Friday, August 18, 2006

Gundam Anime Review: UC0083 Stardust Memory

I’ve been bragging about the review on this Gundam anime for around a month now, and people who still remember the initial promise made by me must be ready to kill me now :-) for quite a long delay.

If you have read my recent PLAMO reviews on GP01, GP02A up till HGM Neul Ziel, you would have some idea of what this anime is about. Other from the action and the MS design, UC0083 has a really good storyline, definitely much better than SEED Destiny. Moreover, this 13-episode anime series provides a perfect bridge between UC0079 and UC0087 Zeta Gundam. Considering that UC0083 was produced some five or six years after Zeta Gundam, how well UC0083 explains many issues unattended in Zeta Gundam is another reason why you should check out this anime. What are the issues involved? Well, you’ll have to watch it to know the answer.

GP01 versus GP02A. Kou Uraki wins this round by striking at the cooling system of GP02A's shield

The anime starts by introducing several key characters in the series. We get to see Kou Uraki, Keith, and South Burning in MS field testing. When the two Gundam units, GP01 and GP02A are sent to the base for field testing, they see action much earlier than expected when Gato, nicknamed “The Nightmare of Solomon” hijacks GP02A, equipped with a tactical nuclear warhead out of the blue, which also tells you how poor the military defense of the Federation. Kou Uraki, a huge fan of Gundam, boarded GP01 and begins a four-episode pursuit for Gato and the stolen GP02A, which stretches from Australia to Africa.

Apart from the Gundam versus Gundam sequence, we also get to see Zaku II F2 versus Domtropen

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The battle cruiser Albion, an upgraded version of the original White Base Pegasus in UC0079

Eventually Gato succeeded in escaping to space, thanks to many Zeon remnants remaining on Earth. The African Zeon forces, for example, sacrifices the entire base to help him get to space. When the battlefield reaches the stars, Uraki and co on the battle cruiser Albion begin to feel the tense of the coming battle, when they realized that Gato and the Zeon forces are heading closer to their goal where they are still searching desperately for the enemy. They also suffer the lost of their beloved captain, South Burning in one operation while the main EFSF fleet doesn’t seem to give a damn about their tight situation, or have any fear of a real nuclear strike from GP02A now owned by Zeon.

The mastermind behind Operation Stardust, Admiral Aiguille Delaz

On the other hand, the Zeon are busy preparing for war. We are introduced to the admiral of the force, Aiguille Delaz, who planned Operation Stardust so flawlessly. Escaped from the final days of the first One Year War, Delaz and his forces reorganizes their strength for three years and are really to give the Feddie one critical strike to realize the ideals of Zeon. We are also introduced to Cima Garahau, the really ‘evil-type’ of Zeon general, where her gangs looks more like pirates than soldiers. The bridge of Cima’s battleship is like the hall of a palace, in contrast to the other Zeon forces which are a lot more disciplined, but boring :-). However, Cima does move out personally with his troops in combat, and is quite skillful as a MS pilot, so at least there’s something likeable about her. She even severely damages GP01 in one sortie, pretty impressive.

Cima Garahau, my favorite character of the anime

GP01 lost to a Gelgoog? Quite a shame. Kou Uraki has to wait till the last episode to get his revenge on Cima

Apart from the action-packed Gundam fights and MS combats, there are also some off-topic stuff :-) in the anime as well, including the love story between Kou Uraki and Nina Purpleton, the developer of GP01 and GP02A. There are conflicts between those two when they first met from the Gato conflict, since Kou is so much into performing better in combat and neglecting Nina most of the time. There are some emotional moments as well, when all the action of chasing Gato shifts to the meeting of Kou Uraki and Kelly Layzner, a crippled ex-Zeon soldier trying to get back to the main fleet. Kou seemed to be inspired by Kelly about the meaning of life and the need to fight on. He helps Kelly to repair his customized MA Val Varo before heading back to pilot the upgraded GP01Fb. Unfortunately for Kelly, when he finally realized that the Zeon will not take him up anymore due to his condition, he pilots the completed Val Varo to challenge Gundam to prove his worth, without realizing that his friend, Uraki is the pilot. In the end, Uraki destroys the MA, which is an addition to some of the undesirable turn of events in the whole anime. Luckily, we don’t get to see much conflict between the lovers, Kou and Nina after the incident.

Nina's hardwork pays off - she upgrades Gundam's performance to the maximum through GP01Fb, and her relationship with Uraki deepens as well

Kelly's Val Varo is a tough foul for Kou. Really exciting Gundam vs MA moment

Then we move on to the main course, Delaz finally announces to the world about the corruption of the Earth Federation by revealing the nuclear-armed GP02A. The development of the Gundam gives the Zeon a perfect reason (or excuse) to neglect the Antarctica Treaty forbidding the use of such weapon of mass destruction. The EFSF on the other hand, never really views the announcement as a threat, and their response, is a rather stupid naval review, most probably to show off their strength in number to scare off the Zeon. This naval review turns into a massacre, when Gato finally shows us the true power of the nuclear warhead of his Gundam, when he destroys 2/3 of the total fleet stationed at Konpei. Konpei is formally known as Solomon, where the last stronghold of Zeon was situated during the One Year War. Gato’s action shows the entire Earth Sphere that he earned his nickname ‘The Nightmare f Solomon’ through real action in battle.

