The Story: Universal Century 0093. It is now fifteen years after the events of the original Gundam series. Char Azanbale has become the dictatorial ruler of the space colonies (Spacenoids) and coninues to wage the Zeon war against the Federation of Earth. His belief is that the only way for humanity to evolve is for man to be free of the prejudices of Earth born society, for everyone to live in space. So he intends to crash an asteroid called Axis into the Earth sending it into an uninhabitable winter, forcing humanity to live in the stars. His rival Amuro Ray continues to be the Federal Forces top pilot, and a constant thorn in his side... Char signs a peace treaty which is merely subterfuge for his grand attack on the Earth. Char finds a new Newtype ingenue in Quess, a Federal Forces officials daughter, who he takes under his sway and uses her abilitis in his plot against the Earth.
The Film: Boy, Gundam is really beginning to wear itself out. I reviewed the first three condensed movie versions of the original series. And really, nothing is lost in the shorter versions, the main concept is there, just some of the character details are considerably less fine tuned. But, I cannot help but wonder why make Char's Counterattack (1988) at all, because, as far as adding anything new to the original Gundam mythology, it does absolutely nothing. First, nearly all of the dialogue is very obvious, blunt exposition. A piece of dialogue either serves as a retread of the Gundam world for those that are unfamiliar or it is just dry character details. None of it feels like true conversation, its all there just to present the story, and it lacks imagination for how people really converse with one another. "Why do you want to destroy the Earth Char?"- "I want to destroy it because the human soul is weighed down by gravity."- "Yes, you are right Char, that makes so much sense." After an hour I hit my timer to see how much longer I had to endure this rehash, and when I saw there was an hour and two minutes left I turned the movie off, took a break to cleanse myself and watched The Simpsons. When I put it back on, the last hour didn't improve in the story department, a predictable third act, but at least it had some entertaining fighting. Though, after Sept 11th, it is hard to watch missiles raining down on the innocent in a weakly plotted adult/teen cartoon movie.
I'm sure for some Gundam fans, who love the characters it is a welcome return to them, even if maybe they haven't developed. For me, I saw the original series. I know the colonies in space feel separated from the Earthbound government. I know that the separation they feel goes even further because they developed a different culture and even genetics than their earthbound privileged ancestors. I know that Char and Amuro's rivalry goes further than being on opposing sides; its Chars jealously of Amuro's skills and the fact that Char fights for his ideals whereas Amuro has none. I learned all of this in the original and didn't need the tepid dialogue, flashbacks, and retread of Chars Counterattack.
Okay, so the dialogue and plot are weak. Anime is generally considered a visual medium first and foremost, right? Visually it is several notches above the 70's series. Stylistically they added some nice things like how the crew float around the ships due to the lesser gravity, showing how comfortable the Spacenoids are in this, their natural environment. And, its really the battles and mobile suits that get the most obvious update. Much more defined. Much sleeker. The direction shows the cockpits being translucent, so we see the space surrounding them. But, the battles can get hectic, lost of fast cutting lots going on, and they add little triangular cut-outs at the corner of the screen showing the character talking/reacting while fighting. Well, if you ever wondered why Japanese kids went into epileptic seizures while watching cartoons, after seeing Char's Counterattack you wont be surprised. Its good, eye popping, just a too little hyper. Or, maybe I'm just too old. Nah.
The DVD: Pioneer/Bandai. Packaged in a nice slipcase.
Picture: Widescreen. Anamorphic. Looks good. Color and contrast are top notch. Occasionally thought the image could have been sharper, but may have been due to skimping on the animation in those scenes, not the transfer itself. Some minor edge enhancement, but it wasn't too drastic.
Sound: Many audio options. Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0. English Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 with optional yellow English subtitles. All of the tracks are good. Just pick the one that suits your ear the best. The subtitles are nice big and yellow, very legible. As far as sub Vs. dub translation, I always stick with original language, but one quick listen revealed "pasta" becomes "salad" and "in more danger" becomes "courting the grim reaper".
Extras: Reversible DVD cover--- Nice Gundam Guide booklet.--- Chapter Selections--- Trailers for Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, Escaflowne: The Movie, and Jin Roh--- Yoshiyuki Tomino Filmography--- DVD credtis
Conclusion: Well, despite my finding the story underdeveloped, I'm sure established Gundam fans will want to pick it up. Extras aren't really astounding, but the packaging is nice (so is the booklet) and the transfer satisfies.