A story involving manned giant humanoid robots that use assault rifles and beam sabers is not something that can be classified as realistic. Even if we decided to look past that fantastical concept, the fundamental story for most of the series is still a far cry from reality.
After all, for most Gundam series, the story is pretty much revolved around boys who rarely have military training but end up piloting the most advanced weapons at the time, and single-handedly change the course of a massive war. That’s not only unrealistic, but it’s also actually borderline unbelievable. That being said, there is one short series that tried its best to present something that was grounded in reality. This series also happens to be one of the most underrated and underappreciated series within the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. It’s called Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Teamand here are the reasons why this is the most realistic Gundam anime ever made.
The Story of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
Before listing some of the reasons, let’s briefly talk about the story of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. Unlike most Gundam series, this one focuses on a small Mobile Suit team during the One-Year War, specifically the 08th MS team, that is part of the Earth Federation’s ground forces on earth.
The main character of this series is a young man named Shiro Amada, a newly-assigned commander for the 08th MS team. This team consists of three people who pilot the Gundam, including Shiro, and two people who board a Hover Truck and act as a support for the Gundams.
The 08th MS team’s main objective, along with other MS Teams that are stationed in the same place, is to locate and fight Zeon forces that have landed in the area. Unbeknownst to them, the Zeon is actually in the process of completing a new kind of powerful weapon in a hidden base underneath a mountain.
In most Gundam series, a newly-formed group can act like a precise clockwork right from the get go. But that’s not how it works in real life. The soldiers need to know that their commander is capable enough so that they can trust him with their life during combat. The commander needs to know that his soldiers will follow his command down to the last details, so he can formulated the best plan. None of that can happen until they get a chance to work together for at least a couple of times. And that is precisely what happened in the story.
During the 08th MS team early missions, the commander decided to pursuit the enemy deep into their territory despite his team’s objection because he thinks none of them can execute his command properly. In response, his team let him do as he pleased and decided to simply wait for him to return to the base on his own. This kind of strife is to be expected in a new team. After all, it takes time for a group of people to come together and work as a proper team.
Boring and Uneventful Times
Just because you are on an important military mission, it doesn’t mean everything will be thrilling and exciting all the time. More often than not, you will see boring days when nothing really happens at all. We rarely see this bit of reality in other Gundam series. After all, the showrunners want to keep the audience engaged by blasting them with non-stop action and thrilling moments, right?
Such is not the case with the 08th MS team. There are multiple times in the series where they are stuck waiting for the enemies to show up. They have to endure the scorching heat of the sun while paying close attention to the sensors in their cockpit. It is not exciting to watch, but that is pretty much how these kinds of things happen in the real world.
Lots of Technical Issues
No matter how advanced and state-of-the-art a weapon or a piece of equipment is, once it is used in a real-world situation, there will be some technical issues happening. The fact that the main Gundam in most Gundam series rarely broke down or had any technical problems is actually a bit strange. As a matter of fact, a new weapon that has never been used in real combat before actually has a higher chance to experience some kind of malfunction, compared to a matured technology that has undergone multiple revisions and improvements.
The 08th MS team has faced numerous technical difficulties throughout the series. From a total breakdown, to some slight problems with the joints, lots of things can and do go wrong with their Gundams. And just like any other soldier in the field, they tried their best to fix any kind of damage and malfunctions with whatever tools and materials that they have on hand, and continue their mission.
Improvise, Adapt, Overcome
Other than technical issues, soldiers in the field also often face a situation where they are required to improvise and adapt in order to overcome any kind of problems at hand. In most Gundam series, this kind of adaptation and improvisation comes in the form of a special weapon pack for the lead Gundam. Maybe it’s a booster pack, or maybe it’s a heavy weapon pack. It’s actually not so much as an upgrade, but more like giving customized add-ons that can only be used by that one Gundam.
There is no such special treatment for any Gundams in the 08th MS team. One of their Gundams suffers major damage to the head, they simply replace it with an available head part from other mobile suits. Shiro and his heavily damaged Gundam are stuck in a blizzard. In order to avoid being frozen to death, he takes out the Gundam’s beam saber and uses it to melt the surrounding ice. So as you can see, there are numerous times when the characters in this series have to use their head and whatever is available at the time in order to improvise, adapt and overcome.
There are many reasons why this series is so great. But at the end of the day, the show runners’ decision to showcase different instances that are based on the reality of military life during missions, even if it may not be exciting to see, is the main reason why Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team is the most realistic Gundam anime ever made, by far.
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