Also known as just "Gundam 0080" or "War In The Pocket", this 6-volume OVA series (Gundam's first OVA) was released in 1989, ten years after the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Like all Gundam series, it was a Bandai and Sunrise production, though Gundam's creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, turned this series over to a new creative team. Among the newcomers was mechanical designer Yutaka Izubuchi, who based his work on the mecha from the original series because of 0080's placement right after the original series, long before the first sequel, Zeta Gundam.
Its theme song is "Itsuka Sora Ni Todoite", sung by Shiina Megumi.
Gundam 0080 takes place on a neutral space colony named Revo*, in the colony cluster Side 6, which has refused to take a side in the rebellion of the Zeon alliance of space colonies against the Earth Federation. Revo ostensibly does not allow military operations by either side within its borders, though it appears to enjoy the protection of the Federal Forces, and open fighting frequently approaches its space.
*It's also sometimes spelled Libot (presumably with a silent T), a different transliteration from Japanese. In the dubbed version of the series it sounds to me like they're saying "Ri-yeh".
It is the story of a young boy who befriends a pair of young soldiers; of clandestine operations by both sides of the conflict that threaten to escalate the war immensely if they were made public; and of those who fight for what they believe and for who they love. It is not a glorious series; it is light and fun at times, and it has its share of action and violence, but there is little room for heroism in its view of war. It is sad, and yet it is affirmative of a person's power to do the right thing, no matter how difficult and how many think them wrong for doing it.
- Alfred Izuruha ("Al") - A schoolchild living on Revo.
- Bernard Wiseman ("Bernie") - A rookie Zeon pilot.
- Christine Mackenzie ("Chris") - Earth Federation test pilot and Al's neighbor.
- Al's mother - A caring but frustrated homemaker.
- Al's father - An engineer for the Earth Federation, who's largely absent from Al's life but tries to be a good father when he's home.
- Dorothy - One of Al's classmates. She's the brainy, overbearing know-it-all.
- Chay and Telcott - Another two of Al's classmates, and his best friends. One is the annoying fat kid, and the other is the level-headed one. I'm not sure which is which.
- Lieutenant Colonel Killing - The Cyclops Team's commanding officer. Cruel, ambitious and ruthless, he is the series' clear villain, though Zeon itself is not really villainized.
- Captain Steiner Hardy - The leader of Zeon's elite Cyclops Team. His caring for his men is only matched by his loyalty to his commanding officers and Zeon.
- 2nd Lieutenant Mikhail Kaminsky ("Misha"), Sergeant Gabriel Ramirez Garcia, and Andy Strauss, the Cyclops Team - Excellent pilots and model soldiers, they are equally competent at stealth and fighting, with or without mobile suits.
In general, the Federal Forces' mobile suits are functionally the same as their counterparts from other Gundam series. Aside from the visual changes to the designs, there are no noticable changes in performance. The new Gundam Alex, however, is an all-new mech, and sports a pair of pop-up gatling guns in its forearms unlike any previous MS's weapon, and a linear seat cockpit which offers a 360° panoramic view around the suit in any direction.
Zeon, on the other hand, have overhauled most of their mobile suits as part of the Joint Equipment Plan, which allows any Zeon mech to use any other's weaponry and standardizes the equipment that mobile suits are provided with. While some suits just gain generally increased performance stats, others gain whole new functionality, like the Zaku FZ's Dom-like ability to glide on an air cushion over the ground. The mighty Kämpfer takes full advantage of the Joint Equipment Plan, using nearly the full array of weapons, some of which were custom-built for its use.
- MS-06FZ "Zaku FZ" - A mild refit of the Zaku II, the workhorse of the Zeon forces.
- MS-09RII "Rick Dom II" - The second spacegoing Dom, with more thrusters and external fuel tanks.
- MS-14JG "Gelgoog Jaeger" - This new Gelgoog fulfills the appellation of "hunter" with its accurate beam rifle, which gives it the alternate name of "Gelgoog Sniper". Like the Rick Dom II, has increased speed and endurance.
- MS-18E "Kämpfer" - The "fighter" is truly a fearsome war machine, carrying a pair each of shotguns, bazookas, panzerfausts, and beam sabers, and also able to be equipped with chain mines, a machine gun, cracker grenades, or a heat hawk.
- MSM-03C "Hygog" - The snake-armed, seagoing Gog recieved a cosmetic upgrade, but besides the original's claws and mega particle cannons, it only gains a pair of optional torpedoes/missiles in disposable launchers.
- MSM-07E "Z'gok E" - Another marine mobile suit that changed little except in appearence from the original series, the Z'gok has has its torpedo launchers rearranged.
