Netflix recently announced the addition of Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway– the latest movie in Gundam’s Universal Century timeline. The movie follows Hathaway Noa- son of esteemed captain Bright Noa from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and catches up with him after his actions in Char’s Counterattack.
From gorgeous visuals, a banger of a soundtrack and the reputation of one of the best Gundam movies, there’s a lot to live up to. Does Gundam Hathaway actually do it? Read on and find out.
Three People Sit Around And Talk About How Rad Char’s Counterattack Is
One thing I really like about Gundam Hathaway is that if anything, the marketing has been pretty misleading. I won’t go into too many spoilers, but Hathaway is totally not in the position you’d think he was based on the trailers- rather than being some special agent hunting down the terrorist Mafty, the first scene ends with the revelation that Hathaway is Mafty, and the rest of the movie is showing him interact in a world that wants many things of Mafty, and what he personally wants for the terrorist organization.
Hathaway meets Gigi, a rich girl who takes an interest in him immediately as she finds out his secret. I wanna say there’s great chemistry here, but there really isn’t. Gigi reminds Hathaway of Quess, the girl from Char’s Counterattack that ends up being a major player for every character that wasn’t Char or Amuro. The problem is that outside of treating us to some nice re-drawn footage from Counterattack this never really goes anywhere, especially since we never see what Hathaway’s actual thoughts about Quess are, other than the fact that he’s aware she’s dead.
It’s really easy to not spoil movie because outside of the Mafty reveal nothing really happens in this movie. Hathaway meets Gigi, who practically throws herself at him when she finds out he’s Mafty, he goes off to monologue about how rad Char’s Counterattack was as a movie also available on Netflix, and then we get some token Giant Robot fights. It’s not a lot to go off of, and none of the characters ever feel particularly explored.
I Dig Giant Robots
So, if you’re of the “Gundam should be about giant robots” crowd, give Gundam Hathaway a miss. While not totally void of Mobile suit fights, they’re definitely not the focus of the movie.
I also really don’t like the two Gundams in the movie, the Xi Gundam and Gundam Penelope. Their design really runs counter to a lot of the UC’s design aesthetic, and they just look incredibly cluttered. Their silhouettes are way too bulky, and the scenes they appear in are just unpleasant to watch. The only suit that looks really good is the new Messer, and that’s just because it’s an even more roided-out Geara Doga, which has always been in my opinion the height of Mono-Eye grunt suits.
You Made A Movie About The Worst Character In Char’s Counterattack
There’s also the problem of Hathaway himself- personally, I love the direction Gundam has taken with its less paragon-of-virtue protagonists and more cynical approach. The problem is Hathaway is a weird character to assume this mantle considering the last time we saw him was in Char’s Counterattack, where he straight up steals a mobile suit and murders a member of his own crew because he had a crush on a girl. I get that the events of Zeta literally started because someone got Kamille’s name wrong but at least we got to follow Kamille through the aftermath of that.
In Hathaway’s case we’re just told that he used his father’s connections (I swear by now Bright Noa has seen enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if they canonized him as a living saint) to sweep away all the nonsense he pulled in Counterattack. I mean, I already didn’t like the guy in the first movie but this kind of hand-wavey approach only makes you dislike him more, since he’s somehow swept away the consequences of Char’s Counterattack while still retaining enough of it to have his own edgy backstory.
There’s also the problem of messaging- You could kind of accept Hathaway’s role in Counterattack because the point was he was a child, and you could make some long video essay about how Hathaway and Quess are two people easily influenced by the “meh-ification” of war. But Gundam Hathaway never engages with that in any meaningful way, making his stint in the final battle sound more like Amuro Ray hijacking the Gundam than, you know, an actual big problem.
Heck, you could have probably made a new protagonist have been one of the pilots of the Ra Cailum who witnessed Hathaway’s slap on the wrist and made a way more engaging Mafty than Hathaway. Instead all you have is a pretty petulant manchild who’s been seemingly rewarded for his tantrum
The Gundam Series As A Whole
One thing I both love and hate about Gundam Hathaway is that a lot of parts feel like they’re echoing the Greatest Hits of the Gundam UC timeline. Aside from the obvious references to Char’s Counterattack, the overall “Don’t trust the Federation” overtones definitely feel straight out of Zeta Gundam, and a scene early on in the series really gives off War in The Pocket vibes.
The problem with Gundam Hathaway though is that nothing really happens in the movie, so a lot of these references just feel like they’re there for the sake of being there. Unlike in Gundam Unicorn, which actively reminds you about the Federation’s unreliability, the only way Gundam Hathaway really tells you they’re bad is by constantly showing snooty rich people and Hathaway’s disdain for them.
