“All sins have their origin in a sense of inferiority otherwise called ambition.” —Cesare Pavese
It’s finally here, nearly two years after rumours and speculation about an animated adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin began during 2013. The animated adaptation of The Origin deals primarily with Casval Rem Deikun and his younger sister, Artesia Som Deikun. After Zeon Zum Deikun’s death in UC 0068, the opening episode to The Origin details the chaos and confusion that subsequently spreads throughout Side 3. For their protection, Ramba Ral and Crowley Hamon devise a plan to smuggle them away from Side 3 to Earth, along with Ramba’s father, Jimba, although during their transit, Crowley, Casval and Artesia encounter a battalion of Federation Tanks. Casval manages to take them out, and they escape from the growing political tensions that follow. The Origin also introduces the Zabi family as a conniving group. Shortly after events of the first episode, Degwin Sodo Zabi transforms Side 3 into the Principality of Zeon, a totalitarian system, although Gihren Zabi gradually takes over. By UC 0079, Zeon declares war on the Federation, initiating the One Year War. The ceaseless cycle of violence and vengence isn’t broken until UC 0096, during the events of Gundam Unicorn. The first episode to The Origin concludes with Caseval and Artesia experiencing space for the first time, and as the episode draws to a close, there’s a half-year wait before the second episode comes out.
The Origin retains much of the stylistic elements from Gundam Unicorn, including a first episode that steps back to introduce characters, factions, beliefs and how everything started. It appears that Zeon Zum Deikun was already intending to break away from the Federation: an ardent believer in the Newtype philosophy, he argued that the spacenoids would eventually undergo evolution to adapt for space and that the Earth was sacred for its life-supporting environs. His beliefs meant that, even had he declared war on the Federation, the conflict itself would have been unlikely to have seen the same sort of atrocities that were committed during the course of the One Year War. Conversely, the Zabi family’s portrayal in The Origin fully suggest a group of individuals who are willing to resort to atrocities in revenge for their perceived mistreatment of the spacenoids. Casval’s unwavering, authoritative presence also hints at his future of being a capable leader and pilot: he is fearless even when threatened by Kycilia Zabi, and despite lacking any experience, he manages to disable four Federation RTX-65 Guntanks during their escape. Other well-known characters are also reintroduced; Ramba Ral left a particularly positive impression, with his friendly personality and talent for getting the job done, however mundane it may be (he even rescues Artesia’s cat at one point). The Origin‘s first episode is focused on giving the Zeon characters more background to show the human faces behind all of the events that subsequently transpire in Mobile Suit Gundam, and leaving this episode, I find that much of the One Year War’s events might be chalked up as a consequence of the kind of merciless and ruthless beliefs that led to the outbreak of conflict during the Second World War.
Sceenshots and Commentary
- The Origin opens up to the Battle of Loum, which began as an attempt to drop a second colony after Operation British had failed. The Federation was able to deal damage to the Zeon forces, but Zeon illustrated the effectiveness of mobile suits in combat.
- Char’s MS-06S Zaku II is given a red finish and is capable of moving three times faster than standard Zaku IIs. Equipped with a 280 mm bazooka and an anti-ship rifle in place of the Zaku’s signature machine gun, Char demonstrates his talents as a pilot, effortlessly disabling several Federation battleships before running out of ammunition for his bazooka.
- The opening battle demonstrates what Mobile Suit Gundam could look like if it was completely redone using present animation techniques and tools: the screens and vessel interiors take on a feeling that distinctly feel like earlier generations of what was seen in Gundam Unicorn, and it looks amazing. Char’s Zaku emits an ominous sound as he flies by a Federation battleship here: the monoeye sound is famous for being an intimidating sound, and my first exposure to it was during Gundam Unicorn.
- Capitalising on the cutting-edge Zaku II, Char flits throughout the battlefield, amazing his allies and striking fear into the Federation forces. Despite lasting only around four minutes, the combat sequence is nothing short of impressive, and while the CG effects are less inconspicuous than they were in Gundam Unicorn, they aren’t terrible, and in all, this segment of the Battle of Loum is spectacularly animated, giving a sense of scale that was not seen in Gundam Unicorn.
- The sheer amount of activity going on at any given moment is nothing to sneeze at, and even though this Federation battle group is behind the front lines, Zeon’s use of mobile suits allows them to critically damage a number of Federation vessels, including what appears to be a carrier for launching space fighters. While it’s an unconventional comparison, I liken the Battle of Loum to The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s “Day of the Sagittarius” episode.
- Char uses a well-delivered kick to wreck one fighter, and shoots down another with his head-mounted vulcans. One would wonder if Yuki could effectively coordinate a battle group of this composition against mobile suits: compared to battleships, the mobile suits offer very nearly the same level of power, but have the added advantage of a significantly higher mobility.
