Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 – Anime Review
Reviewed by: Tom
Synopsis: Universal Century 0083. Having triumphed in the One-Year War, the Earth Federation has grown complacent, while the last remnants of Zeon forces have been planning one final stand. It all hinges on ace Zeon pilot Anavel Gato stealing one of the new prototype Gundams out from under the Federation’s nose. With a nuclear-equipped Gundam missing and their pride wounded, the Federation ship Albion and rookie pilot Kou Uraki set out in pursuit of the Zeon thieves and the stolen Gundam GP02A. (Official Rightstuf Synopsis.)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Gundam 0083 is often praised as a visual showcase, while also belittling its story and character work. But I think that sentiment isn’t always fair. The series boasts a plethora of twists and turns throughout its 13-episode run that keeps the sense of escalation and threat mounting as Kou Uraki and the Albion work to try and halt Anavel Gato’s big plans. Something perhaps holding the series back, however, is its existence as a side story. 0083 bridges the narrative gap between the original Gundam anime and its successor, Zeta Gundam. 0083 near entire purpose in the canon is to justify the political/militaristic swing that occurs between the two series and turns the Federation from what is generally a good government and military organization into the tyrannical titans of Zeta Gundam. This forced existence and need to bridge two series ultimately pigeon holes 0083 into its ending and greatly influences Kou Uraki’s character arc in the process, one of the bigger complaints levied at the series.
Despite 0083 mostly existing as a bridging gap there’s still plenty to love and appreciate, more so than just the visuals. It’s pacing is solid, keeping the action and plot progression moving at a brisk pace, ensuring the series fits comfortably within it’s 13 episode run. While there’s a dip around episodes 6 and 7 when the series slows to explore its main characters, Kou Uraki, fledgling Gundam pilot, and Nina Purpleton, Gundam designer and Kou’s love interest, it’s detriment to the series hinges upon your interest in either character.
Turning our attention to Kou for a moment let’s talk about his arc. A complaint often made concerning Kou is that he’s a whiny failure of a protagonist. While Kou can indeed be whiny, as most main mech pilots are, his failure is an intrinsic part of the series, part of what makes 0083 what it is. Kou’s failure as a hero ties in directly with the series bleak ending, an ending guided by the existence of Zeta Gundam and 0083’s need to explain the status quo of the Universal Century four years later. Kou’s arc and subsequent failure really can’t exist any other way. What makes Kou Uraki’s journey so powerful however, if one can look past his inability to bring about a positive conclusion, is the way the narrative guides him from his starry-eyed pro Earth Federation nature and forces him down a separate path from Anavel Gato, who believes wholly in lost cause, blindly following forward no matter the outcome. That’s one great positive to 0083 that often gets overlooked, the potential reading and message the series carries.
Stepping back from the deep dive discussion, The series is overall fairly approachable, offering enough context and background to the events of the series that even new viewers shouldn’t have too difficult a time following. That said, late cameos for characters such as Haman Karn will fly over new viewers heads and ultimately feel hollow without the greater significance. Indeed one of the anime’s ultimate villains Bask Om, carries no weight with fresh viewers, while playing a significant role later on in Zeta Gundam, making his inclusion here all the more meaningful.
One contentious point when discussing 0083 is its characters. The series offers a full range of personalities, from the starry-eyed naive Gundam pilot, Kou Uraki, to his commanding officer and experienced fighter, Lt. Burning, to the obnoxious supposed ace pilot, Bernard Monsha, and of course the zealot like, glory driven Anavel Gato. Some are better realized than others. While Gato and Kou get plenty of exploration, the series revolving around Kou’s quest to catch up to Gato and rival him as a pilot, others remain relatively stagnant. While it’s no great shame that Monsha or his buds get any real development, characters like Nina can come off as entirely perplexing, or frustrating without a deeper watch.
Nina, for example, is often loathed by viewers the first time around. This is in part due to a dynamic shift in the writing for her character, with not enough work put into establishing her more complex traits early on. Her character is then frequently misunderstood, particularly in the series final episodes. Cima Garahou, the villainous female Zeon commander that Gato remains wary of, is another under-serviced character. Hardcore fans know her complicated backstory, one that actually ties, obtusely, into another OVA Gundam series, 8th MS Team, but gets no true mention here. This lack of exploration, or detail to Cima’s character makes her motivations confusing, although her role in the narrative is still easily understandable. Thankfully the most recent BluRay release includes a handful of shorts dedicated to delving into Cima’s origins and backstory, fleshing her character out in a way entirely absent from the series proper.
Keeping the series from feeling too heavy, characters like Ensign Keith, Kou’s friend and other fledgling pilot assigned to tracking down Gato, help to provide a lighter atmosphere between action packed battles with dire consequences for the Universal Century. That said, much of this lighter tone is dropped entirely for the series final five episodes. Viewers who would prefer a lighter tone will find none of that as 0083 draws to a close and things go from bad to worse, only solidifying 0083’s place in the canon as a tragedy, while most Gundam series tend to find a positive element to go out on.
Touching upon the more superficial, Gundam 0083 can be enjoyed either subbed or dubbed. Dubbed back in the early 2000s, when dubbing could be extremely hit or miss, the series actually comes out of that era feeling surprisingly okay. While some actors might play events a tad over the top, it fits in a series with larger than life characters guiding the narrative towards its tragic conclusion. Gundam 0083 merely highlights how much of a shame it is other Gundam never got such quality treatment, with so many hamfisted dubs to follow for series like Gundam Wing, or the Original Gundam.
Another aspect of the sound that should be praised is the top-notch score that fits the series incredibly well, often adding to the ramping tension in the anime’s bigger moments. That said, some the tracks are supposedly plagiarized. A number of the tracks, at the very least, sound surprisingly similar to music by certain western composers. The plagiarism accusations get very little talk these days, outside of references on TVtropes and smaller, older, fans websites that reviewed the original CD release of the series music. That said, in order to avoid any potential legal trouble, the Dub features a rearranged music track.
0083’s greatest draw however, that fans universally agree on, is its production value and artistic direction. 0083 is the pinnacle of Mech porn. The design and art are so intricately detailed, and the battle scenes so expertly animated that 0083 is unequivocally a feast for the eyes and stands at the height of late 80s and early 90s animation. It still holds up incredibly well and is a must watch for anyone who’s into anime purely for visual reasons.
0083 isn’t your standard Mech series. If anything it’s an out and out tragedy. 0083 often upsets viewers because of its overly bleak ending and how successful, or not, Kou Uraki is against Anavel Gato’s ultimate plan. It’s a series that takes a far more realistic approach to the overall franchise and tells a story of outright failure. If you’re looking for a Mech series where heroes succeed and villains fail, 0083 certainly isn’t the right watch. (Heck, there isn’t even any reference to Newtypes, the classic pseudo-psychic/jedi element of the franchise proper.) But it’s a solid series for anyone looking for something a bit different, a bit more honest, real and perhaps upsettingly disappointing in outcome. It’s where the tie in with Zeta Gundam comes in, as you’ll have to watch a 50 episode series for a happy ending (and another 47 episode series if you want a true happy ending.)