Sigh. Just sigh. You remember those posts I’ve written about Build Fighters and other anime where I mentioned how I liked them years after dismissing them? I can’t really say that here. Years ago, I did a massive Gundam watch. It was during my college years when I needed yet another escape from being stuck there alongside my interesting friendships. That’s when I watched every single series up to that point. From that watch, I remember having a more then positive experience with Gundam 0083, the supposed Top Gun of Gundam. I don’t remember what it was that supposedly clicked with me. Or if it ever did, I suppose. Hmmm, that was rather unclear. Whatever the case, I can say without a doubt that I didn’t completely enjoy 0083 this time. I suppose I will explain why along the way. Unless you don’t want spoilers. If that is the case, then know that is just ok.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory is one of those shows where it feels like the meeting of a lot of great people in the anime industry who set up to do something unique and special. A very once in a life time event. The story was written by Yoshiyuki Tomino, but it was directed and helmed by other interesting people. Some of them are the usual Sunrise staff from that time, others are people of importance like Shoji Kawamori who worked on the Gundam designs alongside other mechanical designers and a certain episode supervisor by the name of Shinichiro Watanabe made his rounds too. With the staff of Sunrise at the helm, this ova feels like launching point of a lot of major projects and things that happen later on. At the very least, Kawamori and Watanabe met up here to create something great later on. Macross Plus is that projects name. For now, we are stuck with Gundam 0083.
It’s now Universal Century 0083. Three years after the end of the One Year War where half of humanity died and the Earth Federation won by the skin of its teeth. It’s time for action and it’s time for Zeon to move against the Earth Federation one more time. It all starts with the Earth Federation’s newest experimental Gundam units. One was a super heavy unit that broke the Antarctic Treaty by being heavily set with a nuke launcher. At this point, nukes were still illegal. After a training mission following Kou Uraki and his friend Chuck Keith and led by a Lt. Burning, it was time to strike. Anavel Gato, otherwise known as the nightmare of Solomon on the Zeon’s side, stole the Gundam Unit GP 02 with the nuke loaded into it from the Torrington base. Kou Uraki immediately chased after him in the GP 01 and the rest is history.
I won’t lie to you when I mention that Gundam 0083, from a narrative stand point, is a ticking time bomb. A very exciting sort of ticking time bomb. With Kou Uraki piloting the GP 01, Nina Purpleton the engineer behind the GP 01 and 02, and the rest of the crew on the updated White Base class ship the Albion, it’s time to stop whatever the remaining Zeon forces are planning. It’s a little bit of a chase scene where tensions keep raising, the new Zeon plan keeps appearing and fully forming in front of us. It’s one of those situations where the strength of the Earth Federation after the war really pushed things for the remaining Zeonic forces while performing their operation Stardust. A trapped animal sort of situation. The One Year War ended in 0080 on paper, but not the war in the mind of Zeons. That’s the UC for you.
There is a strong and unfair meta narrative that 0083 sets out to figure out. In-between Gundam 0079 and Zeta Gundam, the group of totalitarian individuals called the Titans appeared to ruin everything. This is the story of how that came to be. In some way, that hampered it and the way the show could have gone or done. That is fine on some level because Gundam fans at this point knew how this story would end for years by now. The Titans arrive and ruin everything for everyone for a number of years. This has been known for five to six years already. That being said, the story itself is lessened for it because it took away from the writer’s creative freedom. There is only so far one can go before escaping from the canon narrative itself. I’m glad that Thunderbolt didn’t care about this.
Can I just say this though? The story concept of Gundam 0083 is fine. Ok, it’s more than fine. On an overall level, it is pretty good and intriguing. Before you look into the details. There is just something about a minute to minute, second to second thriller that can push the viewer into investing themselves into it. Anavel Gato has the Gundam with nuke, what are they going to do with it? Can they escape the gravity of the Earth with it? What is there plan? What is Operation Stardust and how does the nuke come into it? Plans that we see slowly develop over time? Plus, there is the seemingly interesting rivalry relationship between the Earth Federation pilot Kou Uraki and established Veteran Ace Anavel Gato. In concept, this is all really cool. All good things that can go interesting places.
I also like the tone that Gundam 0083 is going for. Normal soldiers in a major crisis handling it in a way that war could actually happen. It’s much more casual in tone then most Gundam series are and involves people in war who actually want to be a part of it. Soldiers and airmen who are just fulfilling their role, even on a special case with Kou being the pilot, is interesting and unique Gundam series wise. This series also handles how the Gundams are handled in a unique way because they are just units that are a little better than the manufactured, grunt units. I’ve also never seen a person in a Gundam series run towards the bathroom before this. It’s so ungundam like in a way that we can explore how Gundam characters are written from comparing this show to others.
The problem with all this interesting plot and the more casual nature of warfare presented in the show is that the character writing behind the story is absolutely dreadful. You know, for the most part? I don’t have problems with Anavel Gato and Lt. Burnings because I feel like they are written correctly and really work for this story. They are older soldiers fighting for a cause they believe in and doing it in their own way. One wants to spread the glory of Zeon and the other is passing his knowledge along to recruits. This show is about war so I am expecting warriors to be warriors. It’s the way things are. My problem is that almost everyone else is written horribly in a way that they just go along with the plot because they are weak willed or have morals that turn on a dime without a second thought. Also, a lot of the side characters treat the female characters pretty badly.
