Mobile Suit Gundam: Unicorn – OVAs I and II Review

Gundam UC P1

Three years after the events of Char’s Counterattack we have the Gundam Unicorn series, which despite sounding a bit crap, is actually really good! This comes from the kind of budget and attention that’s afforded OVAs rather than a stricter TV schedule, but it’s also a credit to the rather out-there plot created in the original novels the series is based on. So let’s dive right in and continue forward along the Universal Century timeline…

Synopsis:

A Neo-Zeon remnant group called the “Sleeves” travel to Side 4’s Industrial 7 colony, so that its captain, Zinnerman, can receive a “key” to something known as “Laplace’s Box” from Vist Foundation leader Cardeas Vist. The item is said to be capable of either restoring the future or destroying the world. A young lady going by the name “Audrey Burne” seeks to meet Vist first and convince him not to turn over Laplace’s Box, believing the Sleeves will use it to start another war. Meanwhile 16-year-old student Banagher Links is sitting through another UC history lesson on the very same colony…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Gundam UC P1 3

It certainly didn’t take Full Frontal long to take his mask off, which is a refreshing change, really…

Banagher Links (Koki Uchiyama / Steve Cannon) – Banagher is just a regular school student… who happens to be a member of the famous Vist family, not that’s he’s aware of it. Sadly for him, destiny will soon make him more than aware…

Audrey Burne / Mineva Zabi (Ayumi Fujimura / Stephanie Sheh) – Mineva Zabi is the daughter of Dozle Zabi and the last member of the infamous family. She is trying to escape the Zeon loyalists that have been taking care of her since the One Year War in order to try and stop a new war from happening…

Full Frontal (Shuichi Ikeda / Keith Silverstein) – Known as the “Second Coming of Char”, Full Frontal is an extremely gifted mobile suit pilot who leads the Zeon group known as the Sleeves. He is only interested in fulfilling his role as leader and to bring about change using Laplace’s Box…

Marida Cruz (Yuko Kaida / Tara Platt) – Marida is one of the many clones of Elpeo Ple that fought alongside Glemy Toto during the first Neo Zeon war, but unlike practically all of the others, she survived. She now blindly follows Zinnerman without question…

Riddhe Marcenas (Daisuke Namikawa / Yuri Lowenthal) – Riddhe is a member of Londo Bell and is out to try and become a famous pilot and avoid falling into his family’s history as politicians.

Suberoa Zinnerman (Hideaki Tezuka / Michael Alston Bailey) – Zinnerman is a proud member of Neo Zeon after he lost his family to an Earth Federation raid. He has come to see Marida as a daughter, which is why is annoys him whenever she calls him “Master” and blindly follows his orders.

Angelo Sauper (Tetsuya Kakihara / Michael Sinterniklaas) – Angelo is a top pilot in the Sleeves who has come to idolize Full Frontal and his peerless ability in combat.

Plus more!

The Good:

Gundam UC P1 1

Hello major production values!

The first thing I think of when I think of Unicorn is the look, mobile suit designs and soundtrack, all of which is are top quality. Love the unique look of the Unicorn Gundam and Full Frontal’s Sazabi-a-like the Sinanju especially. The booming, orchestral soundtrack is amazing too, with the main theme including a choir that will be stuck in your head for a long time afterwards.

The first OVA starts off with the ceremony declaring the end of AD and the start of UC, a ceremony that was disrupted by a terrorist attack. It’s an interesting scene, and something not made a big deal of in earlier series (the shows were just set in 79 UC, 83 UC, etc. without really going into details about the start of the new year-marker…) It also sets into motion the mystery surrounding “Laplace’s Box”, the mythical MacGuffin that incites this whole story.

They do some interesting things with some left-overs from the other UC shows. We have Mineva Zabi, who we saw as a baby in the original series and as a child “leader” being strung along by Haman in Zeta and ZZ, is here as a grown woman trying to stop another war between those who still follow the twisted ideals of her Grandfather and Uncle, and the Earth Federation. We also get to see a left-over Ple clone, who has lived long enough to carve a new identity for herself, but it still blindly loyal to a Neo Zeon faction. The Psycho-Frame touched on in Char’s Counterattack is also key, being woven into the Unicron Gundam itself, giving it a unique glow when it enters its special mode.

Along with all the improved visuals and sounds is a great set of animation as well. The mobile suit battles have that lovely fluid part-CG animation that really works in this case, especially when Full Frontal is taking out an entire battleship by himself.

Speaking of Full Frontal, he is every bit as devious and clever as Char (just with a name that sounds like he likes to get nudey…), but in terms of these first two parts, is still very much a one-dimensional “charismatic leader” type, albeit one who happens to be blonde-haired and wearing a mask while piloting a faster-than-normal red mobile suit. He does become more interesting later on, but I still enjoyed his conversation with Banagher about how he is what the people need him to be, and his general outlook on war.

I also like how, given the sheer size of Zeon during the original series, that these splinter groups keep popping up, trying desperately to continue the legacy of the Nazi-like group. The fact this is unofficially the Third Neo-Zeon War, after ZZ and Char’s Counterattack, shows how hard it is to stomp out an ideal that spread among so many.

The Bad:

Gundam UC P1 4

Now there’s a complex relationship…

While he’s perfectly fine as a lead in a Gundam story, I will say that Banagher Links is on the dull side. Another late-teen who hates war and doesn’t understand why grown ups do it becomes the pilot of a top Gundam-type mobile suit. Much like Amuro it was his father’s creation, though less hands-on in this case. It turns out Banagher’s father was the head of the Earth’s Vist Foundation, a group that holds “Laplace’s Box” and kept it from both sides of the various wars over the decades. As his father died from his gun wounds after a battle between the Sleeves and Londo Bell broke out, he makes it so the Unicorn will only operate for Banagher, which at least takes care of the “why would the military keep using a near-child on the battlefield” problem if nothing else. He also falls for Mineva, or Audrey as she gives as a fake name, which starts with a daring rescue scene in the middle of the first OVA.

I do like their relationship, but overall he just doesn’t bring anything new, which after watching several UC shows in a row now, becomes more obvious. Riddhe is quite dull in his appearances here as well, just the son of a politician who wants to break free of his family’s history, but I know that he becomes far more interesting as the series progresses…

Overall Thoughts:

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So cool…. I want one!

Gundam Unicron gets off to a great start, with amazing production values, soundtrack and battle scenes. It has a great cast of characters for the most part as well, with only lead protagonist Banagher being a Gundam protagonist stereotype slightly hurting it. It’s early days and the plot gets a bit more wacky as it goes along, but as a beginning, it’s a fun ride and sets up the anticipation brilliantly.

4 Star Watch

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