Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Episode 1 OVA

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Alternative titles: Kidō Senshi Gundam The Origin, Blue-Eyed Casval
OVA by Sunrise
Streaming on Daisuki

Premise

The year is UC. 0068. The Principality of Zeon declares war on the Federation as relations deteriorate. Zeon’s leader, Zeon Zum Deikun dies under mysterious circumstances. With accusations of assassination being thrown about, Zeon’s leaders fall into in-fighting and the Zabi family makes its move to usurp authority. Amidst the turmoil, Deikun’s children, Casval and Artesia are thrown into the fray. A prologue to the the original Mobile Suit Gundam, The Origin follows the rise of Casval Deikun, the man who would eventually become Char Aznable, The Red Comet.

Gee’s verdict: A Promising Start

Let it be said that when Bandai brings the full brunt of their resources to bear, they can prove why Gundam is one of the most enduring mecha franchises of all time. The Origin brings Char’s backstory to light while giving us some more insight into the actions and motivations of some of the other notable Zeon characters, such as Ramba Ral, Crowley Hamon, and the Zabi family. It exists in an interesting place, being an adaptation of Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s manga, which in and of itself, is a modern take on the original Mobile Suit Gundam. As a result, its status as a canon entry in the Gundam franchise is somewhat nebulous. Canon-aside, the manga is an excellent take on the storied franchise and I highly recommend it, both for its more modern sensibilities and Yasuhiko’s excellent artwork.

As for the OVA itself, it works surprisingly well as a prequel. It manages to avoid some of the pitfalls of a prequel, and the events that happen in it line up pretty well with the events of the original despite some larger changes, such as the existence of Guntanks so early in the timeline or the major role Ramba Ral plays in the backstory. In fact, special shoutout to the Blue Giant, who ends up being one of the best characters in The Origin. If you already liked the man, The Origin reminds you why he’s been one of the most enduring characters from the original’s legacy.

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Admittedly, it does lean rather heavily on the expectation that you know who these characters are and are familiar with the Gundam canon. At no point does the OVA ever stop and explain who exactly each character is. You’re never told that these kids will eventually become Char and Sayla, or that Ral has a predilection for blue vehicles. But honestly, this was the best way to go about it. While it might have been better to explain more for newcomers, the pacing in this first OVA was notably well done, despite the sparseness of any real action. It’s a whole lot of politicking and people talking, something which might seem out of place for a mecha show, but surprisingly at home with the Gundam franchise.

The visuals are absolutely spectacular in The Origin. The characters are animated with a kind of dynamism that makes it really fun to watch. The serious tone sometimes clashes with the often comical animation, clearly harkening to the older days of the franchise, but it works in the long run. Despite Gundam’s reputation as one of the first “Real” robot anime, it’s always been somewhat goofy at heart, and The Origin doesn’t forget this. I suppose we can’t really talk about the animation without inevitably discussing the most controversial aspect of The Origin; its choice of using CG for the mobile suits. I wasn’t pleased to see CG mobile suits, but after seeing them in action, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

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On one hand, the action is far too smooth and flighty for the bulky mobile suits that defined the One Year War era of the UC. Zakus flying around like shonen anime characters was a bit much for me, especially when you compare it to the animation of ground-based Gundam series like the original and 08th MS Team. Despite that, the dynamic camera angles and fast paced action were definitely well executed. The action was the kind of thing that could never be achieved with traditional 2D animation, so in this regard, I respect The Origin for at least using CG in a way that defines it rather than as a crutch. Still, in an ideal universe, I would have liked some 2D robot action. I mean, when both G-Reco and Try have 2D robots, I can’t help but wonder why Sunrise chose to go with CG for one of the most important Gundam-related media of the year.

Overall, if you’re a Gundam fan, I probably don’t need to tell you to watch The Origin. So far it’s proving to be an interesting take on the early UC and if nothing else, the character moments are worth the price of admission. For mecha fans that have never seen Gundam, while I’d recommend watching the original first, The Origin is still entertaining and well-explained enough to be enjoyable in its own right.

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Iro’s verdict: It’s a Gundam!

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know too much about the Gundam franchise, let alone its first installment, so I was slightly apprehensive about checking out The Origin. To my surprise, it was relatively easy to understand. Following Char Casval and Sayla Artesia seems to be the right choice, grounding the various political machinations of both the Rals and the Zabis by showing how it’s all affecting a couple of kids who’re out of their depth. Not that Casval is necessarily out of his depth, however; the episode opens with the legendary Red Comet tearing apart Federation forces, and even as a child he wins against four-to-one odds in a Guntank, not to mention standing up to the hilariously evil Kycilia Zabi.

Ramba Ral is one of the few Mobile Suit Gundam characters I’m familiar with (thanks to Gundam Build Fighters), and my understanding is that he’s always been one of the more popular Zeon characters, so it’s unsurprising to see him take a fair amount of screentime. Fortunately, even as a young upstart Ramba Ral is still a cool dude, helping out the kids at every turn (even at detriment to himself) and macking on Crowley Hamon, whom I’ve been told is also a popular character from the original TV series.

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The Origin seems to be a good perspective flip for fans of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, while still taking things slow enough to not overwhelm newer viewers. It might be a bit light on the giant robot fights, but what is there is pretty entertaining, and there’s always the promise of more episodes to ratchet up the action. I’m definitely looking out for the next one, whenever that may be.

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