Gundam Week: Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory

With Gundam Week in full swing, it’s time to take a look at one of the less well-known and less well-regarded titles in the franchise: Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. The series, set three years after the end of the One Year War, follows Federation test pilot Kou Uraki as he and his comrades battle the remnants of Zeon. Led by Anavel Gato, a Zeon ace known as “The Nightmare of Solomon,” the Zeon seek revenge for their defeat and perceived humiliation at the hands of the Federation. This OVA, released from 1991 to 1992, seeks to bridge the gap between the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeta, explaining the rise of the Titans and the more conservative stance of the Federation in the latter series. How did this series stack up compared to other, more prominent names in the franchise?

The Federation has grown lax since their defeat of the Zeon three years prior. Though mobile suit pilots still train and their suits are constantly refined and upgraded, it is clearly a different time than the chaos of the One Year War. Kou Uraki, along with his best friend Chuck Keith, live quiet lives as Mobile Suit test pilots at a base in Australia, their “combat experiences” closer to literal paintball matches than to actual battle. Little do they know, however, that Zeon ace Anavel Gato, the Delaz Fleet, and other Zeon remnants cling to the old hatreds and will stop at nothing to achieve vengeance against the Federation. Gato successfully infiltrates the Australian base and steals a new prototype Gundam, the GP-02 Physalis. What follows is dogged pursuit by the Federation forces in hopes of recovering the Gundam and halting this last blitz of Zeon. In the chaos, Kou takes charge of another prototype, the GP-01 Zephyranthes, and swears to Nina Purpleton, the engineer who designed the two Gundams, that he will recover her prized unit. If he cannot, the entire Federation is truly in danger, for the GP-02 carries a deadly payload…Nuclear Warheads.

The GP01 (right) fights the GP02 (left) in one of the most anti-climactic Gundam fights in history

 

0083’s plot is fairly standard: Gundamjack occurs for purposes of a larger evil plan, the Federation tries to stop Zeon, Mobile Suits fight, and people die. Even so, there are some deeper points to consider. Firstly, the series addresses Nuclear Warfare, a running theme in not only the UC timeline but also in Japanese media in general; though the discussion is somewhat brief, it’s interesting to note the implications of arming a Gundam with nukes. Though it is a time of peace, the Federation still decides to build such a mobile suit; Admiral Delaz himself notes the hypocrisy of this, as the Federation suggested the Antarctic Treaty to ban the use of atomic weaponry during the One Year War, and currently the Federation has no obvious enemies. Secondly, 0083 shows how loyalty can cause people to make otherwise illogical choices. In order to avoid spoilers I won’t go into specifics, but let’s just say a certain character decides to sacrifice the lives of thousands and ensure the victory of the enemy only because of a past relationship; the scene is rather annoying and controversial, but it still makes an excellent point that humans often act irrationally, especially in stressful situations such as war. Finally, there is a brief, albeit important, message about the pain of soldiers disabled from war; though only two episodes, it speaks volumes to the real-world suffering of soldiers who return with both physical and mental injuries.

Despite these few points of depth, the series is ultimately pretty bland until the last few episodes when the Zeon plot is fully revealed. A lot of the episodes boil down to waiting for the inevitable battle, which even then is usually woefully short. A few of the fights are rather cool, such as when Lieutenant Burning shoots down several Zeon suits in one battle, but a lot of the others are fairly rushed. The final battle between the GP-01 and the GP-02, especially, meets with a lot of fan derision for how anti-climactic it is; though it didn’t bother me as much when I first watched the fight, looking back it’s a pretty big let down given that the series up to that point was building up to combat between those two suits. Even so, the series still has an interesting story and is enjoyable.

 

The Feddies (from left to right): Captain Synapse, Keith, Kou, Nina, and Mora.

0083’s art is far from perfect. The series, in what I feel is an attempt to be “gritty,” utilizes an unnecessary amount of darker colors, making a lot of the scenes harder to look at. I admit that such choices are probably more realistic, but this series seems to go over the top, adding horrendous amounts of shading to some scenes. The mecha designs are fairly decent: I like the GP-02 and updated GMs well enough, though I felt that the GP-01 was pretty much just a slightly altered RX-78. The use of mobile armors in the series was welcome, however, as they aren’t showcased much in the franchise and are usually flown by one-off villains rather than main characters. The characters designs were passable: no one stands out as superb but no character looks bad. The only potential problem is Kou, who in my eyes looks a bit too generic but that may be intentional to show him as an “everyman soldier.” The only two characters who I thought had cool designs were Keith and Burning: the former had the perfect look of cocky-best friend who’s actually somewhat of a failure while just looking at the latter marked him as an older skilled mentor character. Overall, the art was decent, though  I found little memorable.

The animation is Stardust Memory is fairly good. It varies between being clean (usually during battles) to slightly jumpy (during more normal scenes). There is not too much detail animated in, though the battles still look fairly good. I think part of the problem may also have arisen from the darker shades used, as I stated before. Regardless, the animation, like the art, is pretty middle-of-the-road.

The Nightmare of Solomon himself: Anavel Gato

Now we come to where 0083 really shines: the music. The series has, in my opinion, an awesome score. Both the first opening (“The Winner”) and the second (“Men of Destiny”) are truly epic and fill the viewer with a sense of excitement and vigor. The battle music is also quite powerful, displaying the complex emotions and confusion that comes with combat. As strange as it sounds, the series also made great use of silence, choosing the right moments to cut the musical track in order to emphasize a powerful scene. Ultimately, the music is top notch.

Before I go into more detail about Stardust Memory’s voice acting, let me apologize for one thing: I have only been able to watch the series in English, so I cannot comment on the Japanese audio track. I will say, however, that the general consensus I’ve heard is that the Japanese voices are better. Anyway, the voice acting in 0083 is pretty good. Anavel Gato, voice by Kirk Thorton (Hajime Saito for all you Rurouni Kenshin fans), sounds tough and loyal, just like a true Zeon Ace. Keith’s voice, provided by Sean Mitchell, fits his character as the giddy best-friend to Kou. Sadly, however, I found both Kou and Nina’s voices lacking, their range of emotion and depth more limited. Again, I almost feel like Kou is purposefully made rather “vanilla” in order to make him appeal more to the viewer, but in my case this didn’t work; give me a pilot with more personality, darn it! The rest of the crew did fairly good jobs, with George C. Cole (LEOMON!) providing the voice of South Burning standing out above most others. Overall, the English voice track is above average, but not spectacular.

Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory is, ultimately, a good watch but not an amazing or memorable series. In most categories it’s fairly marginal, with only a few stellar moments of plot and animation, backed up by a few good voice actors, rising above the mediocrity. I feel only fans of the UC timeline will enjoy it, though it’s worth watching once to at least see a few cool fight scenes.

Rating Breakdown
Plotwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
An overall generic plot which has a few cool moments towards the end and a few interesting points which sadly are not explored very much.
Characterswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
A mixed bag, some of the characters are hugely memorable while others are fairly dull.
Artwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
A few cool mecha designs are ultimately overshadowed, literally, by overly dark settings.
Animationwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Ranging from shaky to superb, the animation is variable.
Musicwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Awesome music and some fairly good voice acting benefit the series.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Stardust Memory will entertain UC timeline fans, but don't expect a strong desire to watch it over and over.

Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old mecha fan. He finds is pretty awesome that Federation rookies in this series are trained on Zakus, and one of the first line of the series is about how much Zakus suck.

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Silverwolf

Moar Powah's very own Clark Kent.

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