Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack
1988, NR Directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino. Starring Tôru Furuya, Shûichi Ikeda.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 16, 2004
If you played with Transformers when you were young, then you’ll probably care a lot about this Japanese animé of big-suit-robots waged in a battle royale, but unlike the Hasbro toys, which, as Faith No More so succinctly reminded us, were "more than meets the eye," toymaker Bandai’s Gundam robotic suits were just that: suits. Conceived in 1979 as an animated military sci-fi series, the world of Gundam is where brave, co-ed, Earth soldiers in the Universal Century 0093 battle the forces of evil (embodied by baddie Char Aznable of the titular counterattack) and, you know, save the universe and so forth. While I’ve never been especially impressed with either the original series’ animation – it’s of the choppy, jerky sort that too-often embodies pre-Nineties animé – or its colorfully black-and-white, good vs. evil universe, the show has picked up scads of new fans since being rebroadcast on the Cartoon Network’s popular Toonami show. But there you go: If they can make a hit out of Dragon Ball Z, then I suppose they can make a hit out of anything. (Personally, I’d like to see Takeshi Murakami helm an animated series. His "superflat" theory of neo-animé-inflected art might be just the thing to shake up this moribund genre – at the very least the characters would have some terrific Louis Vuitton handbags.) If, however, you’re unfamiliar with the world of Gundam and you’re seeking the next Akira, or even the next Dirty Pair, you’d be better off looking elsewhere. With its overreliance on oddly edited action sequences that seem to drag on for ages and the inclusion of a gaggle of annoying, helium-voiced characters not in the original series (not that we recall, anyhow), this is a bubblegum crisis of a different flavor. Still, Gundam has its fans, and thanks to Toonami, they are legion (some even turned out for Austin’s recent Ushi-Con animé festival, sporting their own nifty cardboard Gundam suits). But that doesn’t make this loud, dull, and borderline incomprehensible mess any better to those who prefer the streamlined world of Golgo 13 or the poppy vibrancy of Astro Boy to this chintzy exercise in metallic sucker-punching. Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) attempted to appropriate something akin to the Gundam universe for his delightful live-action travesty Robot Jox way back in 1990, and even that lumbering disaster has more real gosh-wow zip than the flat and grating animé of this new (to American shores), wholly robotic outing. Even the voice acting seems to pale in comparison to much of the rest of the current crop of animé arriving in Region 3 DVDs at Pedazo Chunk. This one is strictly for the fans.