I uncharacteristically spent a little extra money on importing the latest entry into the Universal Century Gundam timeline, Narrative having English subtitles and a dub on the Japanese blu-ray disc. Why not, right? So what’s it like? It’s a bit short of time for character development beyond the lead trio, but I did really enjoy it, and it filled in a plothole that Unicorn created very neatly, so now we can move on to Hathaway’s Flash without wondering why everyone isn’t using crazy Psycho-Frame Gundams… Let’s have a look!
In U.C.0096, the conflict dubbed the “Laplace Incident” ended with the dissolution of the Neo Zeon remnant group “Sleeves”. Both the Unicorn Gundam and the Banshee were sealed away, never to be seen again. With the original draft of the Universal Century Charter revealed, the existence of Newtypes and their promised rights have become known to the public. One year later, in U.C.0097, the world is still largely unchanged. Having thought to be lost two years ago, the Unicorn Gundam 03 Phenex suddenly reappears. In an effort to capture the rogue Mobile Suit, the Federation and Neo-Zeon decided to collaborate in a capture operation, known as “Phoenix Hunt”.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Our lead character … in a Normal Suit, rather than his special one for the Narrative Gundam, because… screenshot quality reasons.
Jona Basta (Junya Enoki / Griffin Puatu) – One of the fabled “Miracle Children”, he was actually just shown the vision by his friend Rita. Nonetheless he, Michele and Rita have been through a lot of testing in their young lives, with Jona managing to make it out alive and with a job as a pilot of the prototype Narrative Gundam…
Michele Luio (Tomo Muranaka / Erika Ishii) – Michele betrayed her childhood friends Jona and Rita and joined Luio and co. to save her life, a fact she is constantly trying to right, in her own way, every day…
Rita Bernal (Ayu Matsuura / Brianna Knickerbocker) – Rita is the fabled “Miracle Child” who foresaw the colony drop during the One Year War within enough time to warn an entire town and save their lives. She was eventually used as a test pilot for the Psycho-Frame laden Phenex, a machine her soul would eventually merge with…
Zoltan Akkanen (Yuichiro Umehara / Stefan Martello) – Zoltan is quite, quite insane, whether that’s because he was driven to that state while he underwent trials to become Full Frontal and failed, or whether he failed those trials because he was insane is not known. Either way, he is still a skilled pilot, so Zeon keep him around… The idiots.
Iago Haakana (Kazuya Nakai / Chris Tergliafera) – Iago is a talented pilot in the Earth Federation who is annoyed and equally interested when Jona and his Narrative Gundam are brought on board to help with the “Phoenix Hunt”.
Brick Teclato (Makoto Furukawa / Daniel J. Edwards) – Brick works for Luio and Co. and has become close to Michele, despite all her flaws and often harsh attitude.
Looks cool and everything, but why “Phenex” instead of “Phoenix”?
The key plot focuses on three children, one of whom foresaw the colony drop codenamed “Operation British”, a fact that would lead all three children to be tested for what would come to be known as Newtype powers. This film really pushes that concept right out there, especially the Psycho-Frame technology that was first introduced during Char’s Counterattack and then doubled up on by Unicorn Gundam. In fact it’s revealed that at the end of Unicorn OVA 7, where it seemed like the Unicorn Gundam stopped all the machines and Mobile Suits in the area with a wave of its hand, it actually reversed time around the engines of the machines, reducing them to their component parts. That’s pretty far out there for a series that’s mostly sci-fi rather than fantasy. The Phenex, the third suit along with the Unicorn and Banshee seen in the OVAs, is similarly crazy, with it apparently reaching near the speed of light and generally absorbing Rita, the girl who foresaw the colony drop, into the Psycho-Frame itself, becoming some weird… sentient machine… thing.
This all leads to the reveal that all major companies in Universal Century have stopped using Psycho-Frame technology, deeming it far too dangerous and beyond our understanding, the Unicorn and Banshee being sealed away in places unknown, and the remerging Phenex (that had previously vanished mid-test) is seen as the last of its kind and something that must be stopped… apart from the people at Luio and Co., who wish to use the potential time reversing technology to undo some of humanities past mistakes, especially the colony drop. Yes, Michele Luio is also one of the three “Miracle Children” who lost their family and lives in the drop Rita foresaw. The last of the three children, Jona, is our lead protagonist and pilot of the new Narrative Gundam, which despite all warnings has Psycho-Frame technology, though without any kind of NT-D or Destroy mode like the Unicorn, Banshee and Phenex. He’s fine as a lead, his love for Rita driving him to find and stop the Phenex, not knowing that Rita had become one with the machine.
The relationship between Jona, Michele and Rita is interesting, Michele took the easy way out and saved her skin, Rita was experimented on much to Jona’s horror, then they all ended up meeting in the crazy scenario which ends with Michele “atoning” for her sin in death and joining Rita is the weird force-like world of the Newtype afterlife to cheer on Jona as he not only defeats our lead antagonist but regains the will to live on after his friend’s death.
In general it’s a unique story, the whole “hunting a rogue sentient mobile suit” thing hasn’t ever really been done, that’s for sure, and there were very few returning cast members too, giving a fresh feeling as well (Banagher and Zinnerman make a small appearance at the end, and Mineva has a slightly bigger role as the leader of a new Zeon that’s conforming to the rules) The animation is top notch and the soundtrack is great, with a few nods to the admittedly superior Unicorn tracks. By the end its clear that Banagher and co. are dead-set on removing Psycho-Frame technology from the face of the Earth (and the Colonies), which as I alluded to in the opening paragraph, now makes later UC-set series, where the Gundams and other suits are entirely Psycho-Frame-less, make sense. Man played with something it doesn’t understand, so decided to close pandora’s box and forget about it. I buy it.
Yeah, I’d trust him with a powerful and destructive weapon, why not?
The only real bad is, ironically, the Bad. By which I mean the lead villain of the piece. Zoltan is just crazy, we’re never really given any reason as to why he’s crazy (other than he was a candidate to be Full Frontal, so he was possibly driven insane when he “auditioned”?) and in the end he just used a slightly different Sinanju suit and then joined up with pretty much the same Neo Zeong Mobile Armour Frontal did in the last Unicorn OVA. He just spouts insanity, tries to wipe out a good chunk of humanity, and then gets destroyed by our lead protagonist Jeno in the Phenex. That’s it. The whole focus is on our lead trio, which is fine. It’s a different type of story-telling and the film is only an hour and a half, so there’s only so much time. Still stuck out though.
Oh actually I’ll say that the design for the Narrative Gundam isn’t particularly interesting. It looks like a regular Gundam, just with different armaments put on it from time to time (for Gunpla sales, no doubt!) If you compare it to the Gundams seen in Hathaway’s Flash being adapted next, then it sticks out as rather safe and dull.
The titular Narrative Gundam, coming to 1001 video games near you soon!
Overall Gundam Narrative is a fun film, it solves a riddle that has been bothering fans since Unicorn became a thing inserted in between Char’s Counterattack and F91 (well, I guess Hathaway’s Flash now… can you tell I’m really excited about that?) and it has great animation, music and some interesting plot-threads between a lead trio of characters. Time constraints left our lead villain lacking, which also meant the final battle was lacking, but in the end I definitely had a fun time.