It is UC 0079. Earth Federation is attacked by its colony, the Principality of Zeon, in a war of independence called the One Year War. The 08th MS Team is set one month after the start of the war and runs alongside the events featured in the original Mobile Suit Gundam series that aired in 1979. This show, which ran for twelve episodes in 1995, provides a microcosm of the greater war inside Southeast Asia, where Federation and Zeon fighters are locked in grueling, hard fought battles in harsh jungle terrain (a setting that easily conjures images of the Vietnam War).
Shiro Amada is sent to the combat zone to take command the 08th MS Team. Eager to prove himself in battle, he quickly earns a rep after his transport shuttle gets caught in the middle of a skirmish between two solitary mobile suits, one of which is a new experimental Zuka. Shiro befriends its pilot, Aina Sahalin, and in the interest of self-preservation, they decide to work together to summon their respective rescuers. Shiro and Aina go their separate ways unaware of how important they will become to each other in the coming days.
The central story of 08th MS Team concerns the Zeon’s development of the Apsaras, a massive mobile suit equipped with enough firepower to completely vaporize any Federation base. The project is led by Ginius Sahalin, a brilliant engineer, and Aina’s older brother. The two share a very close bond and while Aina questions Zeon’s motive for war, she nonetheless goes along with Ginius’ machinations out of family loyalty. On the Federation side of things, Shiro’s command of the 08th isn’t without its bumps in the road. The 08th has earned a reputation for being the misfit squad that is openly mocked by other Mobile Suit units. Trust doesn’t come easily but after proving himself to his unit, the group turns into a well-oiled machine of war. Its notable members include Karen Joshua, Master Chief and part-time medic; Terry Sanders, a man who believes himself to be cursed because every pilot assigned to his sorties don’t come back alive; and Eledore Massis, who pilots the support hovercraft and provides logistics and tactical data (he’s also an accomplished songwriter). Together, Shiro and the 08th do what they can to push the Zeon forces out of the region.
The 08th Team is a thoroughly entertaining show from top to bottom. The animation is slick (even after all these years), the battles are awesome and rich with purpose, and the characters develop into fascinating people. Much needs to be said about the relationship between Shiro and Aina. Coming from both sides of the war, calling their relationship complicated is a bit of an understatement. While it would have been easy to paint the pair as “star-crossed lovers,” their connection goes much deeper than physical or emotional love. They represent the story’s anti-war message. It takes some time for that message to manifest for Shiro, whose ambition turns him into a capable warrior who doesn’t give much thought to the futility of war. He’s even capable of some light diplomacy when he stumbles into a valuable alliance with the local guerrilla resistance group. Aina, on the other hand, is against the war from the beginning. She honors a loyalty to her brother, even after he repeatedly puts her in harm’s way to test the Apsaras, though she harbors a strong distaste for battle.
Even though the show was created in 1995, the animation still looks great. Much like the recent seasons of The Simpsons, modern Japanese animation has a tendency to look too clean and polished, often lacking the charming imperfections that come animation done by hand. The show is animated beautifully (and without the assistance of modern CG effects) and looks its best when the mobile suits are engaged int the ballet that is shooting and beating the crap out of each other. The show also rekindled my love of the Japanese method of drawing overly detailed computer screens, terminals, and control panels. I love the painstaking detail of drawing keyboards, flashing lights, targeting screens, and lit up on-screen text.
The Blu-Ray edition of The 08th MS Team offers all 12 episodes on two discs. A third disc contains The 08th MS Team: Miller’s Report which is an hour long compilation film that retells the events of the show leading up to Shiro’s attack on the hidden Zeon base. Having been tried for treason after his reunion with Aina, Shiro describes the events of the series to Alice Miller, a special investigator assigned to his case. Rounding out the added features is an animated short called “Battle in Three Dimensions,” as well as clean opening and closing credit sequences.
It’s been a long time since I sat down and watched an entire series of Mobile Suit Gundam. Watching giant robots beat and shoot each other up is usually enough to get me to sit down and pay attention but I do appreciate the narrative substance that comfortably coexists with its great style. The series’ anti-war message doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence nor play on their emotions by being melodramatic or way overwrought. The 08th MS Team offers a realistic vision of war through the eyes of those who experience it on the front lines and for them, too often are the sides neither stark black and white. In the case of Shiro and Aina, there can be good people on both sides and how they choose to act against the rising tide of violence is what defines their true character.
Publisher: SUNRISE INC
Spoken Language: English, Japanese
Subtitle Language: English
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Age Rating: 14+
Run Time: 355
Release Date: 5/2/2017
Purchased Or Received For Review? Received For Review
Where to buy: RightStuf, Amazon