The Gundam Mindset:
It’s been a few months since the first episode of Gundam: The Origin, yet the wait for this one hasn’t been near as painful as I anticipated. So when I sat down and got back into the Gundam mindset, I was quickly reminded of how bloody brilliant this was. This episode may not have had the same massive fight sequences or shocking developments as the first one, but it was still a brilliant hour of character-driven drama. It was all mainly set-up for the next two episodes, which I imagine to be massive and game changing, but it’s rewarding to have a mediative episode like this, when you get to see the characters live their lives, adjusting to what went down three years previous, and prepare for the war that’s brewing beneath the surface.
Since the last episode of Origin, I’ve marathoned quite a few early U.C. OVAs, all of which entertained me to some degree. War in the Pocket would have to be the best of lot, and likely my favourite Gundam series thus far; it’s devastating and honest depiction of war from the point of view of an ignorant child was genius and incredibly moving. 08th MS Team was a brilliantly animated late 90s war drama, focusing on those on the front lines and constantly providing entertaining developments outside of the typical Gundam politics (which, for the record, I do love). And then there’s Stardust Memory, which was easily the most disappointing of the three, yet watchable enough and helpful in setting up for what’s to come in Zeta. I’ve still got plenty of Universal Century shows to watch, but so far I’m loving what I’m getting, and Gundam: The Origin is a serious contender for the best of the bunch. Also, with Thunderbolt being announced a few weeks ago, that means next year we’re going to see another story set during the One Year War, which has me excited. Whether it’s an OVA or TV anime is yet to be determined, but more Gundam is always a great thing in my books.
The Spanish Countryside, A Far-Future City, and Texas in Space:
It’s refreshing to dive into this world before the One Year War, before everything focused around rebuilding and bring humanity back its former glory. It’s nice to instead just sit back and appreciate the various untouched locations throughout this universe that may have been devastated in the later wars. It’s not often you see the Spanish countryside depicted in anime, but it provided a unique backdrop and a different flavour from what other sci-fi epics might deliver. Obviously, there’s trouble brewing, and it wouldn’t be Gundam without a healthy dose of melodrama (and for the record, melodrama in itself is not a bad thing – I don’t consider it a bad word, though I know others would), but the attempted assassinations work well with the quieter, more reflective moments. Simple scenes like Sayla laying in the pool or tending to the ill and wounded help set an easygoing tone before the table is flipped.
The scenes outside of Earth’s sphere were just as interesting as well, as we see Crowley singing at Club Eden, in the glowing metropolises that any science fiction fan would love to step into. If there’s one thing that the earlier U.C. anime failed at, it would be depicting the settings as real places. Obviously, times were different back then, and there wasn’t as much gorgeous backdrops or mood-setting scenes, but thankfully Gundam: The Origin has that covered, making the audience feel like we’re sitting in that bar watching Crowley and the jazz band perform their number.
But there’s drama there as well, mainly revolving around Ramba Ral, who never fails to steal a scene. He’s caught in an interesting position between his allegiance with Casval and Artesia, and his previous history with the Zabi family. He may be a Zeon solider, but it’s good to see those on both sides of this conflict being depicted as real people with conflicting ideas and morals. Even if the earlier Gundam series depicted it as more black and white from time to time, here, it feels like every character has their own reasons for where they stand, which makes it all the more intriguing to watch. Whether it be Ral’s dilemma or the inner conflict between the Zabi siblings, it’s great to see their interactions knowing what happens to them in future, and helps paint a bigger and clearer picture that Mobile Suit Gundam may have failed to capture.
The last location worth noting is the Texas Colony of Side 5, even if the inhabitants themselves admit that it’s closer to Wyoming than anything else. We go from the heats of a Spanish summer, to a far-future city, to a colony modelled after the Wild West. It may be random, but I love it. It feels like there’s some real imagination put into these worlds that brings the best out of the characters. And if anything, the best scenes of the episode come from the Texas Colony of Side 5.
The Beginnings of Sayla Mass & Char Aznable:
Bringing this back to Artesia and Casval, it feels like these two are on one hell of a journey. They have their times to sit back, write letters to their mother, and appreciate their surroundings, but there’s not doubt that there’s always that danger around the corner. When violence returns once again to their lives, you remember that these kids have gone through so much. Artesia is 10 years old in this episode, and Casval is teenager, but they’ve had to live through a lot. And the death of the mother is the final straw for both of them. What is most interesting, however, is how they both react to the news. Artesia seems more inspired than anything, although initially heartbroken. It does feel like she’s ready to pick herself up from this and become stronger as a result, but with the death of her cat and that end scene with her brother, everything seems to come tumbling down before her eyes, and she can’t do anything about it.
Truly, this feels like the beginnings of Sayla Mass and Char Aznable. A switch has definitely flicked inside Casval after he finds out about his mother, and he no longer seems the charming boy from before. He’s a complicated case, resorting to extreme violence to quell his emotions, and his declaration at the end of the episode marks the start of his journey. But one thing that I did not see coming was the revelation of the real Char Aznable (Seki Toshihiko). My experience with the U.C. universe isn’t as extensive as I’ve like it to be, but I’ve never heard of this part of his history. Perhaps it’s touched upon in later seasons, but seeing the near identical blond-haired teen galloping on his horse had me massively confused. What exactly happens to this real Char? And how does the Char we’ve grown to know and love come into fruition? I suspect both questions will be answered next time around…
Overview – What’s Next?:
Another great addition to this welcomed prequel. All the pieces are moving across the board with this one, as Artesia and Casval go through more hardships, and grow because of it. What happens between the two Chars is what I’m most curious about at the moment, but after the final scene I’m wondering if that’s the last the sibling see of each other until the One Year War begins. If so, it’s a sorrowful farewell, and a defining moment for both characters. But even if the story is focuses on the history Char and Sayla, it’s rewarding to see all sides of this conflict, as war looks to be just around the corner. There’s no confirmed date for the 3rd OVA, but I have a feeling the wait is going to be much more painful this time around.
ED2: 「Kaze yo 0074 」 (風よ 0074) by Takatori Hattori Presents Gundam The Origin featuring Takumi Ishida