Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket Review

Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket

Before I move on to alternate era Gundam shows, I really wanted to finish the UC timeline first (still-being-released stuff aside, obviously!) so I’ve finally brought a multi-region Blu-Ray player and ordered a bunch of UC OVAs, films and Victory Gundam from the US (my poor wallet…). The one I didn’t order is this one, 0080: War in the Pocket, as it isn’t released on Blu-Ray in the States yet! So I thought I’d pop on my old DVD of it and kick off the UC review finale. War in the Pocket is a surprisingly fun and quite emotional mini-series to kick off non-Tomino-written UC Gundam shows. Let’s take a closer look…

Synopsis:

In Universal Century 0079, Zeon intelligence has identified a prototype Federation Gundam under development in a Federation base in the Arctic. Elite Zeon MS commandos are dispatched to destroy the prototype, but before they can accomplish their mission the Gundam is launched into space. When the Gundam turns up in a Federation R&D base inside the neutral space colony Side 6, the Principality launches a covert operation to destroy the Gundam utilizing the commando team originally dispatched to assault the Arctic base, including young rookie Bernard “Bernie” Wiseman.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket 1

Bernie shows Al what its like to be in space… irresponsible git.

Bernie Wiseman (Koji Tsujitani / David Hayter) – Bernie is a rookie Zeon pilot who is unluckily shot down in his first actual mission. That being said, a chance encounter with a young boy might change his career for the better… or worse…

Alfred Izuruha (Daisuke Namikawa / Brianne Brozey) – Alfred and his friends are really into military memorabilia, and think war in general is “cool”. Sadly for Alfred, he’s about to find the truth out at a rather young age…

Christina Mackenzie (Megumi Hayashibara / Wendee Lee) – Christina is a young pilot for the Earth Federation, having just been reassigned to a base in her home colony. Getting to reconnect with family and friends has been a helpful perk, even if her job is starting to become far more dangerous than she’d originally thought…

Steiner Hardy (Yosuke Akimoto / Barry Stigler) – Steiner is the leader of the Zeon mobile suit group known as “Cyclops Team”. He and his dedicated men track down a new prototype Federation suit in the Arctic, but when the mission goes south, Hardy is backed into a wall…

Plus more!

The Good:

Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket 2

…. Ah well.

War in the Pocket tells a very simple tale: War isn’t a fun game. Through the eyes of child Alfred, who starts off playing war and collecting badges because its “cool”, the grim reality of it all sets in, and it’s very well told. Al meets Bernie Wiseman, a Zeon pilot who is shot down during his first mission, but thanks to Al recording some footage on his camera, Bernie saves his skin somewhat by giving Zeon definite information about a Federation Base in the officially neutral Colony Side 6. Around the same time Al’s old neighbour and friend Christina moves back in and now works for the Federation forces…

Al’s friendship with Bernie continues and eventually includes “joining” Bernie’s mobile suit team and Bernie and Christina falling for each other, but when a mission goes south (partially thanks to Christina in the cockpit of the new Gundam prototype) Bernie hears that a rogue Zeon force is going to nuke Side 6 in retaliation, unless the new Gundam is destroyed. Even though he has no hope in his hastily repaired Zaku, Bernie tries to defeat the Gundam thanks to the friendships he’d made in Side 6, but as he begins his assault on the Gundam Al finds out that the rogue ships with the nukes had been stopped by Federation forces outside the colony, and therefore there was no need for the fight. Al arrives just in time to see Bernie get killed by the “Gundam Alex”, and to make matters worse he sees the injured Christina get taken out of the Gundam’s cockpit…

Soon Christina is relocated somewhere else, and tells Al to pass on her love to Bernie, and likewise the show ends with Al playing a recorded message from Bernie which ends with “Give Chris my love”… neither ever knowing what happened. As Al’s friends talk about how it’s a shame the war has ended but that hopefully the next one will be “even greater”, Al starts to cry… It’s very well done, and very effective. Both Bernie and Christina are extremely likable people as well, which makes the tragedy far more effective.

There are also some good mobile suit fights from Cyclops Team, lead by the stern Steiner Hardy. They fail to capture the Gundam Alex when it takes off from the Federation’s Arctic Base, but are given a chance to redeem themselves thanks to Bernie’s intel, though with super-rookie Bernie being added to their team to replace someone they lost, it becomes clear to Hardy that the mission is a suicide one, and that the Zeon higher-ups aren’t expecting them to actually pull the mission off. The team is made up of Hardy, Bernie and two cultural stereotypes (especially if you watch the English dub!) and despite them only lasting five of the six episodes, you do feel somewhat attached to them…

The animation is top notch, especially seeing detail in both damage to mobile suits, and bloody damage to actual people. That’s it really, at just about three hours long it tells a tragic story of Bernie Wiseman through the eyes of a naive child. Very much a “pocket” story in the grand scheme of the One Year War, but an effective one.

The Bad:

Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket 3

One of the few unique suits in the OVA.

There are a couple of scenes with the rogue Zeon higher-ups that plan to launch the nukes at Side 6 despite the treaty in place to stop such things, and I really felt these were unnecessary. It should have just been hearsay and verbal news getting to Bernie if this were really meant to be a pocket story. To make matters worse they’re the most straight up evil villains you could imagine, which in a story that paints the whole “no side is truly good or evil” picture, it really feels out of place. I did enjoy how the plan was stopped off-screen though, that is how the whole thing should have been…

Oh and I have to mention the opening scenes, which does a good job of show Cyclops Team assaulting the Arctic base and team member Andy dying, all completely ruined by Steiner Hardy holding Andy’s corpse in his arms and then screaming “nooooo!” up towards the sky as the camera pans away… Yikes, couldn’t get any more cheesy if you tried!

Overall Thoughts:

Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket 4

An uncharacteristically stern looking Christina, that way all three of the main cast have appeared in the review!

Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is a great little tragic story about two soldiers and an innocent boy. It’s short, but tells the story extremely well, and as the first proper spin-off, it deserves a lot of praise for getting the tone right straight away as well. Recommended!

4 Star Watch

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