Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Bandai Entertainment
- MSRP: 24.95
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Mobile Suit Gundam: MS 08th Team
Mobile Suit Gundam: MS 08th Team Vol. #1
By Robert Hines
February 16, 2002
Release Date: July 08, 2001
Mobile Suit Gundam -- The 08th MS Team is one of, if not the best entry in the Universal Century/Gundam universe, even if it is short. The art is top-notch, and the plot is very intriguing.
The main character is sort of a standard "overconfident young commander pilot who also remains at arms length from his team, but is very human" but I like the way he's handled. The love interest is spunky, opinionated and active, but very, very warm-hearted and introspective (even for a Zeon). The supporting cast is standard anime fare, but I like the way they're approached. Kiki is the "I love the hero, but he treats me like crap" character, she's headstrong, brash, and violent. Master CPO Joshua is the "cool competent officer who is very distant and cold". CPO Sanders is "The Jinx/the believer" who trusts his young commander implicitly. PO Eledore is the "I don't really want to be here" soldier who was forced into a war, and also flirts a lot. Mikel is the "really young emotional kid who has surprising depth". The "evil" guy Ginneus is a real treat, he takes medicine a lot (I'd hate to see what happened if he missed it!). There's also a "cool enemy ace" (Zechs and Char anyone?) character named Norris.
Don't let this fool you though, 08th is a war story through and through, just like the original Gundam, and Wing, and it follows the same lines, specifically, during Gundam's "One Year War" timeline in 0079/0080 war between Federation and Zeon, but it's a love story at its heart. It's the classic doomed/star-crossed romance between enemy pilots on opposing sides. I like to call it "Romeo & Juliet" meets "Platoon".
For my first viewing of this disc, I watched it in English. I usually always watch the Japanese language version first, but I had a friend over who's getting really into anime, but he's at the stage where he really needs the dubs, so that's what we watched.
Having already seen these (minus episode 1) on Cartoon Network, I already know they're pretty good. Not Cowboy Bebop good by any stretch, but far better than average. The English track, as is the case with most anime DVDs I've seen, is "heavier" in the way it sounds than the Japanese, not on SFX or anything but just on dialogue. Of course, the DVD release is "uncut and unedited" which leads to my first minor quibble. It seems, on reflection, that the English VAs just insert random curses when they feel like it sometimes, since it's "uncut". Many times I checked the subtitles, and there was no curse there. There were a few times where the subtitles had a curse that the English didn't, but it's rare. I know, it's a military show, and in the military, people curse a lot. I also don't have problems with cursing, but SOMETIMES, though it's rare, it seems a little silly in 08th. They just don't get placed right sometimes, Eledore seems to like to randomly curse.
On the technical side, though I don't have a great setup, considering MOST anime (this included) has 2 channel AC3, I don't feel so bad. My TV had 3 channels for its normal speakers. I'd have like to have heard 5.1 for this DVD, but it's not there. That said, the sounds are very positional, they just feel like they position, even when you don't have a surround setup. They're clear and clean, the A is just for my quibbles.
The Japanese track is softer and more subtle, as I expected, but the sound effects still carry just as well, it's just that the VAs are "quieter". I'd like to take a moment to mention how much I like Aina's Japanese VA, ok I'm done. Suffice it to say, the audio is good.
Very crisp, very clean, it looks lovely. If you watched it on Cartoon Network on cable, you're in for a treat, it looks light years better than it did on TV, and considering 08th had a good deal more budget than Gundam Wing, and was made at the same time, and it got a chance to set it's own schedule, it looks a lot better (to me anyway) than Gundam Wing does in the art department.
I didn't notice any visual problems with my Apex 703, but then again, not a high-end piece of DVD craftsmanship there, but I like it. Not much to say except it looks really pretty. The colors of the series as a whole are pretty drab a lot of times, mesh-jungle greens, and sandy burnt-out browns, but what do you expect? It's a military show.
They're average menus, but leaning toward above-average. I like how it opens with a nice splashy-newsy-screen: "Earth News Network Special Report" and this is also a good time to mention how much I love the opening song, which if you've seen the CN version, you didn't get to see or hear. It plays in its entirety (TV version) through the main menu; it also has some lovely well-chosen screens.
The little icons take some time to figure out, and aren't clearly labeled, which I personally think is cool, but it may annoy those who are in a hurry. The big downside with these menus is the Extras section. (Blech!) Each selection you make forces the loading of a new image and they're SLOW! Really, really, SLOW! They look nice and all, but you're sacrificing usability here. That, more than anything else, probably kept the menus from getting an A. I just like the way they look in general though, especially the episode/scene-select menus. I know a lot of people just play the disc and don't really pick out episodes, but when you load them up, they run two "panes" vertically one seems "Gundam centric" and the other seems more "character centric" then they switch places and trade back and forth. They really blend, compliment and mesh well if you're watching them. Someone had a nice eye for detail and effect here, and I just like that.
