Genre: Action / Mecha
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: 1989 Sotsu Agency / Sunrise Inc. / Bandai Entertainment / Takayama Fumihiko
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It is late into the year UC 0079, and the historic One Year War between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon is in its closing stages. For 11-year-old Alfred "Al" Izuruha, a resident of the neutral Side 6 colony of Libot, his days at school are filled with him and his friends acting out war games and imagining mobile suit battles. All of a sudden the games become real as a skirmish sparks in their city streets. For Al, a crashed Zeon mobile suit found in the forest brings him closer to his wildest dreams. Little does he know that he embarks on a journey of realization that war isn't all fun and games...
The un-Gundam >>> by Shunichi Sakurai (10.29.2006)
This is the very first Gundam OAV mini-series, and it brings us to the unfamiliar premise of watching a schoolboy who isn't even a mobile suit pilot, let alone a Gundam pilot. Running parallel to the final few episodes of the original "Mobile Suit Gundam," "War in the Pocket" places less emphasis on the warring EFSF and Zeon, opting to look at war instead from a civilian point of view -- and what better way to see it than through a child's eyes.
Al's fateful meeting and adventures with rookie Zeon MS pilot Bernie Wiseman are the meat of this series. Like Aina Sahalin of "Gundam: The 08th MS Team," Bernie gives the Zeon people a human quality, even after the brutal attacks that color their history as bad guys. He is a sincere fellow who shows humanity as a brother figure to Al. In the events and people that transpire around them -- Bernie's elite and battle-hardened Cyclops Team; Al's friend and Gundam 'Alex' test pilot Christina Mackenzie; Al's parents and classmates -- it is the bond between Bernie and Al that ultimately brings the soldier out of the young man and an adult out of the schoolboy.
I call this the "un-Gundam" because of two things: its brevity and its almost total disregard for the glamour of robot battles. A typical Gundam TV series will run anywhere from 39-51 episodes and hype the fights to the maximum. "War in the Pocket" is effective precisely because of the absence of these. With all its short airtime, this anime has no problem showing just how brutal war is, and it's convincing in how it states that it's never a simple matter of black vs. white, good vs. bad.
For once, the esoteric Gundam impresario Yoshiyuki Tomino doesn't direct this series. Instead the reins are passed to Takayama Fumihiko, with character designs by Haruhiko Mikimoto of "Macross" and mecha designs by longtime Gundam artist Yutaka Izubuchi. Given that this was aired in 1989, the animation is top-notch. The characters are sketched in a generally softer manner that suits the civilian vibe well. The music matches this too; there are no toe-tapping pop songs here as they make way for what I'd call "muzak" relative to the soundtracks of, say, "Gundam SEED DESTINY." Izubuchi cranks out some pretty nice designs here, such as the MS-06FZ Zaku II FZ, RX-78NT1 Gundam NT-1 'Alex' and the famous MS-18E Kämpfer.
The next time you begin to feel jaded about Gundam, pick up "War in the Pocket." Compared to all its action-packed sister series, it's something slower, more poignant and truly left-field.
Individual Rating: Art/Animation 10; Story 9; Characters 8; Sounds 9