95%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (4 Votes)

What’s not to like about fighting mechs, a memorable duel, and an epic storyline?

The 7th in the list of 10 anime movies you should watch is Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack. It sits firmly in the Mecha subgenre of Science-Fiction, focusing on robots. Normally at this point I start with a summary of the plot. However, I am not going to do that right now. What I am going to do is start with the biggest drawback to this film: it is not easy to get into. Unlike Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, in which you don’t need to know the series to enjoy the film, or Trust and Betrayal, which is an origin story, Char’s Counterattack is the culmination of a long running and complicated rivalry between the two main characters.

To understand what is taking place in this movie, it is imperative to understand the history that leads up to the film. The original Mobile Suit Gundam series was introduced in 1979 and is credited for starting what is known as the real robot subgenre of mecha. In mecha, the robots are grounded in real world physics/manufacturing and are typically produced by military or commercial enterprises, as opposed to magic based, super ginormous robots like Voltron. It also set the stage for the Universal Century (UC) timeline, the original timeline in the Gundam meta-universe, which now encompasses many other alternate universes and timelines.

 Mobile Suit Gundam took place in UC 79 and introduced the world to protagonist Amuro Ray, and his rival, Char Aznable. During this timeline, man has built and migrated to colonies in space that sit in geostationary points around the Earth in addition to living on Earth.  The One-Year War begins between a section of the colonies wanting independence, called the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation trying to keep order. Amuro, for the Earth Federation, and Char, for Zeon, face each other multiple times during the conflict. In UC 87, Amuro and Char join forces in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, fighting for the Anti-Earth Union Group against the Titans, though the tension between the two is palpable. If you want to watch all of this history, I suggest watching both the Mobile Suit Gundam and the Zeta Gundam compilation movie trilogy as it is shorter than watching both series.

That brings us to Char’s Counterattack taking place in UC 93, 14 years after the first battles between Char and Amuro in the One-Year War. Char has returned to space and assumed leadership of Neo-Zeon, a remnant of the original Zeon. He drops an asteroid onto Earth and promises to drop more in order to cause a nuclear winter worldwide. Trying to stop him is the Earth Federation Special Forces Londo Bell, captained by Bright Noa and featuring Amuro as their ace pilot. They are based out of the battleship Ra Cailum.

The Ra Cailum takes in a shuttle that got caught up in a battle and aboard are Earth Federation Prime Minister Adenaur Paraya and his daughter Quess, as well as Bright’s son Hathaway. Adenaur tells Bright to head to the space colony Londonian for a secret meeting with Neo Zeon. On Londonian, the Earth Federation gives Char and Neo Zeon the Axis asteroid base on the condition they disarm. After the secret meeting, Char and Amuro come face to face and begin to have fisticuffs. With Amuro is Quess, who leaves with Char after the fight is broken up.

Both factions leave Londonian and begin gearing up for the final battle. Amuro receives his personal mobile suit, the RX-93 Nu Gundam, in order to face Char and his MSN-04 Sazabi. Char takes Axis and attempts to drop it on Earth as Amuro and Londo Bell attempt to stop the drop.

char's counterattack

The strength of this film lies in the personalities and relationship between Amuro and Char. It is a relationship that has gone from respect as pilots, to hatred over the death of a girl, to comrades fighting against a common enemy, to enemies of opposing ideologies. Char is a natural born leader. He is extremely charismatic, having natural oratory skills combined with his skills as an ace pilot that draws people to his cause. He has always been that way, which allows him to manipulate people and situations to accomplish his goal. This is seen in a number of occasions, such as making a deal for Axis in order to drop it on Earth and bringing Quess to his side. Amuro was originally very impetuous and short with friends and shipmates. Part of this was the development of his Newtype abilities (discussed later). By the time Char’s Counterattack takes place, he has grown into a respected leader and soldier, often seen as Bright’s right hand man on the Ra Cailum. His piloting skills are legendary, striking fear in opponents and respect in his fellow soldiers. Both are committed to achieving their goals. Broadly speaking, one wants to destroy the people on Earth, the other to save them. Except it isn’t quite so cut and dry as that.

Remember the Newtype ability mentioned above. It is a kind of enhanced consciousness that allows people to feel other’s emotions, communicate telepathically, and increase spatial awareness. It is found only in people from the space colonies, and is viewed by some as a step in evolution that developed from families being so far apart in the colonies. Others view it as an abomination. Still, others view it as just another thread in the fabric of humanity.

Char doesn’t necessarily want to destroy humanity, but wants to speed up the process of people leaving for space in order for everyone to experience the Newtype ability. He sees nothing but corruption due to how the Earth government operated. His methods are a little extreme, but in theory he wants the best for humanity. Amuro sees the corruption, but completely opposes the forcing of people into space and the death of millions of innocent civilians. It is this major divide that drives the conflict of the movie. It works so well because it doesn’t resort to black and white, or the good guy versus bad guy plot. Char is likeable and someone you can kind of sympathize with. You can feel the plight of the colonies and the civilians on Earth.

The fights are also epic. Animation is top notch and fluid, with quick changes of directions never feeling clunky or jerky. It is not as “polished” looking as current animation, but for 1988 it’s excellent and still looks great today. The audio perfectly matches what is happening on the screen, with explosions, gun fire, and thrusters all sounding very good. Special mention has to be made about the mechanical designs. All of the mobile suits look great, but the Sazabi and Nu Gundam stand out. Both have a presence on screen as big as their pilots’ and fit their pilots’ personalities.

There are a couple of things that are not that great about this film though. Quess is as annoying as a 13 year old girl can be. You start to wish she would just go away. The same can be said of Hathaway at points. Also the ending can be somewhat confusing on first view. But that is about the only things that I find really wrong with the film. As the conclusion to a long running saga, it wraps everything up very well.

The question with this type of film is how to rate it. On one hand it is a fantastic movie. On the other, it is not easily accessible due to the large amount of history that precedes it. But I feel like it is good enough to overcome that deficit. The story is really strong, animation is outstanding, the mechanical designs are great, and the dynamics between Amuro and Char are as good as any great, character/conflict driven movie. I very highly recommend viewing Char’s Counterattack especially if you like or are curious about mecha anime.


Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Producer: Kenji Uchida

Writer: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Voice Actors: Amuro Ray- Toru Furuya, Brad Swaile

​Char Aznable- Shuichi Ikeda, Michael Kopsa

Bright Noa- Hirotaka Suzuoki, Chris Kalhoon

Quess Paraya- Maria Kawamura, Jocelyne Loewen

Hathaway Noa- Nozomu Sasaki, Bill Switzer

Licensed by: Sunrise

Release Date: March 12, 1988

Runtime: 125 minutes

Rating: NR


About The Author