Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

Alt title: Kidou Senshi Gundam: Dai 08 MS Shoutai

OVA (12 eps)
1996 - 1999
4.008 out of 5 from 4,681 votes
Rank #956

War between the Earth Federation and Zeon has ground to a bloody standstill, and both sides eagerly seek a quick resolution. Among these is Ensign Shiro Amada, a young mobile suit pilot for the Federation assigned to the 08th mobile suit division in the heart of the Vietnamese jungle. The members of his team include Karen, a hot-headed pilot and part time mechanic; Sanders "The Reaper," a pilot with a reputation for getting the people in his unit killed; Eledor, an aspiring musician, flirt, and communications officer for the team; and Mikel, the love-struck driver for the team's command vehicle. As the gravity of war bears down on their shoulders, they must struggle to keep their sanity amidst a chaotic battlefield that continually tests their wit, focus, and resolve.

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StoryFirst things first, take all your misconceptions about the Gundam franchise and toss them out the window.  Unlike its numerous cohorts, 08th MS Team is not some half-ass political commentary on the glory of pacifism, nor is it some pompous lightshow of flying robots and explosions.  Much to the contrary, it takes upon a life of its own, and firmly stands by itself irrespective of its Gundam brand.Perhaps the most appealing aspects of 08th MS Team revolve around its intensive focus on realism.  While the war in the series is indeed fought with giant humanoid robots, it's surprisingly plausible in a number of ways and sheds the whole concept of "invincible gundams" that so many other series embrace.  In fact, its main emphasis lies on humanizing the lives of the soldiers, as can be seen through the main cast.  The story begins smack dab in the middle of a global war between a fractionalized human race, tracing the steps of a newly graduated ensign for the earth forces by the name of Shiro Amada.  As a first order of business, he's assigned to the 08th Mobile Suit Team smack dab in the middle of the Vietnam jungle as its captain, but quickly realizes he's in for one hell of a ride - his team is comprised of a lazy, sparsely motivated tactical officer, a foul-mouthed mechanic who scoffs at his authority, a pilot with a complete lack of morale, and a communications officer who couldn't give a damn about his duties.This premise, however, leads into what makes 08th MS Team so damn great.  The story chronicles Shiro's battle to acquire the respect of a group of people who couldn't give a rat's ass about him and turn them into an effective and efficient combat unit.  As such, the war driving the series becomes almost secondary to the plights of the characters; in many ways, the true purpose of the story is to display just how tedious, dangerous, and demanding the life of a soldier can be.  For example, with the series being set in the heart of the Vietnamese jungle, problems such as boredom surface to be as much an enemy as a foreign mobile suit, and this shapes a number of conflicts between the characters.  The series reminds the viewer consistently that neither Shiro nor the members of his team are somehow immune to the wears and tears of combat, and their growth from a rag-tag group of individuals to a solid, single unit proves a most enjoyable watch.AnimationBeing that it's over a decade old, don't expect too much from 08th MS Team's animation in terms of coloration and vibrant character design.  Despite its age, however, it still holds its own in comparison to modern series, as can be seen with its very elaborate focus on detail.  As with real life, the team often goes long periods of time before returning to base, and must endure a number of battles without the means to provide their mobile suits with full repairs.  As such, combat damage flows from one battle to the next, and the series makes a point to keep the damage on the gundams consistent with the sequence of battles they fight.  For example, the gundams get limbs blown off from time to time, and the team salvages and retrofits parts from damaged foes to compensate.SoundOut of my ten years plus of anime experience, only two series have produced dubs which I consider worthy of consideration, and 08th MS Team happens to be one of them.  Though not quite up to par with their Japanese seiyuu counterparts, the English voice actors do a suitable job at capturing each of their character's personas, and I really can't complain.  A solid soundtrack supports the cast, so there's little to actively complain about.CharactersAs I mentioned before, 08th MS Team is a series driven almost exclusively by its characters.  Despite being set amidst a war of tremendous scale, the focus remains almost exclusively on Shiro, and as such the magnitude of the conflict is never fully explored.  In many ways, though, this proves a good thing, since the purpose of the series is to highlight the human side of armed conflict.That said, Shiro, like so many war-centered males, initially comes across as a typical, idealistic "I refuse to kill!" lead.  Right off the bat, however, he's fleshed out to be more than a simple-minded idiot - he's a trained military officer whose duties revolve around the killing of others.  While he tries to avoid conflict as much as possible, when push comes to shove he thrusts his idealism to the back of his mind and does what must be done.  His blend of intellect, charisma, and ingenuity make him a character with whom the viewer can easily empathize, and as the series progresses this feeling only grows.  Above all, he contains all the qualities one would expect a leader to posses, which ultimately makes his story quite believable.Because I could write a number of paragraphs for each of the series' main characters (there are about ten or so), I'll just say that each of the team's four other members are given as much depth as Shiro.  Though initially spoken to with sarcasm and indifference, as the series progress he's treated with an increasing amount of reverence, which certainly testifies to the bonding of the unit.  Not only does he connect with each of the team's members personally, but he helps them connect with each other.  For example, right off the bat Sanders and Karen are at each other's throats, and being that the two serve as Shiro's lances, it's imperative that he make the two work together not only for their own sake but for his as well.  Karen's ego and Sanders' insecurity make this a daunting task, however, and the problem stems deeper than a simple personality clash.  This leads into one of the series' central focuses - each of the members of the team come from different backgrounds, different pasts, and different reasons for fighting in the war, and it's up to their commanding officer to bridge the chasms between them in order for the unit to survive.OverallDespite it's Gundam title, 08th MS Team is a truly unique installment that differs rather strongly from its counterparts.  Instead of lamenting obnoxiously about how all war can be stopped by ideals of understanding and pacifism, it instead tells the microscopic story of a few ordinary soldiers fighting for a common cause of peace.  There's no abrasive, naïve socio-political lecture rammed down your throat for an annoyingly large number of episodes; ultimately, irrespective of its war setting, it's but a poignant tale of a mishap, diverse group of people thrown together who must overcome their hardships.  It's simple, it's effective, it's genius - not to be missed.


