Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988) review

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Resolves all hanging plot threads of previous gundam series, high quality animation, professional voice acting, philosophically deeper than most mecha anime

The Bad: requires knowledge of preceeding Gundam series to fully appreciate

Current Availability Status: No available in Singapore. DVD available from online sources.


Mobile Suit Gundam. The legendary anime series of the 80s by famed director Yoshiyuki Tomino astounded millions of fans by offering giant robot combat action with a very realistic portrayal of war. Then, its darker sequel Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam delivered a tragic tale of love, loss and hidden conspiracies as the body count mounted to an all time high, earning Yoshiyiki Tomino the nickname "Kill them all Tomino". Now, the final chapter of an anime legend, the Universal Century Gundam saga, comes to its mind blowing conclusion.

Char's Counterattack is the culmination of years worth of Gundam storylines, in particular, the rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable that was established in the 1979 Gundam series but was never really followed through in the sequels. Seemingly having defied death once again, the famous Char Aznable has resurfaced to lead the Neo Zeon movement against the tyranical earth Federation. Slowly but surely, the movement is winning the hearts and minds of the space colonists, but Char has an even darker scheme planned. By crashing a colony on to earth, Char intends to force all human beings into space in hopes of ridding the earth dwellers' bigoted prejudice against space colonists. In order to quell this threat, the Earth Federation sends their "Londo Bell" task force led by Bright Noa and the ace pilot Amuro Ray. The battlelines are drawn once again as the world gears up for its greatest conflict ever.

As a stand alone Gundam movie, Char's counterattack does not do much for the newer audience. It expects that the viewer is already familiar with Gundam lore and the established rivalry between Amuro and Char as it immediately throws you into the thick of the story and the heat of the action. A couple of new characters like Quess Paraya and Hathaway Noa are introduced but they come across as uninteresting and seem like throw-away characters whose only purpose is to fill up screen time when we are not focusing on Char or Amuro. There is a very uncomfortable attempt at creating a shaky love triangle story but the execution of that plot thread was not as good as it could have been.

Poor attempt at romance aside, Char's counterattack features a number of other themes that the viewers can easily relate to. There is a coming-of-age theme in how Hathaway Noa desires to step out of his father's shadow and forge his own identity, and there is a good deal of wartime pholisophical rhetoric thrown about by Char. That being said, only once Amuro and Char take center stage does the movie finally find its footing and delivers an engagingly entertaining experience. They are the perfect opposites, each representing widely differing views on war and the idealistic pursuit of peace. How far is one willing to go to end a war? Does an objectively good end justify unethical means? Can the obsessive pursuit of ideals turn men into monsters? Questions like these pop up during the course of the narrative which challenges the viewer to think and question.

Some fans have complained about the lack of character development of many of the cast, but it seems further development of the characters was not the director's intention. It is not a movie to develop the characters further, but a movie to bring about a RESOLUTION to the characters that have been developed over the course of the previous Gundam series. Char's Counterattack should not be viewed as a stand alone movie. As such, it is highly recommended to re-watch at least the original Gundam 0079 TV series or compilation movies before watching this movie. Re-watching "Zeta Gundam" would also add to a better understanding of Char's character and his bitter inner struggle with his own ideals over the years.

Jam packed with epic action sequences thanks to a higher budget and more experienced staff, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack is the exciting concluding chapter in the grand sweeping tale of Amuro Ray and Char Aznable. Here is a high point in the history of Gundam that subsequent shows had never surpassed.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: to witness one of the must watch anime movie classics that inspired a generation of other creators to follow i its footsteps. Or if you are a Gundam fan and would like to see the best Gundam had to offer.
Avoid it: If you really have no pre-knowledge about the original gundam series and would not even bother reading up wikipedia

Entertainment: A
Story: B
Characters: B-
Animation: A-
Art: A-
Voice work (japanese): A
Voice work (english): A-
Replay Value: B+
"Brains": A-

Clash of the titans: Amuro's Nu Gundam and Char's Sazabi go head to head

Amuro and Bright Noa prepare for battle

Char Aznable. Hero of the people or anti-earth terrorist?

Awesome animation reflects the chaos of actual warfare

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