Return to the Universal Century Timeline:

While I would consider myself a Gundam fan, I know I’m not the most experienced when it comes to all the timelines that are out there. I’m still working my way through the Universal Century timeline (which is awesome, for the record) and there’s many, many more Gundam shows I want to watch when I get the opportunity. Thankfully, I’ve seen enough content to properly watch and appreciate Gundam Thunderbolt – set during the One Year War of the original Gundam series, Thunderbolt tells the story of two pilots on opposing sides of the conflict: the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, as they are destined to kill one another in epic space battle fashion.

So, what do you need to have seen to watch this? Ideally, I’d say the original Gundam anime, as that provides context for this conflict and means they don’t need to info dump anything, allowing you dive headfirst into battle. I would also recommend the other OVAs set during the One Year War – War in the Pocket and The 08th MS Team – both, like Thunderbolt, tell very human stories about one group of characters in one little location amidst this massive, planetary war. These are all character-driven tales, depicting the many sides to this war, and Thunderbolt is a welcomed addition to this canon. Can you watch it without any prior knowledge of the Universal Century timeline? Perhaps, but I’m not so sure. You could certainly try – it’s simple enough so far, but I fear it may come across so simple that you won’t understand the weight behind this war and the context for this battle.

Slick, Cool, Jazzy:

If I had to describe this first episode in three words, it’d be: slick, cool, and jazzy. Slick, because it felt like the animation never stopped; this was constantly moving, constantly glowing, exploding, in your face action. Not only was that action stellar, but the character artwork was nothing short of gorgeous – the detail in their expressions and the fluidity of their movements is like nothing I’ve seen in Gundam before. By this first episode alone, this is arguably the best animated Gundam show out there. Next, I’d say it’s cool, because it just… is. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I think it comes down to the focus on these epic space battles, with these confident, skilled pilots leading the charge. In the short time we’ve seen them, I already believe they’re among the best of the best at what they do. Their skill and confidence in battle shines through, and I couldn’t help but get pumped up whenever things got explosive.

And finally, jazzy, because of the jazz. From what we’ve heard of the OST, I love it. Jazz in anime is possibly my favourite thing ever; it’s rare enough that whenever it comes back around I can’t help but feel immersed by it and never want the music to end. It’s also rather smart, as there is actual music playing in the pilots’ cockpit, varying depending on their taste and style. And the most memorable and quotable line has to do with the music playing in the background: “When you hear jazz, it means I’m coming.”

Two Sides to a War:

If there’s one thing the OVAs set during the One Year War manage to do better than the original Gundam, it’s making us feel sympathy for both sides of this war. Initially, I thought of the Principality of Zeon as chaotic and political evil, clearly inspired by the nazis. That worked well in the original, but I’m glad that the other stories have allowed us to get to know the characters behind this war: the normal people fighting on both sides. Both the Federation’s Io Fleming (Nakamura Yuuichi) and Zeon’s Daryl Lorenz (Kimura Ryohei) are believable and likeable leads. We manage to feel sympathy and root for both of them here, which I think is an accomplishment in itself. I appreciate when the characters fighting one another aren’t depicted as the ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but are shown doing their job, fighting in this war, and coming across as real people.

What Thunderbolt does so good is give us early impressions of both Io and Daryl without spending much time with them. Io is clearly the cocky one who dives in headfirst, but always comes out victorious. He’s passionate with women, but can take orders when need be. He thrives on the battlefield, and if anything, he seems like the ‘villain‘ of the two. In comparison, Daryl is the ace sniper who stays away from direct conflict, he doesn’t outwardly express himself as much, and is more affected by the death of this allies than Io was of his. He’s also got robotic legs (and some of his friends have robot arms as well), which gives the impression that these guys have been through a lot, yet are still fighting for their cause (as horrible as it may be). If you didn’t know the difference between the Federation and Zeon, you’d probably assume that Daryl was the ‘good guy‘ here, not Io. And that’s what I loved about this – they managed to make us care about both of these pilots to the point where I don’t know which one I’d rather see win at this moment in time.

