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"Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn" Shows the Best of the Series in Episodic Adventure
Directed by: Kazuhiro Furuhashi Studio: Sunrise Rating: PG-13 Number of Episodes: 7
"A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." -Shigeru Miayamoto
In many cases a delayed development allows for creators to concentrate their work, coming up with a compressed product that otherwise would not be as complex. "Mobile Suite Gundam: Unicorn" does indeed benefit from this factor, thought the lines where one story begins and ends are painfully clear.
It has been said that "Gundam Unicorn" showcases the best of Gundam, and indeed that may be true, however it is not a perfect product (if any exists!). That being said, it's still well worth the price of admission, however substantial that may be.
Following the story of Benagher Links (dub: Steve Staley, sub: Kōki Uchiyama), this series's "hero boy," "Gundam Unicorn" takes place in a future where a new strain of humanity has evolved. Dubbed Newtypes, they have developed in space and have been largely shut out of government, leading to a long and bloody war between the colonies (Zeon) and Earth (the Federation). Benagher and friends get caught in the crossfire as the Federation attacks their home of Industrial 7 in hopes of disposing of a mysterious item known as Laplace's Box.
Thankfully, Benagher is saved by the Unicorn Gundam, a machine powered by human consciousness, or "pyschowaves" as the series likes to call it, and is well, invincible, Without further ado, he saves Industrial 7 and embarks on a journey to not only end the war, but uncover the secret of Laplace's Box.
Each episode feels like its own movie, though when watching it linearly, it feels more like an episodic adventure, which video games are so fond of. What we are left with are seven stories that work best when viewed as self-contained entities, but still manage to paint an overall picture of coherence when viewed side-by-side.
There's a lot to be said about the art style and attention to detail, presenting Gundam's signatures 80s-esque sci-fi models in crisp HD. Many other critics have praised its hand drawn animations while slamming the obligatory CG parts, though they do not detract from the quality of the show whatsoever. While overall, the animation is superbly executed, visuals don't necessarily make a film. It highly supplements the tale, yes, but it by far does not make or break the experience.
This is also one of the few Gundams where you can take the political idealism seriously, but as a result, Unicorn lacks some of the goofy charm some of the other series have. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just differentiates Unicorn from the likes of "Mobile Suite Gundam: 00" and "G Gundam."
To be honest compared to the likes of Lockon Stratos of "Mobile Suit Gundam: 00" fame, or even Domon Kasshu of "G Gundam," many of Unicorn's characters just seem bland. Take Princess Mineva (dub: Stephanie Sheh, sub: Ayumi Fujimura) for instance, Benagher's main partner in crime and princess of Neo Zeon. She is essentially a carbon copy of Agnès Oblige from "Bravely Default," a character severely bound to duty and sounds serious 24/7, even when she's talking about mundane things such as water. Everybody watching this anime knows things are bad, but that doesn't stop other shows with far more harsher themes from lighting up every now and again.
One great missed opportunity this show could've capitalized off was the character of Angelou (dub: Michael Sinterniklaas , sub: Tetsuya Kakihara), a Zeon pilot who admires Full Frontal (dub: Keith Silverstein, sub: Suichi Ikeda), leader of the Zeon forces. Angelou is arguably insane, and if Sunrise series have taught us anything, it's that insane characters can be great fun. I can see their concern for not wanting to make him over-the-top, but I feel as if their caution ruined what could've been a great character. Instead, Angelou is relegated to the equivalent of a mini boss; an obstacle for the heroes to overcome before getting to Full Frontal.
Still, there's that one big, important question: does it work?
I'd say yes, but not as flawlessly as one would think.
Perhaps the wonder of this series is the fact that after so much time, a Gundam series has actually worked in the way the creator's intended. Finally the audience is somewhat invested in the idealism constantly being spouted by the characters, and are not there for the battles alone, though they are some of the best the series can offer.
30 years of refining the Gundam formula has made this perhaps the most complete, if not over-the-top and goofy, Gundam experiences to date. It's such a shame that Sunrise developed this alongside "Mobile Suite Gundam: AGE," one of the most disappointing installments in the franchise. This is a fantastic starting point for new fans.