One who sits down to watch the Gundam franchise will most likely realize that each series has TOO MANY DAMN EPISODES!!! The context of any Gundam universe never needed more than a full season to show what it’s all about yet as if it’s an unbreakable rule they always stretch it to last 50 or 100. Not to mention the movie finales, which are just rehashes with far more action and far less context. So imagine a Gundam series which is ONLY 12 episodes. So ok, it is in fact a side story to the original series and it is in OVA format. That doesn’t mean you need to watch the main series in order to understand what it going on.
08th MS remains for me one of the best war dramas / mecha action series even after all these years. The reasons for that are the following:
1) It’s not twice as long as it needed to be. Unlike the tv series, it is actually quite compact, with very little dead time. Makes it far more exciting / far less boring.
2) It’s not trying to be bigger than life. Meaning, it is not trying to shoehorn the fate of humanity and the meaning of existence with lots of symbolisms and dialogues around some really important issues. All the main series were going for that and because of Tomino’s crappy directing they felt more pretentious and retarded rather than meaningful.
3) Tomino is not the director. THE GUY CAN’T WRITE A REASONABLE CHARACTER TURNAROUND!
4) It’s still a war drama, without the unnecessary sauce. Being shorter in duration and ore simple in its thematics does not mean it’s worse. In the contrary, instead of going for 100+ character roster most of which would be minor or badly handled (because of Tomino), or a plot full of turnarounds and complicating conspiracies that would again feel retarded and badly played out (because of the same reason as before), it instead goes for the pure basics. Us, them, and the battlefield. This does not mean it is simplistic and boring, in the contrary, it focuses on a lot less character doing a lot more things, with the tragedy of war still being omnipresent.
5) It’s not all about the poser mechas. That’s right, not a single overpowered robot exist in this series. Unlike the tv versions which are always about a few God-level Gundams wasting thousands of minor units, over here all the Gundams are of average performance. Even a simple Zaku unit can prove to be a challenge. Does that make it less interesting because it is not about ultra powerful robots? Not at all, instead it makes every battle to be an actual challenge instead of being certain the good guys will win easily with their uber skills.
6) It has field tactics and strategies. Unlike the tv series, where the robots fly in the sky or in space with Mach 10 or something, and fire a hundred laser beams per second, over here the battles are far more closer to basics and are given far better attention. The robot action will be mostly running about on food, hiding behind rocks, and waiting hidden and camouflaged on the muddy soil of a jungle full of humus. You will literally see dirt and bullet holes on their surface, attacks penetrating the cockpit and damaging their pilot, you will see common folk throwing grenades in their joints, you will see them wielding hand-to-hand weaponry like this is a gladiator arena. All that will make each battle to be ten times more exciting than any uber robot that can fly and blow up mountains with a fingernail.
7) It has very good production values. Being in OVA format has this beauty. The detail given to physics and motions and colouring is superb, and the music direction feels more fitting in overall.
If there are a few complaints I may have with it, it’s just the main characters being too “shounen-like” for warriors in a dirty skirmish in the middle of nowhere. It kinda makes them unreal, but nothing too painful. They are still given a lot of development and immersion, plus they aren’t that many to have a problem forgetting who did what. Another minor issue is how they threw in a romantic subplot between members of opposing sides, something that felt convenient and rushed. Yet it’s not like it derailed the plot from its main route or altered the outcome in any significant way. These are all peanuts compared to the crap Tomino does when he is the one directing.
In all, this is amongst my favourite Gundam shows for trying to be more realistic and far less poser, without stretching the main idea further than it needs. The action is great, the characters are likable, and the directing is done right. Definitely recommended to mecha fans.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (good looking)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 2/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (great)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 9/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 2/2 (fine)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 1/2 (the action scenes look excused to the most part but some character reactions feel silly)
Conclusion 2/2 (solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 8/10
Presence 2/2 (cool)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (everybody has some)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 2/3 (very famous)
Rewatchability 2/3 (high because of the good pacing and action)
Memorability 4/4 (well, it has a bit of everything so it’s easy to forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10
Art 1/1 (looks great)
Sound 1/2 (good songs but the dialogues are usually meh)
Story 3/3 (great concepts presented nicely)
Characters 2/4 (they are ok but nothing much)