Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: the 08th Mobile Suit Team is a 12 ep OAV side story that takes place during the 3rd act of the original Gundam series. The story is set in South America’s jungles, following the defeat of Zeon’s earth-side forces in the middle east. The focus is on Gundams and lesser mobile suits as every day military weapons, used by every day soldiers. There are no New Types and no space battles (after the introductory episode). Just solid military action.
Is it good? Yes! Really good!
Sniper Gundam with massive cooling tubes. Standard Gundams with gigantic parachute packs.
Shiro Amada is our hero this time and, thankfully, he breaks the Gundam mold. Shiro is a seasoned Federation officer leading a small mobile suit unit around the jungle in search of a Zeon base. Along the way, Shiro befriends guerillas and kills more Zeon troops than he would like. His emotional journey gets rockier along the way and he quickly discovers Aina Saharin, a female Zeon pilot he saved early in his career, is piloting an experimental mega weapon that he will ultimately have to defeat.
08th looks good. Really good! The mechanical design takes the goofy over the top style of original Gundam and makes it more complex, dirty and believably lived-in. Even Guntank, the stupid tank-treaded suit gets an official nod. (a trio are used to shell a Zeon base but are considered fragile and difficult to defend due to their sluggish mobility) I loved seeing such a silly design reworked to make sense in the war’s context — truly, it retroactively lends the original even more credibility.
More importantly, I can’t stress how important it is that 08th MS ignores the New Type plot thread and focuses on real people, fighting real wars without magical intuition and psychedelic dialogs. I found it much easier to empathize with REAL people in stressful situations and do not miss the ‘psychic POV’ that cropped up (and slowed down) battles towards the end of original Gundam.
I enjoyed how likable almost everyone is on both sides too. As before, we cared about nearly everyone, regardless of faction, and appreciated how evil and responsibility could be the same thing under different contexts. In 08th, the likability factor is even more pronounced — so much so that even the show’s characters don’t want to kill each other too.
Unfortunately, not everything in 08th MS smells like roses. As in many Gundam tales, the romance feels abrupt. This is understandable but lobbing an ‘I want to live my life with you forever’ speech the second time the heroes meet made us wince. The Zeon arch villain is unnecessarily evil too. (Its never even explained why he kills his own scientists at the end) So thank goodness he’s just a cripple! Ugh!
Its a testament on how well rounded everyone else is in the show, and how believably the show handles the total collapse of Zeon’s forces on earth — from emotional and logistical states of scattered troops on the run, to generals abandoning their humanity to win the day. The urgency and the grim sense of defeat is very effective.