When you put on the original Gundam series, you’re greeted with a bit of narration, one that talks of the early stages of the “One Year War” between Earth and an independent (and blatantly very Nazi-like) space colony nation known as the Principality of Zeon where there were gas attacks that wiped out whole space colonies worth of people, said space colonies being dropped on Earth with cataclysmic results, and a treaty signed by both sides that banned the use of such methods (plus nuclear warheads and other massively destructive weapons) This was obviously written to not only set the stakes high, but to explain why both sides would resort to tanks/mobile suits instead of just nuking each other, so setting these two OVAs during this period is an interesting idea.
It’s also an unpleasant idea, as we actually get to see an entire colony of innocent people collapse to the ground and die as lethal gas is pumped into it, the story narrowing its focus briefly on a young and happy couple living in said colony, just to really rub it in. This large floating settlement of corpses is then used in the infamous “Operation British”, where Zeon throws a space colony at Earth, trying to cause maximum damage to their main military base and win the war in one go. The operation is only partially a success though, the colony breaks into three during entry and instead destroys three cities worth of people. This differs slightly from the original series, which just showed a whole colony falling on a single city, but this isn’t the first time The Origin has slightly altered the Universal Century timeline for the sake of it.
During this horror there is a good focus on the Zabi family, the people at the head of Zeon and the villains of the original series. They’re all true to form: Dozle is a kind family man and a proud father, but someone who has no problem justifying the war and killing those who get in the way (so, nice but not nice…), Kycilia is a scheming and calm female general, Degwin is the head of the family and the figurehead, but is worried that his son Gihren is going too far (comparing him to Hitler, which is something he did in the original series as well, so… I guess he really likes that analogy…), Gihren is pretty much Hitler, and young Garma is naïve and pampered, but wants to help the war effort and make his family proud. It’s a crazy family, with shades of grey and blackest black. All the scenes with them really add to the episodes of them slowly being picked off by Char in the original Gundam series, especially when combined with Char’s backstory from the previous OVAs.
OVA 5 ends with the start of the one major conflict of the One Year War that was never featured during the original series: The Battle of Loum. It was said to be where Zeon unveiled their Mobile Suits for the first time, to the surprise and detriment of the Earth Federation, and where Char earned his nickname “The Red Comet”, piloting his red mobile suit at 3x the speed of a regular suit and taking out five battleships by himself. It was pretty much created to give Char an aura of someone to be feared during the start of the original series, but seeing it given focus was really good, going into detail with the tactics of both sides and generally getting across that mobile suits were the new way of waging war.
The latter half of the sixth and final OVA then ties the series up to Episode 1 of Mobile Suit Gundam, making sure everyone is in the right place with the right motivations, and really this a valid description of these two OVAs. There are other side stories, ones involving original Gundam protagonist Amuro Ray before he becomes a pilot, and Char’s sister Sayla having to defend a bunch of townsfolk from rioters. They’re good and help break up the war scenes, plus they don’t overstay their welcome (which is good given Amuro at this point was just a regular teenager…) The animation is great during all of this, blending CG and traditional animation well, while both voice casts deliver the goods.
OVA 5 “Clash at Loum” has “I Can’t Do Anything -Sora yo-” by Takayuki Hattori featuring AYA (there’s a mouthful!) as its ending theme, while 6, “Rise of the Red Comet”, has “Dotted Line Tears” by Masayoshi Yamazaki finish it off. The only on-disc extras are trailers for both OVAs, though the physical product has a relatively thick art book alongside the disc in a nice box, as all these limited edition Gundam releases have.
So Gundam: The Origin V and VI aren’t quite as “must see” as the first four, which did a good if not overly convoluted job of padding out the backstory of one of the series’ most iconic characters. Instead these two take the first four and fill in the gap between them and the original Gundam series, even if it doesn’t quite slot together like a neat whole. Some good eye candy, but perhaps a release only for Gundam fans or completists.