Mobile Suit Gundam – The 08th MS Team Review

Gundam 08th MS Team

Our journey through the spin-offs set during the One Year War continue with this 12 episode OVA series. Ignoring my constant annoyance that it’s called “08th” which always made me read it as “Oh-Eighth” rather than just “Eighth” (entirely me being stupid, don’t worry about it), it’s actually a good story, very much Romeo and Juliet, just with a bit of a different setting, to say the least! Let’s take a look…

Synopsis:

In the jungles of Southeast Asia The Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon are fighting a brutal guerrilla war for control of the area and its resources. Zeon’s best hope for victory in the region rests with an experimental mobile armor and its pilot, Aina Sahalin. Meanwhile the Earth Federation Army receive reinforcements in the form of Ensign Shiro Amada, newly named commander of the 08th MS Team…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Gundam 08th MS Team 2

There they are! … just about… in the distance.

Ensign Shiro Amada (Nobuyuki Hiyama / Steve Cannon) – Shiro has never been to Earth, and he’s excited to finally see it with his own eyes, even if he’s seeing it because he has to continue the fight in the One Year War…

Aina Sahalin (Kikuko Inoue / Emilie Brown) – Aina wants nothing more than to make her brother happy, even if that means taking control of the possibly unstable Apsalus mobile armour…

MCPO Karen Joshua (Mami Koyama / Debra Jean Rogers) – Karen is second-in-command of the 08th MS Team, and doesn’t like the idea of a new commander, especially one who seems so young…

CPO Terry Sanders Jr. (Tessho Genda / Steve Kramer) – Terry has been the sole survivor of his last few teams, his fellow men dying each time on the third mission. Now nicknamed the “Grim Reaper”, Terry has been assigned to the 08th MS Team, hoping he can break the curse…

Cpl. Michel Ninorich (Hiro Yuuki / Tony Ricci) – Michel is fighting the good fight for the Earth Federation, but his mind is often occupied by his love back home, BB. He hopes she waits for him after the war ends… If he lives that long.

PO3 Eledore Massis (Keiji Fujiwara / Eddie Frierson) – Eledore is the longest-serving member of the 08th MS team, and controls their support tank. He also records music, hoping for fame, money, and a ticket off of the front lines…

Kiki Rosita (Chinami Nishimura / Michelle Ruff) – Nikki is the daughter of a guerilla resistance group’s leader, and as such is very well trained in many forms of attack, and very weary of strangers…

Rear Admiral Ginias Sahalin (Sho Hayami / Lex Lang) – Ginias is becoming dangerously obsessed with his Apsalus Project, so much so that he’s starting to lose sight of even the wellbeing of his sister…

Col. Norris Packard (Osamu Ichikawa / Michael McConnohie) – Norris is a Zeon ace pilot who is transferred to the Sahalin family during the Apsalus Project’s later stages. He forms a close bond with Aina, to the point where she soon sees him as a father figure…

Plus more!

The Good:

Gundam 08th MS Team 1

That’s some bright and clear animation right there!

The core storyline is the old “star crossed lovers” of people on opposing sides falling for each other, in this case Earth Federation pilot Shiro Amada and Zeon pilot Aina Sahalin. Episode 1 sees them meet during a space battle, both getting their respective mobile suits destroyed and taking refuge on an old spaceship wreck, eventually learning to trust each other in order to survive. Aina spares Shiro from being shot while drifting in space waiting to be picked up, and she accidentally leaves her favourite watch with her “enemy”, which leads to the next few episodes of them being apart, but the watch around Shiro’s neck being a reminder of their future meaning to each other.

A few episodes in then and Aina is now the pilot of a prototype mobile armour called the Apsalus, a mobile armour that soon appears near Shiro and his 08th MS Team. At first they don’t know it’s the other, but soon they communicate over the radio coincidentally as Shiro tries to take the large beast down singlehandedly, causing them both to plummet into the nearby mountain. This leads to a repeat of trying to survive with each other, and by the end they declare their love, though Aina goes back to Zeon when Shiro gets angry at the war raging in the skies above them. Two or three episodes later and the two reunite once more, destroy the Apsalus once and for all, and live happily ever after, both quitting their respective armies.

It’s fine, it’s the happy ending you were hoping for but not expecting given UC Gundam’s track record (though it has to be pointed out that Shiro did lose a limb in the final conflict…) and the big showdown with the both of them controlling half of the controls of the Gundam each to takedown the moments-away-from-firing mobile armour was great. Aina’s brother Ginias was a good villain in the end, at first he was the genius who was being underappreciated and flat-out bullied by the more military-minded, but by the end he had become frankly insane, consumed by his project being a success, killing all the other scientists involved in making it for seemingly no reason and generally not being right in the head. His cockpit is crushed in the final moments of the Apsalus’ life, and just before it happens his eyes go wide and a big, maniacal smile goes across his face. Great end, to a weirdly interesting villain.

Most of the cast are pretty plain, each having just one character quirk or personality type and never actually straying from it (see below), but at least Terry got to overcome his fear of seeing his teammates die on their third mission all the time… before reverting to just “standard soldier who respects his commander” anyway.

There were some good stand alone stories here and there, especially surrounding a guerrilla team in a village, it went along well with the Vietnam war feel they were clearly going with. Episode 12 was actually more of a stand-alone epilogue, with Kiki (Guerrilla fighter who had a thing for Shiro) and Michel searching for the presumed dead Shiro, only to encounter a group of Zeon child war orphans. It was actually a perfectly nice story, and did indeed end with them finding Shiro and Aina now living in a cabin in the woods.

The animation is clear and really fluid, the designs are nice and 90s in style as well. The blu-ray was a treat.

The Bad:

Gundam 08th MS Team 3

I couldn’t find a clear picture of the Apsalus, so this picture of Norris’ Gouf Custom will have to do…

I think my main problem is how young Shiro Amada looks. He’s supposed to be this top pilot who is put in charge of a team of mostly people who look older than him, and they all (pretty much) accept it. He doesn’t look like someone with the skills and experience to get that kind of reaction, but instead of it being part of the storyline, it’s just a thing and it was a little distracting at times…

As I said the majority of the cast is really plain and never go through much development, though to be fair, they’re enjoyable and bounce off each other well, but across twelve episodes you’d think there’d be a bit more development. Hell, Eledore got his song onto the radio and got injured in combat during a late night celebration, but he came back a few episodes later and was his usual comedy goof self…

It has to be said that barring the first episode, the series takes a while to get going. It clearly just wants to tell a story about Shiro and Aina, but given its length there are some really dull stand-alone war stories (but with mobile suits!) in the first half of the show that while they weren’t crap or anything, they weren’t exactly edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Overall Thoughts:

Gundam 08th MS Team 4

Awww…. a little blurry, but still: Awww….

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team is a good OVA series, with a likable, albeit never evolving cast and great animation. The love story at the centre of it plays out really well, but a lot of the rest of the series feels a lot like filler because of it. Overall though, I was keenly invested in the story by the final few episodes…

4 Star Watch

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