Still, we're off to a great beginning, and the best is yet to come!

Highly Recommended!

Newly Remastered Transfer,New 5.1 Dolby Digital Japanese Audio,Japanese Stereo Audio,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic Panablack TV, Codefree Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)


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