I've come to the Gundam party rather late in the grand scheme of things. After years of loving mecha-based shows like Robotech and Voltron, I finally decided to attempt to devote to the ever-expanding Gundam universe. Beginning with the original Mobile Suit series, I then ventured into the Zeta saga. From there it was on to Wing, Seed and Seed Destiny. Throughout this tour, I picked away at some of the smaller self-contained stories like the enjoyable 0083 Stardust Memory and this, the War in the Pocket (0080).
Before I get into the story itself, this new collection is basically a repackaged, re-release of the 2005 Complete Collection of the same name. Ban Dai has been going to great lengths in 2009 to not only release the latest incarnations of the show (like Seed Destiny) but also to repackage many of the earlier efforts that have slipped through the proverbial cracks.
0080 is a two-disc collection that contains a total of six episodes. Originally released back in 1989, War in the Pocket commemorated the ten-year anniversary of the Gundam franchise. In the Gundam timeline, it takes place during the One-Year War. Like the series name suggests, it is a rather personal account of how a much larger war affects even the smallest individuals in the farthest reaches.
In my opinion the show succeeds on many levels even over some of the better-reputed series (like Wing) on account of its flawless balance. Like in real life, there isn't a good guy versus bad guy theme here so much as there are opposing views of individuals both convinced that they are doing what's right.
The story takes place entirely on a single colony (Side 6) and is presented through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy whose own involvement in the war should be limited to sketches of mobile suits and talk of rumors with his classmates around the lunch table. When a Zeon Zaku gets shot down after an unsuccessful raid on a top-secret Federation base within the colony, his life makes a radical change.
Perhaps the show's greatest strength is its ability to build a sense of scale and grandeur of mobile suit combat since it is entirely ground-based and shown through the human perspective. It is all too easy to lose sense of the power and size of the suits when they are engaged against the infinity of space. Likewise, entire colonies have been destroyed in other Gundam series without a fraction of the remorse 0080 manages to establish by simply reminding the viewer that these are civilizations of human beings; kids who want nothing more than a day off of school and families who work their jobs to put food on the table.
Though on the short side as a whole, the presentation, pacing, and conclusion of this OVA are all nearly flawless. The ending, while sad, is a testament to the consequences of war. This is a very moving piece that balances dozens of heavy themes through the simplicity and innocence of youth.
I've become enamored with the Gundam franchise for its depth and richness and can honestly attest that 0080 is perhaps the most impactual entry to be found. A must-have set for any Gundam collection and a solid piece of anime even for those outside of Gundam obsession.
I find myself liking the sidestory series of Mobile Suit Gundam for the same reasons people hate the Star Wars prequels in that they take away from what made the series special to begin with. Mobile Suit Gundam's primary series, Zeta and Char's Counterattack and the Original Star Wars movies both put weight in the importance on a new kind of person or people with seemingly magical abilities and the the sidestories of Gundam and the Prequel Trilogy focus more on action and not as much … more