No sense beating around the proverbial bush on this one: I adore the Gundam franchise. I liked it immediately and made my way through 0079, Zeta, Wing, Seed and even the G-Gundams before venturing off into some of the smaller series. Naturally I did them all out of order, but no matter, their charm endured. I was enamored with 1989’s Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket and eagerly awaited Bandai’s decision to release 1990’s 0083 Stardust Memory in a full “Anime Legends” collection here in the States.
On April 21, 2009, they did just that and I had it ordered immediately. Yes I realize I’m a couple years late with the review but that has more to do with lack of time for getting into some rich anime than it does for lack of wanting.
Set in the year Universal Century 0083, Stardust Memory tells of what happens when Zeon Intelligence identifies a prototype Gundam designed for nuclear attack under development by Anaheim Electronics.
A former Zeon ace and a small band of Principality soldiers are dispatched to Earth to capture the Gundam as part of Operation Stardust. When the Zeon successfully make off with the prototype the Earth Federation assigns the mobile suit carrier Albion to locate and recover the missing nuclear unit.
We follow the exploits of the Albion’s young crew including lead character, 19-year-old pilot Kou Uraki amd his love interest Nina Purpleton of Anaheim Electronics, as they track down the Zeons responsible for the theft.
A surprisingly great deal of character growth takes place among the span of only 13 (half-hour) episodes. Much of this can be credited to absolutely flawless pacing despite the fact that the series is split between two different directors; Mitsuko Kase (Episodes 1–7) and Takashi Imanishi (Eps 8–13).
Using the remastered audio tracks that were created quite a few years ago both language presentations are very well done and we’re given a full 5.1 mix of the Japanese track as well as a remix of the surprisingly moving English 5.1 track.
Produced back in 1990, Stardust Memory does things the old fashioned way with hand drawn/ shaded cells and it is absolutely amazing how well they hold up even today. The modern generation used to computer generated texturing in shows like Seed/ Seed Destiny and Unicorn may be a bit disappointed by the slightly less color-popping pallet but making the transition is quite effortless and certainly worth the effort.
The attention to detail throughout is remarkable and the characters only add to the enjoyment of the tale rather than detract from it, as is so often the case with broody/ dark, overly moody personas of contemporary anime efforts.
The material is of course mecha-based but only in the absolute best sense of the term. The character interaction, humor and rhythm are very reminiscent of Top Gun. The robots themselves are absolutely practical; serving almost as what we would now consider fighter-jets but with the convenience of functioning appendages and interstellar flight capabilities.
Like with all Gundam entries, there is great attempted realism in the robotic design and weaponry; pilots can and do run out of fuel and ammunition and breakdowns requiring repair or reconstruction are common. The technology is practical and is either derived from true science or at the very least well-explained, feasible technology not unlike that which fans expect of Star Trek.
Of course what makes it all most interesting is that the realistic science/ physics, character development and love interests are all transpiring against the backdrop of a very realistic and feasible war setting. There aren’t good guys and bad guys here so much as there are two points of view, each valid from its own perspective. As such characters you come to grow attached to don’t always end up making it to the end and the side you can most easily relate with doesn’t always come out on top.
In all, coming back to Gundam after a few years’ hiatus was like coming home to a good friend. There have been franchises that do things bigger, brighter, longer and with more hype but it is the perfect melding of character drama with realistic robots and sweeping political prose that keeps Gundam so popular even still in its third decade of existence. Like me, you may wander on occasion but a few moments back in the Gundam universe and you’ll simply be quite unable to remember why.
What did you think of this review?