SPOILERS AFTER THIS POINT
The Plot, by episode:
War In The Pocket opens with a Zeon submarine approaching a Federation base in the Antarctic. The Cyclops Team is deployed in Hygogs, with Steiner leading in a Z'gok E. They do a lot of damage to the defending forces, but the Feds keep the entire force away from their primary target - a space shuttle containing a new Federation weapon. Only Andy makes it to the launch pad, and he is cut down by a GM before he can fire his last missile at the shuttle. The scene closes with Steiner screaming in anger over the body of his fallen comrade as the shuttle escapes the Zeon soldiers' attack.
We then meet Al on Revo, going about his day at school. He is impressed by a friend's Federal Forces rank badge, supposely from his friend's mobile suit pilot brother, and Al, Chay, and Telcott argue with Dorothy, who claims that the Federation has no mobile suits. Since Al is going to the colony's spaceport that day to meet his father, he tries to get photographs of Federation mobile suits, but just misses seeing the Gundam Alex, the secret cargo that left Antarctica, being unloaded. He meets his father, and on his way home runs into Chris, on her way home from Earth, and they chat for a while over tea. She mentions that she works for the government now, but not her specific position...
The next day, Al's school day is interrupted by a Zeon attack. The Zeon forces, Zaku FZs and Rick Dom IIs, are repelled by the Feds, and Al follows a Zaku to its crash location in a nearby forest. The episode closes with Bernie emerging from the cockpit of the Zaku and pulling a gun.
When he realizes that his observer is just a child, Bernie offers Al his rank badge in exchange for the film in Al's digital camera. Al, impressed by anything to do with the military, accepts, and is easily convinced by Bernie to keep quiet about these events. Bernie is picked up by another Zaku, and Al returns to his comparatively dull day at school.
Shortly afterwards, Killing is briefing the surviving three Cyclops Team members on their next mission - based on the photographs from Al's camera (of ships and cargo containers at the spaceport), they have determined that the weapon they were after in Antarctica is now on Revo. Despite Bernie's lack of experience, Killing assigns him as Andy's replacement, and the new group of four will be infiltrating Revo and attempting to sabotage the Alex, or destroy it in battle if necessary. The Steiner, Garcia and Misha enter Revo through normal transport channels, while Bernie smuggles in the dismantled Kämpfer inside a damaged cargo ship, piloting alongside a corpse, so he looks like a civilian pilot caught in the battle that often rages outside the colony.
Meanwhile, Al has snuck out of his house (without anyone but Chris next door noticing) to look at Bernie's fallen Zaku once again. He falls asleep in the cockpit after marveling at the still-working display screens and pretending to be a pilot. In the morning, he runs into the Cyclops Team moving the containers from Bernie's ship in a group of trucks. Narrowly avoiding an accident, he jumps on the back of one of the trucks...
Al can't hang on to the truck all the way to the team's warehouse hideout, though he manages to lead police officers there after giving them a false story about being hit by one of the trucks. When they get there, though, he realizes that he could cause a violent altercation, and admits that the story was a lie - but claims he made it up because Bernie is his brother. After the police leave, Al again agrees to keep quiet, this time so they'll make him an honorary member of the team and let him help them. Bernie walks Al home, and takes the opportunity to tell Al that war isn't the game he and his friends make it out to be, but can't resist bragging about his supposed piloting skills. Later that night, Bernie sneaks into Al's yard, but is caught by the ever-watchful Chris. They use the "brothers" story again, and we again have tea next door, this time with our three protagonists and Chris's parents. Bernie hears that Chris works for the Federal Forces, though they claim she doesn't actually serve in a military capacity*. The two young pilots take a liking to each other, neither realizing that they are oficially enemies.
The next day, Al goes to visit Bernie again. He sees the Kämpfer being assembled, and makes a comment about Bernie's piloting skills, but is laughed down by the rest of the Cyclops Team, who reveal that Bernie was shot down on his first mission - when Al followed his damaged Zaku FZ.
Meanwhile, the Federal Forces on Revo are doing some mobile suit construction of their own. The Alex is hooked up to a simulator, and Chris is testing its controls. It's mentioned that she's not getting maximum performance from the Alex's systems, because it was designed for a Newtype, and the fact that this Newtype is Amuro Ray is alluded to. Some time afterwards, Al leady Bernie to the Federal Forces' building, and they sneak into the Federation testing site by an entrance on the outside of the colony.
*Female combat pilots are not overly visible in Gundam, but they were by no means uncommon at this point in the war. Though Chris does not expect to see combat at this point in Gundam 0080, Sayla Mass flied quite a few combat missions in the original series, one of the members of The 08th MS Team's titular squad was female, and Zeon had a number of female combatants in both of those series.
