There aren’t many franchises like Mobile Suit Gundam. The series featured a similar plot for all of it’s multiple different shows and it people still don’t get bored of the show.
The basic concept of evil people attacking a colony that holds a new Gundam only for a young boy to end up piloting it and working with the army to help defend his family and friends has been done over and over for the past 30 plus years.
That’s not to say that all of the shows have a similar concept. In fact my favourite series is very different.
Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team was originally released in 1996 but was finished in 1999 due to the death of the series creator Takeyuki Kanda died. The series was finished years later by Umanosuke Iida.
The series shifted the focus from the original idea of a child fighting to defend a military vessel to a team of grunts fighting on the front line. The show also swapped the fast moving flying mechs for a more realistic bulky design.
For the seasoned Gundam fans they’ll notice that lack of teenage problems that plagued many of the past installments.
The show follows a team young earth soldiers who are fighting in the trenches of the one-year war. The main character Lt. Shiro Amada ends up coming to earth to help fight the Zeon forces that have invaded the planet. Along the way he has to defend his transport from an attack.
While he does this he ends up meeting and falling in love with a female Zeon solider named Aina Sahalin. The rest of the series revolves around these two crossing paths through out the war.
While Amada leads the 08th MS team, made up of fellow mobile suit operators Karen Joshua and Terry Sanders Jr. and support techs Eledore Massis and Michel Ninorich work to find and destroy a new Zeon mobile suit. The same mobile suit that Sahalin pilots.
While the plot of star-crossed lovers isn’t very new, there’s maturity in this story about it. Both have strong ties to their sides and for more the most part think their side is right, but (of course) learn that war isn’t the way to solve anything.
What really stands out for this title is the design of the mobile suits. While in other series the robots could move quickly and easily this series portrays them as large, slow, hulking machines.
Ammo is limited and there is a clear limitation to what they can do. For instance, artillery based suits can’t move easily and need a great deal of protection.
In some cases, you see that the mobile suits are even camouflaged to blend into their surroundings. It looks silly, but it makes sense in the world.
Along with the different design the storytelling is different.
While most of this types of shows go on for 50 episodes, 08th MS Team is 12 episodes with a 13th episode that tries to wrap up the story…I’ll get to that in a minute.
The show is lean and doesn’t waste a lot of time getting into the plot. The trade off to this of course, is that not all of the characters are flushed out enough. Case in point part of the way through the series one of the characters just happens to have one of his songs not only recorded, but played on the radio. While this might not seem like that big of a deal, this is a world where enemy soldiers invaded earth. Somehow I doubt that there would be people recording in a studio.
While the series is good it ends kind of abruptly. This could be due to the death of the series creator, but the way that the series was finished was suspect.
The final episode is not only out of place but feels nothing like any of the other episodes.
The Final Mission report, focused on two of the characters trying to track down the two many characters, who vanished during the end of the show. There are no mechs, fighting or anything remotely Gundam related to this final episode, but it finishes the story as a whole.
If I had to pay the episode a complement it would be that it does finish the story leaving nothing in the air for people to think about.
Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team is a beast all it’s own. While it features some of the themes of the other Gundam shows it really is it’s own thing. It has it’s own visual style and works in a world that feels very different from other shows in the franchise.
Is it the best Gundam show? Not really. There are some issues that hold it back at the end of the day, but it defiantly is one of my favourite anime titles and should be watched by fans of the franchise.
The series was released in North America by Bandi Entertainment and by Madman Entertainment in Europe. The series can be a bit of a pain to find. A compilation film of the series called Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team Miller’s Report was released originally in 1998 and was re-released on Blu Ray in 2011.