I just finished watching Gundam Unicorn episode one and I thought I'd share my initial impressions of the highly anticipated OVA series.
To my knowledge, Gundam UC is the first in the franchise to receive a simultaneous international release on any disc format. Although the first episode was shown on the Playstation Network last month in Japan, the Blu-Ray release saw its U.S. and Japanese debut on the same day. Baring that in mind, there was a genuine feeling of excitement knowing that for the first time English speaking Gundam fans are enjoying a new Gundam OVA at the same time as their Japanese counterparts.
But what about the show itself? Based on this first episode, I believe that we're in for a serious treat. I never read the original novels that the series was based but I hear it's very faithful. I was very impressed with the animation. Gundam series generally don't deliver much in the realm of character animation since most of them are 50+ episodes. But one of the advantages to OVA's is they generally have superior production values over television shows. It's nice to see characters whose animation matches the quality of their mobile suits. Speaking of mobile suits, I am very glad to see that they are predominantly hand-drawn in a time where most mecha anime rely far too heavily on CG. This makes for some pretty spectacular battle sequences.
I won't go too in depth with the story as to avoid spoilers. I'll just mention that there's a sense of familiarity in the narrative, but in a good way. It really feels like the Gundam shows of old; where the series was less about flashy mobile suit designs and bishounen fan service, and more about the inner struggles of being a pilot thrown into into battle on a regular basis and putting your life on the line for the sake of others.
As for the bonus material, there are some Blu-Ray live features such as a preview screen for Gundam UC episode 2, original promos and TV commercials, as well as trailers for other Bandai titles. Nothing too special. A behind the scenes featurette would have been much appreciated but I'm sure they're waiting on that.
Lackluster extras aside, I think Gundam UC will remind people about why they became Gundam fans. To me it represents everything that was good about the Gundam franchise before it began to lose focus. It's looking like this show will reach the heights of previous Gundam OVA's like War in the Pocket and 08th MS Team. I can only hope that the release date for volume two is announced soon.