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Toonzone @ MCM London May 2018 – Review: “Gundam The Origin VI” – The End Of The Beginning


So here we are. Four years after I began this series of reviews, the sixth and final episode of the Gundam The Origin OVA is here at last. It’s a sombre milestone for a few reasons, chiefly that by all evidence this is indeed the end of The Origin as an animated adaptation and we sadly won’t be transitioning to covering the full series as myself and others have speculated.

Before I continue, I’d first like to thank Anime Limited for providing a screening of this episode at this May’s MCM London Comic Con. Although the episode has appeared on American streaming services such as Hulu, UK fans were left out in the cold for such platforms.

Episode six picks up where we left off last time, with the epic battle of Loum. And when I say epic, I mean epic. We were teased at the very start of this series with how the battle would look but now it’s crunch time and the animators go all out. The cel-shaded CGI animation works really well here as we get to see battleships barraging each other and Zakus going to town.  We’ve had some brief battles across the series but this really is the crown jewel.

Although the battles are brilliant, as ever it is the character driven political drama that is the heart of the story. Having demonstrated the fruits of their labour and demoralised the Federation, two clear camps start to emerge within Zeon with one pushing to call the Federation to surrender and the other seeking to continue the war to even more depraved extremes. Degwin realises just how monstrous Gihren is and the conflict between them is recognisable yet engrossingly different. I remarked in my review of the first episode that it was interesting that The Origin characterised Zeon Zum Deikun as an unhinged political extremist as opposed to the saintly figure the canon had previously went with. Here, we see how this has affected his followers with Degwin cast as a true believer in Zeon’s ideology and Gihren having possibly inherited his messiah complex. In the original show we’re given little to dissuade from the notion the Zabis were simply political allies who hijacked a peaceful ideology and rerouted it into an aggressive nationalist one, Gihren in particular treating all the talk of Newtypes and human evolution as simply a convenient line to keep the populace on board with the war effort.

Degwin soon finds that one of his only true allies may ironically be Revil, the captured supreme commander of the Federation forces. Revil has always been one of my favourite characters from the original series because he embodies a notion that some Gundam creators often forget. As civilians it’s easy for us to be distrustful of the military but demonising every part of it might be going too far. Revil embodies a sense of noble intent within the otherwise corrupt Federation forces. He’s not perfect but he’s always come across to me as someone who entered and progressed through the ranks specifically to defend peace, not promote war. There’s a scene that highlights this perfectly when Dozle gets the drop on Revil’s ship and has his own barrage it as they pass. At one point the two bridges are right next to each other and the two commanders can see one another; Dozle’s face is the picture of insane bloodlust whilst Revil maintains a composed analytical poker face with a hint of sadness. Indeed it’s hard not to be reminded of the iconic “So this is the enemy” scene from the original series  where Amuro gets to see the scale of the enemy he and his allies are fighting against.

Now an established and respected star of the Zeon forces, Char slides into something closer to how fans will remember him from the original series as well. He’s still clearly stringing people along but here it comes off as his iconic dark wit and not the sociopathic tendencies displayed thus far. A kind of heartfelt moment comes when we see him gift the role of captain of his personal ship to long time subordinate Dren. I’ve felt the comedy value of the series has fluctuated greatly episode to episode but Dren is a highlight, with some great scenes that had the whole audience laughing.

With this being the final episode we now unmistakably move into the events that fans will recognise as the start of the original series but sadly this has to be the most awkward part of the episode. My understanding is that Sunrise did the pre-war chapters in this OVA format partly to test if The Origin had the legs to be a financial success for them. With that seemingly being decided to not be the case, the last 15 minutes or so of this episode seem to settle for awkwardly welding this OVA onto the original 1979 series and I simply think it doesn’t work.

The Origin is an alternate continuity retelling of the original Gundam tale, recognisable yet distinctly different. Trying to treat it as in the same canon as a lead in to get new viewers to go and watch that just doesn’t work for me, especially not when the episode clumsily shows us the White Base crew before they’ve assumed said role and slaps text on screen to tell us who they are and their role on the ship like something out of a pre-release PV. For a production that did so much right this just feels like Sunrise throwing their hands up and trying to get some use out of it before the project is written off. It’s not even the case that alternate continuities are new ground for Gundam; the Zeta Gundam: A New Translation trilogy is specifically designed to be an alternate, optimistic take on that story whilst keeping the original TV series as canon.

That said, I will admit the very last thing we see on screen is a cute bit of fanservice and almost made me want to go and rewatch the original series then and there.

The voice cast go all out for this finale. Ikeda is sublime as ever and Furuya gets to shine with the conclusion of Amuro’s subplot of deciphering his father’s research.  The Zabi actors also do well. Banjou Ginga is the only original actor of their brood to return and has been a powerful presence across this entire OVA. The other newer voices do well too, with Jin Urayama channelling Degwin’s internal conflict. As I’ve mentioned before we’re now sadly at the point where various actors who were in these roles in 1979 simply won’t be available for a range of reasons. It’s not always perfect but recasts like this will become increasingly normal and I thank both the returning actors for stepping up once again and the new actors for trying to honour the legacy they’re continuing.

Gundam The Origin VI: Rise of the Red Comet is a strong but flawed closing chapter for this series. A lot of elements finally pay off and as a long time fan it’s hard not to get excited about seeing an animated interpretation of the events that lead into the iconic main story. However, it’s also hard not to be upset that seemingly this is it for The Origin in animation and that the series seeks to apparently awkwardly tether itself to the original series at the last minute.

As a celebration of the best elements of Gundam and how it can be far more than a plastic model kit commercial these six episodes are a must watch for veterans and rookies alike. Especially in the turbulent age we currently find ourselves, with the brewing tensions and historical mistakes it warns of sadly once again hanging over our daily lives. Here’s hoping Sunrise see sense and please give us the rest.

The first four episodes of Gundam The Origin are available to purchase on Blu-ray from the Anime Limited store.