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) VERDICT: 8/10


A lot of Gundam fans will probably tell you this is definitely either the best Gundam series, or at least a top 5 one. Hell, maybe even one of the best animes of all time. Allow me to explain why many including myself feel this way which this review is of course for. Despite being a short oav series, it has a descent amount of character on both the Zeon and Federation’s side where they all stand out and get their chance to shine, and develop as a result of it. Every character has their own ambition and dreams out side of the war. Such as Eladore, the sound specialist wants to be a musician, and Michel, who is timid and cowardly, wants to go back home and be with his girlfriend. And there are some characters who have personal issues such as Terry Sanders who is called the reaper because he’s the only surviving member of his previous units, and Karen just doesn’t think Shiro has what it takes to be a commander. However, Shiro is the all around character who has this mysterious and unorthodox kind of charisma, who is trying to not only develop his own leadership skills, but to find his role in this conflict and to find his way to confess his love to Aina despite being an enemy soldier. Even though he is a rookie, he is still strict and very dedicated to completing his mission and truly values loyalty.On the Zeon side, we have Aina herself. She is very formal and obedient to her brother, Ginias, who is a straight out psycho-path. And there’s the bad ass Norris, who is their ace pilot , and is a father figure to Aina. So once again, this Gundam series delivers an all around cast with a well paced story that revolves around solving their issues and developing the characters which was how I viewed it. The Romeo and Juliet thing is a bit cliché’, but not really over the top. It’s used effectively and reasonably, and it also helps the development of Shiro and Aina as well. I will further elaborate on what I feel on what I think the themes are.The art is just fantastic. The character designs are very diverse and distinctive, and the environments are well detailed thanks to the work of Kawamoto Toshihiro, who has also served as a staff member in other duties such as on Votoms, Full Metal Alchemist, Gundam 0083, and Patlabor. I really like the expressions the faces have in the battles as well as the angles and postures. I will elaborate on how I feel about the battles later, so time to talk about the mechanical designs. The mobile suits are of course still in complimentary of the original Gundam designs, except the pack more heavy fire power and have more of a bulky look to it which suits the nature of the battles which I will now talk about. In comparison to your traditional Gundam where it’s all about space battles, we are now reduced to watching guerrilla jungle warfare, so strategy and tactics play a big part into this series like how it did in the final battle of War in the Pocket. So it brings a different sense of intensity, anticipation, and excitement which helps makes this series stand out in comparison to other Gundams because the characters aren’t of course newtypes where they got crazy reflexes. And you have to watch this anime until the end. The 2nd to last battle is most certainly a top 5 in Gundam battles or fights in general of all time. Due to all of these combined great features I can’t say anything bad on.The voice acting in both English and Japanese are excellent and top quality. Both languages have actors that equally represent their characters. Even though Steve Cannon was very terrible as Ippo in the English version of Hajime no Ippo, he was great as Shiro. He played someone who was new to his role, but really took it seriously. I thought his higher pitched voice was well more suited to the nature of his character, but the Japanese voice actor, Hiyama Nobuyuki brought a different kind of maturity to the character, but wasn’t really as spirited which I felt was part of Shiro’s character. All-round veterans such as Kikuko Inoue plays the role of Aina, who is dead accurate as someone who looks meek, but is very strong willed on the outside. And believe me, I give this anime one of the best performances ever. I say it’s superior to that of Cowboy Bebop’s.The music is also well suited to the nature of this show. The background music gives a more traditional military style to really represent the way I described the action with its different sense of intensity and excitement as a result of anticipation. And the opening theme Arashi no Naka de Kagayaite is highly energetic, and the ending theme 10 years after really represents a more campy nature that represents the unity of the team.Well, I’ll conclude this review with two notes. First of all, I feel the only negative this anime has is its ending. Not really saying it’s a bad ending, but it didn’t really live up to what I was expecting and you’re free to disagree with that. But then again, who said endings had to be happy? I felt the Cartoon Network ending leaves things too inconclusive because the true ending they couldn’t show due to the portrayal of kids in war, which I thought, was a totally ludicrous reason. I felt the true ending was too much out of convenience and really felt out of place, and a majority of the cast was really absent. Maybe that’s because the original director died during the releasing of this oav. I don’t know. But my 2nd note is how I love this movie is about loyalty and trust. It’s a consistent theme throughout this show and it portrays it in a sensible way in the scenario presented in this anime. Even though Shiro is the leader and despite his age, I like how he treats everybody equally and he makes sure everybody lives up to his number one rule, that everybody comes back alive.

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