DISCLAIMER: This is meant to more of a “here’s my thoughts” rather than a formal review. Frankly, the series was quite convoluted at times, and I’m sure it’ll take a few more viewings for me to work everything out. There’s a lot of changing sides and traitors and all sorts of crazy stuff, especially in the last episode.
The latest installment in the popular Mobile Suit Gundam anime series, “Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn” debuted its seventh and final episode on May 17th, and after having rewatched the entire series over the past few days, I’m ready to give a handful of thoughts on the series.
Unicorn continues with the Universal Century (UC) timeline, a la the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counter-Attack, et al. In this era, the Newtype, an evolved version of humanity, is the sought-after standard of humanity, and in pilots of the huge war machines, “mobile suits.” They’ve got better instincts and reflexes, they’re smarter, and they can project their consciousness throughout battles in ways that aren’t always entirely understandable to the viewer.
The first take-away from Unicorn is simply the fact that the mobile suit designs and animation have never looked better than they do in the slick style of Unicorn, reminiscent of the Gundam 00 series from 2007-9. The franchise has come a long way from the fuzzy art style of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series in 1979.
Second, the Gundam franchise needs to decide if it’s ever going to do romance properly, or else drop the “romantic” subplots all together. The melodramatic middle school-level gloves-on approach to romance in wartime is a recognized trope that can add a lot to a series when done well, but constantly dancing around the concept of a Gundam protagonist having some sort of romantic entanglement seems to be the most common and infuriating trope of the entire franchise, regardless of the series in question (with the refreshing exception of The 08th MS Team).
Finally, Unicorn, and Gundam in general, have never been good at giving information to the audience without long-winded monologues. This is something I think Japanese writers can learn from American writers. When your episode is an hour long and 45 minutes of it are spent in lengthy discussions about politics and the implications of one action over another because of XYZ personal philosophy, your plot slips through the cracks.
Overall, I really enjoyed the series, though I wasn’t totally satisfied of the conclusion. I kept this post as spoiler-free as possible, but would I recommend it?
You’re goddamn right I would.
If you’ve got a spare 7.5 hours in time over a week or two, give Unicorn Gundam a shot. The first six episodes come in at an average of 55 minutes, with a seventh 90-minute finale to top it off. Very do-able.