The third entry in 2014’s Summer Hot Flashbacks is Mobile Suit Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket, which is set on Side 6 during the final act of the one year war and tells the tale of a comparatively small conflict. And it tells it quite well.
Side 6, the neutral colony featured in original Gundam’s relatively bland no-good fiancé plot, turns out to be not so neutral after all and is developing a new Gundam frame for the Federation. As always, Zeon knows this and has sent a special forces crew to blow everything up. (Seriously, Federation R&D must have taken all of Federation Security’s budget because Gundam development secrecy is a joke!)
The main characters are Al, a spunky kid and military enthusiast, Bernie, a young optimistic Zeon pilot and Christina, a federation test pilot.
I know! I know! Before you run screaming to the hills because this is another Gundam featuring a twerpy little kid that saves the day: DON’T!
War in the Pocket is a coming of age tale with Al’s loss of innocence at it’s core. Al never flies a Gundam and doesn’t save anyone. In fact, the final scene ends with him, sobbing, broken at the beginning of school year ceremony, surrounded by the still-children he used to consider friends.
Bernie too is a solid, well presented character. From nieve young pilot to grim soul survivor of his squad, Bernie both uses Al’s enthusiasm to Zeon’s advantage and cares for him, knowing full well Zeon plans to nuke Side 6 if he fails. Before the final battle he even leaves a video confession of Zeon’s war crimes in hopes that Al will one day understand.
It’s all quite good and even floats a Romeo & Juliet side plot between Bernie and Christina. In any other Gundam this could have been a poorly paced central theme but here, the love is just a potential and, since they never learn each other’s identity, the tragedy is just for Al and the viewer. By the end, the survivor is happy and clueless, which further crushes Al’s spirit.
Perhaps the casts likable, happy personalities and lack of over the top relationship drama makes WitP stand out most. Sure, every Gundam pulls on the viewer’s sympathies by pitting nice character on opposing sides, but only WitP does it without melodrama.
WitP is a good looking show. Maybe not as well rendered or stylish as 08th MS team or the Stardust OAVs, and the scope of the conflict is very small — often not featuring mech combat at all. It has plenty of details though, and spending time on a few mobile suits instead of an endless flood of new types, we get some neat looks.
My favorite moments come in the final OAV, when Bernie and Al are scavenging parts for a broken Zoku. We really get to see repairs, guts of the suit, and a process that’s glossed over in the other series.
In closing, War in the Pocket drives home the idea that everyone could be friends if they could get over duty and the extrinsic forces of war and opposing ideologies that the characters don’t even care about. Its also a digestible, self contained show and the ideal place to go if you want to experience Gundam, without a massive investment.