Al and Bernie manage to get out undetected, with pictures of the Alex. The next day, in school, Al learns that his friends hate the Zeon, because the Zeon are the ones who started the war in the first place, but Al doesn't really understand their point of view. Later, as the rest of the Cyclops Team collects the material components of their sabotage mission, Bernie looks for an excuse to talk to Chris again. The Zeon soldiers plan their attack (without Al present), but a dark cloud hangs over them all, especially Steiner, who realizes that Killing has purposely crippled his team's ability to succeed, and doubts that Zeon can win in the end.
The plan is for Misha to pilot the Kämpfer through the city while the other three sneak into the building where the Alex is being held and destroy it with explosives. All goes well, since the Kämpfer is more than a match for the assorted Federal defense forces in the area, but the rest of the Cyclops Team is spotted once they make it into the Alex's hangar. Al, who is visiting the base courtesy of Chris, witnesses the gunfight between the three commandos and the Federal base's guards. Steiner and Garcia are wounded, and Garcia is killed when he detonates the explosives in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Alex. Chris pilots the Alex against the Kämpfer, and disables the Zeon suit with one of the Gundam's concealed forearm gatling guns, killing Misha. Al emerges from the base as Bernie mourns over Steiner's body, much as Steiner did over Andy's.
This episode opens with several scenes that bring home the tragedy of what has happened, and what it means for the people of Revo. Bernie buries Steiner, and recalls their last minutes together. The wreckage of the battle with the Kämpfer is cleaned up, witnesses are questioned, and Al sees the rescue workers recovering a victim's body. Killing decides that if the Alex is not destroyed by Christmas day, then he will use nuclear weapons, forbidden by the Antarctic Treaty, to destroy Revo - and Bernie learns about this from a Zeon spy that the Cyclops Team contacted in the previous episode. Bernie decides he's leaving Revo while he can escape alive, and tells Al. When Al pleads with him to stay and not give up the fight, Bernie must admit why he's leaving. They fight over it, and Al storms off, understandably disgusted with Bernie's cowardice.
Al is again disgusted at what he encounters next - his friends by the school, still excited over the impressive battle of the previous day. He heads home and talks to Chris about what the right thing would be to do if the colony was in danger. She says she'd fight, but can equally understand why someone would run and save themself. Bernie makes it to the spaceport ticket counter before having a crisis of conscience, and as Al worries that his father will be returning home just in time to die in the Zeon attack, Bernie calls him and says that he'll stay and try to save Revo.
Most of the beginning of this episode is a long sequence whose lighthearted, cartoonish tone (and soundtrack) belies the futility of the situation. Al and Bernie hatch a plan to repair Bernie's downed Zaku, set up an ambush location, draw out and attack the Alex (along with the general populace of Revo, they do not know the identity of its pilot), and if they can somehow destroy it then the colony will not be attacked. They gather a heat hawk and some cracker grenades from the leftover trucks that held the Kämpfer's weapons, scavenge parts from wrecked Federation mobile suits, and buy fireworks and large parade-style balloons. Bernie leaves Al with a recording and a package, and heads off to the Zaku in the forest to set up their attack while Al heads home.
A day later, Al's father has returned home - and they learn that the Federation just captured the Zeon warship that Killing sent with the nuclear weapons to attack Revo. The colony is out of danger, and Al realizes that Bernie can leave safely.
But it's too late to tell Bernie - he's already initiated the ambush. He enters the city in the Zaku, and leads Chris in the Gundam out to the forest, where she is temporarily lost in the smoke and balloons. She uses up all the arm gatlings' bullets trying to hit him, and then Chris and Bernie are meters apart, her beam saber against his heat hawk - he slices into the Gundam's torso, damaging the cockpit, and destroys its head - but she plunges the beam saber into the center of Bernie's Zaku's chest. Its reactor explodes. Chris is safely recovered from the wreckage of the Gundam, but there's nothing left of Bernie.
Later, Al watches the recording Bernie left him. Bernie tells him that if he dies, he doesn't blame the Federal soldiers, that he hopes to see Al again, and to say hello to Chris for him. The next day, Al sees Chris - and she tells him to say hi to Bernie. The two never learn the other's role in the tragic events. Later, as Al breaks down crying that morning at school, his friends are baffled, and try to reassure him with stories of the glorious battles that they imagine are to come...
This ending still gives me chills, even just thinking about it. Chris and Bernie did not have to be enemies; they could have just walked away if they'd only known. Bernie dies not knowing they were enemies, and Chris will probably never find out. It's heartbreaking, but it's war - it's real. Seldom have I seen an animated series, American or Japanese, take on the subject of war and loss in such a mature and serious way.
A bit of help on names and things I couldn't remember from www.mahq.net , the new home of the Mecha Domain; and from the now defunct Gundam Project, through web.archive.org.