Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory

Genre: Action / Mecha
Parental Guidance Recommended
1991 Hajime Yatate, Yoshiyuki Tomino, Sotsu Agency, Sunrise Inc., Bandai Entertainment. Screenshots by GPlus.

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Shunichi Sakurai's Description:
It is Universal Century 0083, four years after the One Year War. The Earth Federation battleship Albion lands in Torrington Base, Australia, carrying with it two Gundams, the GP01 and the GP02A under the watch of engineer Nina Purpleton. All seems well until Zeon ace Anavel Gato of the Delaz Fleet sneaks into the base and steals the nuke-equipped GP02A, the beginning of Operation Stardust. EFSF test pilot Kou Uraki follows in hot pursuit aboard the GP01, and conflict sparks anew...

*Also released as "Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: The Last Blitz of Zeon" (1992 movie)

(13 Episodes)

UC Gundam in an easy-to-swallow, marathon-friendly but continuity-busting package. >>> by Shunichi Sakurai
The third of 3 OAV series bridges two of the main Gundam anime, Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, by narrating a conflict that happens within the eight-year gap. Even so, it's not absolutely necessary to watch the first Gundam TV series before this one. What back-story the Delaz Fleet has in the One Year War is detailed nicely in short flashbacks. Meaning, this is one Gundam anime ideal for those new to the Universal Century (UC) timeline.

As with many of the UC Gundam series, the story revolves around the ensemble crew of the new Federation warship Albion and its sudden assignment to retrieve the stolen Gundam GP02A. Unlike them, however, 0083 focuses on the normal frontline soldiers -- those without the Newtype psychic powers that Amuro Ray or Kamille Bidan have.

After their humiliating withdrawal and defeat at the decisive Battle of A Bao A Qu, Zeon Captain Aiguille Delaz and Commander Anavel Gato are hell-bent on showing the Federation the remnant might of Zeon and the falsity of the peace people have enjoyed. For Capt. Einar Synapse and the Albion crew, it seems like a straightforward mission to retrieve the GP02A and avert the possibility of a nuclear strike on the Federation's Jaburo military base. However, the horrifying scope of Operation Stardust is revealed only piece by piece, and invisible hands in high places conspiring on both sides mean everything is not as it seems.

The quality of animation is simply superb for something done in 1990, with zero computer manipulation. It's almost cinematic. The mecha, remade Zeon units and updated Gundams and GMs designed by Shoji Kawamori of Macross and hotshot illustrator Hajime Katoki, all look crisp yet they bear the workmanlike elegance of frontline war machines. I love the music: MIO's driving opening theme "Men of Destiny" contrasts well with Jacob Wheeler's love theme "Magic," and the score is trademark Gundam. Character development is great (I personally liked Kou's superior Lt. South Burning a lot), although I didn't like the way some characters were used in the plot, especially Nina Purpleton's link to the Kou-Gato rivalry in the closing episodes.

My main gripe with 0083 is how the plot ends. It starts off very well, but becomes confused at the end, as if it forgot to take note of how many episodes it's supposed to have and felt the need to finish up immediately. This being the closest precursor to Zeta Gundam, the stink of the oppressive Titans is evident in the final 3 episodes. That said, it would have been better to flesh out the main conspiracy plot better, and I can't help feeling that adding 2 or 3 more episodes would have done wonders. Kou's enraged groans seem to agree with me. And what's with the continuity-busting technology? 0083 is full of it, most especially the huge Dendrobium mobile weapon. We should be seeing a chunk of that in Zeta Gundam, at least, as it's set in UC 0087.

Still, with its crisp and smooth visuals, stellar battles and engaging but short plot, Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory is the perfect introduction to the UC for those weaned on Gundam Wing or SEED. If only it ended cleaner...

Individual Rating: Art: 10; Story: 9; Characters: 10; Sounds: 7

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