At the risk of other blogs out there announcing their events before me, like a certain Lita Kino last year, I will hereby do it here with a much more formal announcement to come. Mecha March is coming back, guys. Hopefully better then ever. Bigger post coming out tomorrow. To add to this post, this year I am stretching the definition of what counts as a Mecha is because I can and it’s my blog. Some intrigue left for fun there. Also, the main theme seems to be rebooted older series with newer animation techniques with a side of older series that got a release recently. Which means, these are mostly from discotek. Expensive, but good releases regardless. Hope that got some people excited. If not, then oh well.
With that announcement out of the way, let’s talk Gundam F91. I don’t know about you, but I find the production history behind this film pretty interesting. Do you think that Universal Century Gundam has too many entries to follow? Yeah, Tomino did too ten years after the original series in 1989. Yoshiyuki Tomino originally brought back the two other minds of the original Gundam, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Kunio Okawara, to bring something new and fresh 30 years after Char’s Counterattack. Unfortunately, the planned TV series never happened due to tons of production issues and a large chunk of episodes were crammed into a Two Hour movie that has no conclusion. You know about Black Fox, right? Here is something to tell you that what happened to Black Fox happened to Gundam in 1991 when F91 came out. It’s so interesting to think about, isn’t it?
The story of Gundam F91 starts off rather simply. In the calendar year 0123 UC thirty years after Char’s Counter Attack, newer colonies called the Frontier colonies are under construction to help with humanities growing population. Seabook Arno, Cecily Fairchild, and their group of friends are either at or taking part in a beauty contest on Frontier IV until a secret group by the name of Cosmo Babylonia invades the colony with their advanced mecha. The Earth Federation attempts to fend off their attacks with their older technology while Seabook and his friends work hard to escape the chaos using a survival boat called the Space Arc. Fortunately, they escape but unfortunately they still get caught in the war in multiple ways. Cecily Fairchild is a Cosmo Babylonian Princess who gets taken while the rest of the group escapes and a lot Arno family problems happen too.
Mobile Suit Gundam F91 is as close as Gundam has ever been to being a Star Wars film. Besides the obviously Star Wars like music, the themes of family are heavily prevalent in this film. Cecily Fairchild’s last name is action Ronah. She is the daughter to the guy in Darth Vader Cosplay Carozzo, the grand daughter to the real leader of Cosmo Babylonia, Meitzer who plays an emperor role. They wish to over throw the Earth Federation. Also, the Crossbone Vanguard is controlled her half brother, Berah Ronah, is there too sort of. He captured Cecily in the beginning of the film and had some on screen moments of awesome and that’s it really. Cecily’s arc of going “I’m joining forces with Cosmo Babylonia” to “I was wrong, I’m sorry. I will fight my father with you” was a pretty fast turn that ruined a lot of emotional power in the film. Such is the pacing of this film though.
On the other end of the important character front is Seabook Arno. His quick arc was centered on his and his sister’s relationship with their mother, Monica. A mother who left Seabook and Leslie, (the sister) who have a strong dislike for their mother considering that she wanted to be a career woman and work on her Bio Engineering. It all connects together when the two siblings figure out the wiring on the F91 Gundam. A Gundam who Monica worked on because the military was the only place she could work as a Biological Engineer. That small arc of Monica trying to connect with her children again was nice, but a little too short considering the sitaution at hand here. Possibly predictable in a way too, but this is the most nuanced part of the movie and the part I appreciate more.
Politics still plays a heavy part of this film, even if it’s very simple and in the moment politics. This is how you know it’s a Gundam thing. No side is really that good. The Earth Federation is just as bad as they’ve always been and it’s even been commented on that some people from Cosmo Babylonia are members of the Earth Federation because of the older architecture of the newer colonies. Meaning, all of this was planned a long time ago. A plot line that doesn’t go anywhere. Plus, the E.F. using children as shields against Cosmo Babylonia is a new low, but they didn’t want to die. Then again, Cosmo Babylonia isn’t that nice either. They conquer colonies in the name of justice and even test robot units to kill civilians in a colony before sending them to Earth to conqueror it. As usual, the moral complexity of it all is weighed down our on protagonists Seabook and Cecily plus those other guys who are there. Go those other guys.
