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Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team DVD (Vol. 1)
Mobile suits take to the jungle in the beginning of this small side-story set during the classic war of the Federation and the Zeon.
For nearing a decade in age, the animation is simply stunning, rivaling many more recent works in terms of quality. The space setting of the first episode looks beautiful, while the "down to earth" jungle setting in the next two episodes reflects the state of affairs, with a darker, grittier appearance.
The English track sounds great, with a solid balance between the spoken dialogue, sound effects, and background music. The voice actors did a decent job thus far, and while it took time for a few of them to get comfortable, everything sounds good by the third episode. Purists will also be glad to know that the language suits the war environment, and the dub mirrors this notion suitably.
The Japanese audio caught me by surprise, as I almost immediately adjusted to the voices and was able to take in some great voice acting. While I've always considered one's spoken language to be the "better" audio track (for familiarity reasons), it'll be interesting to see which track becomes my preference come the fourth volume.
The cover sports a shot of a menacing Zaku approaching a badly-damaged Gundam. All of the essential anime DVD data is on the back, with a short description, screenshots, episode titles and the like. The cover is also reversible, with Eladore and Michel avoiding a skirmish on the alternate side and a different batch of screenshots for the back. The insert replicates the original cover and opens to one of Michel's letters to his girl, cleverly summarizing the contents of the three episodes contained in this release.
The menu mimics a news broadcast, with the options selectable in the lower right-hand corner as the opening song plays. Extras include a collection of bonus clips, which appear to be additional animation not used in the episodes, the usual textless opening and Bandai previews, and fans of the music will appreciate the full version of "10 Years After" played with the DVD credits.
Using the back cover description as a crutch once again:
"Univeral Century 0079. The One Year War has raged on for almost nine months. Now, the Federation is ready to strike back with its own mobile suits. Young Shiro Amada is en-route to Earth to take command of a ground unit of Gundams fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia. But he gets sidetracked when their shuttle passes too close to a battle. Shiro will have to do his best to lead his team to victory, but his encounter with the female pilot Aina has changed him more than he realizes."
The realism of this show is what originally caught my attention. The battles we see the 08th Team go through lack the artificial feel that most anime with giant robots have, greatly enhancing my viewing experience in comparison to similar shows. The characters are fresh and play off each other rather well, and while many have yet to be developed, the feeling is there that the viewer will eventually come to know them all. A major plus is that despite the name, this series can be viewed without any prior knowledge of the Gundam universe, though I'm sure there are some references to actions going on elsewhere for those in the know.
What may be called into question is the idea of a love interest on the opposing side of the war. This angle is far from fresh, and while it's only hinted at during episodes two and three, there's a distinct feeling that it will find its way back to the forefront before this series is done. As far as the DVD is set up, the menu takes slightly longer to navigate the "Extras" menu, as going down each item on the list results in a moment's pause as it loads the accompanying picture. Finally, the collection of bonus clips has some narration in Japanese, but there are no subtitles accessible to understand what is exactly being said.
Three episodes of a series is hardly enough to consider recommendation, but the potential is there for a great story. While I'm sure Gundam fans won't need much of a push, the average anime fan may want to find out more about the series as well as the history behind it before taking the plunge.
Grade: 6 of 10 (3 Stars)
This review was originally written back in August, but left unfinished until just recently. Message board regulars may remember a thread posted back then concerning the Reviews section of this site, and this was then to be the "next" series I planned to cover. Unfortunately, time constraints from work, which then led to school, combined with declining interest (mostly due to the writing demand of my classes), prevented me from getting any further than the first volume of this series.
As it stands, I do not currently plan to review the rest (Volumes 2-4, Miller's Report), though I do hope to get back to it sometime down the line. If someone else would like to continue where I left off, feel free to do so.
Added: November 19th 2003
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