Gundam Unicorn – 01
「ユニコーンの日」 (Yunikoon no Hi)
“Day of the Unicorn”
Though it technically shouldn’t, it’s quite befitting how “Unicorn” contracts to UC in the logo for this series. Doing so just screams the return to the Universal Century timeline, which started it all for the Gundam franchise. I gather this probably won’t mean much to younger fans, but for people like me who got into the Gundam craze when terms like “Newtypes” and “Funnels” were the accepted norm long before “Coordinators”, “Innovators”, “DRAGOON System”, and “Fangs” mimicked them, it’s quite the treat. In both character designs and overall feel, Gundam Unicorn gets away from all the pretty-boy pilots and young female captain “fluff” we have in Wing, SEED, and 00, and returns to old burly old men leading the forefront in battles. Naturally we still have young protagonists, but the political and war aspects come off a lot more serious and the series as a whole doesn’t feel swept up by current anime trends — a pleasant return to the old school days.
While I felt Gundam 00 made some strides to return to those roots, it still came off as mecha fan-service for the most part, and the political setting couldn’t compare to the number of factions and subgroups that exist in the UC timeline. With the likes of the Earth Federation, Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG), Zeon, and various empires including the Crossbone Vanguard, there’s just so much history in UC that no Gundam spin-off can really match up to it. To put that into perspective from a personal standpoint, I was overjoyed at the mere mention of Londo Bell and the names Bright Noa and Char Aznable here, which left me anticipating something about Amuro Ray, the Gundam pilot who started it all. Seeing as Unicorn takes place in U.C. 0096, three years after Char’s Counterattack, I was hoping they’d reference the events that took place in U.C. 0093 a bit more, especially with the way things ended then.
In the most recent addition to the UC timeline (which slots in the middle chronologically), the story involves something known as Laplace’s Box and a mysterious girl named Audrey Burne (Fujimura Ayumi), whom protagonist Banagher Links (Uchiyama Kouki) senses with his Newtype-like abilities and saves from being sucked out into space. Audrey is quick to reveal that she has to meet with someone and stop war from breaking out, which Banagher decides to tag along for. All the while, war is seemingly breaking out already and before long, Banagher finds himself entrusted with a Gundam. That’s the short version of it anyway, which is plenty intriguing on its own, but probably more so when you realize that Audrey’s true identity has important ties with the past.
For reasons such as that, I gather those somewhat familiar with the UC timeline will appreciate the story here much more. My recollection of the UC timeline is a bit fuzzy due to how long it’s been and how there are a few key series I have yet to watch in full, but I can still say that the nostalgic names, terms, history, and mobile suits/armors really add to the overall appeal of Unicorn. This first of six OVA episodes makes me want to go back and watch those series that I haven’t finished (which I actually have on-hand but have put off for years now), so I can see the same thing happening with viewers who are completely new to the UC timeline but curious about the origins of Gundam.
Cast-wise, I’m quite impressed with Uchiyama Kouki’s portrayal of Banagher. Kouki’s relatively new to the seiyuu industry and only gave us a glimpse of what he’s capable of as Soul in SOUL EATER. Here, he shows that he has much more depth than the goofy Soul. Fujimura Ayumi on the other hand continues to impress me with her ability to play any type of role (e.g. compare Oribe Mafuryu in Seikon no Qwaser to Audrey), much like Kaida Yuuko does as Marida Cruz. It’s also nice to see the likes of Tomatsu Haruka, Shimono Hiro, Toyoguchi Megumi, Kakihara Tetsuya, and Koyama Rikiya in the support cast, not to mention Ikeda Shuuichi (seiyuu for Char Aznable) slated to show up later on. Coincidence? I think not.
Seeing as this post is overdue, I won’t get into the episode specifics much more, but will point out that it aired over the PlayStation Network (PSN) in Japan on February 20, 2010. Surprisingly, it’s slated for a quick simultaneous worldwide English/Japanese dual-audio DVD/BD release next week on March 12, 2010. From the look of things though, it’s already “available” ahead of schedule.
I didn’t think much of the ending/theme song when I heard it, but was surprised to find out that this is the same Kuriyama Chiaki who played the schoolgirl assassin Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. (She was also in the gorey Japanese film Battle Royale.) The PV for the song is out as well, which just has Chiaki seemingly naked and making love with the camera. Depending on how you take that, it might mean “absolute win”. See below.