The original Gundam series moves forward with the next batch of episodes as I watch the Blu-ray release for the first time. Char leaves a notable interest-hole (which is a phrase I just invented) but the addition of Ramba Ral as antagonist is at least a decent trade off… (note that as this is based off the English territories release, the real Episode 15 that only ever existed in Japan is omitted from the review due to… well, it not existing anywhere, and it makes it easier if I stick to the English numbering.)
What would later be known as the One Year War is still raging between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, a nation based in a distant space colony. A rag-tag group of civilians and one or two trained soldiers continues to pilot the prototype Earth Federation “White Base” battleship, complete with Amuro Ray at the helm of the power new Federation mobile suit weapon Gundam, into ever more dangerous situations…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
“You? The lead character?! Hahahahaha!”
Amuro Ray (Toru Furuya / Brad Swaile) – Rather obnoxious child prodigy who is forced into killing Zeon soldiers because he’s good at it, and his friends need protecting. I can kind of see why he’s feeling the pressure, but he could still be less of a dick about it…
Char Aznable (Shuichi Ikeda / Michael Kopsa) – After being blamed for the death of Garma Zabi (which is more true than the Zabi family realise…), Char has been demoted and is no longer stationed on Earth… which means he doesn’t really appear in this batch of episodes. Ah well…
Bright Noa (Hirotaka Suzuoki / Chris Kalhoon) – One of the few actual officers on board the White Base. Despite a lack of leadership experience he is doing a great job ordering everyone around (in the right way, most of the time).
Sayla Mass (Yo Inoue / Alaina Burnett) – Secretly an heir to the Deikun family, Sayla is a member of the White Base crew and among the more level-headed members. Often relays messages from the bridge to the pilots.
Kai Shiden (Toshio Furukawa / Richard Ian Cox) – Arrogant prick who is slowly coming around to the idea of being a soldier. Slowly. He often acts cowardly, but very rarely actually acts like it in the middle of a battle.
Hayato Kobayashi (Kiyonobu Suzuki / Matt Smith) – Formerly lacking any confidence in himself, Hayato is also now slowly becoming a soldier with decent ability.
Ryu Jose (Shozo Iizuka / Ward Perry) – Friendly and lovable pilot who is often the glue that holds everyone together… Which is why, well… you know. He’s killed off.
Ramba Ral (Masashi Hirose / John Payne) – Veteran Zeon soldier who was formally on the Deikun side of the Zeon civil war roughly ten years before the series began. He is looked down on by the Zabi family due to this, but his skills as both a mobile suit pilot and as a commander are well respected enough that he still holds a high rank.
Plus many more!
“God, stop egging it on, Ryu. Get out there!”
Ramba Ral is definitely the highlight of this set of episodes. He’s the antagonist, the villain if you will, but he’s not actually a bad guy. He’s very honourable and kind towards his men, and even praises his enemies skills when they do something right. The only thing that makes him “bad” is that his current mission is to take out White Base, and as a soldier he’ll do it by any means necessary, no questions asked. Episode 19, “Hand-to-Hand Combat” is a great episode, seeing Ramba Ral, now out of mobile suits, successfully infiltrate the White Base and get into a large gunfight is a great scene, as is his meeting Sayla and remembering looking after her when she was a parentless Deikun child. His death, killing himself with a grenade in a last ditch attempt to do some damage, was befitting. A great all round character.
Ryu’s death was a good bit of drama, though you can’t help but wonder what was going through his mind getting in a plane while being already so badly injured… he must have had very little faith in the other crew he motivated for so long… Anyway, ignoring that, it was his “sacrifice” that finally stops a lot of the immature bollocks that annoys me throughout this batch, so hooray.
Episode 13, “Coming Home”, sees Amuro meet his mother, who then is shocked when his son kills some Zeon soldiers and returns to the White Base to continue the war. It was a good, albeit simple, way of showing how war has already turned this sweet naïve boy into a killer.
The Gouf suit, one of the more annoying-to-say mobile suits in the entire long history of the show.
Amuro is pretty cringey during this batch of episodes. It starts off alright, but by Episode 16 he becomes arrogant, and then overhears Bright say that he might have to replace him if he doesn’t start listening to orders (a completely fair assessment!) and so he takes the Gundam and leaves them! I mean, jeez, at least leave them the mobile suit to help protect themselves and just leave in a jeep or something. It takes a few episodes for him even get talked into coming back, and even this he moans about being put in the brig (despite Bright stating that desertion normally results in discharge or even execution!). It’s only Ryu’s death that puts everything in perspective for him, at that happens right at the end of the this batch. It’s an awkward thing to watch, because while you know he’s just a kid in an impossible situation, you also want to clip him around the ear and tell him to think about other people for a change.
After the episode that saw Garma’s lover try an attack against the White Base in retaliation, did we need an episode where Ramba Ral’s lover attacks the White Base in retaliation? We’re only 20 episodes in, it’s a bit quick to rehash ideas!
Ramba Ral, chilling out and watching the TV… before going out to shoot some people.
While not at as strong as the first batch, mostly due to Amuro being a tool and the lack of Char, it still has its moments, mostly due to Ramba Ral and his honourable persona. Ryu’s death, while it feels it could have been easily avoided by someone telling him he probably shouldn’t be jumping into a cockpit in his condition, it’s still a good moment that begins to turn the mice into men, for lack of a better term. The series continues a slower pace than you’ll probably be used to (due to its age, if nothing else) but it’s certainly worth sticking with!