What’s in the box? There, I have adequately explained all you need to know about Gundam Unicorn (we can all go home now). Seriously, I had my doubts when I was first assigned to review Gundam Unicorn. Not only am I not the biggest Gundam fan, but I have lamented how I disliked its run on Toonami, mostly due to how abrupt the episodes ended. It didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth because of how it ruined the storytelling that Gundam Unicorn that was trying to convey. But considering that I was given the OVA version (the way it was meant to be), I felt it could make a difference in how I enjoyed this series. And I’m glad I was right.
#Interest Check Out Life-Size Gundam Unicorn's 1st Projection Mapping • The life-size statue of the Unicorn Gundam mobile suit from the Mobile Suit Gundam UC anime showed off its new projection mapping spectacle at a ceremony held on April… https://t.co/JpvJSFMupU
— Anime News Network (@Anime) April 23, 2018
In Gundam Unicorn, we return to the Universal Century timeline that has been a staple of Gundam since the very beginning. This story takes place four years after Char’s Counterattack. We follow as the two main forces, the Federation and the remnants of Neo Zeon, seek the contents of Laplace’s Box. This is an artifact that was kept in secret by the Vist Foundation, which is a powerful entity that worked hand in hand with The Federation. The begins as the head of the Vist Foundation plans to give the key to Laplace’s Box to a Neo Zeon organization called the Sleeves. the Federation (as well as high ranking Vist Foundation members) become nervous and stage an all-out attack at the meeting place, destroying the colony Industrial 7. During this mayhem the lead character, Banagher Links, helps rescue a young woman by the name of Audrey Burne, who wants to stop another war from transpiring. Banagher finds himself in the middle of a massive battle and is entrusted with the key to Laplace’s Box, the Unicorn Gundam. Once activated, Banagher is given different coordinates by his Gundam. All interested parties (the Federation, Vist Foundation, the Sleeves, and Neo Zeon) begin to follow the path that Banagher has laid out. However, huge battles, resulting in significant casualties, makes Banagher wonder if this box is worth all the blood that’s been lost.
In the end, we find out why everyone wanted what was inside Laplace’s Box, as both the Federation and Vist Foundation were hiding the original document that stated how the government would look if humans evolved into the next stage of their evolution after heading into space (New Types). It said that they were to be promoted to higher ranks of The Federation. But because of Zeon Deikun’s message and how radical he was, The Federation felt the need to conspire with the Vist Foundation and keep this piece of information hidden. Because of Deikun, and later the Zabi family’s message, both parties also felt the need to keep things hidden.
There’s a lot of information to digest in the main story of Gundam Unicorn. And it’s pretty important to understand what happened in past series, before the events of Gundam Unicorn transpired, in order to fully grasp the importance of what’s going on in Unicorn. Many instances from past series are brought up, such as The One Year War (Mobile Suit Gundam) and both Neo Zeon Wars (Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack), that shows what impact previous series had in Unicorn. Not to mention that a few characters from older series pop up from time to time. While by itself I found Gundam Unicorn to be a fun and interesting series to watch, if you haven’t seen past Universal Century series that happened before it, you might get lost. Thankfully, my brother explained things that were needed to know beforehand.
Watching Gundam Unicorn in the OVA format makes this series SOOOOOOO MUCH BETTER! Ahhhhh I’m freaking loving this OVA series!!
— CJ Maffris (@SeaJayMaffris) June 20, 2018
However, when just looking at Gundam Unicorn by itself, I’m blown away by how fantastic this series was. I didn’t realize how vital it was for the series to have each episode end the way it was intended to. Each episode was at least 54 minutes long which is a lot longer than what a standard cartoon show is alotted. But it proved to me that the TV cut of Gundam Unicorn was a mistake in the sense that there shouldn’t have been a TV cut made. This series was meant to be watched in seven episodes, not 20 plus. And so the way the story develops over time felt more natural and enjoyable. There wasn’t a time where I felt the series stopped at a terrible moment and lost the momentum it gained. Instead, we got to see the flow of the series in a much more natural way, that made Gundam Unicorn shine.
From the first episode, I was floored at how good it was. Its first episode might be my favorite opening episode of any anime (which is saying something). It did such a great job setting the table for what was to follow. Banagher doesn’t feel he belongs with his classmates. But because he’s a New Type, he ends up hearing Audrey calling out for help as she’s falling to her death, high in the sky. Thanks to his New Type abilities, saving her was the domino that made this series perform optimally. We see both the Federation and the Sleeves get into a massive battle, resulting in the loss of civilian lives. So not only do you get to see how awful war is but also the battles within wars, as The Sleeve fights members of the Vist Foundation. Banagher is then given the Unicorn Gundam (the key to this whole series) and flies into space to take down the Sleeve. You get to hear Banagher screaming at the enemies to get out of his way, and Audrey softly saying the word Gundam to finish the episode off. I had goosebumps and could not wait to continue.
And throughout the series, the animation and music blew me away (much like it did when I first saw it on Toonami). Every fight looked stunning. It’s these kinds of battles that can turn people into fans of the mech genre. They seemed flawless to me, and I couldn’t enjoy each battle more. There are so many to pick from when asked which one I enjoyed the most. All of them had their moments, and each battle had an importance that stood out. I guess I’m partial to the first time we see the Unicorn Gundam against the “Quad-Wing” mobile suit, but seriously, every battle was a treat to watch.
