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The Gulf War in an hour and a half…?

January 21, 2011

“Don’t be reckless, Cecily!”

Seabook Arno, Mobile Suit Gundam F91

 

Ah, the beauty of F91.

Gundam F91 is a theatrical film directed by Tomino and intended as a sequel to Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, as well as being part of the Universal Century timeline. It follows Seabook Arno and Cecily Fairchild living in the Frontier Colonies at Side 4, when the Crossbone Vanguard, seeking to establish a new world order based on aristocracy, attacks Frontier IV, the fourth colony in the Side, and slowly move through the colonies to Frontier I, where the bulk of the conflict concludes. Seabook and Cecily become some of the civilians caught up in the initial fighting, and as Seabook narrowly escapes with a group of friends, he finds himself drawn into semi-service with the Earth Federation Forces stationed there, and eventually as a pilot of the titular F91 Gundam. As for Cecily, she is captured by the Crossbone Vanguard and forced to face her past as a member of the Vanguard’s ruling royal class. Her role in the movie documents the struggles to deal with her past, and her deciding where her true allegiances are.

F91 was originally intended as an entirely new series, but troubles during its production caused the entire project to be nearly binned. When it escaped death, the F91 series was reworked as a movie, and was produced as such. Coming shortly after Char’s Counterattack, expect more quality 1990-style animation in this movie. Although short, F91 doesn’t bomb in the animation and detail departments one bit; it’s 1 and 1/2 hours of glorious, UC-realistic mobile suit combat.

Unfortunately, that’s the only point that I can say was good for certain. While it’s entirely up to personal opinion, after watching F91, I felt that much of the story was lost. For example, while a 50-episode series like intended is unnecessary to bring the entire plot to end, and an hour and half is certainly too little to focus on some of the Crossbone Vanguard’s actions (with examples being the Vanguard’s birth, as well as the relationship between Cecily’ mother and “Iron Mask”, Cecily’s father), and this applies to the actions taken by other forces in the series as well. Betrayals and fights have very little build-up time; blink, and you’ll miss it.

Certainly, the pacing is crisp, but there’s a problem of being too crisp. Unfortunately for Tomino, the same problems present with Char’s Counterattack are still present in F91; if the pacing of the movie then put you off, then F91 is probably going to scare you away too.

Apart from that, the movie has not many other glaring problems. The mobile suit design isn’t stunning, but it’s far from being anywhere close to total scrap; particularly of note is the F91 Gundam, which houses a variety of armaments definitely not part of any UC series before. It’s Variable Speed Beam Rifle makes short work of any kind of defenses, and the Crossbone Vanguard, who are definitely more powerful than the “space pirates” the Earth Federation makes them out to be, arent’ as kind as they make themselves out to be, and will eventually mark the start of a new generation of anti-Earth conflicts up to the Victory era.

And surprisingly, for a pre-Victory Tomino work, there’s a surprisingly low death count amongst named characters. Some might think that’s a good thing, but it seems that the compensation went on to random bystanders instead.

F91 is definitely part of the official UC timeline, so watch it if you’re going through the Tomino Gundam works again, especially if you’re feeling unsatisfied after Char’s Counterattack, or if you’re just lusting for some short and sweet animation with a just-nice serving of mech-to-mech action. However, if you intend to watch F91 as part of some enlightening prequel to the infamous Victory Gundam, then I’ll have to advise against that; Victory is so far out of the timeline, it might as well not be UC at all. Go to Crossbone Gundam if you want to catch up on more Seabook and Cecily.

 

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