Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Movie 1: Heirs to the Stars -

DVD Review

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 96
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Movie 1: Heirs to the Stars

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Movie 1: Heirs to the Stars DVD Review

By Chris Beveridge     July 21, 2010
Release Date: July 06, 2010

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Movie 1
© Bandai Entertainment

Nothing starts wars in the Gundam universe like stealing a Gundam. Sadly, it seems its all too easy to do.

What They Say
Universal Century 0087, the Titans, a bellicose faction among the Earth Federation Forces, grows powerful and tyrannical, even using poison gas to suppress a civil unrest. Dissident soldiers from the same military stand against them, forming a resistance group called the AEUG. Kamille Bidan, a civilian student, gets entangled in this conflict when he impulsively steals the Gundam Mark II and joins the AEUG, running away from his home space colony. Then he begins to fight along with Char Aznable, a former Zeon ace pilot who has infiltrated the Earth Sphere for reasons of his own.

The Review!

The Zeta movies get a nice bump up in its audio presentation as we get a standard stereo mix encoded at 192kbps as well as a 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. The 5.1 mix doesn't add a ton of directionality but it makes good use of the bass to give the action scenes a lot more impact. The forward soundstage makes out better overall and there are some good uses of the rear speakers at times with footsteps and voices being thrown there when you least expect it. The stereo mix works well and has a good feel to it, but the 5.1 mix overall does a better job of presenting a more theatrical feeling to it, even if some of the sounds thrown to the rear don't feel like they really needed to be.
Originally in theaters in 2005, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Using footage from the 1985 series with a few new bits mixed in to tie it all together, the feature looks good overall though it's very limited by its source material. The old show has a lot of grain to it and it's very visible throughout, especially with the character animation in their faces as it stands out very prominently. This isn't a feature that's going to look good compared to other features out today, but it certainly works with the previous movie trilogy for the original series in terms of looking similar and providing continuity. The use of the original materials rather than re-animating it isn't a surprise but it means we do get a less than stellar looking show because of the grain. Nightjar did a good job encoding the disc with a very high bitrate throughout, but it's just hindered by the source material.
The cover art for this installment of the trilogy uses the theatrical poster to good effect and it's my favorite of the pieces, enough so that I bought the poster when it was first out and have it framed in my office. The focus on the three primary characters of the series together with a strong look as there are flames along the bottom looks good as it draws the eye in over the logo. Putting the Gundam in the background as it looks over everything else adds some power to it lurking from behind. All of it has a very clean and appealing look with a solid logo that has the full on name and the individual movie name as well. The back cover uses a fairly bland gray piece that has windows along a portion of it where shots from the show are put in, though they're not terribly engaging as it's just character shots. The mobile suit makes an appearance on the left while the summary runs through the basics of what the feature is about. The discs features and extras are clearly listed along the lower half along with a breakdown of production credits and a clean technical grid that shows it as a monolingual release with subtitles. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
Nightjar manages to outdo a lot of Hollywood menus these days, never mind anime menus, so it's little surprise that the Zeta menus are pretty slick. Using a console design for a mobile suit interior, there's some nice bits of animation from the feature playing as well as a streaming starscape behind it that adds to the sense of motion. There's a few other little things moving here and there to give it more life alongside the upbeat and adrenaline building music. The navigation is kept simple along the bottom with standard items for a movie that you'd expect. Submenus load quickly and I was pleased to see that it defaults to the Japanese 5.1 mix over the 2.0 mix and that even with a monolingual release that it does set up the subtitles for you.
The extras are pretty minimal here with just the teaser trailer and full Japanese trailer to promote the films original release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Gundam was about to enter its twenty-fifth anniversary phase, Yoshiyuki Tomino decided it was time to remind modern Gundam fans what Gundam was all about. Because of the length of the Zeta series, and the original already having movie compilations (that many consider better than the TV run), he opted to put together three movie compilations of the Zeta series from 1985. Gundam's popularity has gone through a natural ebb and flow as they continually reboot it and then create more and more series aimed at specific audiences, so it wasn't a surprise that Tomino would use a little pull to go back to his original work and try to make it concise and fix a few things along the way. Naturally, he's added more problems along the way for the die-hard fans but they're things a casual viewer won't have any issue with.
