Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team rewatch – “Battle in Three Dimensions”

Welcome to The 08th MS Team rewatch! I’ve never watched “Miller’s Report” chances are I’ve never seen “Battle in Three Dimensions” either. In case you haven’t realized it, this rewatch is over. This is the last post.

Summary: “Battle in Three Dimensions”:
Original Release: February 22, 2013

This special short is set during the middle of the series. Eledore is away being treated for his injuries and Michel is stuck co-piloting the hover truck with Sanders. Michel is writing a letter to B. B. and we learn that he feels Sanders is a difficult person to talk to and it makes for awkward situations when he has to spend time with him.

The 08th team is out on a mission. They reach a large bridge and begin to cross. Karen’s Gundam gets hit by a Zaku sniper and she is knocked out by the blast. A Gouf Flight Type jumps over the bridge and shoots at Shiro. The Gouf’s pilot remarks how tough the Gundams are, obviously expecting that his surprise attack would have been more successful against Shiro’s Gundam. Shiro manages to use the sniper rifle from Karen’s mobile suit to destroy the Zaku sniper. That evens out the battle and makes it a one-on-one fight. The Gouf’s superior manoeuvrability gives it the advantage and Shiro isn’t able to make a successful hit. The battle isn’t really one-on-one though since Shiro has Michel and Sanders providing him support. They use a cable to send Michel over the bridge to communicate the Gouf’s movements to Shiro who uses it to shoot the Zeek pilot’s mobile suit. Shiro manages to destroy the Gouf with the use of his beam saber.

Michel and Sanders become chummy as soon as the fight ended but things return to the familiar awkwardness in the evening. Sanders seems to realize how uncomfortable things are so he offers Michel a cigarette and he refuses since he’s underage. Embarrassed for asking, Sanders walks out of the hover truck. Michel runs after him and says that he’s sorry for turning him down but, if he offered coffee, he’d have a drink with him. He hands Sanders his cup. The episode ends, suggesting that they bond over coffee.

The title refers to the fighting style of the Gouf pilot. Gundam wikia has this to say about the experimental mobile suit:
Developed as a refined version of the MS-07 Gouf Fligh t Type, the MS-07H-8 was a prototype unit designed to test the concept of an atmospheric flight-capable mobile suit, However, the Zeon military halted this unit's development to focus on the creation of a flying mobile suit. Despite the cancellation of the program, several experimental units still occasionally found their way into the field for testing. The MS-07H-8 featured an improved backpack fitted with more powerful thrusters and thermonuclear jet engines. Aerodynamic control surface wings were added to the backpack and waist armor, giving the MS-07H-8 more stability in flight. Although the unit was a vast improvement over its predecessors, tests revealed that the H8 still suffered the same problems encountered by previous versions: the engines were prone to overheating and consumed a lot of fuel at high altitudes and high speeds, limiting its range and flight time. 
So battle in three dimensions because the Gouf is effectively flying above and around Shiro’s RX-79(G) Ez-e Gundam, which is a ground type mobile suit. The title of the episode does not refer to 3D animation as I previously thought.

The episode is short. It’s about 9 minutes long including the credits. Because of the short length we do not get anything spectacular as far as character development goes but the inclusion of Michel and Sanders budding friendship does add a bit more depth (even if only a tiny bit) to what could otherwise have been a shot length action video of a Gundam battle.

The animation during this short is much better than anything previously seen in The 08th MS Team. It’s a joy to watch. I think it was a smart decision to focus on a mobile suit battle as opposed to characters because it’s easier to appreciate the level of animation when there is a lot of movement on screen. There is use a computer generated graphics but it’s mostly used for background like clouds and jungle vegetation. All in all, it’s a smoother integration with the more two dimensional characters and mobile suits compared to how CG and digital animation have been integrated in the past, particularly in the early 2000s.

It’s kind of shitty that Karen gets taken out so early in the episode. I think it would have been nice to see her participate in the battle. Mostly though, the show exists to give Shiro yet another good mobile suit battle. On a final note, I love seeing the Gundams with their backpacks on. They’re just so big and blocky. What do they have in there?

Last Stop:
Here ends my rewatch (and part . . . first watch) of the entire Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. I have to admit that going into the rewatch I was equal parts excited and worried. Excited because this, as far as I could remember, is my favourite Gundam series but I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up well under additional scrutiny. I was also worried that the less than stellar episodes (and the one really terrible episode) would only be worse than what I remember. I realize now that I shouldn’t have worried because The 08th MS Team holds up pretty well.

The themes developed in the show are rather typical for a Gundam series as well as for military fiction. Several characters are defined by the way they view and interpret the acts of war or peace and two characters in particular (Shiro and Aina) are complicated by their opposing ideals of peace and their roles in the war. While nothing is really done with these themes to make the show more memorable than another, they’re handled well for the most part. The consistency in Shiro’s behaviour during the revelation and development of his character arc is well done. What makes the show really stand out is its attention to realism in the context of the larger Gundam metaseries.

In one episode they call for a lunch break in the middle of a mission. There is as much interesting conflict outside of the mobile suits than there is in them, not everything is about the mobile suits (but they still play the primary role in the series). The inclusion of a support team piloting the hover truck is a nice way to ground the action but the best of all is that these Gundams sustain battle damaged and it doesn’t magically disappear once the credits role. Not only that but the Gundams break down and sometimes it’s for a simple a reason as a filter clogged with sand. It’s also refreshing and interesting to see battles fought on the ground as opposed to the free for all, no rules combat in space. The added realism to this series also increases the viewer’s concern for the characters’ well-being since we’re shown multiple times that these Gundams are not infallible. Both those elements combined with good character development (some of these characters are more developed than the main characters of Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED) make for a slightly more serious Gundam show that isn’t without humour or impressive action sequences. Not only would I recommend this show to fans of all things Gundam but I would also try to introduce someone to the metaseries with the help of this show.   

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