Overview – What’s Next?:

Slick, cool, and jazzy. Excluding the credits, this only comes in at 15 minutes, which is relatively short, but managed to pack plenty of punches in that time to keep me thoroughly entertained. It’s fantastic to have more Gundam set in the UC timeline, and Thunderbolt is making a strong first impression. Interestingly enough, this is the first Gundam anime – and do correct me if I’m wrong here – to be streamed exclusively online. It’s a bold new move for such a franchise, but may be the start of new ways of distributing anime in the future. With only 4 episodes and 15 minutes each, it’s not going to be the most lengthy adaptation, but I’m glad it exists at all. The next episode comes out in February, so we won’t have to wait too long before we head back into the revenge-fuelled space battles.

ED Sequence



    1. On an off-topic but somewhat related note, does anyone here know of an alternative to Yeppha’s YouTube Center that works on version 44 of Firefox? Damned browser decided to update on its own and has disabled the developer version of YouTube Center that I use (and the version available at Firefox’s addons page has been woefully outdated for quite a while).

      I’m only asking this because YouTube’s DASH playback totally sucks (read: you can’t buffer the video to the very end even if you pause first) and I’d like to smoothly watch (read: without choppiness due to buffering) this and the newest episode of Iron-Blooded Orphans in 720p at the very least.

    1. Just a small FYI guys, this YT vid is (probably) for other East Asian countries (other than Japan) and North America. Other parts of the world would be encompassed in other localized distribution deals. This is similar to how Bandai/Sunrise got a (exclusive) deal with Daisuki for NA broadcast rights for IBO and Origin (with Sunise taking the rest of Asia with YT)…

      ps. I only say what I saw on other websites/forums. Apologies for any resulting raised anger.

    1. Well, for me same visualization is good. Are women have that different faces from the men’s? People’s faces are different. This is not about sex. Many shows (anime) doing this and I hate it.

    2. As the others have said, it’s just the art style. She is drawn more masculine than the other girls we saw in this episode, but I think that may have been purposefully done as well, as it’s just part of her design.

  1. Thunderbolt just further shows why I love the Universal Century era compared to almost half of the alternate universe series.

    And based on what was said (haven’t read the manga this is adapted from), the Zeon unit that Daryl is part of consists almost entirely of guys with prosthetics (their commanding officer giving the briefing later on even has a hook for a hand) and based on the talk of collecting data and such, it sounds like the prosthetics (and perhaps even music itself) is playing a part in how Daryl and his teammates were able to snipe the GMs so accurately from so far away despite the Minovsky Particle density that should have been interfering with them (perhaps some sort of echo location type thing?).

    It was also cool to see a weapon not used before (the “Big Guns” that were being used to snipe) and it’s great to see a FA-78 Gundam Full Armor type unit finally animated and it seems to be closer in scope to the FA-78-3 Full Armor 7th Gundam in that it carries such heavier firepower, but seems to suffer no real loss in speed or mobility.

    And, as usual, great to see the shocked/scared reaction of the Zeon troops in seeing a Gundam.

    1. “And, as usual, great to see the shocked/scared reaction of the Zeon troops in seeing a Gundam.”

      Ah man I love that scene. Nothing strikes fear into the hearts and minds of Zeon like the “White Devil” and that scene is a perfect example of it.

    1. You’re not wrong. Thunderbolt already portrays the conflict in gray area, and Io Flemming’s cocky & ruthless personality does make him more like a bad guy with a monster of a Mobile Suit slaughtering the Zeon MSs. And that was intentional in the manga.

  2. This was terrible. More than half of it was fighting with no explanation or buildup and even the parts that weren’t fighting failed to explain anything. It’s a terrible introduction to the UC timeline for those unfamiliar with it (like me) or even just those who are familiar with it but forgot some aspects of the timeline. It’s even worse as an introduction to the franchise as a whole.

    0/10. It failed to deliver on all aspects.

    1. The whole point of Thunderbolt is the action, and how well-animated and choreographed it is. That, and the fact that we can empathise with both sides of this conflict – and that’s just what it is; one conflict of many set during the One Year War.

      It’s a terrible introduction to the UC timeline for those unfamiliar with it (like me) or even just those who are familiar with it but forgot some aspects of the timeline. It’s even worse as an introduction to the franchise as a whole.

      As I said in the post, I don’t recommend watching this as your first UC show. You won’t understand the context of this particular battle, and I think anyone familiar with Gundam would remember the One Year War enough to go ‘Oh yeah, that!’ and jump right in within a few seconds.