Gato moving out in his GP02A for the nuclear strike - this is one of the best images of all

Gato got ample time chanting the Zeon declaration before squeezing the trigger. Geez!

The destruction of the Earth Federation’s main fleet is but a beginning of Operation Stardust. Delaz’s true intention is to drop a space colony onto Earth, just like what the Zeon did in Operation British at the beginning of One Year War. When the hijacked space colony starts its course towards Earth, many of the Earth Federation’s forces are still far away, trying desperately to get to the location of the colony as soon as possible. Only the crews of Albion are left fighting. Experimental MAs are rolled out on both sides: Albion’s Kou Uraki piloting Dendrobium (or I should say Kou’s piloted GP03S drives the MA) and Gato in his Neul Ziel. While Zeon tries to hold off the Feddie so that the colony can be dropped; Albion fights on desperately to get to the colony to destroy it. The battle sequences are just breath-taking, and the audience can really feel the tension among Kou and his friends for not being able to do much in such a dreadful moment. There is eerie silence when the colony is shown in slow motion as it passes the point of no-return, where it is being pulled into the Earth atmosphere due to the gravity. The Albion has failed and Operation Stardust is a success, from the Zeon’s point-of-view.

Kou Uraki's Dendrobium... ...

... ...and Gato's Neul Ziel... ...

... ...equals the greatest MA duel of al time!

The most dramatic moment comes at the last few moments before the colony moves towards the point of no-return, when Cima appears to have turned her back on Delaz, and decided to trade the colony in to the Feddie for money, maybe? Not explained in the anime. However, it does create extra tension in Gato’s forces since they have to get pass Cima’s MS forces now. We get to see Zeon fighting Zeon, which in my opinion, is a cool add-on to the initial Gundam versus Gundam situation. The Earth Federation is over-confident in their last defense line, the Solar System II commanded by the brutal Federation general Bask Om, which is supposed to be able to destroy the colony in one shot, or at least break it apart so that the damage onto Earth can be minimized. The control ship is destroyed at the last minute by Gato’s Neul Ziel, and the grand triumph card of EFSF fails to save Earth.

Treachery and deceit from within cause the downfall of the Zeon

Nina watches in shock as the colony is dropped onto Earth

After the drop of the colony, Gato’s battered forces face the fleets of the Federation which arrive too late to do anything. None of Gato’s remaining forces made it pass the final barrier before reaching the safety of their ally, Axis. Gato died heroically by ramming his damaged Neul Ziel onto one of the Federation’s battle cruisers, which marks the end of Delaz Fleet.

Gato's deathis one of the most intriguing moment in the anime

The last few events we get to see is Kou facing court martial for using the experimental MA Dendrobium against the order of headquarter. He is sentenced to imprisonment for a period of time (I just can’t remember the exact number). However, the Earth Federation, under Bask Om declares the founding of the Titans, a special elite force in the army, dealing with rebels and possible threats from Zeon remnants. All the records of Operation Stardust are deleted, and so is Kou’s sentence. He resumes his position as a test pilot, along with surviving buddy Keith, as well as his love Nina.

Several major points to be noted from the whole anime include the arrogance of the Federation, as well as the founding of the Titans. The earlier factor is shown throughout the anime, where EFSF continues to ignore the threat of Zeon until it is too late. The Federation’s head is over-confident in the Solar System II defense weapon, which is destroyed with ease by Gato. They continues to make mistakes by not recognizing their own fault, and starts to play Nazi’s secret police by forming the Titans, which becomes the basis for the atrocities we see in UC0087 Zeta Gundam. Also, we get to see the character of Bask Om, and his brutal nature is well demonstrated in UC083 before seeing his hideous face again in UC0087.

The founding of the Titans right after the tragedy of Operation Stardust, with their first MS, the GM Quel rolling out in no time

Axis's leader, Haman Kahn makes a 15-second appeareance in one of the episodes. Cool!

In terms of mecha design, I give UC0083 five stars out of five simply because of the originality of the new designs as well as details and the references made to other Gundam anime, which makes the entire anime looks so real and interesting. Apart from the new Gundams seen in this anime, we get to see upgraded versions of Zakus (Zaku II F2) and Doms (Domtropen). These cameo MSs are quite powerful in the anime, most of times better than GMs of the Feddie, even though they are not suited to carry beam weapons. Also, the designs on the MAs are pretty cool as well. My favorite is Neul Ziel, the all green ‘physical representation of Zeon’ is just unbelievable in combat. You have to see it for yourself.

I think I’ll stop here (it’s being three pages long in my Word document and I’m not sure how long you have being scrolling down from the top, hehe). Anyway, UC0083 is a must watch anime for all Gundam fans. You’ll be amazed of how good the whole series is even though it uses almost no CG element at all.