First 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.
Being 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.
Out 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.
As 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.
Despite 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.
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.
The Gundam series has had many iterations, some good and some bad. The 08th MS Team seems to fit in the middle of that spectrum: it's a solid anime, albeit a little dated. No element is particularly lacking, and no element is particularly amazing. While watching this show, I felt that there was some influence from the Vietnam War. Much of the combat takes place in the jungle, and guerilla warfare is mentioned. That sense was more prevalent in the beginning of the series, however. Instead of American GI's cutting through the jungle, it was Federation Gundams; and, instead of Viet Cong guerillas, Zeon Zakus lurked in wait. If there was any influence, though, it was strictly military. There is no allusion to the domestic turmoil in the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
In terms of overarching plot, the story wasn't all that wonderful. It isn't bad; there just isn't anything too novel about it. Two factions are fighting: the Federation and the Principality of Zeon. There's a Mobile Suit team serving the Federation; there's also a mad genius and his kindhearted sisted, working for Zeon. Of course, the main character ends up loving the girl on the enemy side, and conflict ensues.
To be honest, I felt that the central love story was one of the show's weaker elements. Why? It was just so cheesy. Here's an example:
Shiro: Oh Aina!
Aina: Oh Shiro!
*They look at each other with shining eyes*
Shiro: But we're enemies...
Aina: I don't care!
*They look at each other again. By this point I'm hoping a stray bullet will kill them both.*
The slight romance between Kiki and Shiro could have been expanded upon more. It certainly would have been better than the contrived love story the creators gave us.
Animation- This show is fairly old, but it doesn't look so bad. Compared to more modern productions, however, it just can't hold up. The character designs are decent, as are the mobile suits. Nothing really stuck out at me. Combat is fairly fluid, enough so that it doesn't drag. The backgrounds seemed average for an anime of this age.
Sound- The music was decent, if a little forgettable. A few tracks are catchy, while the rest are mostly bland. The opening and ending songs are good, just not to my tastes. The voice actors perform well all around.
Characters- One of my favorite parts of the this show was the characters. Initially, I disliked the main character. He seemed like your average, "Let's get in there and fight!" lead. As the story progresses, though, we see that he is more than that. Shiro commands as he needs to, and seems to really care about his subordinates. He has his flaws, and he has his strengths. Many other characters follow the same pattern. Additional personality dimensions are slowly revealed in each character as the show goes on. I deeply appreciated this. Character development isn't huge in all of the characters, nor does it have to be. The show is relatively short (12 episodes), and trying to develop all of the characters in that time could have turned out badly.
* A note on my evaluation system*
0=Awful beyond belief, an offense against humanity that should be annihilated.
10="OMG OMG I LOVE THIS!"
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)
Another Universal Century Timeline Masterpiece and for me this is the my favorite gundam series all the time. 08th ms team is one of the best gundam series of all time. not about crazy mobile suits that are made of gundnium alloy/overpowered gundam or all the new types bs. Its about just the soldiers and their basic units. it is a masterpiece, a must watch for any gundam fan.
Wow! I was really surprised by this show. I thought it was going to be just another action show. I was surprised to find out that I was wrong. What was really great about the show were the characters. There were a lot of of depth to them. In just a short amount of time (it's only 12 episodes) it felt like I really got know the characters, and I felt for the characters when they were struggling. I kind of had an idea in my mind that short action series couldn't be good, because they would just rush through everything. If felt like a lot happened, yet it wasn't rushed.
I liked how they went for a realistic approach. It felt more like a military war show, than what you'd expect from a mecha. A lot of those shows really put the attention on the robots, and give them super weapons and moves. Instead in this show, they are just simply weapons just like we would think of tanks.
Overall, a great show. I'd recommend it to anybody.
The typical Gundam series is a space epic, filled with politics, drama, intrigue, tactics, technology, and so forth. There's narration and exposition about the conflict at large (usually between space and earth). The battles are over the top. There's a huge cast of characters, but always with one small group making a big difference, thanks to the idealistic drive of the main character. It's been done so many times that it's formulaic now - the original Gundam, Zeta, SEED, 00, Unicorn are all copies of each other with some variations.
08th MS Team maintains some of these elements but dials everything back several notches. The series is just 12 episodes (compared to the usual 50 episodes), so it's lacking filler material and much more focused. The cast of characters is smaller, focusing on the five members of the 08th MS team, plus maybe three other characters. Instead of grander politics and clever tactics, there are more personal stories and simpler local conflicts.