Well, I feel, like a lot of other reviewers, that anime DVDs in general seriously lack in the extras department. While this disc shows no specific LACK, it doesn't really show any great success either. It has a textless opening, which is pretty standard for Bandai by now. It has Bonus clips, which are the neatest part of the extras, they are however Japanese only. Be sure to enable your subtitles in the menu as you won't be able to turn them on during the clip, which has lead a lot of people to believe they didn't sub the clip. The clip is a little background on the world of Universal Century. There's some trailers (I don't see these as extras, they're always there, but there's nothing overly COOL about them, is there?) and there's DVD credits, pretty average on the whole.
This DVD has some of the best packaging of any of the DVDs I own, anime or otherwise. Bandai really went all-out for this one, and it shows. First off, let's go ahead and mention that the cover is REVERSIBLE! They don't really tell you this anywhere on the packaging that I can see, and if I hadn't noticed it when I opened the case up, I'd never have known it.
The main cover has a really nice shot of a Zaku standing over a downed Gundam, it looks "old school" in that it uses original Gundam designs, but it's "amp'd up" to look modern and cool, that's the only way I know how to put it. The back has your standard information, and some nice screenshots (hello, Kiki) and it dressed all in military-style OD Green (olive drab). The package "feels" very military, and that's cool.
The reverse cover is spectacular, it has Eledore and Mikel diving for trench cover with bullets flying, barbed-wire clearly visible, very strong WWI feel. It's very art-y with a sunburst lens-flare thing going on, and feels very full of "space". It also has some different screens on the back (Kiki's not swimming anymore).
On the inside, the standard Amaray cases I like so much. The first thing you notice is the DVD itself is all in OD Green jungle "cammo netting" mesh, very cool. The little insert has the original cover on the front (good if you switch the cover like I did) and some Bandai ads on the back.
The real treat is inside, and I didn't notice it until I'd finished watching the disc. A "handwritten" letter from Mikel to B.B, his girlfriend, with some "snapshots" enclosed to her. If you know any of the series, you know he writes to her all the time, a fact that Eledore teases him relentlessly about. It's a nice touch, and I just grinned when I started reading it, I hope they keep this up. It seems to fit after episode 1, they don't match perfectly to the actual letters Mikel writes to B.B. but they're close. It's not a super-flashy package; it's nice, eye-catching and functional, which is what it should be. Bandai's trying hard to sell Gundam aren't they?
Overall Rating and Final Thoughts:
Well, Overall, the disc gets a solid B +. The extras brought it down a good bit, and the menus hurt it some, but the excellent video and sound quality brought it back up again. I'm not talking much about the series here, but if requested, I'd be happy to provide plot stuff, though there are plenty of sites for that.
Some little nit-picks: The series is short anyway (11 episodes), though I think the Japanese DVDs have a 12th of some amalgamation or another, but I don't know much about it (I only hope we also get it, whatever it is), and Bandai's releasing 3 episodes per disc, they're nearly milking with this one, but the series is worth it. They also need to do something with their subtitles. We've all probably figured out by now that if you're watching the English version of most Bandai DVDs, you need to enable your subtitles to get the song lyrics, and disable them again to watch the show (except for I believe the first Outlaw Star DVD where they hard-subbed the video, which I also dislike). After watching how ADV has treated Blue Seed and included a "Song Subtitles" option, which basically runs a second ST track that is completely empty except the song lyrics, I realize Bandai can do better than they have been. I like their font though, but sometimes it's just a little too bright yellow (though it's nowhere as bad as some VHS I saw back in the day).
Sometimes I wonder whether Bandai is dub-titling, or just doing very close English dub to subtitle matches now. I first noticed with Outlaw Star, and a few others. It's a good trend, provided they aren't dub-titling, which I don't think they are, but my Japanese skill is limited. I'm mostly just picking on the disc at this point, it's very well done, and I don't feel I wasted my money at all, it's just that anything less than 4 episodes per DVD is milking, and that's how I look at it (if it's a series of at least 12 episodes in length). It's very good though, and definitely worth getting if you like mecha, giant robot stuff, and/or Gundam. I consider it to be visually superior to Gundam Wing, but too short. The fights aren't as elaborate as Wing's, but then again, Wing had space to work with too (literally) and 08th is more "cramped". I also like having something set in the One Year War time period, I really like that stuff a lot. So, there you have it.
Hitachi Ultravision 53SBX59B 53" Projection TV connected via factory S-Video cable to S-VHS JVC VCR, via factory S-Video cable to Apex AD-703 3-disc DVD Player, both using standard white/Red audio cables