- The Magellan-class and Salamis-class starships comprise the bulk of the Federation forces in UC 0079. The former is 327 meters in length and armed with seven twin mega particle cannon turrets, four internal missile launchers, as well as 14 anti-aircraft machine guns that would later be used to help defend the ships against mobile suit attacks. The latter is 61.3 meters in length and compared to the Magellan-class, is more lightly armed. The onset of mobile suit combat meant that both types of starships were outperformed, and the Federation would race to get their own mobile suits into production. After this point, the Magellan-class would serve as a makeshift mobile suit carrier, and would ultimately be phased out in favour of the Alexandria-class heavy cruisers and the Ra Cailum-class battleships.
- The level of detail in The Origin matches that of Gundam Unicorn: in the latter, viewers were treated to watching Banagher waiting for a Zeon beam Gatling gun’s device drivers to load, and here, Char is notified that he’s only got one round left in his bazooka, and that his anti-ship rifle, having been handed off to Denim, is out of range. These subtle details add a great deal to the immersion in The Origin.
- With only a single round left in the chamber, Char flies his Zaku II directly into the heart of the storm. From here on out, the events depicted in the first episode are set eleven years back: befitting of the title, this is truly where everything began. This is pretty much it for the screenshots of the Battle of Loum: I could spend all day praising this opening sequence, but this is supposed to be a post about Casval and Artesia Deikun.
- Astraia Tor Deikun and Zeon Zum Deikun converse on the eve of Zeon’s speech, illustrating Zeon’s stress concerning his upcoming speech. An ardent proponent of Earth’s significance and the philosopher who proposed the Newtype theory that later became the crux of the Battle for Laplace’s Box, Zeon was the leader of the Munzo Republic, which had declared independence from the Federation but nonetheless maintained a republic government.
- Zeon suffers cardiac arrest and dies before delivering his speech. Theories on his death in-universe are varied, with some suggesting that his death was a consequence of overwork and stress, while others claim that the Zabi family was responsible. Degwin Zabi would succeed Zeon, and subsequently, Munzo became the Principality of Zeon, a totalitarian regime that mirrors the Third Reich and Imperial Japan.
The confusion surrounding the exact nature of Zeon’s death is left a mystery, and source materials do not ever clarify whether or not the Zabi family was in fact involved in his death, leading to much discussion in the real world. What is known is that supporters of the Zabi family then try to pass Zeon’s death as an action from the Federation in the hopes of giving them the justification for declaring war on the Federation.
- Sasro Zabi is the second son Degwin Zabi, but was assassinated by Zeon’s supporters after suspicions began arising concerning the Zabi family’s implications in Zeon’s assassination. Dozle Szabi survives: his appearance belies a gregarious and good natured character.
- Ramba Ral and Jimba Ral discuss the circumstances behind Sasro’s death: compared to his original incarnation in Mobile Suit Gundam, who had a calm disposition, Jimba Ral is significantly more paranoid here. Conversely, Ramba is portrayed as a reliable character, similar to his role in Mobile Suit Gundam.
- The comedy factor is quite strong in The Origin, considering that this is a Gundam series set in the Universal Century. Gundam Unicorn only had one comical moment, set in Black Unicorn after Captain Otto receives orders to collaborate with the Garencieres in order to recover the Unicorn. By comparison, The Origin sees several moments of comedy, including Ramba Ral’s attempts at coaxing Lucifer (Artesia’s cat) out and staging a big deal about his tires blowing out to slow down the Federation forces.
- Ramba Ral might be seen as a tragic character in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, but The Origin also paints an additional side of him, showing him as a level-headed, caring individual who gets the job done.
- Artesia reacts to news that Astraia will not be leaving with them; throughout the events of The Origin, Casval retains a stoic personality even in the face of intimidation and danger. Owing to the Zabi family’s actions, it’s decided that Casval and Artesia will be smuggled off Munzo to Earth.
- Astraia, Artesia and Casval spend one final evening together as a family before the children leave. Astraia promises Artesia that they’ll reunite as a family after 100 moon cycles: if we define a moon cycle as the time it takes to go from a new moon to a new moon, then one cycle lasts 29.5 days. So, 100 moon cycles is roughly 2950 days, or 8.08 years.
- Astraia waves goodbye to her children after Crowley arrives in a stolen Gun-tank to extract them. Astraia’s fate is after being placed in state custody by Roselucia Deikun is not given in The Origin, but the source material states that she is later imprisoned and dies from a stress-induced illness.
- The Origin manages to balance out humour with more emotional moments, and in doing so, sends the message that this series is one that knows where to be amusing and where to focus on developing the tenor of a scene. The end result is something that ends up being immensely rewarding to watch.