The crew of the Albion, besides a few people, are a bunch of morons. We could talk about the “hot shot” pilots that show up who are crude and horrible like Bernard Monsha and the two pilots following them who instantly hit on Nina Purpleton, a hot young blonde, the second they see her. We could also talk about how the meek Chuck Keith who questions everything did the same thing with the boldness when he saw Nina Purpleton earlier than them. Oh no, those characters are merely side characters who get pushed to the side when the real Operation Stardust happens in the second half and just fight or die. Well, Chuck Keith didn’t die at least. Plus, I feel like Chuck Keith is one of a few characters who gets development on the side lines without us noticing it. I’m just saying that the cast doesn’t sell the show that well either.
Nina Purpleton and Kou Uraki, which is the supposed love story behind this story, is a really bad relationship on a lot of levels as well. Kou Uraki is an almost personality-less character who is just the designated main character rookie, is somewhat mechanically inclined, and that’s it. He doesn’t ever hit on Nina at first because he’s more interested in the Gundam units which is how their relationship starts I suppose. He is more the vehicle for pushing the plot along and being a rookie for everything in general until he isn’t. Kou and Nina start a relationship because of the GP01. He pilots it and Nina works on making improvements for it, so it almost feels natural. Though to me, the only reason why I see Nina and Kou forming a relationship at all is because Kou is the only viable option because everyone else is worse then him.
Nina is also pretty horrible because her personality is only what it needs to be so plot points can happen. She stays on the Albion because she “cares about the Gundam.” The relationship is more tenuous at best. There are moments of great fun between the two when Kou and Nina share their secret handshake after Kou arrives safely. The next moment, she can just be angry at Kou for no reason at all and cause Kou to go out with the Gundam in a dangerous situation where he almost dies. So not only is the relationship tenuous, but it’s also bad because it connects both of their jobs together in a negative way when known of them are self aware about this. One thing goes wrong in either way and it could be all over in one way or another. Sigh, if only they all listened to Mora, the buff and intelligent lady behind the maintenance of units, more. At least she and Keith form a good relationship in the end.
Believe me when I say that I could say more about the Nina and Kou relationship, like the love triangles that just exist for some reason because Nina has dated every major antogonisy that Kou has fights, but I don’t really want to. Plus, there are other people like Cima Garahau on the Zeon side. She’s another person working alongside Anavel Gato and his admiral until she isn’t. Once again, another person who just does things as the plot demands and ruins her character if she had one? She’s introduced as this bad ass, somewhat dominatrix like lady who has this get the job done attitude, but in the finale turns out to be not that. It’s so strange, because she was so invested in out doing Gato and even cheered him on in moments of triumph, but just changes her mind in a moment that comes out of nowhere. The back half is the best part of 0083 from a tension level, but the writing just murders all of that alive.
Believe me when I can say that I can keep going on this aspect, but I am really tired of being negative. I feel like I’ve been too negative recently. Let’s talk about the visuals of Gundam 0083. Or as I would like to say, the best animation and art behind the original units shown in Gundam 0079 ever. I say this even with the existence of Gundam: The Origin, Gundam Unicorn, and Gundam Thunderbolt existing still. There is just something about the love and care behind the cell animation of this series that really make it special in every way. From its characters feeling alive due to how they move and feel, to the environments that feel alive, to the mecha action in question, it’s just really good.
I really, really mean it with the mecha action sequences and designs and such. The grunt units are given a lot of respect and hold up pretty well against a superior, Gundam unit in combat. The GP Gundam units have some pretty crazy and far out designs for a Gundam series, so I suppose that it makes sense they were designed from Shoji Kawamori. The GP 01 is a pretty standard gundam unit that’s been expanded on, the GP 02 is a very heavy set Gundam with a heavy shield and is strong enough to launch a nuke. I don’t even want to mention the GP 03 because it’s just genuinely out there in design and plays into the show later on. By their unit designs alone, You can tell how good Gato is of a pilot for complete out piloting Kou (GP 01) in a heavier unit (GP 02) on Earth in full gravity. Experimental mobile armors and such are very One Year War looking or later on looking and they move and feel pretty great at every angle. Just like everything else. You can watch 0083 for the visuals alone.
Unfortunately, that isn’t something that I can do myself. Mobile suit Gundam 0083 is just an ok by me. Unless you are the largest fan of Gundam and want to watch everything to completion because why not, I don’t think I can recommend this series to anime fans in general. Especially to those who are trying to find an entry point into this series. This isn’t even that necessary from a Universal Century time line situation. It doesn’t add anything new or broaden the experience of watching Zeta Gundam after the original series that much. It just completely failed in that way. 0083 is just there and it exists. What gets me is that this felt like it was supposed to be a sort of grand epic in a way and they couldn’t do it. I suppose this was successful because more Gundam ovas happened afterwards. It’s just disappointing now though.
So ends another gundam series on my Gundam year. I’ve been trying to hit up one Gundam series a month this year and so far it’s going well. The next one well be Gundam Unicorn next month followed by Gundam 08th MS Team in September. October is a month off because Oshii didn’t work on any gundam movies and it will all end, but Gundam Thunderbolt will appear in November with Gundam 0080 on Christmas Day. Just trying to sprint through as many as I can.
Next year will be a lot different because I only plan on discussing three at best and they are the longer ones. Zeta Gundam, Double Zeta, and Turn A. All around 50 episodes in length which is why I need more time. As is stand, this is the plan. Could change but I don’t think it will as long as I am blogging. Thank you for all reading my Gundam nonsense.