Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 takes place chronologically after the events of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series and Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, and is an intended sequel to the series events. Matter in point: it links the events in the greater timeline from 0079 to 0087 in the Gundam Universe timeline.
Note: I strongly would not recommend one who hasn't seen, or at least isn't familiar with, one or both of those series to see Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, because the series potency will likely be lost upon you. By itself, it isn't intented to stand alone and may lose some in terms of the objective of the series, not to mention the overall backstory and the events the characters discuss accordingly.
The story revolves around Kou Uraki, a young Gundam pilot caught in the midst of an insurgence when forces from the Space Federation, and the last remaining Zeon pilots, steal a nuclear armed Gundam from the Earth Federation. Kou is allowed by the Gundams' creator, Nina Purpleton, to steer a remaining Gundam in order to retreive the other from the enemy. Little do they know the true objective of the Zeon forces: as they commence and pursue their plans to complete Operation Stardust. The true motive for Operation Stardust becomes clear as the series presents itself accordingly, and provides the bulk of the unexpected turns in the plot.
The story itself isn't by any means farfetched and progresses handily without excessive repetition of events, with a interesting amount of twists that never come too quickly for the viewer to be surprised by them.
Granted, I've enjoyed Gundam 0083 since I saw it around the time I watched it among a few of the first few Gundam OVA sets I saw, but over time its quality hasn't measured up compared to peer Gundam series, and seems to be more of a link in the overall Universal Gundam franchise rather than being able to stand on its own entirely. In part, the rather bulky yet underdeveloped cast might have much to do with this factor, and instead of being a primarily character driven story, it boils down to the momentary events, some unfortunately which aren't given ample expansion.
Still, some of the characters are worth enough merit (perhaps even the secondary ones more than the primary) to watch this series because of their vailiant efforts.
The only problem further I had with the story was the rather bulked conclusion, which has a multitude of events occur without much explanation or due development. So generally, I would say 0083: Stardust Memory is a series that progresses with nice battle sequences and some prime moments in its wake in adding to the Gundam franchise, particularly to the note of the Rise of the Titans, but if you're looking for a Gundam story to move you through both characters and story, chances are this won't deliver for you unless you're a Gundam/mecha/action fan or you have watched the previous installments in the Gundam franchise and want a bit a background of what happened three years after the One-Year War.
I was impressed with the animation for this installation in the Gundam franchise. While created in the early 90s, the character design is consistent and manages to upsurp some of the designs in series that follow it progressively, giving it a more mature and seamless feel, though the fluidity in the battle sequences is typical "stop and pop" Gundam fare. To today's standards, I don't know if if measures up on all counts with respect to coloring or crisp appeal, but it's worth noting this series had a high production for its time.
Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory has a stellar soundtrack on many counts, including the stellar opening themes and very nice endings. "Men of Destiny" by MIO, the second OP theme might be worth the price of noting this series on many counts, and the nice animated sequence that accompanies it defines the best among Gundam music. BGM might seem a bit outdated, but it seems to work well in the intensity of the battle scenes and work even in the more slice of life moments as well.
I'm torn to really rank the characters from Gundam 0083 because some of them are definitely worth watching in the moment and for their bit interactions, but the greater part of the problem with this series is that there seems to be little to no character growth or expansion. It's difficult to really know/get inside the head of the characters and sometimes following logic with their actions doesn't become clear until certain events in the storyline come to pass.
Kou is a young pilot that doesn't seem to know what he's fighting for until the people he loves are the ones caught in the crossfire. Yet, I think one can argue that Kou isn't completely taken into the events of the series without some level of responability, as he couldn't stop the initial phase of Operation Stardust from occuring and relentlessly pursues the man responsible for stealing it. He does tend to have his moments where emotion gets the best of him, but then again, you realize he's not some random genius with brilliant superpowers, just an ordinary Gundam trainee, who neither lacks or has a surplus of emotion.
The main interactional focus of this series seems to be between both Kou and Nina, developing both a romantic yet sexual tension between the two that doesn't come full circle until the end of the series. I'll admit I didn't see this coming in part, but while at times it was engaging and practical to watch, I couldn't really "connect" with their relationship in full.
Gato is also shown to be the main antagonist in the series, as a part of the Space Federation and fighting on vengence for the people he wants to protect in Zeon. I had a hard time believing, however, that he was the main bad guy, because he really isn't. This is a good thing because you actually see he cares about his cause. He's a complex character, and one I actually found myself caring a little more for than Kou, the protagonist.
Other characters to note: Cima Garahau, who, to me, seemed like the real villainess of the series with her deceptive, backhanded ways in the Space Federation. She was an interesting character, but lacked enough development to really bring her to the forefront. South Burning was my favorite character from the OVA, and one I have fond memories of for his maturity and way of guiding Kou and his friend Keith through their respective battles. It's a little sad we don't get to see a lot of his backstory throughout the series and provided some key events involving his character, it marks a turning point for Kou and his involvement in the war.
I actually did enjoy Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory on many levels, yet I cannot say this is one of the best offerings in the Gundam franchise unless you've already seen or know about the prior installments within the series. Stand-alone, it may leave the viewer with more questions than respective answers, but those who love the Gundam/mecha franchise should give this one a try. The animation/score are excellent for its respective time, but the story/characters may leave some wanting more.
Beginning four years after the one year war, 0083 starts with the arrival of two new Gundam units to be used for gravity testing. Things take a turn for the worse when members of Zeon steal Unit 2 and the nuclear warhead it that it has been armed with. Young test pilot-in-training Kou Uraki, piloting Gundam Unit 1, must now capture the stolen Gundam before it can be used to fulfill Zeon's mysterious "Operation Stardust".
I tend to be a fan of slice of life, dramatic and romantic series, but my palette is open to different series of a plethora of genres. I love watching series that engage my senses and imagination, and as a writer, I always appreciate a good story with a great cast of characters. I love when people give feedback on my reviews, because it helps me see things in a different lens, so I encourage you to converse with me if you have any questions, commentary or just want to chat about a series. ^_^