Reviews: Mobile Suit Gundam The08th MS Team
What do you do when your Mobile Suit breaks
Typically if this were a regular Gundam series, resources would be no issue and the RX-78-2-Super-Mega-Awesome-Prototype would be fixed in a jiffy. Nope! Not here. This Gundam series takes a dysfunctional cast of regular Feddy soldiers and shows their day to day cases in a war with the Zeonic forces, and it really does truly does show how difficult the logistics needed to maintain the Mobile Suits are required. For one thing, instead of the typical super prototype, the Gundams here are actually precursors to the famous RX-78! And as they get more and more broken, more and more needs to be replaced with spare parts, because this is war and god damn it a giant robot is hard to maintain! As for the characters I am a big fan of the non-newtype leads, characters that manage to fight the good fight without needing ESP to pull off great feats, each and everyone of them is a flawed human being plagued with doubt, hate, and unrealistic expectations, and even the Federation forces (while still the good guys) are not portrayed as unambiguously good, here they are flawed human beings with awful people just as much as the Zeon forces, who, while some are portrayed as total bastards, are established as Soldiers fighting for a cause because that is what they know. It creates a nice clear contrast of grey in this world, and helps keep me interested in the character conflicts. I have very few issues with this beyond some minor nitpicks (poor voice acting in dub that leads to Narm for one) but my biggest issue would be the love story which feels very forced, not enough to distract me from the rest but notable enough to be present as a issue. Gundam never has been really good with love stories has it? Regardless I'd recommend this series as quite a enjoyable ride as a real robot series.
Most Realistic Gundam Yet.
The 08th MS team is by far the most realistic Gundam series yet. You have the series' Humongous Mecha disabled by things like sand, the antagonistic Zeon forces painted in lighter shades of grey, the casts' own Earth Federation showing off their darker side, and best of all, A cast composed of regular grunts. No fancy-pants newtypes or aces here, just a regular group of troopers with giant robots. The plot is well thought out, and revolves around the type of events that could conceivably occur in a Mech War. In place of the almost standard 'Hero vs. The Universe' style present in Gundam, the team has to work together to take out even small groups of enemy forces. In fact, the characters have been shown using up entire clips to destroy a single Zaku, the epitome of Gundam cannon fodder. Also, while holding onto a giant super weapon as a major plot device, the missions aren't of extreme importance. They range from patrols to securing supply routes for most of the episodes. That is, of course, up until the final episodes where a Zeon-held city is attacked. Overall, this series really captures the feel of what a Gundam war would be like in the trenches, in place of from the Elite Special Forces' point of view. Another thing about this series is it's characters. Being a Zeon fan myself, I typically wish the main characters would just take the laser/bullet/random instrument of death and die peacefully. In this one, the characters have enough flaws so as to not appear goody-two-shoes heroes, but real people. The same goes for the Zeon characters, who managed to reach levels of awesome not typically achieved by normal humans in the series. However, there are still the a few stereotypical evil-doers, but they're the ones you want to die spectacularly anyways. In closing, if you want to watch a Gundam series, this one is the way to go.
THE Real Robot Series
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team could best be described as Mobile Suit Gundam: Vietnam. It's a gritty take on the One Year War approaching Used Future levels in South East Asia following a team of ground pounding grunts. Here there are no shiny, powerful prototype suits piloted by newtypes. Rather the suits are leftovers from Project V which produced Mobile Suit Gundam 0079's RX-78-2 Gundam cobbled together with extra armor and modified to make them more suited for ground combat creating the RX-79[G] Gundam Ground Type. These Gundams are far from the juggernaut that was MSG 0079's RX-78-2. They're beaten, broken, and destroyed nearly as much as the RGM-79 GM Mobile Suits and Zaku IIs. A pair of custom models do show up towards the end of the series, but they're far from Ace Customs. One is made with the head of a GM, and the other has tank and jeep parts for want of proper RX-79[G] spare parts. Here a Zaku II is dangerous to a Gundam, necessitating a full drum of ammo (no beam rifles here) to take down. The maintenance of the Gundams is also played up. Any shot of the 08th Team's home base will almost certainly include a shot of Gundams in various states of repair. Early in this review I mentioned that there are no super prototypes in The 08th MS Team, however there is one, and it's a Zeon prototypes and massively spoileriffic. I wont discuss it any further to avoid spoiling anyone's fun. The plot start off at a slow clip despite this being a 12 episode OVA. The majority of the show follows the 08th team as they carry out missions to weaken the Zeonic hold over what may as well be Vietnam. I also commend the story on being a Gundam series with a romance plot that doesn't come off as being Strangled By The Red String, one of my major criticisms of of both MSG 0079 and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. The Gray And Gray Morality also paints the Zeonic characters (for the most part) in a brighter light than most series. They're real people with their own motivations and sympathetic points. This cuts both ways, giving us a Federation character who in some ways channels Zeta's Bask Om. The English dub is superb. I highly recommend The 08th MS Team to anyone who wants to get into Gundam.