REVIEW: Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway (2021)

A movie set in the Gundam Universe

The very last movie I saw in the theater, pre-pandemic, was a limited release of Mobile Suit Gundam – Char’s Counterattack via Fathom events. We were treated to the news that there would be a film version of Hathaway’s Flash to be released the following winter, based on a popular short story taking place some years after “Char’s Rebellion”. The main character is none other than an older Hathaway Noa, one of the more prominent characters in that film. If I recall correctly (as it was 2019) there was a teaser trailer, and we waited…..and waited…..and Covid delayed it…..and waited. Finally, I got to watch the film tonight, and I thank Netflix very much for not forcing me to either go to the theater or bootleg the film! I know it’s been out for a few months now, but I’ve been busy and today’s day off at work seemed like as perfect a time as any for me to watch it!

“The year is U.C. 0105. Twelve years have passed since the end of the second Neo Zeon War (Char’s Rebellion). Even after “the Axis Shock,” which seemed to indicate the future of humanity and the Universal Century, the world is still in a chaotic situation where intermittent military conflicts continue to break out. The Earth Federation government is more corrupt than ever, and its leadership has not only accelerated Earth’s pollution, but also implemented an inhuman “Man Hunting” policy in which civilians are forcibly exiled to outer space.

The anti-Federation government organization “Mafty,” led by someone called “Mafty Navue Erin,” has taken a stand against the corruption of the Earth Sphere. Mafty carries out fierce acts of terrorism, assassinating high officials of the Federation government one after another, but it gains a certain level of support from the populace who are growing more opposed to the Federation government.”

We don’t see much of the activity that Hathaway has been partaking in, but it appears he has become quite the celebrity in the decade after Char attempt to destroy the Earth, albeit an anonymous one at that. He has taken on the name “Mafty Navue Erin”, adopted costumed theatrics, and has started using his military training (legitimate or not) to help fight back against the fascist leanings The Earth Federation have taken since the end of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. To some he is a freedom fighter, but to many he is a terrorist leader. Some might have trouble reconciling the fact that the “good guys” ultimately turned bad, but I’d argue Gundam has no “good guy vs bad guy” conflict, just greys.

At the time of this film, civilians have had to deal with many hardships, not even including the atrocities committed in the One Year War. Due to resource supply issues, large swaths of the population were loaded up and forcefully relocated in space colonies, but still didn’t allow the colonies sovereignty. Eventually, The Earth Federation created The Titans which were a counter-Zeon task force who became a death squad under the guise of keeping order. If anyone at all voiced sympathy for space colonies, Zeon, Char, etc. It was potentially a death sentence. The Titans gassed multiple colonies, conscripted (and experimented on) war orphans, and a multitude of other horrible things in the name of peace. There is no wonder Char eventually wanted to blow up the Earth.

Hathaway once again ends up with a questionable love interest and gets in the middle of a love triangle yet again. Although, Gigi Andalucia at least seems more mentally stable than Quess Paraya was. I know it’s probably me being a jerk here, considering her rough upbringing and age, but Quess was presented as the most insufferable character in Gundam history until Shinn Asuka from Gundam SEED Destiny was created. I can at least handle Gigi even though I assume she will be bad news for Hathaway in the long run.

I am a bit unsure where Hathaway picked up his current belief system from. I’ve seen people, when discussing the story long ago, say he ended up following in Char’s vision but I’d argue it’s not that simple. Yes, he also believes the idea that humanity should go to space, but he makes it more extreme by espousing the belief that we should abandon the Earth entirely. He believes living in colonies will not only save Earth from an environmentalism standpoint, but also fix almost every other issue facing mankind. He likely believes that going into space will eventually make humanity evolve into Newtypes, and a golden age of understanding will commence.

It’s just interesting because it’s a vastly different worldview from that espoused by every single person Hathaway grew up with, it’s almost like he based everything on what Char’s father supposedly created Zeon for, but even he never advocated abandonment of Earth. It was more about sovereignty. It’s interesting to think about, but the film doesn’t dwell on it – the viewer has to come up with their own conclusions much in the same way we are asked to determine which side we believe is right.

Aside from my philosophical questions above, one bad thing about this film is that it 100% assumes you have seen Char’s Counterattack at the very least, which in itself would make no sense without seeing older series’. It isn’t bogged down with background information and flashbacks, which is good for seasoned Gundam fans, but will perhaps confuse a newbie. I feel like this is a better constructed film that it’s predecessor, as Char’s Counterattack ultimately tried to do far too much in a relatively short running time, coming across as a mess in many ways. Hathaway still basically has a whole second film we need to wait for, so it could go completely to hell for all I know, but so far I’m digging it.

The animation in this film is absolutely gorgeous, it blends 2D and 3D almost seamlessly, and does things like realistic human movement we sometimes take for granted in anime – something always hyped by Disney animators. It’s less stylized, more realistic, and feels like something one could really witness at times. I haven’t seen Gundam NT as of yet, but if this has been the standard post-Gundam Unicorn, I’m all for it.

All-in-all, I loved this movie and can’t wait for more. it’s not perfect, but it’s one of the better Gundam films easily, and felt important. Some Gundam films feel like long TV episodes, which may be cheap to produce, but removed the impact in many ways. I know roughly what happens in the end of this story (from my days reading synopses online of the franchise) so it will be interesting to see if that is followed completely or if they deviate from the book. If you are a Gundam fan, this movie is really good, and I highly recommend it. Honestly, if you are just a fan of science fiction or anime, I’d check it out to, it may be your gateway into the franchise.

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