      Also, Thunderbolt is/was never meant to be an introduction to the franchise. It’s an ONA adaptation of the spin-off manga of one of many timelines of a massive ongoing franchise. That’s like picking up the 7th novel in a series of books and complaining that it’s not a good starting point.

      I’d wholeheartedly recommend you try the original Gundam, as well as the other titles I mentioned in my post. The UC timeline is considered the best for good reasons, and I’m barely ever half way through it!

      1. One must also remember that the Universal Century is one long chain of various events, many events of which directly lead to the events of another series, starting with the One Year War in UC 0079 and, unless something else comes out, stretches all the way to UC 0153 with the Zanscare Empire (and then even beyond that with G no Reconguista, but that is much more its own thing with mostly just homages to the UC era).

        The only way for those unfamiliar with the era to really get what’s going on in these kinds of Universal Century series’/OVAs is to start from the very beginning with Mobile Suit Gundam (either the TV series or the three more condensed movies of it) and go on in order from there (Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counterattack, Gundam F91, Victory Gundam, OVAs, etc.).

        This is unlike the alternate universe Gundam series’ where a majority of them are merely 1-2 self-contained series’/OVAs (Wing/Endless Waltz, X, SEED/SEED Destiny, 00/Trailblazer, AGE. Turn A being the only one arguably connecting everything and meant to be the end-all of Gundams) with their own unique timelines and no connection to the others, so it’s easy to keep track of them.

  3. Welp, a war ways off to the side that can be forgotten by the main factions on both sides of the conflict. Seeing how the Moore Brotherhood and the Living Dead Division seems to be on their own in that thunder-filled sector.

    …It feels like the war(s) in the middle east that ordinary citizens in oversea countries look at on the news. Grim, lonely and far off. Just like the slow ED piece…

    OTOH, having less minutes per episode meant more movements in the animation. AKA. No still shots! Glad to have this animated that well and to a great start.

    ps. https://randomc.net/image/Gundam%20Thunderbolt/Gundam%20Thunderbolt%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2012.jpg

    that’s one lucky shot there Ensign Io…/sarcasm

  4. Wait.. There are already two Gundam titles this year and now this?! I am not a fan but… the Gundam fever is really high in Japan until now.

    There’s this thing called the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. Is the franchise resistant to it? Wow.

    1. Gundam is forever. Off the top of my head, I can’t name another franchise that’s bigger than it (though there’s a chance there may be a few). I don’t think there’s any change of it dying down any time soon. More Gundam is always a good thing, especially if it’s from the UC timeline!

    2. Even the gundam franchise isn’t immune to it.

      While Sunrise has never made any official statement many speculate that the low ratings and eventual cancellation of Gundam X in 1996 was due to “Gundam fatigue”. Before Gundam X started airing there was G Gundam (1994-1995), Gundam Wing (1995-1996), and 08th MS Team OVA which started near the end of Gundam Wing’s run. Gundam X started airing only one week after the end of Gundam Wing.

      I’ll admit I’m a little surprised that Gundam fatigue hasn’t set in at this point. Though that my be because Gundam Build fighters is kind of a unique…oddity in the Gundam franchise and G-Reco did rather poorly in the ratings so many probably didn’t see it or all of it.

      Gundam IBO seems to be doing well, but i can’t help but feel it would be doing better if it didn’t come out within the same year GBF TRY and G-Reco ended.

      1. Actually pal, that’s what I am wondering about. I mean, you can’t just release three different spinoffs (whatever) of the same show in a year without some fatigue from the audience. I mean, I love IBO but that affection seemed to wane when I realized that there are also two other freakin’ Gundam show aired this year. Oh well, it’s their strategy.

  5. I don’t really like Io. Maybe he is better characterized in the novels, but here I find him grating. He feels like one of those fanfic characters where the writer is trying to hard too convince me he’s a badass. “Look how EDGY he is! He has spiked hair has smug look! Look how he spouts pretentious purple prose and gets the woman with maximum SWAG! WITH THUNDER STRIKING ATMOSPHERE”. But at least he likes Jazz so that’s a point for him.

    Still for what is essentially an extended GunPla commercial I do like the action. Props go for the POV shot of the Zaku. Normally I loath POV cameras for action scenes because I find them gimmicky and confusing. Here though it works because its done to empathize a threat from a grunt meeting his demise. And as everyone said the part where the Zeon forces crap their pants at the sight of the Gundam was great. It indicates that this is already late in OYW and the mythology of the “White Devil” has reached far among Zeon.

