Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: N/A
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     December 11, 2004
Release Date: December 14, 2004


Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam Vol. #01
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Universal Century 0087, Seven years have past since the defeat of the Zeon army during what has now become known as the 'One Year War'. An elite Federation military force known as the Titans are tasked with the prevention of further uprising by space colonies orbiting the Earth.

Tragically, the destruction of an entire space colony at the hands of the facist-like Titans threaten to undermine peace between the Earth and those living in space. A civilian, two decorated war heroes, and a powerful new Gundam mobile suit - The world is once again on the brink of war and the future of humanity is at stake...

The Review!
Roughly seven years after the One Year War, events begin to happen once again that will bring everyone to the brink of war.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the series is pretty solid and avoids some of the problems found in older shows. To my ears there's no noticeable hiss or other background noise coming through. We listened to both audio tracks over the course of the review and found both of them to be solid in technical terms. We had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback either.

Video:
Originally airing in 1985, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame format. Being nearly twenty years old but being a staple of Bandai's library, the transfer for Zeta looks almost pristine in its nature. Whatever problems we found with what we saw are all source related things and the bulk of it is just due to the time and age of the show. The transfer itself is very clean but there's a fair bit, especially early on, of small nicks and dirt on the cels themselves that carry through. This is basically what you get with older shows like this half the time and it's something that I find that adds to its charm in a way since you know how it was handled and done back then. It isn't something that affects the grading of the video though since it's a source element. Barring that, this is a great looking disc that just shines through.

Packaging:
Released in a slim black thinpak style case, the cover art for this release utilizes the same artwork as the Japanese releae bit with a bit of an added border and a more definitive background added to it. The result is a really nice colorful image that has Kamille in the foreground looking serious while the simple design of a Gundam's face is behind him. It's a simple but effective piece that fits well with the shows mood. The back cover provides a rundown of all five episodes with episode numbers and titles and a brief summary. The Japanese main staff is covered here as well as the basic technical information that makes up the disc. No insert is included with this release as there is a booklet with the overall set.

Menu:
Using a static shot of a star filled background while ghosting in the image of a Gundam's head, the foreground has a good shot of Kamille in the pilots seat and looking series. Episodes are available separately with titles and the only other options available are the basic setup and select pieces. A piece of the vocal song from presumably the ending sequence is playing here and overall this is a good looking menu that fits nicely and doesn't feel as overloaded as some of the past Gundam series menus have. Access times are nice and fast and the disc read our players language presets.

Extras:
None.

Please Note:
This review is of a single volume from the limited edition box set release of this series. As of this writing, there are no known confirmed plans that this series will see a release in individual form. These reviews are being written in this form to allow for greater discussion of the content and to provide a closer look at each disc without having to rush through the overall set. Like many fans, I've been waiting for years myself for this and wish to savor it and not marathon it in a weekend.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The history of Gundam releases in the US, particularly for the Universal Century releases, has always been somewhat less than perfect or outright problematic. The worst offender is obviously the original series which wasn't available with the Japanese language track. Zeta makes out far better in terms of problems but still isn't problem free. Due to licensing issues, overseas rights look to be unavailable for the songs that were used in the opening and ending sequences. Instead of just having silence, they used instrumental pieces in place of it. I want the original songs, but I will say that in place of it they made an excellent choice for the opening at least. And since it's not an Americanized rap song, I'll consider that a saving grace. I'm not pleased that this went unsaid until it was discovered by the fans and I think Bandai made an error in choosing to do it this way.

But I still love the show, at least so far. This first volume has really snared me as it moved through the first five episodes.

Taking place around seven years after the One Year War, the series kicks off by focusing on one of the colonies that's supposedly been built up in the recent years from the scraps left by the war and a lot of Zeon metal and parts. It's a fairly standard colony and there isn't much to stand out in it but as is the way in Gundam series, it holds a secret to it that's not terribly well kept. While scouting out the region near the colony, AEUG pilot Quattro senses something inside the colony that makes him tingle, thinking it could be someone he's been searching for. With it being peacetime, it's surprisingly easy for him to make his way into the colony and sneak directly into the central chamber. With a handy little rocket pack, he's able to zoom around and take some pictures only to discover that there are some new model Gundam's being produced there. A quick fight and flight and he's off to get his comrades to come and steal the new models so that the AEUG can see what's going on.

