Warning: minor spoilers for the movie.
The year is 2019 A.D. A new Gundam film has just came out, the first true stand-alone original animated (unlike G-Saviour) Gundam theatrical production set in the Universal Century timeline since Mobile Suit Gundam F91 was released in 1991. To put things into perspective, since then there has been over fifteen different Gundam TV series, not to mention the many spin-offs and OVAs.
Needless to say, it’s a very special occasion.
Mobile Suit Gundam NT (Narrative) is loosely based on “Phoenix Hunt”, the 11th volume of the Gundam Unicorn novel series by Harutoshi Fukui that serves as a postscript to the series. Those familiar with Gundam Unicorn will be happy to see how these stories connect. But for the most part, Narrative can be considered a brand-new story.
Gundam has always had a long and interesting history when it comes to theatrical productions. While the original Mobile Suit Gundam famously got canceled due to low ratings, it was a combination of toy sales, theatrical screenings, and repeat airings that lifted the franchise to become the cultural giant that it is today.
The original 43-episodes show was re-cut into three films that have since become classics, and a similar thing happened with Mobile Suit Z Gundam which was then re-cut into the A New Translation films. Mobile Suit Gundam F91 was originally planned to be a TV series but ended up as a film. The franchise also had its first foray into a live-action film with the now infamous G-Saviour. Meanwhile, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack and Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer both served as closures to their respective stories.
So what makes a Gundam film? Putting into account all of the above, Gundam films have either been about: a) retelling the quintessential Gundam story in a theatrical quality or b) continuing a story that has told in the TV series.
Narrative succeeds as both a film and a Gundam film through and through. From thrilling action set pieces set to an upbeat score by Hiroyuki Sawano, the story flows from scene to scene without missing a beat, and the animation quality is top notch -exactly what you would expect to see from a theatrical version of Gundam.
It’s also unmistakably Gundam, exploring themes found throughout Gundam‘s history through strong characterization and dialogue. After all, it’s not a Gundam if it doesn’t have something to say. And Narrative manages to say a lot in its runtime of just 90 minutes. The story presents different perspectives as any great Gundam story should. Notably, I enjoyed seeing the Federation pilot character Iago Hakaana (voiced by Kazuya Nakai) who, at first glance seemed like your average military soldier archetype, but had a connection to a key event in Universal Century Gundam history.
Going in, there was the concern that Narrative would just be Gundam Unicorn 2.0, a retread of the same narrative threads that run from the first Mobile Suit Gundam without much to add after what Unicorn had to say about the Universal Century saga. But Narrative finds its own footing with an open-ended story that’s highly enjoyable for new and old fans alike. Narrative adds a unique voice to the dialogue, to the ongoing narrative that is Gundam. It’s one that you wouldn’t want to miss as a Gundam fan.
And on a side note: I actually went into the theater late, but fortunately didn’t miss a thing since the first 23 minutes of the movie is officially streamed on the Gundaminfo YouTube channel, both Indonesian subtitles and in English dub. What times we live in!
The Indonesian Anime Times | by Caesar E.S.