Mobile Suit Gundam, or Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 as it is also known, is the 1979 anime television series from Sunrise that kicked off the huge Gundam franchise. Directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino and written by both Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate, a pseudonym used for the contribution of the staff members, Gundam set out to revolutionise the giant robot genre. Gundam focuses more on mobile suits, that are used within a war effort and piloted by ordinary soldiers, as opposed to the use of special powers or unrealistic abilities. Mobile Suit Gundam is the first series within the ‘Universal Century’ timeline, set in the year 0079, and follows the war between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation. Brought to the UK for the first time in High Definition, this two-part release comes to us via All the Anime.
Set in the year 0079 of the Universal Century calendar, a former Earth colony known as Side 3 has declared its independence from the Earth Federation, renaming themselves the Principality of Zeon. This declaration, in turn, sparks a war known as the One Year War with unspeakable atrocities already taking place. Earth Federation’s overwhelming advantage in numbers should have sealed their victory but the Zeons developed a weapon that quickly turned the tide of battle – a Mobile Suit. Without an effective way of countering this weapon, the Earth Federation was fought back.
The series begins on Side 7 with an infiltration by Zeon soldiers due to rumours of the Earth Federation’s new secret weapon. Due to the Zeon spacecraft’s presence, the residence of Side 7 are asked to evacuate to shelters – enter Amuro Ray, busy tinkering away in his room having not paid attention to the emergency. During the evacuation, Amuro discovers his father, who was away on business on Earth, ordering the loading of cargo onto the Earth Federation ship White Base. After a missile hits their immediate vicinity, the cargo is uncovered and Amuro sees the Earth Federation’s newest weapon – Gundam. With the threat of the Zeon mobile suits, Amuro enters the Gundam and begins to fight off the Zeon mobile suits known as Zaku. When the fate of the colony is in danger the residents that survived are herded onto the White Base and make for safety while being pursued by the Zeon ship and their commander, the Red Comet – Char Aznable.
Mobile Suit Gundam is considered a classic by this point but it didn’t start out that way; initially receiving low ratings, it was cut short. The popularity of Gundam then rose, with Bandai’s Gunpla model line, into the massive franchise that it is today. Gundam features some of the most iconic characters in anime history, with Char Aznable and the Gundam itself being such popular figures that are instantly recognisable.
This release of Mobile Suit Gundam by All the Anime did come under some fire for the omitted episode. The episode in question, episode 15 “Cucuruz Doan’s Island”, has been omitted from the release to many fans’ dismay, but as All the Anime pointed out that this episode has been omitted from all English language releases in other territories. So we are not alone in this, as the UK release mirrors that of the US. Reasons for this episode being omitted have been linked to Yoshiyuki Tomino feeling the episode inferior and not up to his usual standards. This isn’t going to play nice with those that track their anime viewing using a site such as MyAnimeList.
The series, having been produced in 1979, is shown in 4:3 aspect ratio and employs some fantastic looking traditional animation. Being available on blu-ray, in high definition for the first time in the UK, is a real honour to witness. Having been produced on film, as was all animation at the time, new high definition scans allow the animation to really show itself off, and being able to see it in all its glory is something fans will have been wanting for some time. Watching a series like Gundam and thinking of the process behind its production, the amount of the effort and talent required to produce a series of this quality is really awe-inspiring. The video is pillar-boxed, ensuring it is viewed in 4:3 as intended – though make sure not to have overscan enabled as you’ll miss out on some of the edges of the image.
This release includes both English and Japanese language audio options; both do a fantastic job and I highly recommend trying them both out. The English audio track is particularly good with each of the actors feeling really natural and the whole thing flows well. The composition by Takeo Watanabe is a real treat within the series and really comes to life in this high definition release.
Extras on disc, or the lack of them to be precise, are a slight disappointment; this release includes clean opening and closing animations and Blu-ray & DVD commercial. Not a huge amount to get stuck into and, given the age of the series, there should be ample assets available to include that would satisfy the fans. The Italian collector’s edition, released last year, is an example often pointed to by UK fans. Unfortunately, the UK release falls short of the Italian release, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling disappointment at this. There is an upside, however, but it’s limited to only 1,000 copies and that’s the awesome collector’s box that comes with part 1 and will house both parts. Those that had pre-ordered part 1 will have undoubtedly received the collector’s box, but being limited to only 1,000 copies it won’t be available much longer. As it stands, the box is out of print – all remaining copies of the box are in the inventory of various retailers.
Mobile Suit Gundam is a classic series that has gone on to spawn one of the largest franchises in anime history as well as providing some of the most iconic characters and mecha. Available for the first time on Blu-ray and high definition in the UK this is a perfect chance for long-time fans and newcomers to experience this classic anime series. The extras may be a bit thin for the series, but it more than makes up for it in storytelling, visual and audio quality. If you’re a mecha fan and you haven’t already ordered this release then you owe it to yourself, and your collection, to do so.