Title: Mobile Suit Gundam Formula 91 aka Kidou Senshi Gundam F91
Company: Sunrise/Sotsu Agency
Format:Movie; 115 minutes.
Dates: 16 Mar 1991
Synopsis: Universal Century 123; since the fall of Neo Zeon, a generation of peace has prevailed. Even so, this is all put at risk up against the Ronah Family, their aristocratic vision, and their private army the Crossbone Vanguard. The first to face this menace are the unsuspecting people of Frontier 1, when their colony is laid to waste by the Vanguard’s Mobile Suits. The few lucky enough to survive, including one Seabook Arno, are forced to hold out through this disaster as they fight to prevent the most sadistic massacre in human history.
Animation: Beautiful down to the last detail.
Violence: Chilling to the bone.
Message: Successful antiwar statement.
Length: Too short for its own good.
When a great storyteller is expected to deliver even under time constraints and sponsorship obligations, it is amazing what they are able to come up with. Director Tomino Yoshiyuki is a testament to this, being able to conjure up an amazing ending to his Gundam even when cut ten episodes short. He shows this talent again when he takes his fantasy world of Byston Well and introduced mechanical Aura Battlers, giving birth to the epic Dunbine. The test of time has demonstrated exactly what wonders Tomino can create; however, his movie Gundam F91 proves that even the greatest have their limits.
With a length of only two hours, F91 is forced to tell an entire, 50 episode Gundam story, develop its characters, entrance the audience, and still have time to be socially and morally relevant. Sadly, it is only able to achieve about half of these. Most of the characters, including protagonist Seabook Arno, have pretty stagnant personalities, which is made worse by the large cast this film has. It’s a real shame considering how interesting many of the characters are, especially the sadistic and emotionless Iron Mask.
Due to the lackluster characters, most story elements suffer, including the underlying plot. I have bits and pieces of information, but I can only guess what the Ronah family envisioned for the future. Pacing wise, F91 goes by so fast that some events just happen for no adequately explored reason. Huh, so a character just died, that all good and well, but how? Don’t get me wrong. This is in no way a bad movie. At the very least, it still retains the strong plot based roller coaster that Gundam is famous for. Even if the characters’ intentions appear to be lacking, it is comforting to know that their actions speak much louder than their words.
During the opening and ending 20 minutes, F91 features some of the most gruesome and outrageous fight scenes out there. There is not much more disturbing than watching innocent civilians trapped helpless in a chaotic battle zone. Even if these deaths are those of nameless extras, the presentation gives you the feeling of actually being in the middle of this slaughter. It’s gripping, it’s twisted, it’s…well animated? Yes, the beauty of the movie format is the detail and care that can be put into every little aspect. Battles are fluid and rich with cels, quality is constant throughout, and nothing is ignored. The grandest example of this in my opinion would have to be something as simple as Cecily’s hair. Odd choice, but if you see the movie you’ll understand.
Originally, this story was destined to be the next full chapter in the Universal Century. The reason the story is sloppy and full of holes is due to this sudden change in formats. The budget of this would be series’ first quarter packed tightly together may be capable of producing such a truly gut wrenching experience, and the beginning of the movie alone is one powerful, in-your-face antiwar statement. However, when considering what could have been, Mobile Suit Gundam Formula 91 is just not up to scratch.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Kavik Ryx