This is an older post, copied over from the old database.
Bandai was gracious enough to put back out both War in the Pocket and Stardust Memories recently, but I was a little low on entertainment funds this week so I just went with the cheaper of the two sets. This would be the six-episode “War in the Pocket” OVA. The story centers around Al, who is a young kid who thinks war is very cool and loves seeing the mobile suits and battles involved. And this is the first problem with the show, within a few minutes you know what the basic theme is going to be (if not the outright plot) and you can’t help but cringe. We’ll get back to this…
The story also stars Bernie, a Zeon pilot who is supposed to find and destroy a Gundam Prototype (the Alex) being tested within Al’s colony. Unfortunately, his Zaku is hit and downed. Al, following the ‘cool’ battle meets up with Bernie and the two have an immediate ‘quasi-sibling’ friendship. Finishing up the main cast is Chris, a very pretty redhead who both Al and Bernie develop crushes on, but also just happens to be the test pilot (or, Data Collector) for the Gundam Alex.
What we basically have here is a single movie dragged out into six episodes. The first two episodes spend most of their time setting up Al’s obvious fall from innocence. Sadly, ‘innocence’ here translates directly into utterly and mind-boglingly stupid. Sure, his colony has been neutral, but it seems like everyone (aside from Bernie’s unit) suffers from psychotic denial. When the battles occur, there’s no siren within the colony to tell the civvies to ‘get the hell out of the way’, despite a war going on outside for nearly a year now.
The ultimate in stupid, though, has to be that Bernie’s Zaku isn’t even looked for, though it’s not even really hidden, being only a few dozen feet off a main road – no one but Al thinks to even notice. Worse, even AFTER the second battle within the colony, there’s absolutely no indication that either the colony’s defenders or Federation forces give a damn (which is needed to make the mid-story work, sadly). Truly bizzare.
If I sound overly harsh on the series, it’s because so much of it is designed to set up a blindingly-obvious confrontation, and there’s an awful lot of stupid to go to get there. There are some genuinely good scenes through the show, particularly with Chris, and some of the less-forced ‘bonding’ bits between Al and Bernie, but it’s all wrapped up in a series of huge wallbangers. Even the ‘end of the world’ plot at the end is so forced and nonsensical you want to reach out and slap the writer around.
As for suits, we do get to see some upgraded Zakus, the Kampfer gets some good screen time, and new versions of the Guncannon , GM II, and GM Police types.. though they’re more popcorn fodder even than usual. The Gundam Alex is an odd test unit, meant for Newtypes (hinted that it’s going to be Amuro’s replacement), except that – in another moment of stupid – the person testing it out is NOT a Newtype! The Alex itself isn’t a bad design, though the ‘Full Armor’ form seems fairly pointless. The regular body looks like a cross between First Gundam and Zeta… which makes sense.
Tough call, and could be an interesting chapter in some respects, particularly when back-story to the whole war is discussed, but the whole thing is overshadowed by the sheer stupidity of the writing at many, many points. You have to swallow an awful lot for any of this to work, which is the overall problem. The story is simply the hammered-home message ‘war sucks, kids, it’s not cool’! That, in and of itself, isn’t a problem, but that message was handled badly here, and everything else was shoved into the mixer for the sole-point of driving that home.
Fortunately, as I said, this one’s on the cheap, so it’s not a waste of money, but it’s fairly easy to see why War in the Pocket is one of the more obscure Gundam animations out there.
Neale, I know you’re not around to argue with but I would have to strongly disagree here. The whole point of this series was exactly to be an emotionally oversaturated tragedy about a lesser known frontline that hit a peaceful colony.
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