Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack Review

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It’s been a little while since we returned to the Universal Century, mostly thanks to a slow down in UK Blu-Ray releases. Well, the Unicorn OVAs are now on Netflix is near-HD quality so I thought I’d do that, but before I get to them I didn’t want to skip past Char’s Counterattack, the big film that ties up all the Amuro and Char loose ends left over from the first two Gundam series. So let’s have a look at it (via my old US region DVD…), and see the big finale for the Amuro-Char relationship we’ve been watching develop since the very start…

Synopsis:

Char has returned after five years in hiding, and with him the remnants of Neo Zeon. With plans to force all of humanity to move off of Earth and into space by dropping asteroids and even the colossal Axis base itself onto the planet’s surface, only the Earth Federation Forces’ special Londo Bell unit, with Bright Noa and Amuro Ray at their head, can possibly stop him…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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Amuro and Bright, debating tactics on even footing… quite a difference from the face-slapping relationship they once had!

Amuro Ray (Toru Furuya / Brad Swaile) – Amuro is back fighting for the Earth Federation, now they’re less corrupted and Char is their main foe again. Now piloting the powerful Nu-Gundam, Amuro is destined to fight his greatest rival once again…

Char Aznable (Shuichi Ikeda / Michael Kopsa) – Char is once again fighting for the Earth and humanity, by getting humanity off of Earth’s surface by any means necessary so the human race can evolve into Newtypes and join together in harmony. Sadly this will involve a lot of death first…

Bright Noa (Hirotaka Suzuoki / Chris Kalhoon) – Bright Noa is in charge of Londo Bell and is a respected veteran of many wars now. Having to battle Char by Amuro’s side is giving him a nostalgic feeling, but not a particularly pleasant one…

Quess Paraya (Maria Kawamura / Jocelyne Loewen) – Quess is a Newtype-in-waiting, just looking for the right person to fulfil her desires and bring forth her power… not that she’s aware of that, really. Currently she’s just rebelling against her father…

Gyunei Guss (Koichi Yamadera / Kirby Morrow) – Gyunei is a Cyber-Newtype, but unlike his predecessors, his mind is more stable than they were. He is currently the wingman of Char Aznable, who Gyunei admires greatly.

Hathaway Noa (Nozomu Sasaki / Bill Switzer) – Hathaway is the son of Bright Noa, and as such dreams of being a pilot and serving in the Earth Federation like his father. Impatience and possibly even arrogance may hinder his goal, however…

Chan Agi (Mitsuki Yayoi / Nicole Leroux) – A member of Londo Bell and one of their top technicians, Chan has been working closely with Amuro Ray on his new Nu-Gundam, as well as keeping an eye on the new Psycho-Frame technology…

Nanai Miguel (Yoshiko Sakakibara / Jenn Forgie) – Nanai is the head of Neo Zeon’s Newtype labs as well as the commander of the fleet. Due to all this responsibility she has Char’s complete trust when he’s on the battlefield, and the two share a close bond.

Plus more!

The Good:

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Villains always get the coolest looking suits…

As with any of these UC Gundam shows, Char Aznable shines as a villain you love to watch. While he’s less nuanced than he was in the original show or Zeta (due to the time constraints of a film) he’s now fully embraced the role of leader, something he was always reluctant to do in the past, and has now gathered a Neo Zeon army around himself to finally force humanity off of Earth and into the stars. As I said in Zeta, it’s great that over the course of all of these shows Char’s enemy never changed, even though he was on the good side in Zeta, it’s always been against Earth one way or another, even if originally all he wanted was revenge against the Zabi family. He has endless charisma, powerful Newtype abilities and a damn cool looking mobile suit to boot, so it’s a pleasure to watch him over the course of the film.

His long-time foe Amuro is also back, and he’s now a straight-laced military leader, and a respected mobile suit pilot. He still has the most powerful Newtype abilities around (thanks to other pilots either getting mentally crippled or flying off to Jupiter) and now he also has a great looking suit, complete with the “funnels” (independently mind-controlled laser guns that fly around mobile suits) that up until now had only been associated with villain suits. While Amuro would also like to see the whole of humanity become Newtypes and properly “understand each other”, he has his head on straight enough to see causing a nuclear winter and countless deaths by dropping a whacking great asteroid on the planet isn’t the best way to go about it.

They have a few confrontations, both in mobile suits and on horseback (oddly enough) but its their final fight that’s brilliant. Axis, the old Neo Zeon base, and Zeon base before that, is on its way to Earth and Amuro and a bunch of Federation forces trying and hold it back with their mobile suits. The defeated Char tries to escape in an emergency escape pod, but Amuro catches it and presses it into the large space rock, keeping his enemy in check while trying to save everyone. In the end, after a last few shouting matches about their philosophies, there is a large, multi-coloured explosion that stops Axis and saves the Earth, and neither Amuro nor Char are ever seen again. In the next chunk of UC, Unicorn, it’s pretty much revealed that the two of them have done the Gundam version of becoming one with the Force, becoming some sort of peaceful mental energy. Either way, it’s a dramatic and great end to their long and complicated relationship.

As for the rest of the film? Well, Bright Noa is back as the calm and clever leader of the main warship, in this case the Londo Bell ship called the “Ra Cailum”. He doesn’t really do much beyond command and verbally brow-beat his son for being a bit of knob, but again given the runtime, that’s understandable. Gyunei Guss, apart from having a really stupid name, is a good second-tier antagonist, and Chan and Nanai both do good jobs of being the emotional support and clever leaders/soldiers for their respective sides.

The mobile suit design is top notch, I really think they hit the peak with not only the Nu-Gundam and Char’s Sazabi but also Gyunei and Quess’s suits, the new mobile armour the “Alpha Azieru”, and even the grunt suits all look great. The animation is nice and fluid, brightly coloured or dark when necessary, and the several large-scale space battles are a sight to see. Char and Amuro’s story had to come to an end eventually, I’m just glad they managed to pull it off with such a great final chapter.

The Bad:

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Char finally embraces the roll of leader, and gains a cool cape! Bonus!

Sadly Quess is extremely annoying, very braty and also extremely fickle as to who she somehow immediately falls in love with and then gets angry  with when they don’t respond in kind. It’s like she’s an unstable Cyber-Newtype, despite being actually naturally gifted. I did almost feel sorry for her as Char tied her around his little finger purely for his plans, but not much.

Hathaway Noa is also a knobby brat, not listening to the uncool adults despite being in the middle of a warzone. He pops out into space in a mobile suit after falling for Quess and worrying about her safety, then ends up not only getting Quess killed, but Chan as well. There are strong rumours that they’ll be adapting the novel “Hathaway’s Flash”, which takes place after Unicorn timeline-wise and has an older, bitter Hathaway, and if they do, I’d like to see them get me to care about him… (I’d also love to see them do it because the two main Gundams from that novel have always looked amazing!)

Overall Thoughts:

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Ending the Amuro-Char run of Gundam stories with a picture of a Gundam… fitting, I guess?

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack is a great film, though only if you properly care about Amuro, Char and their history. It’s the big pay-off after countless episodes of build up, and it manages to pull it off spectacularly. So spectacularly that the two annoying teenage brats that have several annoying scenes don’t even lower my enjoyment enough to take it down from a 5. In my opinion, this is when Gundam peaked, and although a few UC and quite a few alternate timeline series have come close, none have touched the Char-Amuro relationship, or its big finale.

5 Star Watch

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