- Casval’s intuition and determination to take out his enemies leads him to shoot down four Federation Gun-tanks, hinting at his future career as a pilot. Even under the face of overwhelming odds, Casval continues firing until Artesia cries out for him to stop.
- The Origin presents Guntanks as obsolete equipment by 0079; presumably, they’re state-of-the-art when deployed in 0068, but appear to lack sufficient armour against its own weapons. Conversely, the modern day M1A2 Abrams has sufficiently well-designed armour such that even the M829A1 “Silver Bullet” APFSDS round from other M1A1 Abrams are unable to penetrate at close ranges, as documented in friendly fire incidents and a case where an Abrams tried to destroy an abandoned Abrams stuck in the mud.
- It bears testament to just how different things have become since 0068: early on, the Republic of Munzo’s government, though disrespectful of the Federation, can still maintain conversation without the need to resort to arms. Here, Donzle demands that the Federation forces hold their fire until Casval and Artesia are safely delivered. However, the Federation officier appears to fake a conversation suggesting that their orders are absolute, causing Donzle to pop his stitches.
- The facial expressions surrounding this moment are hilarious, but at the same time, might also seem out of place in a Gundam where the artwork matches the style employed in Gundam Unicorn. All in all, they’re not so overused that they’re distracting, and instead, serve to add an additional side to The Origin that makes it unique from previous instalments of Gundam.
- Gihren Zabi watches as the Federation forces open fire to destroy the rogue Gun-tank. Likened to the Führer in terms of his beliefs of a master race, his oratory capacity and belief in superweapons, Gihren is the true ruler of the Principality of Zeon, using his cunning and manipulation to seize power. He is executed by Kycilia Zabi later on, and she assumes control of Zeon for a brief period.
- Crowley Hamon is Ramba Ral’s aide and lover, helping him with a variety of requests. She participates in the One Year War as well, and ever faithful to Ramba Ral, even continues fighting on after he is killed in action, making use of a Magella Attack Tank’s turret to very nearly destroy the RX-78 II, but is killed when Ryu Jose crashes into the tank.
- After cargo workers hear a cat in the containers, Lieutenant Tachi, one of Ramba Ral’s subordinates, tries to draw the workers off by claiming the cat could be in another container. Bumbling but reliable, he fights for Zeon once the One Year War starts and greatly admires Ramba Ral, helping Crowley with her plans to avenge Ral’s death but is killed during combat with Amuro Ray.
- Aside from Donzle, Kycilia and the other members of the Zabi family are presented as evil right from the start; the other Zeons, and Char himself, are shown to be reasonable people with a human side. Kycilia herself dies at Char’s hands when the latter uses a rocket launcher to score what is considered to be one of the greatest headshots of all time, even surpassing FPS_Doug’s talent for obtaining awesome headshots.
- As the cargo freighter leaves Side 3, Artesia and Casval see the stars, sun, moon and Earth itself for the first time, finding themselves awestruck at the astronomical beauty in spite of themselves. The next episode is dubbed Artesia’s Sorrow and is supposed to air somewhere in Fall 2015, a little more than a half-year from now. This episode will focus on Artesia and Casval’s separation, as well as Casval’s transformation into Char Aznable. From the next The Origin post onwards, I’ll refer to Casval as Char, and Artesia as Sayla after the two assume new identities on Earth.
- As the episode draws to a close, Yu-Yu’s “The Stardust of the Hourglass” begins playing. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song that captures all of the sadness and loneliness of not just space, but the One-Year-War itself. With a harp and slow melody, this song captures the mood of the Universal Century perfectly. The soundtrack was released three days ahead of The Origin‘s premier on Feburary 25, and despite its short length (only five tracks), the music is beautifully composed.
While The Origin might be animated in the same style as Gundam Unicorn, there are some subtle differences: The Origin is more liberal with its application of humour, whether it be the style employed while Ramba Ral recounts his attempts to secure Artesia’s cat to Crowley or when he claims his jeep’s broken down, stalling a column of Federation tanks. Similarly, Dozle Zabi manages to (quite literally) pop a seam after Federation soldiers tell him that they intend to fire on the Guntank carrying Casval and Artesia. The Origin has a slightly lower animation quality, with some facial expressions appearing less polished than they had in Gundam Unicorn. Beyond this, here, we have a thrilling opening to The Origin that excels at world-building to tell a story about the people on the other side of the One Year War: their monstrous acts during the war itself serve as a reminder that humanity can be capable of horrors to one another, but also that no evil ever begins this way. With the second episode set for release somewhere in Autumn 2015, it appears that Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is releasing on a similar schedule as Gundam Unicorn did: assuming no unforeseen delays occur, this series will finish by September 2016.