Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn - Volume 1
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The year is U.C. 0096. Three years have passed since the end of the Second Neo Zeon War.
It is said that the Vist Foundation manipulates the Earth Federation and Anaheim Electronics from behind the scenes. Hoping to create a new world, the Foundation attempts to hand over a certain secret to the Neo Zeon remnants known as the Sleeves. This will mean the opening of Laplaces Box, which holds a great secret tied to the origins of the Universal Century.
The exchange between the Vist Foundation and the Sleeves is to take place at the manufacturing colony Industrial 7. This is the home of the student Banagher Links, who rescues a girl he sees falling through the colony's zero gravity area. The girl gives her name as Audrey Burne and says she wants to prevent a war, spurring Banagher to step into the conflict surrounding Laplaces Box, almost as if he is drawn in by his own bloodline.
Based on a story by author Harutoshi Fukui, the newest Gundam work dynamically unfolds against the backdrop of the Universal Century. It all begins with this first shocking episode.
Sometimes referred to as Mobile Suit Gundam U.C., Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn is based on a novel by the popular Japanese writer Harutoshi Fukui. The story takes place in year 0096 of the Universal Century: three years have passed since the Second Neo Zeon War ended. But the fabulously wealthy and powerful Vist Foundation has been conducting secret negotiations with the Sleeves, remnants of the Neo Zeon organization. Cardeas Vist plans to give them the secret that will open LaPlace's Box, which contains important secrets. Student Banagher Links is drawn into these intrigues when he sees Audrey Burne falling through the zero gravity area of Space Colony 7. Suddenly, Banagher no long feels lost and aimless: Audrey has become the focus of his life. This devotion leads Cardeas to give him the fabulous Gundam Unicorn. Banagher's instant skill at piloting the sophisticated machine suggests he's a Newtype. Director Kazuhiro Furuhashi provides plenty of computer-animated explosions and robot versus robot battles, but he can only pump so much energy into the familiar plot and limp characters. Banagher acts so rudderless, he's not very interesting: Audrey's blandness is played against the tantrums of Banagher's ditsy classmate, Micott. Gundam Unicorn: The Day of the Unicorn premiered on Sony's PlayStation Network Japan in February 2010; the DVD and Blu-ray release followed a month later. The Red Comet, the second episode (of a total of six), is slated for release in autumn 2010. (Rated PG-13: violence, violence against women) --Charles Solomon
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This video is only one disk containing the first two hour long episodes. The packaging is fantastic, featuring a reversible cover with both Blu-Ray covers on either side. Sadly there are no inserts, but that has become common with Bandai as of late. The content of the disk is the real meat of this set anyway.
Both episodes look fantastic in standard definition. As I haven't watched it in Hi-def, I can't compare but I can say that the show look absolutely amazing from beginning to end. The story is very well told and roots itself firmly in the cannon of 80's Gundam. Fans of the classic Gundam shows will find plenty to love in the story, along with the great mobile suit battles and the very 80's looking characters. This series feel like a natural continuation of classic Gundam, rather than a random story that was shoved in to sell more model kits. There's very little I can say that's bad about the show itself. Everything is tight and both the English and Japanese versions are very tightly cast and well acted.
The closest thing I have to a complaint are the extras. The character and mech highlights are excellent, but the vast majority of the extras are promos for episode 1 and even a recap of episode 1, the first thing contained on the disk. There's nothing on the disk related to episode 2, which was a bummer, but overall, this is a great purchase and I'm glad to see this show finally both at an affordable price and on a format that more people have access to.
The production value is excellent and hits on all points. The animation and music are feature quality, and masterfully executed. The animation in particular really jumps out. It captures the character designs and style that Yaz made famous all those years ago, and combines it with a fluidity of movement that is mesmerizing. The real charm of excellent animation is the way it can take ordinary movements and make them fascinating. Hair movement takes on an almost balletic quality in this feature, and got almost as much attention from me as the incredible mobile suit combat animation. The music perfectly sets the mood and tempo of the story, and has been in my head ever since I first watched it.
The production quality only forms half of my favorable opinion however. One of the great joys in Unicorn lies in the universe itself. I have been a Gundam fan for years, and have been yearning for more Universal Century material for some time now. The manga, "Gundam the Origin" (still running in Japan) has done an astounding job of updating the original Mobile Suit Gundam story, which is every bit as fleshed out and detailed as any of the great science fiction or fantasy worlds of our time. Unicorn taps into that deep and detailed history. While it follows some of the traditional Gundam clichés, it manages to make them seem fresh and exciting through strong dramatic execution, and reinforces the idea that there is an almost cyclical elment to the events in Gundam. Unicorn should be fun for anyone, but it is a must for those interested in the U.C. timeline and its characters. This is the beating heart of Gundam!
I will close with one last note on the price and package. This is an international region-free release. It may seem quite expensive, but considering we are getting this at the same time as it is released in Japan, it is understandable that we will be paying something close to Japanese prices. I am perfectly fine with that. The disk is no-frills. It has the feature on it, numerous audio and language options, and that is all. Considering the quality of the feature, for me, this is more than enough.
Problem is at nearly $60 for a single 50 minute epidsode, most people won't pay that amount, so Bandai missed the boat big time by being greedy.
But the sad news is the Bandai Entertainment which was the distributor for these blu-rays announced that the are no longer producing dvds and blu-rays this year, so I would recommend picking up these blu-rays as quickly as possible, as they surely will become collector's items in the future.