As I’ve said a few times now, this movie has a lot of problems in story structure and characters because of how it’s a tv series script compressed into a two hour film. Besides Zabine, Chareux, Cecily’s flight instructor at Cosmo Babylonia, no side character is really given any good sense of characterization at all. I do think that the cast Seabook escaped Frontier IV with could have been a good cast because they’ve got a quick fun moment when they are treated like real people, but then they are thrown literally into a box to stay for a while. The space box. Same with the newby ship members that our supposed main cast were forced to join or die. They feel like people until they don’t. Add in half of the dialogue being exposition to let you know what is going on, and then you have Gundam F91’s problem. A bare bones story with a cast that’s too large and a setting that is only kind of explored. The movie ends from a thematic level, but never story level because Cosmo Babylonia is still out there being a threat. For the rest, read Gundam Crossbone Vanguard. (I need to do this too. Jut need to know where to find it.)
The most memorable part of Gundam F91 is the art and animation. Besides maybe Giant Robo, I think it’s fair to call Gundam F91 the most beautiful 90’s anime that has ever existed. Why? Because of the over the top enthusiasm at display when it comes to all of this. For instance, the colony attack in F91 is one of the most horrifying colony attacks I’ve ever seen because of how detailed it was. Giant robots stomping the old style city streets, destroying buildings, ammo shells from giant guns crushing cars and people, and everything else attached to it. Even the faces of our main cast and the victims trying to escape are fully on display here. There is such a high level of animation going on through out the film. For instance, there is a scene where Seabook is spying on Cosmo Babylonia. Did the snake have to go over his arm during that scene? No, but it happened anyway.
That of course leads to a lot of the mechanical designs. The most important and influential part of Gundam F91. I can’t help but love all the work on display here. We can talk about the Earth Federation Stand Jegan Units on display from 30 years ago with their solid shields losing against Cosmo Babylonia’s more bug shaped mecha with their energy shields and better training. Cosmo Babylonia’s mecha also have large drill units that you can feel drilling into enemy mecha before tearing them apart. The spaceships are pretty standard Gundam designs with Cosmo Babylonia’s unique ship designs and such. Each mecha battle just has the right amount of weight and movement behind them for them to feel realistic. Dang, I haven’t even talked about the F91’s unique design and powers and the last enemy mecha. Well, let’s talk about those a tiny bit besides it being a tiny Gundam…
For all it’s problems and production issues, Gundam F91 has effected the universe of Gundam more then one would think. Will, at least in recent years and the obvious Victory Gundam that takes place 30 years after F91. The biggest one I can think of is Gundam OO. Why? The Trans Am is very much like the F91’s after image abillity and don’t lie to me when you see the A-Laws in the second season and see the Crossbone Vanguard in their mecha designs. The A-Laws are the Titans from Zeta and the Vanguard of this movie combined after all. They even kill citizens using the same sort of robotic units in their seasons. I suppose you can say SEED because of The Freedom’s hip mounted weaponry from F91, but whatever. And lastly, I think the final encounter in Gundam Unicorn was very much like the last fight in this film. At least from a homage perspective. Gundam F91’s legs were longer then originally thought.
Still, being influential doesn’t really mean that it’s this amazing piece of anime that deserves all sort of recognition. Yes, F91 is beautiful to look at and it’s easy to be taken in by the aesthetics and everything. That’s true. At the same time, there are so many story telling problems in this series. F91 means well and has some good emotional beats going on, but the story is so bare bones so it’s pretty functional at best. Those lines of exposition that let you know what is going on instead of character building don’t really help the movie with it’s quality either. So in general, going to give this an OK rating. Just know that in actuality, it’s in between a good and an ok. I just can’t make the good commitment here. IT’s not a waste of time or anything, but hardly memorable compared to Tomino’s other works.