Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

Type: OVA
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 1996-1999
Date of Review: May 22, 2017

Not all of the battles of the One Year War were waged in space. Deep within the jungles and deserts of Asia, Ensign Shiro Amada and the brave 08th Mobile Suit Team fight to discover the secrets of Zeon’s newest weapon. Will their Gundams be able to hold up against Zakus, Magellas, and the dreaded Apsalus? The team had better learn to get along with one another first!

The 08th MS Team features a much smaller cast than most other Gundam productions, giving us more time to flesh out our characters. Unlike the standard Gundam formula, Shiro is not some random civilian haphazardly thrust into a conflict beyond his understanding; he’s an EFF officer with plenty of mobile suit experience and a deep drive to prove himself on the battlefield. The rest of his team are all varied and likeable characters, from the brooding Terry Sanders, Jr. to hardass Karen Joshua, plus timid Michel Ninorich and seeming slacker Eledore Massis. Everyone gets their chance to shine, and they’re all indispensable to both the story and the conflict.

Amidst the backdrop of gritty warfare is a classic tale of star-crossed love between Shiro and Zeon test pilot Aina Sahalin. The two come into unexpected contact more than once as the series goes on, leading them both to question their motives. In the end, their romance does seem a bit rushed, but that’s what you get when you’ve only got a dozen episodes to work with.

Most importantly, though, is The 08th MS Team‘s focus on ground warfare. Save for the introductory portion of the first episode, there are no space battles (and even that scene does not feature a Gundam). Most of the mobile suit fights are one-one-one, or a few small team battles. Even when facing down the Zeon mobile armor Apsalus, the threat is towards a Federation base, not the entire Earth Sphere. The battles are on a smaller scale, but no less relevant to the war effort.

As one might expect from an OVA series, The 08th MS Team boasts high production values with some fantastic animation and great mechanical and environmental design. Even the seemingly small stuff — like Shiro digging around in a Gundam’s forearm to adjust the beam saber intensity, or working on unclogging dust-caked motors in the legs — is given incredibly close attention to detail. Most of the mobile suits are classic UC models or variants thereof, with the standout newcomers being the Ground Gundams. Rather than a single standout Gundam, they’re bunch of mass-produced models this time, and the entire team is familar with them. Later on, when Shiro’s unit is heavily damaged and rebuilt into the Ez8, it’s not some superweapon that’s miles ahead of the others; it’s still treated as a standard piece of war machinery. The real standout in the mecha department is the Apsalus, especially its initial form. The designers really had fun with that one!

The series finale functions as an epilogue and a sequel, given that it picks up over a year after the events of the penultimate episode. This gives The 08th MS Team even more closure than other series, and you don’t feel like you’ve missed anything. In addition, the OVA later got Miller’s Report, a compilation film that covers the first eight episodes (as well as some additional scenes that help add more weight to episode nine and beyond), plus the anniversary short Battle in Three Dimensions. To be frank, The 08th MS Team is a high point amongst all of the Gundam OVAs, and I think you’ll agree after watching it.

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