Merry Christmas, everyone. Ready to celebrate Christmas with some war, death, and ruining childhoods? Again? Woo! Umm… The real reason why I am posting about this anime today is because I feel personally connected to it, so this is a Christmas gift to you guys in a way. (Christmas is also relevant to this series’ plot, but I’ll get to that later maybe.) Gundam 0080 aired around the year I was born. Other than telling you all how old I am, on paper that doesn’t mean that much other than this is what anime was around when I was born. Yet, that means a lot to me. Gundam is one of my favorite franchises in existence and having something of this great quality during that time period is mesmerizing to me somehow. Do any of you guys have a connection like this to an anime or am I just that kind of weirdo? I bet it’s the later, but I thought it was worth asking…
This post will spoil Gundam 0080, so beware. It is good if you wanted to know this fact and stop here.
Gundam 0080 is the first time a piece of Gundam was directed and written by someone other than the man, the myth, the legend, Yoshiyuki Tomino. A man who is still one of the hardest working people in the anime industry to this day. Instead, it’s directed by Fumihiko Takayama who is not even a marker in the anime industry like Tomino is. Merely a sticky note insead. It takes place in the Universal Century, but feels so different and special because of the different direction. 0080 being an original take on the Gundam story while being only six standard episodes in length is a major selling point for those who want to dip into Gundam for the first time. Just saiyan. cough
As I’ve already led into, Gundam 0080 takes place during the One Year War which is heavily featured in Mobile Suit Gundam. It’s wide spanning war that affects everyone, including one particular colony on the neutral group of colonies called Side 6. One where it is rumored that the Earth Federation is building yet another experimental mobile suit for an Ace Pilot somewhere in the war. I wonder who that could be. Anyway, after a Zeon attack on an artic base in a botched attempt to find it, 0080 is solely focused on this one location and the drama that comes from it. Kids, Zeon soldiers, and Earth Federation soldiers alike have some major things going on here.
There are two focus characters in this story with a third person given enough development to add further drama into the mix. One of the focus characters is Bernie Wisemen who is a rookie pilot that failed on his first invasion of the colony and yet, with some information, was placed into the role as part of the crew infiltrating the colony all thanks to the help of the second focus character, Alfred Izuhura. Or just Al for short. A young Boy whose home life sucks, finds school boring and monotonous, and only finds entertainment in fighting and war that he talks about with his friends. Now that war has made its way to his lonely colony, he finds a new spark in his life. I bet you can see where this is going already.
The third person that is developed is Christina Mackenzie. A hot young, adult woman who is the designated pilot of the experimental Gundam, the RX-78NT-1 Alex. In terms of time in the Universal Century, besides Sayla piloting the gundam once, she is the first female pilot in this fictional universe. IN story, she just came home from doing who knows what to do some testing and analysis before the unit is sent off. She is also Al’s long-time neighbor, keeps secrets for him when he’s outside at night, and as Al and Bernie spend more time together, Bernie’s crush. Who wouldn’t fall for someone as charming and intelligent as her? I have no idea honestly.
The main driving character of this conflict is from Al himself. He was the reason why this small pocket war happened in the first place, and continues playing around with the infiltrating zeon forces as they get closer to the Gundam. Before he merely talked about war and mobile suits with students at school, but now he has the real thing. A young kid’s dream. Of course, this arc is about discovering the realities of war in the worst ways possible as a way too young age through the deaths of people he has learned to know. It’s happened twice. The first were the botched attack on the Gundam halfway through and the second was the false personal struggle for the fate of the colony itself. Bernie dies in the end fighting a fight he didn’t have to.
All of which is sad considering that 0080’s main plot is also Bernie’s grow up arc. He started out as the young, inexperienced who just got involved with the conflict because he was assigned to do so. Later on, his luck changes to the point where he is put into a life-or-death situation for him or the colony Al lived on. Supposedly. Is his life more valuable than the thousands of people living on this colony? Well he raise up to the challenge in one lass bid to stand for something he doesn’t believe in? The colony is going to be nuked on Christmas day unless he does something and he does destroy the gundam while sacrificing his life. The worst thing is that the ship with the nuke attack was captured too late for Bernie to know about it, so wasted heroism and death is the name of the game. Damn. Is that dust in my eye? Yes, that’s what it is. Yup, totally is.
The civilian cost comes from Christina’s presence. She is that unknown factor that Al never even knew about. Mainly because it’s her job to be secret and she actually does that. That one scene where she takes out her Earth Federation uniform in the beginning from her suite case to find Al a piece of clothing to wear is very quick, but very well done in establishing stakes. In the end, Christina is not killed but taken out of the cockpit seriously injured. That is the final death blow to Al’s moral. He was playing with lives in a manner that a young boy shouldn’t all for his own amusement. Even with his mom and dad finally working out their marriage and Al having the ability to live his own life happily, the damage is done. Al can never see war and giant robots the same like the other kids ever again. Yeah, I spoiled this but it’s hard to talk about 0080 without doing that.
0080’s grounded nature is what adds weight to the experience. 0080 wasn’t made too far after Char’s Counter Attack, which is why every character fit into the Universal Century design wise. I suppose there would no choice otherwise, right? Bernie looks a lot like Char, which can add or take away so many things depending on your take. It also looks like a colony from the original series just spruced up in art quality because of its shorter length and focus. Having no new types also helps. Makes the experience more believable even if, according to Tomino, having school during war time is rather iffy in terms of reality. Well, we do need that to happen for the show to work.
I think the mobile suits are the best part of the visuals. You know who I am, right? The Alex is a great and believable expansion from the original Gundam and the fact it can’t fly all over the place and can crush buildings and trees with ease makes it feel like a believable thing. Same with the Zakus and Zeon’s own experimental unit, the Kampfer which can fly for small distances and can only physically do so much when using it’s boost to glide through city streets. These are real weapons of war that can do untold amounts of damage on city streets. Before 0083, this was the best way that a Zaku looked. Not the case anymore, but the zakus still look amazing anyway.
So yeah, great way to celebrate Christmas, right? Sadness and depression? An almost picture-perfect drama story that shows how valuable and fragile lives are? This might be what the boys call a Sh*t post. Yeah, that was my original intention when writing this. But also, this is unfortunately where my mind is in 2020 right now. As it’s been stated before for dozens and dozens of times even by me when writing the Barefoot Gen post, I feel the need to say it again. We, as a society, need some stories to re-evaluate, think about, and talk about with other people how fragile human life is and 0080 is one of a few series you can do that. Most Universal Century fans love this story and it’s easily accessible to anyone who has never watched a Gundam story before. Solid anime series.