a.k.a. Kidou Senshi Gundam F91
Universal Century 0123, thirty years of peace have passed since the last war, and the Earth Sphere is at peace. During this time, the destroyed Side 4 has been rebuilt as the Frontier Side. Young Seabook Arno and his family live there without a care in the galaxy… until the Ronah family’s privately funded army, the Crossbone Vanguard, attacks Frontier Side. Amidst the chaos, Seabook finds himself in the Federation’s vessel, the Space Ark, and their latest mobile suit, the Gundam Formula 91.
summary by Ender
Highs: Fast and furious
Lows: Too fast and too furious
Originally planned as a fifty-two-episode bridge between Char’s Counterattack and Victory Gundam, a last minute decision called for this series to be reworked as a two-hour movie. It seemed like a good decision at the time, considering the box office numbers Char’s Counterattack took in. They probably should have stuck to the first idea…
F91 excels at utilizing the film format to present a beautifully animated fest of explosions and mobile suit battles. Tomino has always been able to direct a fine action sequence, and this movie is no different. And, of course, he gets time to flex his “Kill ‘Em All” roots with some rather gruesome scenes of destruction. If one scene has stuck with me from this movie, it probably has to be when Karozo Ronah unleashes a secret weapon upon an unsuspecting colony populace. What’s even more shocking is his reaction right after. This is probably one of the most innovative genocides ever animated, in a good way.
Of course, when it moves away from the action and towards the story, it comes across a snag. You can tell that this movie was originally intended as a series just by the way the story is presented. Tomino was trying to tell his archetypal epic story here, the type that boasts a tremendous cast with intricate relationships, all while presenting new ideas and directions for a long-running franchise. Well, it turns out this story cannot be told in two hours. Events and characters fly across the screen without any explanation. In previous Gundam series, you can tell that it took the protagonists a couple of spills to master their mobile suits; in this movie, Seabook masters the F91 in what seems like five minutes. Also, certain ideas, such as the new mobile suit technology and insights into the Federation and Ronah Family’s corruption, are never fully realized. Rather disappointing…
There is enough mobile suit mayhem and action in this movie to make it a must-own for action junkies. But for those of you who enjoy Gundam for the stories, this is probably a Sunday afternoon rental at most.
Highs: Gorgeous animation; intense action; interesting plot ideas
Lows: Too much plot, not enough time; dire lack of development
Sometimes, even the great ones have their moments where they slip up just a bit. 1991 just happened to be one of those years for Yoshiyuki Tomino with the creation and release of F91. His next chapter in the Universal Century timeline was initially slated to be a full fledged, 52 episode TV series to bridge the gap between UC generations. With thirteen scripts completed, the plans were changed, and the TV series became a movie.
To understand why such a decision was made, one simply has to look at the previous Gundam incarnation. Just three years earlier, Tomino and Sunrise saw incredible success with the release of Char’s Counterattack in theaters, and as the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. So based on that train of thought, it seemed like a good idea at the time, right? Well, after watching this movie, it seems as though they should have stuck with the TV series. Condensing a large amount of material into a two hour movie is virtually impossible (just ask Akira), and this movie is no exception. It’s quite a shame, really. There are so many interesting ideas, mecha concepts, and plot devices that are practically begging to be explored. You can tell just by the sheer volume of information and the expansive cast that Tomino had much bigger ambitions for this chapter of the franchise. Unfortunately, five minutes for each individual concept simply isn’t enough time. Scenarios are seemingly lobbed into the forefront with little to no warning or explanation, and given the frenetic pacing of this movie, it only makes the final product appear to be that much more rushed.
Ample character development in a movie format is not an easy task, especially due to the time constraint. F91 does itself no favors in this department. Just like the plot, the cast suffers from a dire lack of development and explanation because of the rushed nature of this movie. We get a very quick introduction of the main players in this story, and everything else is just thrown in at will. It’s rather hard to believe that Seabook can be so adept at piloting a Gundam after only being introduced to it just ten minutes prior. The human aspect of Seabook, as a result, takes a hit. Several other main characters, including Cecily, are so hastily put together that it makes it rather difficult to not only remember why someone is acting the way they are, but to more importantly care. It’s a shame, really. This cast of characters could have easily rivaled other previous casts in terms of intrigue and the intricate relations amongst one another.
Because so much is crammed into such a small amount of time, you’re not given too much time to catch your breath between battles, and let me tell you, these battles are intense. I’ll certainly give this movie one thing: there is no shortage of carnage at all. Action junkies will feel right at home with F91and its vivid fight scenes. Everything starts off with a bang and doesn’t stop until everything ends with an even bigger, more shocking bang. From start to finish, this movie contains some of the most beautifully animated acts of mecha violence I have ever seen, and I’ve watched End of Evangelion. Even the non-battle scenes, few as they seem to be, are handled with artistic care and detail. In typical Gundam fashion, we are given yet another treat for the ears, especially with the beautiful ending theme, “Eternal Wind”. There’s just one thing that irritated me. If you listen carefully, several portions of the theme music for the Crossbone Vanguard are almost an exact copy, note for note, of a few famous pieces of music from the Star Wars trilogy. For shame, Satoshi Kadokura…
If I could make a case for any anime that deserved a mulligan and should be revisited for one reason or another, I would have this movie on my short list. Two fleeting hours does not do this film enough justice, and alas, the best we can do watch F91 and pensively ponder what this chapter could have been if they had stuck to the original plan. Sigh…
Mobile Suit Gundam F91 can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.