Gundam: The Movies box cover

Info

Available on VHS and DVD from Bandai Entertainment.
3 Movies on 3 VHS tapes or 3 DVDs
150 minutes per movie
Action/Science Fiction
Version I Watched: Subtitled in English
Objectionable Content: Violence, very brief nudity

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Gundam: The Movies

If these Gundam movies taught me only one thing, it's to never judge a book by its cover (or in this case, never judge a movie by its previews). I'd seen the AnimeVillage trailer for Gundam and figured it would be one anime I'd never watch (c'mon, you have to admit it does look pretty cheesy). Giant robots aren't really my thing to begin with (although I'm starting to appreciate them thanks to anime like Patlabor, Macross, and now Gundam), but the horribly dated animation just made this movie trilogy look like a joke.

Of course, beauty (and ugliness) is only skin-deep, as this superb trilogy demonstrates. Sure, the art and animation aren't the greatest, and the mechas may look a little hokey (or a lot hokey, to some), but the fast-paced story line and excellent character development easily make up for those few shortcomings.

On the surface, Gundam could easily pass for a simple minded action-fest with little to offer. The whole premise about a giant conflict involving two factions of the human race, coupled with mechas by the boatload, didn't exactly tickle my fancy. However, once I began watching, I was amazed at how much time was devoted to developing the main characters. Even more amazing was that both sides of the conflict were presented more-or-less equally, without the cold-cut "good guys" and "bad guys". While some of the characters are decidedly villainish (I think I just invented a new word), others are a bit gray in their intentions. This was quite refreshing, as it provided a well-balanced cast with likable characters on both sides of the conflict. The entire cast of characters is a little large, but not unmanageable, and they are all wholly developed and believable. And unlike Evangelion and Gunbuster, which also feature young teenagers piloting giant mecha, Gundam actually has reasons that make *sense* for having such a young group of heroes.

The story begins in the year 0079 of the Universal Century. Humans have expanded into deep space, and set up colonies across the galaxy. However, two separate factions have evolved, the Earth Federation and the Duchy of Zeon. Both sides are locked together in a massive interstellar war using advanced fighting machines called mobile suits. A young boy, named Amuro Ray, happens to be on a colony along with the Federation's new Gundam mobile suits. When Zeon forces attack, he is forced to pilot the Gundam, which soon lands him on board a spaceship, White Base, and on an epic adventure across the galaxy.

As previously mentioned, Gundam is about war, so there's plenty of action to go around. The pace of this trilogy is a frantic one, as the crew of White Base continually duel with Zeon forces. The action scenes were surprisingly not that bad, given the quality of the animation. Sure, it's not nearly as exciting to watch as something like Macross Plus, but was still decent given Gundam's age.

The age of these movies, however, is the only real drawback. The art and animation are simply lousy by today's standards, and may end up turning off viewers for that reason alone (which almost happened to me). The sound quality isn't a whole lot better, and there are some cheesy blips and bleeps that sound like they were yanked from some Atari shoot-em-up. The music, though, wasn't too bad for the most part, although some of 70's-style tunes were a little lame for my tastes.

If you're someone who enjoys mecha-oriented anime like Macross and Patlabor, or if you're looking for an interstellar sci-fi epic, then don't miss this movie trilogy. While it may be a bit ugly on the surface, it's got beauty where it counts.

The Verdict: * * * * 1/2 (very good)