Everyone is probably more used to seeing my thoughts on comics, but believe it or not I’m also a casual anime fan. Today I’d like to tell everyone about my favorite, and probably the best, Gundam series ever made: Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. This past Saturday I sat down with a good friend to watch the series in its entirety; as I watched, I was reminded just how much I love 0080. The series, an OVA released in the early 90s, isn’t well known, but after this article I hope you’ll jump to check it out!
0080 is set near the close of the One Year War of UC timeline fame. Zeon, near the end of its rope, hopes to sabotage the Federation by any means necessary. To that end, the Zeon high command recruits its Cyclops Special Forces Team to disable or destroy the Federation’s new Gundam, the Alex. The Federation’s production base, however, is located within the neutral colony of Libot and therefore the Cyclops Team must infiltrate without causing much stir. The problem? If the Cyclops Team cannot eliminate the Alex, then a Zeon fleet will destroy Libot with Nuclear weapons, killing thousands of civilians! Against this backdrop of war an eleven-year-old boy named Al goes through his daily life bored with the banality of peace. He talks endlessly with his friends about the war, desiring nothing more than to become a pilot and fly his very own Mobile Suit. It’s not long before Al encounters Bernie, the newest member of the Cyclops Team and a rookie pilot, and becomes involved with Zeon’s plan. Bernie at first dislikes Al and believes him a nuisance, but the two soon develop a brotherly bond; Bernie even begins to take a romantic interest in Christina (who goes by Chris), Al’s neighbor and a Federation test pilot. All of these events culminate in some of the wildest Mobile Suit battles in Gundam franchise history!
The characterization in 0080 is second-to-none. Every member of the Cyclops Team, from the alcoholic ace Misha to the aging commander Hardie, has a very defined personality. It’s hard not to grow attached to these characters, and watching their tactics and struggles is insanely entertaining. Christina, Bernie, and Al also have an interesting relationship, forming a small family against the backdrop of a terrible war. The interaction of the characters makes amazing use of dramatic irony, as neither Bernie nor Al is aware of Christina’s ties to the Federation nor does she realize Bernard’s ultimate goal. Al and his young friends are also a key aspect of the story: though they initially treat war as an exciting game, Al quickly matures and grows distant from his friends as he learns the truths of war first-hand. Overall, the series contains deep characters who grow powerfully over the course of the story. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite character since each one has aspects I admired and enjoyed, but I feel like Hardie ended up stealing the show for me: it’s something about older, tough leader characters that appeals to me, and Hardie’s tenacity, ingenuity, and tactical intelligence made him one of the series’ most important characters despite his position as a more secondary character.
0080’s artwork is a point of contention. To be blunt, the animation is rather poor, but since this series was released in the early 90s and was produced on a rather low budget it’s hard to fault. In my opinion, the Mobile Suit Designs are awesome, though other mecha fans may disagree. I think the Kampfer is the most awesome Zeon mobile suit in existence, and it’s definitely one of my favorite mecha designs in general. Also, given that the series shows lots of Zakus (one of my favorite mobile suits…no seriously!) I’m more than content, especially since the special FZ model was created specifically for the series. The character designs also look cool; it’s interesting to see how each character’s persona is exemplified in the way they dress and carry themselves. One can immediately tell, for instance, that Garcia of the Cyclops Team is somewhat of a bad boy prankster simply by the headband he sports; the way he flicks out his trusty knife, however, reveals that he is able to abandon this persona and become serious when the time comes. War in the Pocket’s artwork is truly unique and breathes life into the mobile suits and individuals that populate the OVA.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is the best Gundam, and perhaps the best mecha, series I have ever watched. Strong characterization, amazing storylines, and interesting mobile suit designs all give this OVA a top-notch flair. I enjoyed the plot from start-to-finish, eagerly anticipating the next event in the story. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the series compresses so much emotion and excitement into only six episodes. I also enjoyed how the story focused on average soldiers, rather than newtypes. Bernie and Christina are effectively rookie pilots, yet both have the youthful fire of determination burning in their eyes as they stride onto the battlefield. The series also involves battles with more tactics than the standard “mobile suit charges in, shoots at everything, wins,”; the Zeon soldiers put a great deal of thought into their attacks, knowing that a Gundam will be difficult to beat with their lower-grade weaponry. This series also should be commended for focusing on Zeon: I’ve always found them more interesting than the Federation, and it was nice to see a story from their angle for once. Furthermore, the entire series on DVD is also a great deal, giving both Japanese and English audio (both of which are expertly acted) as well as great sound and video quality. All in all, Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is a must-see series, and at only six episodes almost anyone, no matter how busy, can find time to watch it!
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old mecha fan. Even though he owns three Zaku models, he realizes now he needs to pick up and build an FZ model.
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