    1. I wouldn’t be too surprised if, in-universe, that’s exactly the purpose – that he’s putting so much effort into looking like a badass in order to cover up some kind of insecurity or something. From what little was talked about him, he’s the son of the head of a previously-powerful, but now-fallen big name family from that sector (sounded pretty mob/gangster-like; Mua/Moore Brotherhood). From what little there is online that I read, his being picked to pilot the FA-78 Full Armor Gundam is even primarily for propaganda because of that lineage.

    2. It might only be me, but this remark with regards to the Moore Brotherhood got me to continue the neutral judgement one Io for a bit longer.

      PS. the Youtube version of the episode has the 6(!) HG gunpla variations for advertisement already and a shout for a upcoming MG line.

  6. I love how every new entry into the Universal Century timeline always adds a new Gundam for the war which is way more superior to the first Gundam piloted by Amuro during the One Year War.

    1. Not all of them. The 08th MS Team RX-79(G) Gundams are actually inferior; built out of high performance, but still-inferior leftover parts from the RX-78 Gundam production, and ground combat only).

      And a number of the OVAs take place later in the One Year War (if not years later in the Universal Century in general), which would be after data was collected from the RX-78-2 Gundam’s learning computer by the Federation, allowing them to further develop the Gundam line at the time (and also allowed them to speed up GM production), but while most of the later Gundam models of the One Year War may be overall superior to the RX-78-2 in terms of specs (some of them were even meant for use by Amuro, like the RX-78NT-1 Gundam ALEX in Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket), what keeps them from seeming too OP by comparison is that most of the pilots are also regular soldiers and not Newtypes like Amuro.

      So if you were to put Io and the FA-78 Full Armor Gundam up against Amuro in the RX-78-2 Gundam, it’s quite possible that Amuro would still emerge on top due to his developing natural and Newtype abilities by that point (it also helps that technology gaps within the same time period aren’t THAT huge from each other most of the time).

    2. Actually, the FA-78 isn’t all that advanced compared to the RX-78-2. They’re almost identical in fact, only the FA-78 has extra shoulder armanents by default… which the RX-78 can also optinally equip (and does so in the Origin manga).

      I’m much more interested in the binder-shield-thingies the GMs also sport, because that seems like such a no-brainer that makes me wonder why other suits waste their precious hand-limbs on shields. :/

      1. Yeah, technology-wise, the OYW Gundam mobile suits following the RX-78-2 aren’t superior in that sense (if you strip them down, they’re essentially all the RX-78-2 at the center). They’re mostly just using the RX-78 Gundam frame and adding on more options for various areas of improvement, or overall as this FA-78 does here (able to carry more and heavier weaponry while also improving speed and mobility with more thrusters and extra propellant tanks, unlike the first version).

  7. “Interestingly enough, this is the first Gundam anime – and do correct me if I’m wrong here – to be streamed exclusively online.”

    Actually IIRC, Gundam SEED Stargazer already took that title by being a Gundam ONA-series before Thunderbolt. But like Samu did, I’ll welcome any correction if I got some facts wrong about it.

  8. Finally watched this on the GundamInfo channel on YouTube–despite not finding an alternative to Yeppha’s YouTube Center extension. (Good thing I only needed to pause a couple of times, because this episode was absolutely engaging.)

    Animation quality on par with Gundam Unicorn, characters that you get interested in (within one episode), unapologetically goes with the “War is Hell” route (suck it, moral guardians!), and a glimpse at another One Year War battlefield that’s otherwise overshadowed by the White Base‘s exploits (or the Federation’s main offensives against Zeon).

    As for “genderswapped Jerid Messa,” I expected her to be a bit of a hardass after seeing that screencap. After seeing the episode, however… Eh, not so much.

    Also, the Living Dead Division reminds me of the Volksgrenadiers of Nazi Germany, because Zeon is practically “Putting on the Reich,” and majority of the Living Dead Division are otherwise unfit for military duty (In this case, due to losing a limb or two…thank goodness for cybernetic limbs!) but had to be pressed into service out of desperation as the fortune of war now swung in favor of the Federation.

    Definitely looking forward to the next episode.


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