The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Mobile Suit Gundam UC

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam UC aka Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Sunrise
Format: 7 OVA
Dates: 20 Feb 2010 – 17 May 2014

Synopsis: The year is UC 0096. There is only four more years until the first century of the new UC calendar passes. To commemorate this event, the eclectic Vist Foundation has promised the remnant of the Principality of Zeon, a mysterious item known as “Laplace’s Box.” Since this box has the power to change the world order, various factions have come to stake their claim on the box even if it means war. Unwittingly waiting for the tragedy to unfold is Banagher Links, a normal boy with an abnormal destiny.

The Highlights
Visuals: Glorious animation with some of the best mech fight scenes ever created.
Music: Impacting with some tracks bordering on unforgettable.
Story: All the core ideas of Gundam condensed into one neat package.

Mobile Suit Gundam UC is the most fully realized Gundam series ever created. This OVA hits the core ideas of the main franchise with a clever story and self-aware characters and is executed with exacting finesse. Each hour long episode feels like a proper movie tuned with just the right amount of action, character development, and drama. While Gundam UC is nowhere near as groundbreaking as the original television shows, it is the best overall version of the Gundam storyline that will enthrall both old fans and newcomers alike.

One of the elements that have always plagued the original Tomino Gundam shows is poor execution. The ideas in Gundam shows have always been rather daring and grandiose, but they are presented in a manner that doesn’t allow them live up to the true heights of the concepts. Gundam UC is the first Tomino-esque series that matches all the interesting ideas with a high level of directorial mastery. This kind of quality is likely a product of the OVA series taking over 4 years to complete, which has allowed the creators to actually think through each plot point scene by scene, giving them time to carefully weave the best narrative possible.

Given that the production has about a quarter of the time of a typical 50 episode Gundam series, the plot events are condensed down to the short but emotionally satisfying journey of the protagonist, Banagher Links, in a minor conflict that has the potential to spark a world war. Like his predecessors, Banagher meets a wide array of people each with their own visions of what the world should be. The show gives an interesting cast of characters to genuinely clash against Banagher’s idealistic and sometimes childish views and offer him compelling alternate perspectives.

Along with the refined presentation, the insanely long development time have also yielded some of the best mecha fight scenes ever animated. While it’s a shame that the series opts for a hybrid of CGI and hand-drawn animation, the sheer amount of awe the hand-drawn portions evoke make up for whatever visual dissonance is created in spades. In addition, the original soundtrack is one of the most memorable in the franchise. The music captures the full weight of the tragedies and triumphs adding gravitas to an already emotionally heavy load.

What can be seen as the biggest flaw of the anime is that despite its rather high-minded ideals, it is ultimately a young male power fantasy series about giant robots fighting so expect there to be a fair share of wish fulfillment. Though Newtype magic has always been a major element of the Gundam lore, it is jarring to how hilariously overpowered the primary Gundam can be, especially in the final episode. Newcomers to the franchise will likely see some of the final events to be nothing short of deus ex machina, and they would be kind of right except the franchise has a precedent of Newtypes suddenly turning their latent psychic abilities into actual kinetic attacks.

If there is any one Gundam series that everyone should watch, it is this one. It concisely encapsulates the core ideas of the franchise in a beautifully realized package that has all the trappings of a great film. Director Furuhashi Kazuhiro has created one of the best products in the entire medium with Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal (1,2), and with Gundam UC, he has created yet another.

The Rating: 9
9/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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