The result of all of this is a well-composed, grounded series. The pacing is excellent. Each episode gradually brings the members of the 08th team closer together, addressing each of their personal conflicts as Shiro gains the respect of his unit. Our main character, Shiro, still becomes an idealistic pacificist (as in other Gundam series), but the reactions to him are more believable. When he defies military policy, he's confined to his quarters rather than given a free pass. During one of his inspirational speeches, he doesn't win anyone over and is laughed out of the room.
They do away with the extravagence in typical Gundam series. 08th MS Team does not rely on introducing new technology every five episodes and a billion explosions to try to make things interesting. The battles are small-scale, pitting a few units against a few others. The team is more covert and cautious. They lay in wait and ambush enemies in the jungle. They use simple flanking maneuvers. This lets the series focus on things we actually careabout - the characters - rather than contrived battle tactics and battle filler.
Yet, Sunrise has a hard time getting away from that tried-and-true Gundam formula. They insert a Romeo-and-Juliet love story: in episode one, we see Shiro fall in love with Aina, an enemy soldier...and she seems just fine with this too. The series is too focused on Shiro/Aina, leaving some of the 08th MS team members underdeveloped. Sanders and Karen have essentially no character development past the 3rd or 4th episode. The relationship between Eledore and Karen sort of comes out of nowhere. Kiki and Michel are bland secondary characters, save for a couple moments.
At the end of the day, what you get is a muddled story. There's a poor sense of the grander conflict, because it is not explained, and there's a constantly changing focus for such a short series. Is this about the 08th unit becoming a team, or is this about showing the humanity of each character, or is this Shiro's personal story, or is this a love story between Shiro / Aina, or is this about defeating our main antagonist? It has some of all of these elements, but not enough time to thoroughly develop and explore them.
That said, this is still a great series, and "objectively" one of the better Gundam series, I think, even if I didn't personally like where the story went. The production values are decent, though the animation feels dated nowadays and the soundtrack is generic. It's a short series, and the characters carry it even if the story doesn't.
Spoiler free review
First off: I watched this maybe 15 years ago after hearing rave reviews about it, didn't see what the hype was all about then. Spent a few years in the military after that, did some other stuff for a while (gasp!), then rewatched it recently. The hype... I don't agree with it (more in story and characters). It's got some substancial differences from the main and side Gundam series's. A good chunk of reviews comment on that, and while it's an interesting change from the series's norm, that doesn't actually make it good. Isn't terrible either, it's a watchable mediocre.
Story: 4 - No space battles! No 14 year old operating a hyper-advanced robot that kills grunts by the 100's! The story is about a squad of the grunts that generally get killed off by the 100's. Interesting idea (I want to even call it good), and like most parts of 8th MST it works, but doesn't excel. IF they'd gone somewhat light hearted it would have been fine, but they try to make the series gritty and realistic (if you squint hard enough the robot's kinda tank like) Unfortunatly, it's kinda obious that it's s dramatacized non-com's version of 'realistic'. Veterans will likely be rolling thier eyes or facepalming periodically, but to be fair, it isn't any worse than a lot of the older war movies (many of which provoke the same responces). On the plus side though, no sociopathic 14 year old doing a Rambo impersonation in a giant robot. Add 1-2 points if fake realism isn't cheezy to you (or if you're mostly clueless about military). Aside from that gripe, the story's decent, but again, not spectacular.
Animation: 8 - No real complaints here. Better end of solid for it's time, although nothing revolutionary. Only potential issue really is that due to it's age it's kinda low res. Standard complaint for older series though, and it's certainly watchable, so not knocking any points off for it.
Sound: ? - It has sound. :thumbs up: Never really got the hang of rating sound.
Characters: 5 - This is one of those series where it's kinda hard to to comment on characters without spoilers. There is character development, but a pre-teen could likely predict it pretty easily. Aside from the lead they're mostly likeable, and the token flaws given to them work, but they have obvious (singular) token flaws. Biggest gripe again is that the series is touted for realism, and they don't act like soldiers, most of the time they're closer to civilians trying to be heroes. And to be clear, these are supposed to be trained soldiers, not militia.
Overall: 5.5 - If you go into this after reading reviews claiming how great it is, you'll likely be dissapointed, like I was the first time I watched it. If you've got a military background of any sort, excect a solid helping of cheese and ex-lax. Keep your expectations resonable, this is decent, but definitely has some sizeable flaws.