The last of the “classic” Universal Century OVAs, Stardust Memory takes place in between the original series and Zeta Gundam, doing an unnecessarily long and twisty version of events that led to the formation of the Titans group so prominently featured in the latter series. It also features a very interesting villain and a fun, if not always likeable, protagonist to face off against him. Let’s take a good look at this 13-Episode series…
During the Battle of A Bao A Qu in December U.C. 0079, Zeon ace pilot Anavel Gato returns from combat to find Admiral Aiguille Delaz telling him of the deaths of Gihren and Kycilia Zabi, as the Zeon forces surrender. Despite the shock defeat, both men retreat and plan the return of Zeon.
In October U.C. 0083, the Federation space carrier Albion delivers two Gundam Development Project prototypes, the RX-78 GP01 Zephyranthes and the GP02A Physalis, to the Torrington Base in Australia for ground testing under the aegis of Anaheim Electronics engineer Nina Purpleton. Because of lax security, a Zeon mole helps Gato infiltrate the base and hijack the GP02 just after its nuclear weapon is fully loaded…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Gato’s Gundam Physalis, one of the chunkier Gundams in the show’s history. Looks damn cool though!
While there are some niggling plot issues with Stardust Memory, I always enjoy it mostly for the lead antagonist, Anavel Gato, and his interaction with lead protagonist Kou Uraki. Kou is an experienced pilot and a big of a tech freak, so when Gato steals one of the prototype Gundams from Kou’s base, he jumps in the other Gundam to give chase. During their brief confrontation Gato gets rather annoyed that some kid who hasn’t experienced proper war would dare give him a lecture on whether what he’s doing is right or not, and that’s what I like: Gato isn’t an moustache-twirling villain, he has his own principles and is entirely dedicated to his cause. Yes, his dedication to freeing his people from Federation rule includes dropping colonies and asteroids onto Earth to wipe out a good portion of the population, he’s no saint, but he looks after and genuinely cares about his fellow men and understands what he’s doing is monstrous, but he’s happy to take on the burden so future generations can have a better time of it than he’s had.
So when Kou starts giving speeches about how wrong he is, Gato gets genuinely angry about being lectured by someone who hasn’t been through the wars and death he has. It’s not that he wants to kill the soldiers opposing him, especially the younger ones, but Kou’s stereotypical good and evil viewpoint drives him up the wall. The times when the two prototype Gundam clash are often exciting highlights of the series, both visually and watching their rivalry grow and grow.
On that note, Kou is a different kind of Gundam protagonist, not a boy who ended up a Gundam pilot by accident, but an already experience pilot who… jumped into a Gundam and became its pilot against the Federation’s wishes… so, not too different, backstory wise, but its fresher. He can still be immature and whiny sometimes, but hey-ho, he has far more annoying characters around him that alleviate this problem!
Kou and Nina, our main protagonist and his love interest, during the few happy times…
Towards the middle we’re introduced to a female Zeon member called Cima Garahau, and she seemingly exists to be an evil villain type to off-set Gato’s more respectable soldier character. She can get annoying, but it lead to a great scene towards the end where she reveals her role as a traitor and kills Gato’s commander (who has been with him since the OYW), leading to Gato plunging his suit’s claw into the deck of the ship, killing her. All three people in that scene are the bad guys, but it was more compelling than a lot of the scenes with the protagonists…
There are some other standout scenes, not just the two Gundam clashing, but desperate races-against-time to stop a colony drop, Gato actually succeeding in nuking a large chunk of the Federation army, or Kou and his best friend Keith’s mentor and father figure South Burning’s death, which was a simple malfunction in his suit leading to a deadly explosion after a minor scuffle. That was so out of the blue the first time I watched it and is still effectively realistic (well… as realistic as people piloting giant robots can get…) in that it wasn’t an all-guns-blazing death or heroic sacrifice, it was a simple mechanical fault, but in the void of space.
Keith, for the record, is fine as a best friend character, a fellow pilot who isn’t as capable as Kou, but always with him. The rather large (as in tall and muscular, rather than overweight) female mechanic Mora Bascht is also a pleasant character to follow, I was happy to see the two hook up. Oh and I have to mention the first opening, which featuring a cheese-tastic 80s sax piece in the opening seconds. Catchy as hell.
Oh Bernard’s laughing now, just wait until I get my hands on him! … What do you mean he’s a fictional character? Oh… right. Well, he’s still a knob.
The last few episodes confuse me greatly. So Kou and Gato have their big final confrontation in Episode 10, with the end result being a draw and both suits being destroyed. Gato soon gets a new Mobile Armour called the Neue Ziel, while Kou gets to pilot a third Gundam that was waiting in the wings all along, but one with some many stupid, over-the-top armaments that it may as well also be a mobile armour. You’d think this was leading to a big rematch, but while they briefly fight, they’re soon broken up, and then Gato later suicides himself into a ship in order to get some of his men a break in the defensive line so they can escape the battlefield. After all that rivalry, neither actually get one over on the other.
Then there are the odd things just thrown out there all of a sudden. Kou’s love interest and the Gundam’s designer Nina Purpleton is revealed to have had a romantic relationship with Gato in the past out of the blue, and even stops Kou from killing him at one point, despite it leading to the deadly colony drop not being averted! Even more stupid is that Kou and Nina reunite at the end of the final episode and look all happy to see each other… huh?! Nina is often unlikeable during the show, but those final episodes really take the cake.
Speaking of unlikeable, there is a pilot onboard the Albion, the ship Kou and co travel on, called Bernard, and he is the absolute worst. Instead of being playfully womanising in a Master Roshi way where it’s played for laughs, he is just aggressive and creepy, and properly treats Kou like a piece of crap, not a bit of motivational hazing, but in a legit jealousy-driven nasty streak… and he’s on the “good” side! He gets ever-so-slightly less obnoxious as the series moves on, but not by much. His two fellow pilots are so boring and do so little I can’t remember their names, but I guess that’s better than being remembered for being awful…
The plot waving at the end is a bit crap. The Titans are formed thanks to Gato’s colony drop, but they clearly could have been formed anyway just due to the One Year War in general, so that was unnecessary. Then you wonder why the Zeta Gundam isn’t up the level of the Gundams seen here, before seeing a message flash up on screen saying “all files and notes on the Gundams were deleted and destroyed, all records of these missions were erased”, or something to that effect. I mean, that explains it I guess, but in the laziest way possible!
Lastly the Gundam Zephyranthes. I wanted a shot of the two Gundams clashing, but couldn’t find one of decent quality…
Gundam 0083 is an oddity. It has great animation, a fun central villain and some standout scenes, but it has some really unlikeable characters and its last few episodes are a complete mess. I guess somewhere in the middle then, score-wise, but I’m always happy to play as either Gato or Kou in Gundam games though, so I’m happy with Stardust Memory for that, if nothing else!