A story with good worldbuilding leaves the viewer wanting more. When the characters and the setting have a compelling backstory, the viewer will have a craving to see that backstory, rather than just hearing about it. Universal Century Gundam has not only accomplishes this, but delivers on that desire for more.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin I – Blue-Eyed Casval is an animated film produced by Sunrise that tells the story of a young Char Aznable, eleven years before the events of Mobile Suit Gundam. Following the mysterious death of Chairman Zeon Zum Deikun, Side 3, the group of space colonies known as Munzo, is plunged into political unrest, with the late Chairman’s family caught in the middle.
Blue-Eyed Casval is a classic origin story. It shows the environment young Char grew up in, the people he was surrounded by, and what he went through as a child. In addition, it also serves to illustrate the politics going on in the Universal Century at that time, both within Side 3 and between Side 3 and the Earth Federation. Side 3 has been pushing for independence and, with Chairman Deikun dead on the eve of his expected declaration of independence from the Federation, protesters line the streets, pushing at gates and throwing rocks at riot police until armored vehicles with water cannons disperse them.
The film does a good job of illustrating the class situation in Munzo that no doubt contributes to the unrest. While the film focuses on aristocratic characters like the Deikun, Ral, and Zabi families, there’s a palpable disconnect between them and the common folk of Munzo. There always seems to be a layer of clouds over Munzo’s cities, which I assume is smog or something similar. The city streets are dirty. As the Zabi family schemes, street gangs, toting assault rifles, submachineguns, and grenades, have taken to accosting passersby and destroying buildings.
The seriousness of Munzo’s situation is not without its moments of levity, however. Blue-Eyed Casval manages to accomplish the transition between humor and seriousness without the funny parts seeming tacked-on or the serious parts seeming phoned-in. The characters are genuine and true-to-form. It’s the kind of origin story where it’s not hard to see how each character came to become the way they are in Mobile Suit Gundam, even despite the fact that this is only part one.
Visually, the film looks fantastic. The colors are vibrant, and the environments are interesting to look at. Character-design-wise, the characters are, once again, true-to-form. Mobile Suit Gundam’s distinct characters make it simple to pick out who in the film is the younger version of whom from Mobile Suit Gundam.
The film makes use of CG for the mobile suits, spacecraft, armored vehicles, cars, and even horses one time. Those who are bothered by CG in mecha anime will no doubt be bothered by the CG in Blue-Eyed Casval. The CG certainly stands out, but not only does the interaction between it and the traditional animation work well, it allows for some intense combat. The opening scene takes place during the Battle of Loum, an early battle in Mobile Suit Gundam’s One Year War, and is one of the best depictions of Char in combat that I’ve yet seen. It’s the kind of thing that might perhaps have been nice to see in traditional animation, but would have been prohibitively resourse- and time-intensive to do.
For fans of the Universal Century Gundam world, Blue-Eyed Casval is a must-see. It’s not just Char’s origin story. It’s Sayla’s, and Ramba Ral’s, and Kycilia Zabi’s. It’s Zeon’s origin story. It’s Clamp’s origin story. Remember Clamp? Definitely check this one out if UC Gundam’s your thing. You won’t regret it.