It's been some time since I saw the Zeta series but all of it comes back fairly easily upon rewatching it here in this condensed form. Taking place several years after the end of the One Year War, the Federation has absorbed much of the Zeon forces in a way and what we have now is a very powerful organization that's branching out of it called the Titans. They have a strong Zeon flair to them with Bask as the man seemingly leading the charge there and they're intent on stirring the pot after the theft of a new mobile suit. The combined Earth/Zeon organization, known as the AEUG, is viewed as corrupt in a way but it's also the manipulation of events by the Titans as they've turned from their original mission of hunting down Zeon remnants and holdouts to building and acquiring more power for themselves. The group feels like it's simply dedicated to war and power through mobile suits and goes to any extreme in order to achieve more, even if it's killing relatively innocent people, such as Kamille's parents after he ends up in possession of a mobile suit.
Kamille Biden is the main focus of this series, taking on the role Amuro had in the original series, by being the right kid in the wrong place at the right time. Young, brash and full of himself and his abilities, he literally lucks into gaining access to a Gundam suit after events play out badly on the Side he lives on and he becomes embroiled in the new war that's started. His resentment of the Titans is strong and it's even enough for him to work alongside the AEUG in order to stop them after they coldly killed his mother in deep space right in front of him. What helps him, albeit slowly, to gain control and move forward is that he's under the mild guidance of Quattro Bajeena, who is living that life while hiding his true identity as Char Aznable.
Unlike the original Gundam series and its movie compilations, I'm not as enamored of this one. The opening film isn't a bad one as it manages to retain a lot of what's important in the early episodes to set the tone and introduce the characters. There's obvious streamlining going on here as things are reduced significantly in a lot of areas, but it doesn't feel like it's losing a ton of things to the casual observer. Where it suffers, especially in comparison to the TV series that the footage is drawn from, is that it feels incredibly busy and very quickly paced, to the detriment of enjoyment at times. It's one action scene to the next as the suit is stolen and as Kamille becomes a member, albeit it grudgingly, of the AEUG. The TV series was paced in a very specific way and while it felt drawn out or convoluted at times, doing a cut like this eliminates a lot of what made it so much fun because you could spend much more time with the characters.
About a third of this film is done with the new remastered footage and it does stand out agains the rest of it, even with all the added grain. The disparity between the two is pretty significant, especially in the amount of detail and the way the animation flows so smoothly, that you can pull out the major scenes easily. There are areas where small tweaks are added, such as some CG animation to the mechanical parts of the space ships and such, but there's also main sequences where the whole things is newly added in. I like what these scenes add, though I'm not familiar enough with the original to identify how much it changes the story from the original, but it adds a bit more of a human side when needed. Most of the new scenes tend to slow down the show a bit which is helpful, but overall the feature still feels far more packed and busy than it should.
In Summary:
The Zeta compilation movies have been a long time in coming and like most compilation movies they have their pros and cons. The pros are in that we do get some new animation and a streamlined story that shaves off a lot of extraneous stuff so we can focus on the core story itself. The con is that the new stuff doesn't blend well and it introduces its own issues with the story as it changes certain events and we have so much material removed that may be considered key to the overall continuity of the films. When it comes to Tomino's works, even those he's doing a new cut for like this one, I find that it's best to not expect a huge amount of, well, sense to be made about it. This is a big spectacle film of a show that's twenty years old as of its making that celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of Gundam as a whole. I like it for what it is and the new things it brings to the table, but it's not replacing my enjoyment of the TV series as the original movie trilogy did for the original TV series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English subtitles, Trailers

Review Equipment

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.


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