Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN on Twitter

The Gundam franchise is one of the most iconic anime franchises in the industry. The original, released in 1979, is set in the middle of a war between the Earth and surrounding space colonies. Gundam: The Origin tells the tale of the war leading up to the original Gundam. In chapter five, Clash at Loum, we get our first real look at the initial conflicts of the war and the horrors unleashed.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is a prequel series in which we see humanity start down the road to war—from the fall of the charismatic leader, Zeon Zum Deikun, to the first shots fired in the One Year War itself. The first four chapters, the “Char Arc,” have been focused primarily on Zeon Deikun’s son, Casval—the boy who grows up to become Char the Red Comet. Chapter Five, the Loum arc, widens the scope and shows a world at war. Clash at Loum covers the early events of the war—the initial declaration, the early battles, the colony drop—up to the beginning of the titular battle at Loum where Zeon showed the tactical advantage of Mobile Suits in military operations.

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For fans who are relatively familiar with the UC Gundam timeline, we are now entering more familiar territory. As such, the story has a much more resonant quality to it. We have often been informed of what happened in the early days of the war through “historical” videos, yet to see it all play out before your eyes adds a different weight to everything. We know how things are remembered by history, but not exactly how they happened. It’s the difference between hearing about events in a documentary and actually seeing them happen. There is a palpable build of tension in the air as events unfold. Seeing characters hearing about the war on the news, living in fear at its proximity feels very close to home. Where the previous chapters were more of a biopic, this one is much more of a war movie. Even though one might already know how everything is going to end, there’s still a sense of urgency and hope and despair through it all.

Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN‏ on Twitter

Obviously, Casval/Edouard/Char is still a major player through the events, but he is much less prominent than before. Char is only one of several major players throughout the war. As those who like to read up UC Gundam lore in their spare time (guilty) know, Char’s true moment to shine is in the actual Loum battle where he first earns the nom de guerre of “Red Comet.” We do see the lead up to that, but it is more a part of a larger story than the main focus. That said, it is still fascinating when we do actually get to see Char do his thing. While Gundam history often reminds us that Char’s custom Zaku was tuned to have a thruster output three times that of a normal Zaku, what we learn is that the key phrase here is “tuned to,” not “designed to.” As brief as it is, seeing him unleash that beast is something to behold.

Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN‏ on Twitter

One thing I really appreciated in Clash at Loum over the previous chapters is how much more toned down the “destined” factor was. One thing that often happens in prequels of popular franchises is that people tend to want to tie everything together in a nice bow. Things like characters we see meet in the original story actually having established relationships before or things or places that have significance in the original story having cameos or even being featured prominently in a not-so-subtle wink to fans. Personally, this has a tendency to make the universe feel smaller and kills some of the magic in the process.

It may be because much of the history at this point in the series has already been documented and there was less wiggle room in the unfolding of events, but while such moments of engineered serendipity were far more noticeable in the earlier chapters, there was much less of it here.

Image source: 機動戦士ガンダム THE ORIGIN‏ on Twitter

As a war story, Clash at Loum engages the viewer, showing a societal decent into madness as people get swept up in rhetoric by a charismatic, well-spoken leader. We see some characters clinging to their humanity while others lose it. It all comes together in a compelling and tragic story that adds weight to events we already know about.

All in all, the gear change into chapter five makes for a highly entertaining episode in the historical journey through the One Year War. There is a definite build of pressure throughout the chapter, briefly paused for a relaxing musical number before the story picks back up and ends on such a climactic beat that I was left begging for more. The moment the end credits began to roll, I almost jumped out of my chair I couldn’t believe it was over. It’s absolutely worth seeing even if you already know everything that’s going to happen. In fact, I would go as far as to say that knowing the events of the war make it even more worth seeing.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin V Clash at Loum is scheduled for release in Japanese theaters on September 2, 2017.

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