“Even very young children need to be informed about dying. Explain the concept of death very carefully to your child. This will make threatening him with it much more effective.” – P. J. O’Rourke
Gundam is one of the longest running anime ever, and, having begun in 1979, is still going today in various forms. Between 2001 and 2011 a manga retelling of the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series was made, and very successful it has been. The hardback collections released by Vertical are some of the best manga I have ever read, and have some of the highest production values amongst manga released in English.
This year a new four-part OVA anime adaptation began. The first hour-long episode, Blue-Eyed Casval, was streamed in selected places in February, followed by a limited commercial release. It was brought out by Daisuki, and British distributor All the Anime allowed us Brits to buy a collector’s edition of the OVA as soon as it came out in Japan. However, you cannot just go into the shops to buy it. You had to pre-order it from the All the Anime website for £69.99, which covered the cost of the Blu-ray disc, the extra material that came with it, the delivery and the tax. It is now officially “Sold Out”, but you can still stream the episode via Daisuki, or import the standard edition Japanese Blu-ray from Amazon.jp.
This OVA is a prequel, telling the early story of Char Aznable, one of the central antagonists of the original series, and who – anime trivia – is possibly the only anime character to be named after a French singer. Seriously, he’s named after Charles Aznavour.
The story begins 11 years prior to the main story in U.C. 0068, with Char known under his real name of Casval Rem Deikun. He lives in Side 3 Munzo with his father Zeon Zum, mother Astraia, and younger sister Artesia, who is better known to viewers of the original Gundam as Sayla Mass. Just before he is about to give a big speech, Zeon Zum is killed. Most blame the Earth Federation which rules Side 3, with many of the locals seeking independence. However, the Deikun family are informed by senior political figure Jimba Ral that he was murdered by the Zabi family who want to take control of Side 3.
Jimba gets his son Ramba Ral to protect the family, but following the assassination of a member of the Zabi family, chaos spreads further. The Ral family are considered traitors to Side 3, and the Deikun family find themselves constantly threatened by members of the Zabi clan. Astraia is made to seek refuge in a tower, but the children are not allowed to stay. Thus a plan is created to try and get Casval, Artesia and Jimba out of Side 3 and to the relative safety of Earth.
In terms of the anime itself, it is a faithful adaptation of the manga and the quality of the animation is very good. The episode begins in the present day with Char in the middle of a battle, which looks spectacular. Then you go to the proper story. There are tussles, not on the same scale, but you still have plenty of fun, with fights between rebels, the government, rioters and so on. There is also the bonus of a satisfyingly dramatic plot, full of political intrigue. It is also good to see younger versions of many of the iconic Gundam characters.
Aside from the anime itself, there is everything that in bundled in with it. The collector’s edition comes in a special box with a cover created by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (the mangaka who drew the original manga) in a size and shape that puts you in mind of a case that would contain a vinyl record collection. Inside this you have a Blu-ray covered by a special sleeve, again by Yasuhiko. Inside the Blu-ray you will also find a special 12-page booklet about the OVA. There is also another 32-page booklet, containing comic text by Yasuhiko. Then there is a 296-page book containing storyboards and setting art. Frustraingly, all the text is only in Japanese, but you can still enjoy the art.
On the Blu-ray itself there are extras including trailers and adverts covering the first episode and the forthcoming second episode. There is also an audio commentary, but this is only available in Japanese.
The main thing of interest of this collection however is that – as far as I am aware – this is the first time an OVA has been made for a home release in Britain at almost exactly the same time as it has been made available in Japan. This marks a start in British anime fans being able to access anime more rapidly and can only be a good thing.
The second episode, Artesia’s Sorrow, is to be released this autumn.