Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket box cover


Available on VHS and DVD from Bandai Entertainment.
OAV Series: 6 episodes on 2 VHS tapes or 2 DVDs
30 minutes per episode
Science Fiction/Drama
Version I Watched: Subtitled in English
Objectionable Content: Violence

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Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

I was a little thrown off when I started watching this Gundam series. After seeing the movie trilogy, I figured Gundam was all about giant mecha action (albeit really good giant mecha action.) And while I knew the characterization and story wouldn't be skimped on, I certainly didn't expect the good drama I got.

And what a drama it is. Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is all about a young boy, Alfred, coming face to face with the realities of war and realizing that it's not a game, but a devastating and horrible act of humanity. This is certainly a stark contrast to the trilogy, which seems to emphasize duty and honor, over simpler, more down-to-earth human values. One aspect of this series (which is also true of the movies) is how both sides of the conflict get equal representation. While the Zeon forces are supposed to be the "bad guys", in a technical sense, it's refreshing to see that the Zeon soldiers are normal human beings, and not inherently evil. Even more interesting was the almost venomous shadow cast on Federation Forces, and in the end I wasn't sure which side I was supposed to cheer for. Not that that matters anyway, because Gundam 0080 isn't about good and evil, or right and wrong. It's about people, and how their lives are affected by war.

Alfred, the central character, is ten years old and like his friends, thinks war is a game. To me, this seems frightfully real for I was able to think back to when I was ten creating fictional wars with my toy soldiers. However, when the war comes to his home colony, Alfred soon learns how real people are affected and the great tragedy that war brings. He meets and befriends a Zeon soldier, the somewhat naive but friendly Bernie. It's through Bernie that we are shown that the Zeon forces aren't all bloodthirsty villains, but can be decent people. Of course, I wouldn't go so far as to call Bernie's compatriots "decent people", but they do have their softer moments.

Focusing on war and featuring giant mecha, there is certainly going to be a decent amount of action present. However, the action itself seems completely secondary to the results of the battles, which are depicted with shocking cruelty. One scene, depicting the corpse of a young boy being dragged from under a building, still sticks fresh in my mind. It's quite grim stuff, to say the least.

Now I don't really want to say this, given how much I enjoyed Gundam 0080, but the truth is that some parts seemed a little contrived. There were a few moments when this series gave me a "Disney-esque kiddie adventure" feeling, which I felt was a little unfortunate. Also, some of the music seemed rather out-of-place. There were a few instances which should have been quite suspenseful and emotional, only to be ruined by some annoyingly upbeat tunes.

The bottom line, though, is that Gundam 0080 succeeds quite well it what it sets out to accomplish. Anyone who is looking for a mecha anime with a realistic edge, or an emotional war-time drama, should definitely check out this fine series.

The Verdict: * * * * (good)