Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is a four-episode ONA (Original Net Animation) that takes place concurrently with the events of the original 1979 Gundam series. It focuses on the brutal battle between the forces of the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon in the “Thunderbolt Sector”, an area littered with debris of destroyed space colonies and is known for its recurring sharp electrical discharges (hence, the name).
I haven’t been into the Gundam franchise much. Thus, I am not too well-versed about its mythos, particularly its main timeline, wherein Thunderbolt is set upon. The only Gundam series I saw in entirety, from start to finish, are Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and Mobile Fighter G Gundam, and they aren’t part of the main timeline. As a result, the backdrop of Thunderbolt was hazy to me. I don’t know its history. I don’t know why the two sides are at war. And it was very difficult to determine which side is the “good” or the “bad.”
But my ignorance for details actually enhanced my viewing. It became more insightful for me. Indeed, wars are truly chaotic and complex. Putting a label of “good” or “bad” on one side is pretty subjective. Motivations and causes are seemingly abstract. But what’s concrete is the depressing realities while it’s going on. Likewise, what was made apparent to me while watching Thunderbolt was the desperation, brokenness, and moral ambiguity of the human condition during a state of senseless war.
The two main characters of this anime are rival mobile suits pilots Io fleming and Daryl Lorenz (who looks like Spike Spiegel). The former is an ace Federation jock, and the latter – despite his disability – is Zeon’s deadliest sniper. And, as what can be expected from the idea of the previous paragraph, it’s not easy to directly pinpoint which between the two is the protagonist and which is the antagonist. Io is the Gundam pilot, thus, he must be the hero, right? Not necessarily. He’s a bloodthirsty sociopath that delights in the mayhem of battle. On the other hand, Daryl is nice, gentle, empathetic, and shows care for his comrades – basically, more human than Io. So, maybe they are both of the same, depending on the context. Again, war is chaotic and complex. And this made Io and Daryl interesting, multi-faceted characters.
But the best thing about Thunderbolt is the exhilarating action sequences. Both Io and Daryl listen to music while on missions, and the kind of music reflect their respective temperaments. I love how the music wonderfully jives with the beautifully animated action. Io, particularly, with his badass Gundam – one of the best mecha designs I’ve ever seen – engages in visually glorious battles, which are further augmented by the energetic jazz music coming out of his player.
Actually, the promise of great music accompanying the space action – the Cowboy Bebop vibes – was what drew me to watch this anime in the first place. And I’m glad that that promise held true.
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is a chic, pleasing anime production. It’s something that every anime fan with good taste will really enjoy, regardless of his or her familiarity with Gundam.