Playing against this we're introduced to Kamille, your typical teen that has a really strong temper that's easy to light. He's got little interest in a lot of his studies or physical routines he's supposed to be doing and is skating out of one of them when we see him running off to head to the spaceport so that he can see the latest ship that's arriving from there. Kamille's the son of some fairly important people within the Federation, one being a key mobile suit designer and the other an armor/metals specialist. While he's fairly smart and generally a solid kid, he's got a huge chip on his shoulder and is extremely easy to set off. When in the spaceport, a couple of pilots for the Titans are there and catch wind of his feminine name and make fun of him. He simply leaps the barricade and starts attacking them. Later when in the Federation custody, he even takes a swing at the MP who tells him he ought to know better.

When Quattro and his comrades blow a whole in the colony and come in to steal the Gundam's, Kamille sees this as a huge opportunity to mete out a bit of revenge. Using his status as the son of an important project leader and taking advantage of the confusing situation, he barges onto the Titan base and actually manages to really just go right up the new Gundam models and gets into one. Those around are surprised by this but his ability to control one so quickly strikes deep into one or two people – Captain Bright happens to be on scene and he has the same vibe as when Amuro practically did the same thing back in 0079. Hoping to take advantage of the situation and stop the theft of one of the suits, he tries to get Kamille to attack the invader.

But Kamille just isn't that kind of kid. He's no fan of the Titans and the pilot of the other Gundam is the one who was making fun of him earlier, which leads him to start attacking him. The AEUG pilots, hearing much of this, realize that they've got a surprise ally on their side and use him to their own advantage to be able to steal not just one but all three of the new Gundam suits and head out of the colony, which leads into a back and forth game between the two sides trying to keep control of the suits as there's an AEUG cruiser out there that's home to the pilots. This ends up going across a couple of episodes and brings in a lot of character changes and knowledge about how the solar system works in this new day.

From the start, Zeta really felt like a rehash of parts of 0079 to me which wasn't too surprising. Amusingly, to my wife who hasn't seen 0079 but is watching SEED, she caught a lot of repetition between those two shows. In a way, a lot of Gundam shows have similar origins but Zeta has so far won me over for the different direction that Kamille takes when he decides he doesn't want to associate with the Titans or the Federation. Throughout the attack on the colony we start to learn more about the Titans and how the Federation has started to lose its luster over the years. The Titans themselves are an interesting new change in the make-up of the Federation.

Being a separate branch but still under Federation control, the Titans are an elite group of space pilots whose goal is to eliminate the left over fighters from Zeon and to deal with the AEUG and its terrorist elements that are threatening the peace. Unlike the Federation, these folks are much more harsh in how they go about it, both in regards to their enemies and friends. When Bright demands to know what's going on since he's higher in rank, the other Titan members actually beat the tar out of him. While he does have rank, he doesn't have respect from within the Titans and their methods of discipline and conduct have grown so different from normal Federation standards that this is allowed there, though it's generally not acknowledged outside of there. The Titans have spread across the colonies, never asking but simply taking an interest and a base wherever they please, which has earned them much hatred. As we learn more of this, it's easier to see why they've tarnished the never truly sparkling Federation luster and why more people dislike the Federation.

The Titans come off really badly in these episodes, especially as it progresses along and the lower ranks start to get more involved in things and we see just how the higher-ups run things. The AEUG isn't exactly sunshine and lollipops themselves, but the way they come out here is definitely on the better side but that won't last forever. With their basis in what Zeon was doing to some extent and made up of many members that have survived from then, I'm sure we'll see their true dark side at some point but also see their point of view on things. These five episodes have a bit of repetition going on when it deals with where the new Gundam suits are going to go and it has a bit of that frenetic energy to it that you get with some of these older traditionally animated shows.

Having been raised on anime of this age and older, I'm once again getting that tingly feeling when I see these shows. While I love a lot of the new digital techniques and some of the things it allows the animators to do with camera shots and colors, there's something almost magical to me about older shows like this. It really looks animated, not just stills being panned. Background characters move and talk, there's more of a sense of motion to vehicles and there's a level of detail to backgrounds and ships that isn't seen on the same kind of level in the digital world.

In Summary:
My first exposure to a full length Gundam UC series as we avoided 0079 and stuck to the movies, Zeta so far is winning me over with its nods to its predecessor but also in how its carving out its own path. I'm anxious for more of the older characters to start showing up and bringing their take on things and altering the course of the story. As I've learned from practically every other Gundam series I've seen, it's impossible to judge these series by the first couple of episodes as if often takes ten to fifteen of them before you get an idea how it'll shape up. Zeta is starting off very strong though and it's got me very intrigued by where it may go.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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