Robots are in my Blog! 0080 and the Gundam Tradition

by eternal on October 1, 2009

Gundam 0080 - War in the Pocket (1)

Well, this is quite a turn of events, isn’t it? No matter how diverse or focused a fan’s interests may be, it would be hard to call oneself a dedicated anime fan without exploring the beast known as Gundam. By “beast”, of course, I’m referring to one of the most massive and well-respected franchises in anime history. It’s the good kind of beast, a creature that must be tamed in order to reap your reward, like a secret boss with a legendary drop item.

That said, I don’t think I’ll get anywhere with the metaphors today, so I’ll stick to giving my first real impression of this universe of epic proportions.

If there’s one thing I know about Gundam, it’s that it’s about war.

I think.

Having seen the post UC series (Gundam Seed being one of my gateway anime), I already had a decent idea of what I was getting into. Aside from the visible amounts of angsty bishounen, the current-gen Gundams maintain a story grounded in the darker side of war, featuring both powerful robots and grief-stricken civilians. The recent Gundam 00 was a constant reminder of how twisted the Gundam world can be, and how the heroes, villains, and irrelevant side characters always share some of the pain of war. I distinctly remember being intrigued by the shifting of perspectives in Seed and Destiny between the two sides as it tried to blur the line between right and wrong – at the time, the concept of forcing a hero to question the morality of his actions  was alien to me.

Anyway, as I leaped into Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, I was impressed to find that my expectations were met. In place of the over-the-top plot devices of genetic manipulation, melodramatic love triangles, and Generic Tragic Past #42, I was met with a disturbing yet optimistic story about a boy who wanted excitement and a soldier who couldn’t fight.

Aside from the usual Gundam themes and devices – War Is Bad, no distinct group of antagonists, no one has plot armor – I was pleased at the overall presentation of the show. In contrast with the flashy action scenes of many a mecha anime, War in the Pocket was mostly devoid of combat, instead choosing to spend an entire episode on an 11 year old’s daily life. Is this relevant to a story about a war between the Federation and Zeon? As Gundam fans know, of course it is. After all, war doesn’t only occur between soldiers.

Gundam 0080 - War in the Pocket (2)

A pleasant off-topic picture.

It’s a difficult thing to articulate, but War in the Pocket did something for me. It seemed to summarize everything I knew about Gundam, everything I knew about war, and present it in six episodes of pure goodness. A boy who wanted nothing but trouble, who killed the good guys in video games like a psychotic kid playing Grand Theft Auto – watching a boy like that come in contact with real violence, witness the death of innocents, and ultimately risk his life to protect his home, is quite an experience. It’s about the end of innocence in a way, but above all, I think it says something about how the individual looks at war.

Children don’t see evil the way adults do, but when Al realized that military combat isn’t something to be glorified and worshipped, only he was strong enough to convince the soldier Bernie to stand up and fight. Ironically, for a story that condemns the glorification of mobile suits, the last battle was not a necessary one: instead, it was about a soldier finding the courage to fight. If Al’s battle was to overcome his discontentment with the ordinary and everyday, then Bernie’s battle was to overcome his fear and risk his life like soldiers were meant to. It’s ironic that such opposites could exist in the same show, but perhaps condemning violence and fighting for the weak are two sides of the same coin.

Themes aside, though, there was one thing that truly stood out about the show – and from overhearing other fans, I think it’s something that remains constant throughout the franchise. When you close your eyes and block out the mobile suits, the irony, the turning points in the characters’ lives, one feeling remains that’s central to the Gundam universe:

It’s human.

Gundam 0080 - War in the PocketI never did figure out the significance behind the name.

In short, my first real experience with UC Gundam taught me the obvious and the less obvious. The obvious is that it does its job well – and what else would I expect from such an acclaimed series? But beyond that, there’s something distinctly human about it, something real and personal that can be understood by those who haven’t as much as seen a real gun. In a world filled with space colonies and mobile suits, it takes guts and effort to craft a story that can convey its message and resonate with viewers who are as innocent and naive as the civilians themselves – and I can see why a story that accomplishes this can live through the decades.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ou7 October 2, 2009 at 12:13 am

This post pretty much summerized my most of my love for the franchise. It’s not just for the mecha or the badass battles, but I’ve loved the Gundam series for the humans and how the characters grow up throughout the series.


ghostlightning October 2, 2009 at 5:29 am

Congratulations for watching this show, and thank you for writing about it. It really is a beautiful work, and in my opinion transcendent not only of Gundam, the mecha genre, but of anime itself.


schneider October 2, 2009 at 9:26 am

0080 takes place near the end of the OYW, where most of Zeon has already been defeated. However, Bernie’s team is fighting within Side 6, which is way removed from the main battle zone. That’s why it’s called War in the Pocket. Funny how useless the mission was since the Federation has more or less won anyway, but imagine if the Alex had reached its intended destination…

Anyways, I commend you for your excellent gateway to UC. 0080 is a big favorite of mine, which I consider to be in the top tier of Gundam shows~


OGT October 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm

I’ve not seen 0080 War in the Pocket yet, but I know of its very iconoclastic nature in the Gundam cantos, so bear with me if I don’t get too into specifics of this series. In fact I’m just going to go on a tangent again.

Even though I’ve sort of been there, I can no longer really figure out what drives people away from mecha series in general or Gundam in particular. I can sort of understand the “mecha allergy”–when you’re not used to mecha series, it can be daunting to stumble across a conversation about who could beat up whom in a no-holds-barred barfight: Mazinger Z, the Ideon, GaoGaiGar, Giant Robo, Combattler V, or Gold Lightan. Conversations like that were super-daunting until I managed to get conversant enough with mecha series to understand what’s going on in them, and even then it took a long time before I felt like I’d hit a groove in the world of mecha anime.

I also expect that many of the old guard have a similar odd feeling when confronted with Saimoe talk (I know I have an odd feeling about it, other than epic battles of hairsplitting like Tsukasa vs. Kagami), so it’s not like it’s a one-way street with under-appreciated quality on one end and purest commercial dreck on the other (I leave it to you to figure out which end is which as it’s rather hard to tell sometimes).

It’s probably part of the huge paradigm shift in storytelling and appeal aesthetics in anime that occurred in the 90s that partially causes these kinds of effects, along with the usual generation gap deal. And industry woes. But those were in the 80s, too, so…

I can’t really think of a point to this comment other than 1) yay you liked a Gundam series, you have taken the first step on a long and twisty path 2) liking mecha series will not magically make you hate Key 3) just read the Reverse Thieves on 0080.


Shiro, Long Tail's October 4, 2009 at 11:14 pm

I feel like I need to rewatch 0080 with a fresh mindset. I didn’t enjoy it when I first saw it years ago but perhaps now I can enjoy a Gundam series that isn’t rife with explosions.


mbile suit gundam unicorn August 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

This gundam serie is the best. I cannot forget my first time watching Gundam Wing then know about japan mobile gundam. Hope to have additional wonderful gundam serie within the future


pokemon white version September 5, 2010 at 2:08 am

love robots in common, esp gundam mobile suit. Gundam is really a piece of arts, why do they look so detail. Japanese are certain amazing.


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