I found the overall plot fun to watch. It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed how the story progressed. Finding out how each side felt during the struggle between Neo Zeon and The Federation felt real, as you had people on both sides truly hating one another, as well as some people who didn’t agree with the leaders on their side. It was refreshing to see Bright Noah go against The Federation to try and stop the bloodshed, as well as Zinnerman (captain of the Sleeves) going against his leader in Full Frontal. But Unicorn did a great job at giving you the perspective of all sides and all kinds of people. We see why the “Spacenoids” hate the Federation, as well as some “Spacenoids” who do not agree with the radical ideas their leaders believed in (after all the Zabi princess would dismiss the methods of her family).
— Right Stuf Anime (@animetoday) April 3, 2018
And while the value was lost on me (due to me not watching previous Gundam series involving the Universal Century), I have to think the addition of Full Frontal made Gundam Unicorn feel a lot more critical and much more impactful. Wondering if he was Char Aznable added a dynamic to this series that I don’t often see. I think the importance of Full Frontal giving off the mystic possibility of him being Char was realized once Bright Noah made his appearance. Here’s a character who has dealt with Char since the beginning, and the fact that he was called in to help make this mystery all the more compelling. I’d love if Gundam Unicorn delved more into Full Frontal’s side of the story, but it would have hurt the excitement he will give viewers when he’s on the screen.
Of course, I say this, but overall I don’t feel, legacy-wise, that Gundam Unicorn made the kind of impact that it should have. Some of that blame could be put on Banagher, because I didn’t feel like he was the right main character for saving the world. That he was tasked with taking down Full Frontal (Char Aznable incarnate) made me think he should have been important. But he didn’t, and the legacy that I thought he and Audrey had left ultimately aren’t talked about a lot. Just remember, those two (Banagher and Audrey) are responsible for the Federation losing its power. The organization doesn’t ever recover (to my knowledge) since the events took place in Gundam Unicorn. That is a massive implication that follows the Universal Century, and it doesn’t seem as if either are given the credit or recognition they deserve. I barely ever heard from Audrey/Mineva or Banahager about their feats. You hear about the main characters in Gundam Wing, G-Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam, and even a villain like Char. But these two? Not so much. I blame the fact that Gundam Unicorn was made in the year 2010, and is supposed to take place before Mobile Suit Gundam F91 and Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (which were produced in 1991 and 1993 respectively).
On the positive side, I found the characters in Gundam Unicorn to be more memorable and likable than I expected. Each had their own ideals, and I felt as if many characters had a chance to flesh things out. While Banagher wasn’t my favorite character, he still was a lot better to follow than other lead Gundam characters I’ve watched. However, Audrey stole the show when it came to characters I cared the most about. I didn’t feel as if she was a damsel in distress and did a lot to help bring the changes she sought. She didn’t rely on others to do it for her, she made her own choices and did whatever she had to do to create peace. It was something to watch her plans unfold, maybe not in the way she intended, but to where she was ultimately able to complete her mission.
Plus the cast for Gundam Unicorn is one of the strongest casts I’ve heard in a while. NYAV Post did a fantastic job, not only in the casting of characters but with how the director got the most out of their actors. There wasn’t a weak link in the entire show, and everyone showed how good they could be. J. David Brimmer became a huge favorite of mine after hearing his portrayal of Zinnerman. He was able to nail every emotion that was thrown his way and had the gravelly tough guy tone perfect for his character. And while I’d give my “best of” to Brimmer, the entire cast was strong, with performances from Stephaine Sheh (Audrey), Keith Silverstein (Full Frontal), Steve Staley (Banagher), Tara Platt (Marida), Yuri Lowenthal (Riddhe), and Micahel Sorich (Otto). And I was hoping that both Chris Smith (Bright Noah), and Karen Strassman (Loni) could each get a few more lines here and there because I couldn’t get enough of either performance. But this dub is impressive, and fans should check it out even if they aren’t the biggest Gundam fan.
In the Rightstuf release, Gundam Unicorn came in a standard Blu-ray case with the entire series spanning four discs. Included in each disc, besides the episodes, are teasers, trailers, and recaps, which are helpful to have. As well as giving fans a 100 second short of “The Story So Far” which was narrated by Tara Platt to give fans a rundown of the first six episodes. It also included Episode EX, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, which told the story of the Universal Century before and during Gundam Unicorn (which was helpful for someone like me who didn’t know much about the Universal timeline). If all of that interests you, you can purchase Gundam Unicorn on Rightstuf here.
— Keith Silverstein (@SilverTalkie) June 11, 2017
I was impressed with how good Gundam Unicorn was. Let it be known that the OVA cut of the series is vastly superior to the television cut. For all the Gundam fans who told me to watch in the OVA format, you were right. I couldn’t believe the difference it made, and now I have Gundam Unicorn’s first episode in my all-time favorite first episode list. But this series was so much more than just one episode. Each one was great, with an interesting story unfold through the perspective of many characters who I enjoyed seeing. It’s a great story, and honestly, I think Gundam Unicorn could become a series that turns people into Gundam fans (it’s starting to happen to me). I’d highly recommend Gundam fans to pick this title up while they can because it is a fun one.
Pros: Story wasn’t interrupted at terrible points with the OVA cut; animation and music were still terrific; Mobile Suit fights kept me entertained; episode one.
Cons: Legacy of Gundam Unicorn doesn’t feel as strong as it should be; would’ve liked a different lead character from Banagher; huge time commitment to watch in OVA format.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris