Series Recommendation: Mobile Suit Gundam – Cucuruz Doan’s Island

It’s the scent of battle that draw conflicts to you, Doan….
I will get rid of it for you.

The infamous episode of the original Mobile Suit Gundam – “Doan’s Island” – has been made into a feature length movie by Sunrise – with updated graphics, animation and story. There’s a lot of controversy around the episode, particularly that Director Tomino himself wasn’t very fond of the episode and that the art direction still left much to be desired. However, if we just take the film at its own merit, it is a good expansion on the actual episode itself.

Cucuruz Doan’s Island tell the story of a small landmark in the ocean – where the White Base was ordered to investigate an SOS signal by the Federation. Amuro and the team sortied with their Mobile Suits to the strange island, and the White Base team was greeted with some…unusual inhabitants. Things took a turn for the worse when Amuro and the Gundam fell off a cliff and declared missing. But of course, our hero isn’t about to lose his life from a simple fall, and he found himself lying on a strange bed, and experiencing a strange life that he has never seen before. All the while the Federation and the Zeon Principality continued to extend their threat of war.

+ Plot: The movie expanded the basic plot of the original episode and add some more intricacies to it. It didn’t actually clash directly with 0079 but still have many different events that played out differently. They had to tell a more compelling story into 1 hour and 48 minutes. Although this movie is more focused on the Amuro’s interaction with the inhabitants of the island and Doan himself. Well, if you watch this movie, then you either must have watched the original Gundam series, or this movie will feel completely alien to you, and this recommendation would probably make not much sense.

Doan in this episode is pretty much the same Doan in the tv series, the only things that changed, or rather, gets added is Amuro’s changes around the kids on the island, as well as the children themselves. There’s much more focus on them and Doan became a perfect foil for all of them – Amuro, Cara, Marcos, etc… The movie emphasizes the life of the children on the island, expanded upon doan’s background and a bit of politic between the Federation and Zeon at the time, basically a bit of everything in the actual episode itself.

+ Animation: If you’ve seen Gundam the Origin, then Doan’s Island is pretty much the same look. The character designs are modernized and drawn with more details and expressions, although it also makes everyone looks a bit older than they are, particularly Amuro and Doan himself. Of course there’s some awkward Origin faces in there – mostly when “bad guys” accentuate their expressions too much, but overall it’s tolerable.

Mecha action are all CGI (just like The Origin). The weight of each unit can be felt with each step they take and the sound effect that comes with it. But sometimes they moved as if they are literally a fighter in an armored suit with incredible dexterity and agility. It’s quite a bit of suspension of disbelief but this is how Gundam works – especially 3DCG ones. The fights are well-animated but very scarce – a bit disproportionate compared to the movie’s runtime. But still, it does looks good.

+ Mecha Design: The titular RX-78-2 Gundam is the Origin’s design (with the new shoulder and everything), instead of the old 0079 version. This might be due to Sunrise simply reusing the model they have on hand. Might be a bit noticeable for the hardcore fans but to the majority of the audience, it wont be that impactful. The big hook is definitely the Zakus. With a pretty “funky” design that elongated the “nose” of the head – which is a nod to the weird animation model back then in the episode. You know how it was back then, Sunrise was small, and everyone was struggling to even keep the show on air. This is just a simple nod to the humble origin of the franchise back then.

+ Music: Well, this movie’s OST certainly isn’t Unicorn-tier or Narrative-tier (where the music just kinda steal the show). The OST in Cucuruz Doan’s Island is just enough to communicate the emotional tone of the scene without overpowering it. It’s got a decent soundtrack too – a bit reminiscent if you’d like to call it that way.

+ Conclusion: The movie is not actually a “replacement” for the original episode per se, but rather an “expansion” of it. The events in the movie is an alternate version of what happened in 0079, but the characters are basically the same. Cucuruz Doan’s Island is basically a character-driven movie that serves to expand more on what the characters were like if the events were more fleshed out. The production quality is decent, and overall, an entertaining 2 hours movie.

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