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Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is the best instalment of a franchise that I don’t particularly like.

I took another look at it over the last week or so, and I’m holding to that opinion.

The First Half: The Set Up

Alfred Izuruha is an 11 year old living in the O’Neill Colony[1] of Rhea. Al idolises war, misbehaves at school, and is basically an annoying brat.

Then the war between Zeon and the Federation that is the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV series crashes into his life. Initially Al is thrilled to be “helping”[2] the Zeon special operations team searching for a prototype Gundam hidden in a secret base that really shouldn’t be on Rhea[3]. Meanwhile Bernie Wiseman[4], the rookie member of the special ops team, is striking up a sort of romance with Al’s next door neighbour the beautiful Christina MacKenzie[5].

This is a situation in which secrets abound, although the audience quickly discovers everything that is hidden from Al, Bernie, and Chris.

The Second Half: It All Goes Horribly Wrong

Episode 4 Over the River and Through the Woods is where everything goes horribly wrong, and Al gets a ringside seat to watch it.

Then it gets worse.

Much worse.

War in the Pocket remains in many ways the purest piece of anti-war anime I’ve ever seen. Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped, and this anvil gets dropped on Al hard. What makes War in the Pocket so effective is the intimate scale of the story. This isn’t a story of a large war fought across space.

This is urban warfare in Al’s home town. Where the casualties might well be people that Al knows, might be fellow students at his school.

The sixth and final episode, also called War in the Pocket, is an utterly personal tale of the futility of war that leaves Al shattered and crying at the end.

The Verdict

War in the Pocket is not easy viewing, but it is compelling viewing with a point to be made. Tightly plotted, and with visuals that have held up surprisingly well over the years, War in the Pocket still remains the best of Mobile Suit Gundam in my opinion.

This OAV series is a must-watch anime classic. If you haven’t seen it, track it down and watch it.

I’ll finish up with the OP which I also quite like:

[1] One thing I’ve always liked about Gundam is the O’Neill Colonies. You just don’t see enough of those in SF anymore.

[2] Much to their chagrin.

[3] The colony is still, technically, neutral but rapidly sliding towards alliance with the Federation. Not that Al notices this.

[4] Now that’s an ironic name. Bernie is anything but wise to begin with, although he acquires a measure of it by the end.

[5] Played with a great deal of subtlety by Megumi Hayashibara.