ANIME REVIEW: “Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team #1” – Animation Scoop

ANIME REVIEW: “Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team #1”

Although there’s plenty of mecha battles, the 13-part OAV Mobil Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (1996) focuses more on the character relationships than other entries in this long-running franchise. Set in 0079 UC (Universal Century), within the main Gundam continuity, 08th MS Team OAV brings Shiro Amada (Steve Cannon) to Earth to lead a Mobile Suit unit in the war with the space-based Zeon regime, accompanied by his nervous friend Michel Ninorich (Tony Ricci).

En route to Earth, Shiro witnesses a minor space battle. Determined to save a stranded pilot, he takes out the transport ship’s clunky mecha. As he maneuvers through a maze of space debris, he also saves a Zeon officer: the aristocratic Aina Sakhalin (Emily Brown), establishing a bond that will transcend politics.

When he arrives on Earth, Shiro discovers his squad includes tough-as-press-on-nails Sergeant Karen Joshua (Debbie DeRosa), flakey Corporal Eledore Massis (Christy Mathewson) and Sergeant Terry Sanders Jr. (Steve Kramer), whom the others regard as jinxed. Although he makes some brash missteps and even defies orders, Shiro quickly establishes himself as a likable, enthusiastic officer who believes his first duty is to ensure the safety of the soldiers under his command. He also wins the sympathy of the local guerilla fighters, who have been struggling to escape exploitation by the Zeon forces.

While Shiro and his team move from grudging acceptance to respect and genuine affection, the Zeon enemy intensifies the war effort. Leading the campaign is Aina’s older brother Ginias Sakhalin (Lex Lang), who suggests a manic retread of Treize Khushrenada in Gundam Wing. Ginias is fixated on the state-of-the-art battle armor the Apsarus, will destroy anyone and anything that gets in his way—even his own team members.

The war between the Federation Forces and Zeon regime reaches its climax in the two-part episode “Shuddering Mountain.” Heeding the higher call of love and principle, Shiro and Aina risk their lives, defying both the corrupt Federal commander and Aina’s maniacal brother to destroy the Apsarus and bring the fighting to an end. The emotional tone of the resolution is markedly more somber than the rah-rah victories in more conventional mecha sagas. Viewers should watch the closing credits for a complete wrap-up.

Shiro is more excitable and impetuous than the heroic pilots in many of the other Gundam adventures. But his determination to save human lives rather than win glory makes him both admirable and appealing. When his officers bond with him, the viewer does, too.

The drawn special effects look a bit old-fashioned compared to the CG robots, space ships and explosions in more recent sci-fi series. But the effective staging holds the audience’s attention when the technology falls short. Directors Takeyuki Kanda and Umanosuke Iida (who took over after Kanda’s death) set much of the combat in lush tropical jungles: The green palette and curving botanical forms provide an effective backdrop for the angular red-and-white Mobile Suits.

Included in the set is follow-up movie, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team: Miller’s Report, which consists primarily of footage from Episodes #1-8. After Shiro’s encounter with Aina in the Himalayas, Federation intelligence officer Alice Miller (Lynn Fischer) arrives, ostensibly to examine captured Zeon mobile armor. But she’s really there to investigate Shiro’s conduct. He’s already been the subject of an investigation by his superiors: Miller wants him court-marshaled and executed. She even threatens to shoot him herself after challenging his assertion that even enemy soldiers shouldn’t be killed unnecessarily. Shiro remains unshaken in his convictions, even when staring down the barrel of a gun.

Mobil Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team #1
Sunrise: $64.99 3 discs, Blu-ray

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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  • MegaChaosGelee

    I wonder, is the BD set by Bayview Entertainment going to be region free?