I like giant robots. It was one of the things that got me started in this great big world of Anime and Manga. As much as I like the giant robot genre of anime I had never watched any of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise before Manifest 2009. It was just so daunting of a task: Multiple series in multiple timelines. How a fan could wrap their head around it all and still not mutter and cry in a corner like a madman boggles my mind. But try I did one day in august 2009. There was a screening hall completely devoted to Gundam for just one day. That’s where I first came across Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team.
The year is 0079 in the Universal Century timeline. War between the Earth Federation Forces and the Principality of Zeon has broken out with battles taken place all over the galaxy it’s no surprise that the Earth itself is a site of much conflict and devastation. Ensign Shiro Amada of the Earth Federation while en-route to reinforce forces in an area of South East Asia, takes part in a battle of multiple Mobile Suits in the debris field floating around earth. During this battle both he and a feamle Zeon pilot Aina Sahalin abandon their destroyed mecha and enter an abandoned capitol ship with limited atmosphere. It is while in this ship that against orders and better judgement that they show compassion for their enemy and help the other to get back to their own sides forever forging a link of fate that would bind their futures together. That’s only episode one.
In the following episodes Shiro meets the members of the 8th Mobile Squad that he is the leader of. The big, hulking brute of a man that provides a lot of the muscle. The second in command woman that takes shit from no man. The pop artist that joined up against his will and also the too young to be fighting kid that looks up to his leader. In the battles that follow Shiro and the team befriend the local guerrillas fight a few Zeon mecha and ambush a new prototype weapon that is being tested by the Zeon. Can you guess who’s piloting it? If you said the hulking brute you just lost the game.
There are a few plot details I’m leaving out because I don’t want to spoil it for those that are interested in watching it all unfold. But I will say that it’s all a little bit melodramatic in its story, however for long time fans of MSG that may not be too much of problem. What was a problem for me was the twelfth and final episode of the show. Episodes one to eleven are a self-contained story that ends without any real need for more. But just one more episode was made that feels surreal and barely unconnected to the previous eleven episodes completely ignoring important supporting characters and relegating two main characters to an almost unspoken cameos at the end of the episode.
Animation is well handled by studio Sunrise with a look that reminds me a little of Cowboy Bebop with maybe a little lesser polish which is understandable considering it came out before Bebop by almost three years. Robot combat is pretty good taking place in various locations from deep jungle to rivers and streams and a devastated city area. One of the more unusual aspects of the combat is that the team usually take on no more than two or three enemy mecha at a time focusing more on the use of good tactics to take on their foes then any kind of superpower. A great example of this is in the middle of the series where a small squad of three enemy mecha is taken out by guerrilla soldiers using mainly small arms fire and good tactics.
I had a good time with MSG:08th Team. I enjoyed the mecha, the mecha combat and seeing enemy mecha pilots that weren’t all complete monsters. That made them feel more like soldiers that could have their own stories told about them if we weren’t already following around the quote unquote good guys. It might have been a little melodramatic but from what I understand that’s standard for the franchise. With a little more context in the broader scope of the Gundam franchise it would make for a great starting point for non fans or a good side story for the fans that already know some of that broader context.
Hey, Editor: any idea when the H-C.com budget will stretch to getting me a giant battle robot?