My tank better than yours!

March 2, 2012

“The Eagle will land! This is a huge leap forward for us Spacenoids…”

Kycilia Zabi, MS IGLOO: The Gravity Front

Introduced to the show by my erstwhile comrade General Raisha, I set about watching the entirety of the MS IGLOO series. Initially intrigued by the fact that there would be a serious Gundam series set in pure CG, that fact soon flew out of the window in the face of MS IGLOO’s storytelling of an alternate take on the One Year War.

MS IGLOO plays out like a series of collected short stories, with a central cast that interacts with the new characters introduced every episode. The main viewpoint of the show comes from one Zeonic 2nd Lieutenant Oliver May, an engineering officer and his attachment to the 603rd Technical Evaluation Unit, a group formed for the sole purpose of testing out prototype weapons. Oliver and the crew attached to the 603rd travel across space as they are assigned to test everything from prototype mobile suits and specialized combat vehicles to even last-minute inspirations weaponized for the final assault. At the same time, the show manages to fit in as much character exposure as it can manage for Oliver and the permanent crew of the 603rd; the characters that are introduced for the six episodes that cover the 603rd’s adventures throughout the Earth Sphere are not forgotten either, with a substantial amount of time invested each episode to introduce their backstories, motivations, and even the little skeletons thay have in their personal closets.

The characters don’t just take up all the time either. Politics come into play, both alongside and against the experimental weapons that the 603rd has been tasked to test out and evaluate. For example, if you think a massive anti-ship cannon with the range to snipe down opposing warships from well beyond their targeting range would make for a good weapon to be further developed, think again, because while it may be strategically sound it just isn’t politically sound.

Even the MS designs tend to lend themselves to the tone of the story as the One Year War reaches its conclusion. From ground-up prototypes to emergency modifications to last-ditch productions, the MS IGLOO series has them all, and within the context of the story they fit amazingly well inside.

Perhaps something more to talk about would be the last three episodes of MS IGLOO. Unlike the first six, these three are truly short stories, telling the tales of three different Federation units against the Zeonic offensive on Earth, midway through the One-Year War. While they are all interesting takes on combat (especially those that pitted a Federation with no mobile suits against a standard Zeonic Force with mobile suits and whatnot), the three episodes feel out-of-place and less well-structured than the first six. Not helping is a spiritual presence; its fine to keep it in the dialogue, but when it starts to manifest as an otherworldly soul collector come to our planet to collect the souls of the fallen and tell them where they have failed, it just elicits a “What?” from the audience.

Generally in MS IGLOO, the story tends to suffer from feeling like a disjointed tale; the first six episodes, not so much, and the last three very much so. As well, the anime-styled storytelling (pilots somehow managing to shout/scream/communicate to each other without any indication of having cracked each other’s comm channel) and other forms of “storyline exaggeration” (things like a death yell as the character falls in slow-mo, and especially during the steel-to-steel combat scenes where no one knows the other’s face) tend to kick MS IGLOO in the knee; it’s not a bad execution, just weird to see such things in a full-blown 3D production.

In terms of MS IGLOO, I expected the animation to be more realistic, but throughout the production it was like someone transferred your typical anime work into a 3D medium. It’s an okay job, but personally I think MS IGLOO missed the chance to set the benchmark for mobile suit realism in the UC universe.

That, and MS IGLOO is the greatest source for facial expressions I’ve seen yet. Watch it if you must or if recommended, but while good, MS IGLOO isn’t a requirement to understanding the history of UC, and if you want something with more realistic action, there are many other stories set in UC Gundam that has MS IGLOO beat in that aspect by a far mile.


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