This is probably very old news to many people, but I recently discovered the Gundam series The 08th MS Team. I stumbled across it in a random topic in a modeling forum I frequent and thought I’d give it a shot based on all the positive comments it was getting. I was blown away.
Compared to many of the more recent Gundam series like 00 and Seed, 08th MS Team is a breath of fresh air to me. Of course, I realize that it is a significantly older series and that I’m a Johnny-come-lately to all this, but it still kicks ass in it’s own way. To paraphrase one forum poster, where something like Gundam Wing is “invincible robots doing killing ballet in outer space”, 08th MS Team is gritty, dirty, and real. Instead of super-sensors spotting enemy units from large distances, the 08th MS Team relies on their hovertruck sonar, and a teammate skilled in listening, to pinpoint the enemy. Large amounts of time are spent in preparation for any upcoming conflict, which includes outlining the plan of attack, getting into position and listening for the enemies’ advance. In other words, tactics. Once visual confirmation is made, the fights are over in a very short time. The terrain plays a large part in combat as well. The mobile suits aren’t super-machines either, they are mass-production models, effective in combat, but nothing like say the Wing Zero Custom. For example, one episode shows an MS being temporarily sidelined because sand gets in its gears!
No “ace” pilots here either, just new-ish recruits and some seasoned veterans. If anything the only real ace in this series would probably be Norris Packard, on the Zeon side. Most characters are competent, effective pilots, but nothing like an Amuro Ray or Setsuna F. Seiei. Characterization is another plus, and it’s consistent throughout the series. Shiro is a bit green, but talented. Sanders is serious but a bit haunted by his past. Karen is a bit harsh, but an effective pilot and officer. Eledore is extroverted but dependable in a fight, and Michel pines for his girlfriend, but is perhaps the most empathetic of the team. On the other side as well, the Zeon soldiers and officers are portrayed as real human beings, not faceless cogs in the military machine. The humanizing treatment given to all the characters really makes us feel for them. We empathize with the valiant Feddies, and feel for the injured yet brave Zeon. One truly sees how even opposing sides in war are made up of people who are essentially the same. It’s a cliche sentiment, but one that’s very appropriate here.
If anything, my only complaint would be that the love story subplot is a bit abrupt and perhaps not fully fleshed out. But considering the setting of said love story, it’s not completely illogical. I would really recommend that you pick this up, especially if you do not have much experience with the Universal Century timeline of the Gundam series. And of course, after watching this I’m itching to pick up a kit of the RX-79 [G] when I get the cash, heh.