Mobile Suit Gundam F91 Review

Gundam F91

It’s time to continue forward in the Universal Century, though we’re now so far away from Amuro and co. that it doesn’t really matter, beyond similar designs and faction names. Gundam F91 is a straight up theatrical movie by Gundam creator Tomino himself, but the problem is that it started off life as a new TV show, and therefore this comes across as a compilation movie to a series you haven’t seen… but is it still worth a watch?! Well, since you asked…

Synopsis:

In the year U.C. 0123, the military arm of Cosmo Babylonia, the Crossbone Vanguard, attacks the Earth Federation colony Frontier IV. Student mechanic Seabook Arno and his friend Cecily Fairchild are caught in the middle of the fighting as the Federation garrison is quickly overwhelmed. Their desperate attempt to escape will lead to a long and deadly journey…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

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Seabook and Cecily in their only anime appearance (which led to 1001 game appearances!)

Seabook Arno, our lead protagonist, and his love interest Cecily Fairchild (or Berah Ronah, as she’s also known) are at least an interesting pair with a more unique (to Gundam) storyline. Seabook starts off as your regular angry teen (see below!) but his love for Cecily despite her being drawn into the “evil” side is at least an interesting plot thread. Cecily is actually a member of the Ronah family, a group of aristocrats who attempt to overthrow the Earth Federation and lead it in their place because they see themselves as more worthy to do so, that it’s their right as higher born people. They use their  Cosmo Babylonia name and start conquering Earth-owned colonies using the Crossbone Vanguard, the military arm of their state, all the while planning to present Cecily as their Queen (for pure publicity purposes).

So it’s less space Nazis this time and more space British Empire, complete with the Grandfather and head of the Cosmo Babylonia Meitzer being a proper stiff-upperlip, “can’t leave the battlefield, must bravely fight to the end with honour” kind of guy. His son, and Cecily’s father, on the other hand is a straight up evil guy with a Darth Vader echo-y voice creating mask who goes by the name… erm, Iron Mask. Apparently he put the mask on in shame after his wife left him for another man, which is once again different compared to most masked Gundam antagonists. Doesn’t stop him from A. being comically cheesy, or B. the least trustworthy looking person ever.

So we get a good story of Cecily nearly accepting fate because she genuinely believes there is no other way, and then the hope she gets when Seabook, who she was sure was dead, arrives to try and save her. Eventually they join forces and destroy Iron Mask in his huge mobile armour The Rafflesia, with Cecily being ejected into space during the battle, before the two are lovingly reunited as the credits roll. It’s a good story, if quickly paced…

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The F91 Gundam, in case you can’t read…

F91 features an awful lot of really bleak imagery. During the initial attack on Seabook’s colony home we see plenty of children crying over dead parents, full families being vaporised, and bodies floating in space and knocking against our protagonists’ life-raft as a hole opens up in the space cylinder. The same goes for when automated “bugs” (A.I controlled buzzsaws) start attacking a colony towards the end of the film, Tomino certainly wanted to hammer home his whole “war isn’t fun” thing…

I also have to mention Zabine Chareux, the leader of the Crossbone Vanguard who eventually turns against them after they deploy unmanned “Bugs” to wipe out the entire population of a colony. He’s very much an upperclassman (with a cool eyepatch!) but his sense of honour at least leads him to spare Seabook and Cecily when the time came to stop Iron Mask. I also liked a lot of the mech designs, the F91 Gundam always looked quite good and unique, but I always loved the Crossbone Vanguard’s mobile suits, complete with space lances because, again, British Empire and all that. Plus “Crossbone Vanguard” just sound really cool!

The Bad:

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“Berah… I am you’re father.”   “I know.”   “Oh right, yes. Sorry.”

F91 follows a lot of Tomino Gundam tropes, though in fast-forward. Our main protagonist is a school-age teen who ends up being swept up in a war with his class mates and some children, with the group then starting to serve on a warship, including Seabook (said protagonist) ending up as the pilot of the new Gundam model on board. Seabook and his classmates are actually quite likeable, and I like the character designs as well, it’s just beyond Seabook and his love interest, they barely get enough screen time to have a personality, let alone grow in any way. This is the main problem, how rushed the film is…

We get the group travelling around Earth and Space, we get Seabook momentarily fret about having killed a pilot and going through his “hating adults and their stupid wars” phase, we see his parents come and go, we see someone defect from the enemy side and then get killed fighting for good in about five minutes, then we suddenly have the final showdown before the end credits start rolling. There’s barely any time to care about anyone.

Overall Thoughts:

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One of the Crossbone Vanguard suits: the XM-01 Den’an Zon (because simple names still aren’t a thing)

Gundam F91 is a fun slice of Gundam, full of well animated battles, a different (but still familiar) core plot and a couple of good characters, but it will leave you with a feeling of “what could have been”. Still, the direct sequel manga series “Crossbone Gundam” sounds fun, if it ever gets either released in English or adapted…

4 Star Watch

Coming early next year: my first ever watch of Victory Gundam! I’ve… not heard good things, which is why this will be my first watch of it… but erm… looking forward to it…?

 

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