a.k.a. Kidou Senshi Gundam I
Amuro Ray’s life changes forever when he steps into the cockpit of the Earth Federation’s latest weapon, the RX-78 Gundam. Now he is forced to become a soldier in the war against the Duchy of Zeon. But does Amuro have the skill to be a pilot? Can he defeat the Zeon ace Char Aznable? And could he possibly be a Newtype?
summary by Ender
Highs: Ties the story better than the television series
Lows: Nothing really new
After the original Gundam series tanked in the ratings department, Bandai gave the story a second lease on life in the theaters. It is stated that this version of the story was much closer to Tomino Yoshiyuki’s ideas, but does that make it better than the television series it was cobbled from?
Essentially, this movie trilogy consists of footage taken from the forty-three episode series, and condensed it as the director saw fit. It works well for a series like Gundam. Considering that Tomino always boasted that it was not a traditional giant robot show, he must have been happy to go through this old footage with a pair of scissors and get rid of what he deemed inappropriate for the story. The omission of filler material (White Base landing on an island, for example) is a relief, as well as the cutting out of such super-robot elements like the “Gundam-hammer” and “beam-javelin”. And most importantly, Amuro’s numerous sorties with Char and Garma Zabi are condensed to a much more manageable size and are given a higher level of excitement.
Other than that, and the earlier mention of newtypes (a concept that wasn’t brought into the show until the final episodes), there really isn’t anything different than what we saw in the television series. This movie covers up to episode 13, so if you’ve seen that far into the series already, you aren’t missing much. The animation for this movie, as well as the others, is relatively the same as the television’s animation. Then again, the original Gundam was a low-budget show anyway, so expecting higher quality animation might be too much.
If you’ve never seen Mobile Suit Gundam, then this would probably be a good stepping stone. However, if you’ve already seen this far, then this movie should be mostly Cliff’s Notes™ material (albeit, good Cliff’s Notes™ material), and then you could move on to Mobile Suit Gundam II.
Highs: Puts the first 15 episodes into a nice, neat package; earlier introduction of Newtypes
Lows: Skips over many important elements due to fast pace
If Mobile Suit Gundam is likened to be Star Trek, then I would argue that the movies are akin to Star Wars (the original trilogy, not the new ones). Gundam was essentially a flop despite being revolutionary, but it became a grand success when turned into a theatrical feature, the first being Mobile Suit Gundam I.
Other than a few snips of new animation, Mobile Suit Gundam I is a retelling and reorganization of events from the first 15 episodes of the television series. Clocking in at about 2½ hours, many of the reused cels and frivolous elements (such as the occasional comedy that was out of place) are cut to bring you a lite version of the original; I can’t believe it’s not Gundam!
However, portions of the meat were cut, as well. Some people may find this movie to be too slow, but I found it to be almost too quick because of the exclusion and hastening of many elements. For example, many of Amuro’s trial and errors in combat with the RX-78-2 were left out, giving the impression that he was ready to slice and dice Zakus after being inside of the Gundam once. Even the way that Lieutenant Matilda Ajan comes to resupply the White Base makes it seem like she made two trips all in the same day.
However, one kudos I must give this movie is the mention of Newtypes. This didn’t happen until way later in the television series, but here, they are introduced at the right time to put the question “What is a Newtype?” into the minds of the audience. Good call, Tomino.
If you don’t feel like watching Mobile Suit Gundam, consider watching this movie. It just might entice you to watch the next two theatrical sequels or even the original anime itself.
Mobile Suit Gundam I, II, and III can be downloaded legally in the United States as one single collection HERE.