Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Opinion on Gundam UC Episode 1

Flaws amidst awesomeness

The much awaited "Gundam UC" OVA Episode 1, "Day of the Unicorn" was released some 3 weeks ago, I suppose most Gundam fans have watched it, or at least received the DVD or Blu Ray Disc already since the international release went simultaneously as the Japanese release. With that, I think it's an appropriate time now to discuss my view and opinion about the OVA without risking any spoiler.

I enjoyed the OVA very much for its animation and action, but the first huge impressive point (and the greatest feat for me) in Episode 1 is Hiroyuki Sawano's score. I think the music successfully depict the vastness of the Universe and the many significant moments in the story. The music played during the announcement of UC0001 at the very beginning of the OVA was an instant hit to me. The combination of silence and music towards the end of the OVA when Unicorn Gundam is awakened is just plain awesome. The powerful moment is well captured by not just the animation, but the music as well.

I love the very awesome "'Libera Me' From Hell", with Kasahara Yuri's operatic singing in "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann", but finally we get a really hotblooded music for a Gundam anime. ^^ Though the two animes are not exactly of the same genre and mood. ^^

Excluding "MS IgLoo", this is the latest Gundam anime from the Universal Century timeline at the moment. That's is a very important point, as the whole timeline itself is filled with its own history from previous series and well developed background and technological settings. Intentionally or unintentionally, folks will compare between previous UC series and "Gundam UC" to establish links.

In that sense, I believe writer Harutoshi Fukui did a brilliant job in designing the world in "Gundam UC". The Laplace incident, which happened in UC0001 is an intriguing catalyst for the whole story, and since no other Gundam anime in the past mentioned about this particular year in the UC timeline, there's a lot of room to formulate a story based on it; at the same time, there's a huge gap between Char's Counterattack and Gundam F91 for a great Gundam story to kick in. Skipping the major happenings in the middle, like "UC0083", "Gundam Zeta" and "Gundam Double Zeta" is probably a very wise decision by Fukui in the first place, as a fresh new story is always better than going back and try to work around existing series for a very side-story like setting.

Technological settings such as Newtype, forces in play such as the remnants of Neo Zeon, Londo Bell and Anaheim Electronics can be easily related to previous series as well. It's also great to see the involvement of S.N.R.I., a rather new organization in "Gundam UC" which will become very important in "Gundam F91", years after the event in "Gundam UC". Such links and connection are very exciting to observe in my opinion.

Because the UC timeline is so well explained up to now, a lot of details are needed to ensure that "Gundam UC" can "fit into" the that universe. Harutoshi Fukui was extremely careful in describing such details in his novel version, and the OVA did a great job in providing the visual representation of that in the OVA.

However, while it's able to "translate" the details of Fukui's Gundam world into visual effect for fans to enjoy, there's some weaknesses in it which disappoints me. Not sure if you feel the same, I will discuss about it later.

But the visual effect sure is awesome. ^^

The first sortie between Kshatriya and Stark Jegan is very exciting to watch. There are many details in that fight sequence which made it very realistic, which is a quality lacking in many other Gundam animes. From the very short fight we can see the skills of the pilots from features like releasing missiles, ejecting the missile containers and ignoring enemy Funnels, which are done through different presses of buttons on the controls. That may not be very important to many, but I like it very much. We don't know who that pilot is, but from his swift action on the controls, we know he's good. As opposed to other anime where you have duels between ace pilots mainly focus on the close-ups, taunts, hotblooded shouts, flashes of beam on the visors, while their MSs perform some super-robot like movements at the same time. XD That's cool to watch and you do feel the intensity of the pilots' emotion at that point, but usually, I would go "How do they do that?". XD

And yeah, it's also great to see that a MS doesn't necessarily have to blow up after being defeated. ^^;

So, the quality of the visual effect is top class, as expected of an OVA production; same with the music as well. What is that which I said is lacking then?

I read the novel before watching the OVA, and while I tried not to make a comparison between the two when I was watching the OVA, I feel that the story, and especially the characters are not very well explained. By the end of it, I kind of feel that the production team was rushing the story from two books into one OVA, which is really not a good idea.

The protagonist, Banagher Links' characteristic is very straight forward in the OVA as I see it. An ordinary student who met a girl named Audrey Burne and then becomes extremely determined to help her to "stop the war". He's shown with great skill and reflexes by being able to repel Marida Cruz and two other Neo Zeon members, all soldiers. That skill display is quite exceptional, especially when he's a student who never seen any combat, but the great determination to help Audrey is even harder to understand. Since Audrey never tells him much about herself and "the war", what made him believe in her so much? Maybe it's love at first sight, which would be an instant answer to many questions.

