The Story: Universal Century year 0079... An overpopulated Earth has established orbiting colonies, one of which, Zeon, declares itself independent principality and wages an intense war on Earth's Federal forces. In the wars opening months there are massive casualties depleting the population of both sides. Eight months later, Zeon forces attack the outer colony Side 7, intending to destroy the warship White Base and its cargo, a new design of Mobile Suit weapon called Gundam. Amuro Ray, the son of the chief Mobile Suit designer, finds himself piloting the main Gundam, defending the civilians and White Base from the attacking Zeon... By default. Amuro Ray and a group of teenagers become soldiers in the Federal Forces army, helping defend White Base and the evacuated Side 7 colony. Out in unfriendly space, they try to make their way back to Earth. Undermanned and undertrained, Amuro and his companions must adjust to the very adult task they are given and fight the dogged Zeon commander Char, who pursues the base at every turn.
The Film: Originally a marginally successful tv series, Gundam was repacked into 3 films and saw its popularity skyrocket and become a cultural phenomenon. The creative vision was for a mecha show that didn't just try to speak to children in simple action entertainment terms like Voltron. Instead it would be a more mature melodrama-action series that explored many aspects of existing- the horror of war, love, politics, and general sociological issues. Here we see teenagers as the central characters, basic innocents, on the cusp of adulthood but still emotionally immature, but, like war so often does, on the front lines of battle and forced to deal with the very adult pressures of warfare.
Gundam is not just easy entertaining eye-candy action, but action with consequences. On one simple level, Amuro jumps into the Gundam Mobile Suit, instruction manual in hand, and begins piloting the suit, fighting off the vastly better trained enemy. Yet, in most series, he would make jokes, clever quips and such, whereas in Gundam, there is a seriousness to the battle. When he destroys one of the fighters, the enemies suit explodes and tears a hole into the space station sending poor fellow soldiers tumbling out to their death. And the enemy is not just some seething grinning evil, but simply a race refusing to bow to the demands of a government it doesn't recognize. It is a race that has grown apart from its original culture, become fascist and unrelenting in its desire for independence. And, the mecha issues are not strictly, "Ooooo! Wow! Look at the neat suit.", but the issue is raised, that by fighting within this robotic armor, it effectively dehumanizes your enemy, making combat much easier, but of course this leads to complex issues. It is still a personal battle, man to man, and Amuro struggles with this, knowing it a man he is killing even though all he sees a cold robotic face.
Tecnically, being a late 70's series, the animation is much, much more clunkier than the slick productions we have become accustomed to, but it is a testament to the power of the storytelling that such a series holds up some twenty years later. Its message and most of all the consistent, ever going forward, pacing make any crudeness forgettable. Having only seen the newer Gundam series on Cartoon Network, I was amazed at how entertaining this original series was, and after awhile I stopped noticing how cumbersome the animation was and was pretty engrossed in the story. Considering most anime out there is pure storytelling dreck, I can see why Gundam got its solid reputation as a classic. Its not perfect, but at least it tries, which when anime is concerned, is a nice accomplishment.
The DVD: Bandai. Pretty much completely lacking in extras, no art, no commercial spots and such. Nice holo foil cover though.
Picture- 1:33:1 Full screen Original Aspect ratio. Well, it looks as good as it is bound to get. Of course, being a late 70's animation show it falls prey to restraints of the time. Everything looks fine, and any flaws, grain, weak color, are due to the nature of the existing elements, not the DVD transfer.
Sound- Original Stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, Japanese with optional yellow English subtitles. Now, usually I'm not one for meddling with soundtracks. Just because you can change a mix, add new sound fx, and so forth doesn't mean you should. Often it kind of ruins the original charm. In this case though, I really liked the remix. It seems to stay very faithful to the original recording, only it just amps up the sound fx and score much better, rounding out, pumping up the audio more than the original. In any case, fans have either one to choose from.
Extras- 14 Chapter Selections--- Liner note bio of co-creator Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.--- 15 pages of credits.
Conclusion: Well, the presentation offers very nice audio and an image as good as its likely to ever get. But, it is pretty much completely lacking in extras, making it a purchase for those true die hard fans, a casual consideration for the general anime buff, and a rental for the uninitiated.