A Welcomed Prequel:
Apologies for this post not being out closer to the release date, but I’ve only just watched Gundam: The Origin after months of meaningless procrastination. After the rather hyped announcement of Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (coming this fall!), I found myself inspired to watch this prequel that I’d put on hold. I’d heard good things, and even though I’ve only watched the original Mobile Suit Gundam, I knew that was enough to jump into this. Thankfully, it turned out even better than I anticipated. I’m feeling the urge to go all out and binge-watch the rest of the UC Gundam anime in celebration of how fantastic this episode was.
CG Battles Done Right:
It may not have been the most action-packed, but the first five minutes of this episode were more than enough to keep me satisfied. Not only was it intense, colourful, and constantly moving, but the CG actually looked good – better than good, it looked fantastic! The camera panning throughout space as lasers were shot and ships blew up was thrilling to watch. Of course, it’s nice to have classic well-drawn 2D fights, but this is a case where the transition to 3D does not hinder. If only every anime had this budget and level of CG. Maybe some day…
Familiar Faces – Char, Sayla, and the Zabi Family:
As advertised, Gundam: The Origin focuses on the past of the privileged siblings, Casval Rem Deikun “Char Aznable” (Tanaka Mayumi) and Artesia Som Deikun “Sayla Mass” (Han Megumi). Knowing that these four OVAs are set to adapt volumes 5-7 of the Gundam: The Origin manga, I expected we’d begin with Char and Sayla in their early youth. But I was not aware of their history and the events that lead up to the Mobile Suit Gundam story. I’m going into this blind, and that’s making it that much more enjoyable. Even though I’m still to watch Zeta and ZZ, I already cared enough about these two characters to watch their backstory.
It’s fair to say that Sayla is cute as buttons, charming from start to end. She’s the younger of the two, and her naivety about her current position is evident. Some may feel that the comedic or innocent moments that she provides are out of place here, but I just don’t see it. It’s nice to have a character is untainted by all the politics, drama, and death going on around her. Char, on the other hand, knows what going on. Even as a kid, he’s a smart cookie. He cares for his sister, and his proactive nature makes him an interesting lead. Whether it be him verbally-jousting with terrifying, powerful political figures, or actually taking the helm and dealing damage to his enemies. He brings the action at just the right moments. But Sayla provides the perfect counter, grounding him just before he goes over the edge. These poor kids, having to go through all these horrors…
The Zabi family are bound to play a big part in this prequel, and this first episode did a good job at showing them in their younger days. Whether it be Garma looking innocent before everything went wrong, or Kycillia (Watanabe Akeno) reminding me just how cunning she was in the original series. She killed one brother before, so what’s stopping her from being the one behind that explosive assassination? It was one moment of many where she came across as genuinely intimidating – I sure wouldn’t want to face off against her; I feel sorry for anyone who dares scorn her.
Ramba Ral (Kiyami Shigeo) and Hamon Crowley (Sawashiro Miyuki) were another pair that made a good attempt at stealing the show. I wasn’t left with much of impression of them in Mobile Suit Gundam, but here they came across as genuine and passionate, with a flirtatious back-and-forth, making them equally badass lovers. Like Kycillia, Hamon suffers from irritating sexism, only to kick some nuts and deal some damage in response. Even though this adaptation is out in 2015, the source material very much feels true to the original series; yet the women stand out, proving themselves despite everything that’s thrown against them. Admittedly, I’m biased towards well-written, likeable, or sympathetic female characters, so this first episode ticked all the right boxes for me.
The Perfect Balance of Familial and Political Drama:
The truth is in the (sub)title. Action is awesome, but the character drama is what made this so exciting. Familiar faces facing off against one another is any fan’s dream, but this isn’t built on an empty plot. Behind every motive or action there is some sort of political aftereffect. Whether it be those revolting against the system, the poisoning of the Char and Sayla’s father, or the ever-shifting blame on who killed who? The media plays an important part, and the characters are aware of how they are being perceived by the public. We may get our quota of missiles and explosions, but it’s the intellectual and politically-influenced back-and-forth between opposing sides that I enjoyed most of all.
Family drama is always good as well. The Zabi family are a twisted bunch, especially when you’re aware of their eventual demise. None of their deaths were pretty, but watching them here at each other’s necks added more to their characters than I originally perceived. Not only that, but the dynamic between Astraia Tor Deikun (Tsunematsu Ayumi) and Roselucia Deikun (Ichijou Miyuki) was another fascinating one. The beautiful mistress and the disdainful wife makes for one hell of an emotionally-charged scene. Roselucia blames Astraia for her inability to have children, and clearly her grudges are everlasting. She’s an imposing figure, even with her weak health, and her effectively sentencing Astraia to live in the lonesome tower was loaded with palpable disgust. It was a powerful scene, and possibly one of my favourite of the whole episode.
Overview – What’s Next?:
Again, I have to apologise for the lateness of this post. The second episode is due on October 31st, so you can expect that to be covered around that time. Truthfully, I went into Gundam: The Origin with high expectations, and left even more satisfied than expected. Although the action was much appreciated and wonderfully animated and choreographed, it’s the character dynamics, familiar faces, and emotional drama that resonated with this first episode. Char and Sayla have a rocky journey ahead of them, and knowing where they eventually end up, it’s only makes the following episodes that much more exciting.
ED: 「Hoshikuzu no Suna Tokei」(星屑の砂時計) by Takatori Hattori Presents Gundam The Origin featuring yu-yu (服部隆之 Presents GUNDAM THE ORIGIN featuring yu-yu)