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Impressions: Gundam The Origin I: Blue-Eyed Casval

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Red Comet, Blue Eyes

Char Aznable.

In all of Mobile Suit Gundam's long history, there's perhaps no better icon of the franchise (besides the Gundam itself) than the Red Comet and his trademark mask. In fact, Char himself has become a fixture of Gundam itself, far beyond the Universal Century. Whenever a masked villain appears anywhere near a science-fiction setting in anime, comparisons to Char will ensue.

The thing is, though, that's not even his real name, which is what makes this first installment of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, so fascinating.

Of course, Char's real name, Casval Rem Deikun - and his status as the lost sun of Zeon founder Zeon Zum Deikun - were plot points that have been known for coming on forty years now, when they were revealed in the original TV series. 

The difference, though, is in the details, and this episode's aims are as telling as its that the title, "Blue-Eyed Casval". Not only does it refer to Char's true name, but also his eyes, which in most Gundam fiction, he takes pains to hide behind masks and hilarious wraparound shades. As might be imagined, we spend most of this hour in a period never before visited in the Universal Century: Char Aznable's life before he became "Char Aznable".

And it looks like the word for that life is "rough". Not to say that he was by any means poor, but being the son of an embattled politician carries its own costs. The near-messianic aura of Zeon Zum Deikun, and his sudden death at the podium, hangs over the Deikun family for the whole episode, coloring every experience Casval and his sister Artesia (the future Sayla Mass) go through in the aftermath.

"Blue-Eyed Casval" also steps in early to draw battle lines between the future Char and his enemies, the Zabi family, as well as establishing his extended "family" of allies in the form of a younger Ramba Ral and other Zeon loyalists. Given Gundam The Origin's status as a refinement of the original TV series' plot, the fact that Sunrise have opted to start adapting this story arc first (it originally appeared much later in The Origin's publication timeline) means that this story may well be the accepted "canon" for the foreseeable future. 

That said, though Casval is the title character of the episode, he and his sister are still just children, and their lot in life is to be shuffled around by the schemes of both the malicious and well-meaning. Ramba Ral and the Zabis, by comparison, have far more to say and do as things fall apart in the Republic of Munzo, and both factions end up humanized a great degree by the end of the hour. Dozle, Ramba, and Kycilia Zabi in particular get moments and motivations that make their future deaths seem all the more tragic.

Stylistically, Sunrise has gone harder on the retro angle here than they did for Gundam Unicorn. Where Unicorn was a fairly modern Gundam anime with faux-retro character designs, Gundam The Origin includes callbacks not only to the faces of yesteryear, but its sense of humor as well. With all the orchestral swell and the weight of history behind it, you wouldn't expect a whole scene of Ramba being flustered by Artesia's admiration and getting himself mauled by the Deikuns' pet cat. You also wouldn't expect Gihren, the arch-villain, to play a hilariously elaborate game of computer Go during a portentous conversation. But they do, and it's a relief to be disarmed so, especially given modern Gundam's reputation for self-seriousness.

Given its premise, the episode is somewhat light on hot mecha action, which is understandable. That said, what is in there, like a lavish view of the Battle of Loum, and a Guntank brawl later on, is satisfying to watch. Sunrise's CG work is impeccable, and conveys speed - a critical requirement for portraying the Red Comet - in a fashion unlike the usual stereotypes of awkward anime CGI. It's also a treat to see the Black Tri-stars in their first outings.

It remains to be seen just how far this adaptation of Gundam: The Origin will go, but if this episode is any indicator, future installments will make this series a look back that's worth taking.

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures


 


 


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  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin II is up to bat - Hiroko Yamamura
  • Impressions: Gundam The Origin I: Blue-Eyed Casval - Josh Tolentino
  • Gundam the Origin's subbed trailer shows off blue-eyed Char - Josh Tolentino
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