For Audrey Burne, she is shown to be more dependent on Banagher than in the novel, which greatly diminishes her strength in my opinion. Instead of having an influence on Banagher to help her out, it seems that most initiatives were on Banagher's side. So, discarding the story from the novel version, it would make her seems very heartless in the scene where she rejected Banagher in Cardeas Vist's mansion. For a moment before that, she depends a great deal on Banagher to save her life, and seemingly a girl who doesn't know what to do in the colony; the next moment, she's becomes the very strong and determined self. The transition between her characteristics isn't really appealing in my opinion. Instead of making her seems strong, it made her seems rather selfish in the mansion scene in my opinion.

To add on to more confusion (or maybe it's to eliminate it from the production team's point of view), the story moves much faster than the novel really. We only know Banagher as someone extremely determined to get Audrey to Cardeas' mansion without understanding the character's background. A "hotblooded" type teenager maybe, ^^ a very natural (or stereotypical if I may) characteristic of a Gundam pilot. ^^;

I don't mean to compare them seriously, but Banagher does appear to be quite similar to Kamille Bidan from "Zeta Gundam", hotblooded with a higher level of maturity. One ends up in trouble for punching an army officer, and started the story of "Zeta Gundam"; while the other one got dragged into troubles for helping a girl, and started "Gundam UC" instead. ^^;

Speaking of stereotype, Banagher's friends are somewhat depicted in such a way as well. ^^; Micott Bartsch is shown with much greater affection over Banagher, and the way how she spotted Banagher with Audrey twice in the OVA pretty much signifies a love triangle is coming up. ^^; A stereotypical love story there? ^^; But overall, Banagher's friends are shown to be a lot less irritating as compared to how they were written in the novel. ^^; Then again, given the fact of how little they help to explain Banagher's characteristics, their importance in the story has being greatly reduced to cameos, including Banagher's best friend, Takuya Irei. I suppose the writer and director decided to keep their characteristics even simpler for people to recognize and remember them better.

Other characters like Cardeas Vist, his assistant Gael Chan, Captain Suberoa Zinnerman and Marida Cruz performed well in the OVA though, scenes such as Marida Cruz calling Zinnerman "Master", Marida being polite to Audrey Burns but still very determined to get her back to Garencieres, Cardeas Vist looking at the picture of Banagher Links on his computer, Gael Chan being extremely stern but protective of Gael Chan and some other scenes do help to establish a very clear characteristics for each of them.

Marida picking up the sunglasses and put them back for his comrade there is quite a funny scene for me ^^

I think timing is a great factor as to why certain scenes were rushed and the characters' stories not well explained. This particular chapter, "Day of the Unicorn" is consists of 2 books for the novel version. That's a lot of story to tell. Mecha fans who are looking for MS action will not be disappointed though, because all the action as described in the novel is all shown on scene, just that the sequence and character part have been altered a great deal.

That in turn, make it clear to me as to why the first episode has to end in such a cliffhanger manner. If you follow the novel, somehow that's the best way to end it, to conceal the result from the duel between Kshatriya and Unicorn Gundam, which would eventually lead to the debut of Full Frontal and Angelo Sauper.

In terms of MS design, the details are great. Then again, as tons of their merchandises were released months before the OVA, most fans would know the MSs like the back of their hand before watching them in action. ^^; As mentioned above, I love the design of the dashboard and controls in the pilot cockpit, and all the MSs which appear in the anime comes with awesome design for that part.

Then again, the inconsistency of the emblems on Kshatriya's chest does raise my concern about that feature on Sinanju in Episode 2 though. ^^;

I'm looking forward to watching Episode 2 of "Gundam UC", "The Red Comet". There is a lot of background stories on each character as shown in the novel, but the action is only towards the end, added with the combat between Kshatriya and Unicorn Gundam at the beginning since it's not finished from Episode 1. Story wise, one could probably sum up the chapter from the novel within a single paragraph if the background story part and other trivial matters are gone. ^^; As a result of that, I'm not very sure how the pacing is going to be like if based on Episode 1. Much slower? Or maybe they are going to pull in some bits from the next chapter, "Palau Capture Battle", which isn't very likely looking at the ending of Chapter 2. It's going to be a challenge to the production team.

But anyway, I'll be looking forward to it. ^^


Toni said...

hey bro, juz wondering, if you stumble across some torrent file of gundam unicorn ova 2,
can you post it to me???i'm having trouble finding the torrent...;p

Chris said...

@toni: The 2nd episode isn't out yet...

Anonymous said...

when will the 2nd ova episode be released?

EZ8 said...

Fall 2010. Release schedule seems to be 2 episodes per year. It's gonna be a long wait.