Heck, one of the major characters is supposed to represent the Federation side, and he’s kind of just wasted since he has no reason for being around other than to tease Hathaway about faux-love-interest Gigi while Jegans operate in the background.
I guess it’s unfair to compare it to Unicorn, which was a whole 7-part OVA and is blessed with the gift of hindsight. The problem is Gundam Unicorn was marketed as just that- a multi-part OVA. Each part had its own subtitle, so even though Episode 1 of Unicorn is incredibly dry you know that everything set up was ultimately going somewhere.
It’s also a problem of the Gundam series as a whole- there’s enough Gundam out there that there’s always bound to be another series that does it better. Unicorn’s whole schtick is raging against the tyranny of snooty rich people, as was Zeta Gundam. Meanwhile Gundam Thunderbolt (Which I implore Netflix to bring to its platform) does the whole “we’re people from different sides watch us do whatever needs to be done” story way better, especially considering most of their cast have physical scars on them that you can always see to remind them that what little skin they have left is in the game.
An Interesting Place In The The UC Timeline
Interestingly enough, Gundam Hathaway doesn’t take place where I thought it would. From the promotional material I was wholly expecting another case of Twilight Axis, wherein they try to squeeze more in between the events of Char’s Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn. Instead the anime tells you very early on that Gundam Hathaway takes place after the events of Unicorn, roughly about 10 years.
Considering the events of Unicorn are a pretty big deal, it’s almost interesting to see how Gundam Hathaway completely sidesteps it, especially when both series have a well-rooted hatred for big wigs. I don’t mind it too much- more self contained series are always great, but it does feel weird knowing that one of the Big Families in this world was arrested for Grand Terrorism and being Space Racists and it’s never brought up while Hathaway is discussing how much he hates rich people.
Heck, despite so much of the plot revolving around politicians, it’s almost weird that you never hear of any of the big families from Unicorn, when in-universe they were all brought front and center a decade ago. I’m not mad that they’re not there, but serial Gundam fans are sure to feel an air of disconnect when you realize that Hathaway takes place 6 years after the government tried to fire what was essentially the Death Star before a university student became president of Space Russia, yet everyone acts as if it’s been nothing but roses since the events of Char’s Counterattack.
Like all modern Gundam productions, Gundam Hathaway looks amazing. The art style is very reminiscent of Gundam The Origin – easily one of the best looking pieces of Gundam media to date. Even the CG mobile suits look great, blending almost seamlessly with the rest of the world.
One thing I really like about Gundam Hathaway is the backgrounds, though. The movie takes place mainly in Sulawesi, and the entire movie looks it with pretty authentic-looking South East Asian backgrounds. Everything looks gritty, but not in a way that’s meant to show poverty- instead it just looks part of the culture.
Meanwhile the luxury hotels are practically megastructures, with gaudy features I’m sure I’ve seen on any island resort. It’s a nice contrast, and I really appreciate that the movie doesn’t treat sights like traditional South East Asian grocery stores like some posterboy for poverty. It’s a really big step forward in representation, and I’m glad for that.
Another thing I really should bring up is the opening credits for the movie, which are a neat recap of the events of Char’s Counterattack. It’s not enough to catch up the uninitiated though, and good lord will they need to be caught up because so much of this movie relies on you knowing who Hathaway is as a character. Still, seeing Hathaway’s big fight in 3D is a great touch, and it was a cool watch.
Honestly, Sunrise should have just dropped the act and announced Gundam Hathaway as an OVA, similar to Unicorn. Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway hard sequel baits you at the end, with the teasing of more returning UC characters and a “our three protagonists go their separate ways” beat. As it’s own thing, Gundam Hathaway is an incredibly slow movie about a guy monologuing references to Char’s Counterattack while Shinjo Akane from Gridman desperately throws herself at him.
Knowing that it’s all going to lead somewhere would have really helped the movie, because the movie is actually pretty devoid of any critique that hasn’t been done better in other Gundam films. I get it- there’s only so many ways you can say war is bad, but you could definitely afford to build off of the Gundam Universe’s already rich history to have made something with a little more bite.
Despite all this, I’m hoping they actually do continue to make more in the series- I’m totally ready to have my expectations turned around here, just like I was with Unicorn. It’d be a shame if they didn’t build up what they’ve already laid down here, because there’s potential for something really interesting. It’s also great that the film was released internationally via Netflix, because I definitely don’t regret watching it like I would have if I actually had to go out and risk a deadly lung virus just to watch Hathaway moan about his gripes for 90 minutes.