In all forms of entertainment there are the pieces that everyone loves. If it is music, it the bands and songs that everyone sings, usually off key and off tempo, while blaring it at twenty thousand decibels on their stereo systems. In books, it becomes a case of over educated self important jackasses misquoting famous authors. While movies has the great distinction of being dragged through the filters of each individual and grossly distorted with each personal retelling. The more beloved something is, no matter what the form of medium, the harder it is to point out when something is dreck. Then we come to Anime. It seems that anime polarizes fans faster and with more emotion then any other form of entertainment out there. I can understand why. Good anime tells a story that is engaging, with characters that make you feel every emotion they feel, all while presenting you with such amazing artistry that you forget yourself completely while watching it. The thing is, “Good Anime” is subjective. What I find fantastic, you as a viewer would run screaming from the theater begging for someone to give you a glass bottle so that you can tear your eyes out.
Which is a good place to start about the OAV that I will be discussing for the next couple articles. Gundam Unicorn. This wonderfully animated shit sandwich was released by Sunrise in 2010 as an attempt to tie up story lines in the Zeta universe of Gundam. Not that you have any fucking idea what the hell is going on. The story starts out with a wonderful speech by a character we never really find anything about except that he is the “Secretary General” of the U.N. at the end of A.D. calendar and we supposed to be switching to the Universal Century at the end of this speech, without giving us the audience any reason why they switching, what makes this such a monumental occasion, nor what has lead up to this decision . You know the things most speeches for important historical events try to incorporate. But that okay because no sooner then you start to question who this guy is and why is he in the story, then they blow him up. I kid you not. Middle of the speech, middle of exposition for the audience and poof all gone. This is followed by a fade to an old man in a hospital bed, telling someone we’ve never met that he needs to forgive the old man for the crimes committed in the Universal Century. Who is this old man??? No clue. Who is he asking for forgiveness and why?? Your guess is as good as mine. Do we even get the common courtesy of a name?? Nahhhh that would be considerate to the audience. But hey that’s okay, because now we are shoved into a classroom with someone droning on about a war of some sort, not that we can actually hear what might be something we need to know because we have the kids yelling and talking over everything unknown man number four has to say. Ten minutes into this OAV and I am having to stop from throwing things at the screen while screaming profanities. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON??? Oh look we are now concentrating on a new character. Oh they gave him a name. Banagher Links. Is he our lead? He seems kind of passive to be the lead of this but okay…at least we know his name.
You know this kid kind of reminds me of someone…I know I’ve seen this archetype before….
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he has depth of personality, and a desire to…wait ,wait did he just swear his life to a girl he just met because he has a feeling about her. SON OF A BITCH!!!! He looked off into the distance and guessed someone needed help. Who is this mystery girl??
What is she doing?? Why is she being chased?? Who the hell knows?? She just shows up and we start following her. No reason why, no explanation of who she is, all we know is she was on a ship that was in the colony that this kid is on and she left the ship now she needs rescuing. How the hell did he know she was in ….oh wait now she wants his help to stop a war. HUH???
Okay I’m going to try rewinding it. Maybe I just missed something. Nope. I’ve seen pretty much everything that happen so far. I swear to you, my readers, this is what happens. Characters and plot points just get dumped on you with no explanation nor any attempt at coherency. In fifteen minutes of this OAV you are bum rushed with information that makes no sense, plot points that crammed down your throat and then pushed to the side to cram down more information that you have no time to digest and understand what going on. And thought the animation is one of the most breathtaking pieces I’ve seen in any anime, you are so confused by writing that you can’t even appreciate the beautiful mecha. I’ll be honest. This is some of the best mobile suite designs I have seen in any Gundam. They are just stunning.
But why are they attacking the colony that the lead is on?? Something to do with the “Laplace Box”. Wait what is that?? A careful viewer might ask. Good question. Unfortunately like most questions brought up by this OAV, it is ignored. It just a Macguffin that can over throw the Federation. The Federation…is who again?? Oh don’t matter on to the fight in the colony. Wait weren’t we just at a mansion , with the girl from the ship. You know the girl that we followed for ten minutes just to be told her name is Aubry. The girl who has totally enraptured our lead with her charming personality. You know the personality and emotional depth that makes paint drying seem like excitement. Yeah her. It seems she wasn’t who she said she was and they locked her up. But look pretty mobile suits blowing up the colony.
It was at this point I paused the video and started banging my head against the desk. When I started seeing stars, I rewound the video…again. And was promptly confused yet again. After watching it all the way through twice, then giving myself a concussion, I broke down and asked a friend of mine who one of the biggest Gundam fans on the planet to please stop laughing at me and explain what the fuck is going on.
So once he got over the last of his deep belly chuckles, he explained what took him about six to eight viewing to glean from this mess. Abury is a Princess of the Zeon faction. She is at the colony to stop the foundation from giving the rebels the “Laplace Box” because it will lead to war. The rebels want to gain this artifact so that they can bring back their leader. Banagher is the son of the developer of the Gundam and has been trained since a young age to be the pilot of the Gundam. He follows Abury “because”. He sees her and suddenly he can’t live his life except to serve her. The federation learns of the foundation giving the mcguffin to the rebels and preemptively attacks, leading to the colony destroyed and most the cast that you barely get to know being captured/rescued by Federation troops. Banagher is then shoved into his destiny as a Gundam pilot and that where the episode ends. Clear as mud.
This first episode was one of the worst cases of bad writing I’ve seen in anime this side of 4Kids T.V. At no time do they explain any of the points they bring up. The writers never give the audience any time to digest and understand any of the situation that lead up to the action. The dialogue is either high handed and full of platitudes that have no context, or completely nonsensical. There are so many “givens” in the plot of this that anyone who doesn’t know every detail of the UC universe feels stupid and out of touch. There is no attempt to reach the audience. The only thing that was worse then the lack of motivations for characters was the lackluster voice acting. The English version I was stuck with, as my copy of this anime didn’t have subtitles for the original voice cast, couldn’t make the delivery that was needed. Things that were supposed to be poignant and emotional were conveyed with as much excitement of a tax report. By the time the first episode was over I was torn between two emotions. Rage and disgust with the total lack of any intelligent plot or sympathetic characters. The writers rushed every important fact and character trait, leaving you frazzled and confused. There was no character development, no growth, and a total lack of emotional availability. The whole story was two dimensional at best, and a total “in the know” at worst. If you don’t follow every single detail of the old UC gundam you are going to be totally lost and angry by halfway through this unending assault.
Sadly this piece of visual and audio clusterfuckery is a six hour OAV. With that thought in mind, I’m off to the local liquor store. Next time we will attempt to unscramble the mess that they give us in the plot heavy second part. Gods have mercy on our souls.