Mobile Suit Gundam Cucuruz Doan’s Island Review: A Sweet Side-Story

Every great war story looks beyond the action that comes with its violent battles. Whether examining former soldiers or the regular civilians affected by the strife, there are many angles that help add extra depth and weight to the conflict at hand. Mobile Suit Gundam Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a fine example of this, as it truly hammers in that these cool space mech battles aren’t as cool for the people that are just trying to get by.

Mobile Suit Gundam Cucuruz Doan’s Island is actually based on the 15th episode of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, which saw Amuro meet up with an ex-Zeon pilot and the found family he has amassed. It’s quite touching, especially in this remade film. The expanded runtime of the film allows for further exploration into the daily lives of the various children that Doan takes care of, which goes a long way in upping the stakes of the last battle. The kids play with each other, tease one another, do farm chores, and interact like kids do, making these sequences very heart-warming. It probably sounds dull, but seeing all these orphans grow to like Amuro as they perform chores and simply live together is surprisingly pleasant and endearing.

The story behind Doan taking in the war orphans is poignant in its delivery, turning an episode that once felt like a detour into a moving and surprisingly realistic portrayal of war. The parallel narrative of Amuro’s comrades trying to find and save him while Doan’s former comrades try to find and kill him also reinforces the differences between the two sides, all while Doan humanizes the Zeon perspective. It’s impressive how much of what makes Gundam so enjoyable is packed into this single film, even if its placement in the series means newcomers will likely be lost about who all the supporting characters are.

While most of the story is focused on Doan and his family, there’s still plenty of Mobile Suit action to break up the quieter and slower scenes that focus on the children and their daily lives. Early in the movie, we see Zakus plowing through GM suits, setting them up as a bigger threat rather than enemy fodder. Doan’s former squad is established as immensely talented, which makes their final battle with Doan (along with Amuro’s triumphant appearance) a tense and exciting affair. The moving ending nicely sets up the rest of the series, securing Doan’s Island as a brilliant part of Mobile Suit Gundam‘s story.

Everything is stunningly animated. The way that the various Mobile Suits maneuver around and destroy one another is a sight to behold, bringing to mind the exceptional Odessa sequence from the recent Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin series. A fully reanimated series in this style would be a dream come true, as the team behind Doan’s Island very clearly knows how to make a Gundam series shine.

The story behind this film is as captivating as anything presented in the movie itself. The episode of Mobile Suit Gundam that was adapted was something of a “lost episode” over here. The basic backstory is that this episode faced a myriad of issues, from series art director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko being hospitalized during its production to director Yoshiyuki Tomino having major undisclosed issues with another staffer on the episode. Tomino especially took issue with the episode, as he was the one to request that overseas versions of the original series exclude this episode.

That makes this film a rather new experience for Western Gundam fans, as this side-story was fairly unknown due to its overseas exclusion. Despite being removed from the original run in my region, I’d argue that this film is essential viewing with the original series. It adds layers of emotional value to the far-reaching war while emphasizing the importance of smaller moments like Amuro’s time with the kids. Plus, it reminds you that Zeon pilots like Doan are people too, rather than a blatantly evil group of antagonists.

Mobile Suit Gundam Cucuruz Doan’s Island might be a bit confusing for new fans, but it’s certainly worth watching if you have any interest in Gundam. Even if you’ve seen the original subbed episode this film is based on, I highly recommend checking out Doan’s Island, as it stands out as the definitive way to experience this fascinating chapter of Mobile Suit Gundam.

SCORE: 9/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.

Disclosure: The critic received a screener link for ComingSoon’s Mobile Suit Gundam Cucuruz Doan’s Island review.

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