You know, it’s really hard to give Gundam Unicorn the praise it deserves, without slapping it with a bunch of superlatives, but I’ll try my hardest not to. Take it from an individual who’s a perfectionist in VFX, 3D, and animation in general, as well as constantly having the need to over-analyze everything he watches, but Unicorn is quite possibly the best Gundam series I’ve watched, at least three volumes in. Anyway, back in 2009, I saw the film District 9, which featured one of the coolest mechas I ever saw (this story will be relevant to how I came across Gundam Unicorn), and it revived my interest in mecha and robots in general. But one of the things that made D9 so special to me, is the fact that it balanced solid storytelling, an interesting character arc for the protagonist, and quality action sequences. I remember wanting to find a recent mecha anime to watch after seeing that film, which would have reignited an interest in a medium that I had put on the backburner years ago. I wanted to find something that contained those compelling traits of District 9.
So, after going several months without finding anything riveting (and keep in mind, I had never watched a single Gundam series til’ this), I ended up reading up about Gundam Unicorn in March 2010. It caught my interest and on a blind buy, I was floored by the visuals, from the bright color-palette contrasting the dark shadows of space, to the brilliant animation of the characters and more specifically, the mechas themselves (I honestly believe that Gundam Unicorn is the best digitally animated mecha anime that I have ever watched, I say that with absolutely NO exaggeration). At first, it was hard for me to take in the story and its characters, as I was busy salivating at this visual feast my eyes were greeted with, but after several rewatches, I came to the realization that Gundam Unicorn was what I had been looking for… a mecha anime for ADULTS. It just had that perfect balance of blockbuster action, colorful visuals, excellent weaponry, and a nice, believeable story with likeable characters.
However, I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t have the second volume til’ months later, but it’s understandable, considering that OAVs take longer to produce due to the higher quality of animation. It was during this time gap, that I tried to find other mecha anime’s to fill my desires and I found some solid shows in Macross Frontier, Gurren Lagann, and even old school Votoms, but I kept itching for Gundam. I ended up watching the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam, ZZ Gundam, Gundam 08th MS Team, and almost every other UC timelined show til’ the second volume of Unicorn dropped. It was also nice to finally have a backstory to certain characters that I could piece together, I.E. Char/Full Frontal and Marida and her Puru clones from ZZ Gundam. Now, as I watched the second volume of Gundam Unicorn, I couldn’t helped but be blown away by the outstanding choreography from the mecha battles… the entire sequence of Full Frontal taking on the Nahel Argama and the Unicorn Gundam, was just breathtaking. A close friend of mine, who makes short action films and is practically an action guru, made one of the best and plausible comments at that time: “The choreography in this series is so good, that even Hollywood action directors could take inspiration from this.” It was at that moment, that I realized I found something really special in Gundam Unicorn… it had finally elevated the metaseries above JUST being an anime, it was becoming a technical achievement for its genre.
Now, I know those are some very broad and bold claims to make, but I think the action and pacing of those sequences validate those responses. I even remember reading where the producer of Gundam Unicorn made mention that this was the first Gundam series to feature really quick edits and kinetic pacing during the mech battles, to be more specific, the Unicorn/Kshatriya sequence in the opening of the second volume, features very quick editing and frantic pacing, which was said to be very complex and time consuming due to having maintiain a fluid and coherent pace. And that battle is then followed up by the aforemention Sinanju/Nahel Argama/Unicorn battle, which also features moments of quick editing and unique camera angles. If there is one thing I’ve really come to appreciate about the battles in this series, it’s Kazuhiro Furuhashi’s involvement in the choreograpgy, as he brought a newfound style that Gundam has never seen before. His angles and attention to detail is to be appreciated, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’ve seen Samurai X or Le Chevalier D’Eon, then you know his eye for action is one of his best traits as a director. I hate to keep sounding like a broken record, but I’m telling you, Gundam Unicorn is SQUASHING every other mecha anime that’s out there right now, at least in the mecha battle department… it’s almost not even fair.
Finally, to stop sucking off the visual quality of this animation, as visuals alone can’t drive a series… I think the story and characters are very solid. One thing I’d really like to single out is female characters, specifically Marida and Mineva/Audrey. How many times in the past have Gundam series weakly integrated female characters into their story? If there’s one pet peeve I have with Gundam collectively, it’s the inability to feature captivating female characters in most of its series. But that’s not the case here, in fact, I’d argue that Marida Cruz is the most interesting character of the series so far. The way they handeled her past in this third volume was so tasteful, touching, and imaginative. They took what could be seen by many as a poor plot device, due to how sexually degrading her past is, and ended up using it as a driving force for her characterization. This is when you know a production studio is attempting to go all out for this series. And as for Mineva, her past is vague when you remove her scenes from ZZ Gundam, which I think makes her motives a bit more interesting, considering her past ties with Char. She may not be AS well written as Marida’s character, but I think Mineva’s bigger payoff won’t be coming til’ later episodes, so I can forgive that for the time being.
There’s so much more that I’d like to say, but I gotta run… all I know is, I feel like Gundam Unicorn is elevating Gundam above just being a typical mecha-action series. I feel like I’m watching something that has a lot of imagination and integrity behind it, and it’s for those reasons, why I love Gundam Unicorn so damn much. I really, really cannot wait for volume 4… should be a good one.