Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island – Sigh

Well…

I knew from the onset that there was something off about this film that I wouldn’t like or find just ok. The signs were there immediately for me to tell me that I would roll my eyes at it. That is why when I had the chance to watch Cucuruz Doan’s Island in theaters, I immediately decided not to. Waiting for streaming felt like the main option. Something which is a big deal for me because I am Gundam obsessed. I will spend all the time and energy I can to watch Gundam when they come out because it is a franchise that I can’t get enough of even if an entry is bad. 

Why did I get that feeling? It comes from a lot of social sense. For instance, this film is taking the dropped and forbidden episode 15 of Gundam 0079. A one off episode of Gundam that is 23 or so minutes in length is now going to be transferred up to a two hour film. That means that it’s going to have to pull off a lot of things just to make it into that length. That means adding a lot of elements to it which just doesn’t feel right. Then there is that forced Yoshikazu Yasuhiko angle that felt forced. A lot of signs that set off my new type sense so to speak.

The Story 

Cucuruz Doan’s Island takes place in an alternate Gundam 0079 history where after White Base made it to Jaburo, is given a task to investigate an island where two GM units were destroyed out of nowhere. As the audience, we know that it’s a rogue Zaku. As the Earth Federation, they don’t know what is going on and are sending in our main protagonist crew to figure it out. When at the island, Captain Bright commands a crew including Amuro Ray with his Gundam to land on the island to investigate. A fight with the Zaku happens, the Gundam disappears, and Amuro Ray is taken in by the mysterious Doan and his kids while he continues to search for Gundam. 

Of course, this film had to add in a lot more details to add to the endeavor. There is a background event with Domu pilots, the ones that skid across the land instead of walk, called The Southern Cross team which immediately characterize Doan as this famous Zeon ace pilot more skilled than the Red comet. There is also a conflict between the Earth Federation and the Zeon in the background. General Goop of the EF is sending his entire unit to attack the commander of the Zeon forces on Earth, M’Qve for Operation Odessa. M’Qve is planning on breaking the Antarctic Treaty by nuking various important cities under EF control.

You probably know where the nukes are by now, the island White Base has been sent to investigate under Ace Doan’s watch after he defected from Zeon. This is a set up where all sides meet up to have this conflict which all parties meet. We learn why Doan was on this island and why he defected during this entire arc too. Amuro finds his Gundam, of course, and helps to fight off the Southern Cross team along with Doan while the nukes are being set off to launch. Which they do, but very ineffectively. It is very much a nothing sort of scenario. 

Weird Timeline Stuff That Bothers Me

As a person who has Gundam 0079 placed into my dna by watching it multiple times throughout my life, I do not like the set up for this film at all. It is so weird that Yaz and crew would take material from the early portion of Gundam 0079 with other material later in the show. It just doesn’t jell together at all. For instance, this portion of the story has a very not mature Amuro who is struggling with killing still after seeing his mother disagreed with him being a part of the military and killing people. That is fine and accurate, but it doesn’t fit everything else.

I say that because almost everything about this film, besides maybe Captain Bright Noa, is post Jaburo character wise. There is no Ryo here, he is instead traded for Lt. Sleggar who wasn’t a complete asshole like he was introduced so obviously he was a part of the White Base crew for a while. Some other things are that after Jaburo in the og series, the White Base immediately moved into space for the final conflict. M’Qve was long dead at this point and Operation Odessa happened before White Base made it to Jaburo. It is a weird mishmash of stuff in ways I don’t like at all.

As hard as I tried to separate myself from the original Gundam series to enjoy this film at some level, I was only partially successful at it. It was a fun enough sort of fanservice film and a bit of a look of what modern animation could do to bring some aspects of the original Gundam series back to life again after so long. The problem with that is that it was too much like a modern sort of a modern Hollywood Blockbuster approach that also doesn’t jell with the original gundam material either. Especially since most Gundam media have some sort of message and in this case, the anti war wasn’t that well conveyed in the end. It felt more mandated than anything.

Making Small Things into Big Deals

The main idea behind this film that annoyed me the most was how it had to connect everything happening in the world to this one random island in the middle of nowhere. Doan having an island of orphaned kids which is the reason why he doesn’t fight for Zeon anymore? Fine and accurate. Having a secret nuke launching silo underneath the island to have the plot be there? A bit contrived don’t you think? With the silo, you can’t have this smaller scale story of Amuro learning about the sad nature of war anymore. Instead, the war becomes larger.

Then there is Doan suddenly being this ace pilot and just the Southern Cross group saying it off hand. There is something about Doan being this ace pilot instead of being a random person who defected from the war. Everything has to have a meaning now because everything is attached to everything else. It is that modern approach to media that makes everything smaller than it actually is. In the original episode that was tossed aside, it helps make the world larger by having this event happen in a one off episode that could happen anywhere. There is a certain loss of natural world building by tying strings to each other that don’t need to be there.  

Some Final Thoughts (Positives??)

To finish my own criticism off, I do like how this film approached the original Gundam designs with modern bits of animation. Something which I am a complete sucker for. This approach to the original character designs with that good facial animation really do sell a lot of moods and jokes throughout the film. Same with how it approached the RX-78-2, Zakus, and other mecha in the film while in combat. They move like clunky robots like in the original series and always appreciate when an animation team does something like that and gets the older appeal for fans of the series.

 I have said a lot of negative things about this film and honestly, it’s not awful because it is still more than watchable and worth watching just for all the visual stuff and some gags here and there. It is also cool, in its own right, to see Yaz’s take on the original Gundam because an animator for it before he got hospitalized. Not that I think he really gets the appeal of the original Gundam series at all. I just feel like the idea behind the film was much more interesting than what the film turned out to be. This will not be completely forgotten in the sphere of the gundam films because of all of those strange things involved with the ideas behind it. 

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