Judge Mitchell Hattaway was pleasantly surprised his enjoyed this mecha anime.
Our review of Mobile Suit Gundam F91: The Motion Picture, published January 6th, 2005, is also available.
A new world. A new war. A new Gundam.
A war is raging between the Coordinators, genetically enhanced humans, and the Naturals, those members of humanity who have resisted such modifications. The Coordinators have constructed self-sustaining space settlements known as PLANTs to serve as their homeland, only to see the nations of the Earth Alliance launch devastating military strikes against them. The outcome of the war hinges upon the Alliance's prototype G-weapons, the mobile strike suits also known as Gundams. The inhabitants of Heliopolis, a neutral satellite colony, are drawn into the war when ZAFT (the military forces of the PLANTs) warships arrive and attempt to capture the prototype Gundams secretly being constructed on their peaceful artificial world. Young Kira Yamato, a citizen of Heliopolis (who also happens to be a Coordinator, and whose mother was killed in an Alliance attack known as the Bloody Valentine Tragedy), finds himself an unwilling participant in the war after he saves the life of a member of the Alliance military and then uses his advanced technological abilities to reprogram the one Gundam not lost in the raid. His decision to fight is not an easy one (he is now the only person capable of piloting the Gundam), but he knows he must in order to save the lives of those he loves, even if it means going into battle against his own people. Kira's troubles are only beginning, though, as he soon discovers his best friend Athrun is a ZAFT soldier.
I'm nowhere close to being an expert on the Gundam mythos, but I understand the numerous series have been around for quite some time now. I have sampled, with little interest, a few episodes on Cartoon Network, but beyond that I've had no other exposure, so I was surprised to discover how much I enjoyed the five episodes on this disc. I had intended to watch only the first episode and return to the others later, but I ended up devouring them in one sitting (which is why I'm not giving a breakdown of the individual episodes; for me this is one long installment). The plot doesn't exactly expand the giant mecha genre, and the characters are familiar anime archetypes, but the story's breakneck pace and the nicely detailed animation drew me in so quickly I soon found myself wrapped up in the proceedings. Although I imagine those with more knowledge of the other series will have a deeper understanding, it is still quite accessible to neophytes like myself. The only real problem is the final episode ends in a cliffhanger, as Kira, his friends, and their Alliance allies seek haven from the pursuing ZAFT forces. I'm now forced to wait a possible two months before I find out what happens next.
The video presentation is a knockout, and actually improves as the episodes progress. Colors are vividly rendered, and the image is clean and smooth. I didn't detect any edge enhancement, and, when viewed in progressive mode, there were no jagged lines in any of the numerous fast moving action shots and quick pans common in anime (pleasant surprise, that). The audio isn't as impressive, but it does its job; there isn't much spread in the stereo sound field, nor is there any real low-end activity. This is an excellent candidate for a full Dolby Digital surround or DTS remix, even if that does mean a future double-dip. The English and Japanese mixes appear to be identical, with the exception of the dialogue. The dubbed voices aren't as well integrated, and, as usual, the actors sound too perky. Extras consist of the expected previews, a gallery of technical files pertaining to the hardware used in these episodes, as well as the title sequence with the credits removed (which is nice because the nude female form in the sequence is easier to see).
Bandai has done an admirable job bringing this title to our shores. The litigants are free to go but are ordered to release the remainder of the series with the utmost haste. Chop-chop!
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