Anime Film Review: Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack was the first original theatrical film for the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. It was released in Japanese theaters on March 12, 1988.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
Directed by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Written by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Starring: Toru Furuya, Shuichi Ikeda, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Maria Kawamura, Nozomu Sasaki, Koichi Yamadera, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Mitsuki Yayoi, Fuyumi Shiraishi, Mayumi Sho, Akira Murayama, Keiko Han
Run Time: 125 minutes

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack takes place after the end of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, and it’s obvious there’s a time skip thanks to seeing an older version of Bright Noa’s son, Hathaway. However, it’s never blatantly said during the film exactly how much time has passed.

The film opens with Bright Noa and Amuro Ray, as part of the Londo Bell unit, trying to stop Char Aznable and his Neo Zeon forces from dropping an asteroid on the Earth Federation headquarters in Tibet. While they fail at this, their mission continues to be one of stopping Char from destroying the Earth. Unfortunately, the Earth Federation makes a major miscalculation that helps Char to carry out his plan.

I don’t want to say too much more about the basic plot, because there’s too much potential for spoilers. Instead, I will talk about the various characters and my observations and questions about them.

First, I want to look at a new character named Quess Paraya. She’s the teenage daughter of a politician in the Earth Federation, and it appears she and her dad don’t have much of a relationship. We first see her when guards take her back into custody after claiming a group of people that she’s with has kidnapped her. When she’s brought back home, we see a woman getting into a car with her, and the staff mentions that the woman is not Quess’ mother. It’s never outright stated, but I assume that this woman must be a mistress. Quess, along with her father and the mystery woman, go to catch a shuttle to escape Earth before Char can fulfill his plan. The woman ends up not going on the shuttle, so there’s an extra seat. This is how Bright’s son, Hathaway, enters the story.

It seems that Quess is trying to be friends with Hathaway, but once she meets Amuro Ray, she loses interest in Bright’s son. Quess is a Newtype, and she becomes obsessed with Amuro. But once she has a chance encounter with Char, she goes off with him instead and joins other side. Sadly, we really don’t get much character development for Quess, so it was hard for me to care about her as a character. And her obsession with Char was annoying and over-the-top.

Another new character is a male Newtype named Gyunei Guss. He is an enhanced Cyber Newtype working for Neo Zeon. He becomes obsessed with Quess and tries everything he can to distract her from Char. Again, he didn’t have much character development. I find it interesting that in the franchise so far, they keep talking about how Newtypes are the ideal new evolution for humankind. However, most of the Newtypes that are presented in the franchise up to this point come across as mentally unstable.

Something that stood out to me was the character designs for the characters who carry over from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Both Amuro and Bright look close to their depictions in both Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. But Mirai and Char looks so drastically different. I quipped to my husband, “Did they get plastic surgery in the intervening time?”

While knowing some of these characters and the basic premise for the Gundam franchise was helpful for being able to understand a lot of what was going on in this film, it still felt that there were a lot of things where I had to guess about since they were never blatantly explained. Since Char is in charge of Neo Zeon in this film, I had to assume that he must have taken control over the remnants of the group after Haman Karn was defeated at the end of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. Also, why is Char now trying to exact revenge against Amuro and Bright for the death of Lala Sune? And why did he disappear at the end of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam?

The ending of the film is also on the vague side. I feel confident that one of the characters in the final battle died, but I’m not sure on the other one. I assume they died as well, but again, I’m having to guess on yet another aspect of the story and plot.

To be honest, after watching this film, my husband and I both agreed that this story would have been stronger if it had been an OVA series instead of a film. By making it an OVA series that includes a little more to the story than what we see in this film, there would have been more time to develop the new characters and to get some explanations out there. By being limited to the length of a feature film, there were certain things that had to be skipped or glossed over. There was potential for a great story here, but the execution of it wasn’t as strong as it could have been, due to not having enough time to flesh elements out.

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