Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a remake of a cut episode that now has a fitting place in the story of the One Year War.
A Return to the One Year War
The One Year War is a major event in the Gundam series that is rich in storytelling regarding the differences between those involved. Even though the conflict has many stories to tell, sometimes it helps to go back and retell a familiar one. That is what fans will expect when going in to see Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a retelling of a classic episode from the original series. The film retcons the original and places it in another timeframe that is more fitting. At the same time, it wants to showcase the duality of war from both sides. It succeeds at doing both while staying true to what has defined the original series.
The Lost Episode
Before going into Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island it helps to understand its unique backstory.
This is a remake and retelling of the infamous episode of the same name. The original “Cucuruz Doan’s Island” (Episode 15 in the series) became infamous due to the poor quality of the animation. As a result, series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino had the episode removed from all international releases. It has never been included in any home media or on streaming services (“Sayla’s Agony” instead serves as Episode 15).
After the Battle of Jaburo
Following the victory at Jaburo, the White Base is assigned to take care of Zeon remnants around the Canary Islands. During one such clean-up operation, Amuro Ray is ambushed by a Zaku and knocked out. He awakens in a shack and the RX-78-02 is nowhere in sight. Instead, he is surrounded by a group of children and their guardian, Cucuruz Doan. Their relationship is tense at first but over time they begin building a sense of trust.
Meanwhile; the situation has changed among the White Base crew. They have been reassigned to Belfast in preparation for Operation Odessa. Not wanting to leave Amuro behind, members of the crew plot a rescue mission behind Captain Noa’s back. Complicating matters even more, the Southern Cross (a Zeon special forces unit) has also been deployed to the island with the mission of taking out their former commander, Cucuruz Doan.
The idea of an episode or a story inspired by Hell in the Pacific is not new to the Gundam series. “War for Two” from SEED is one example that comes to mind. While the themes of seeing the humanity in others during times of war. The difference here is that the distrust is based less on sides and on an individual’s reason. Aumro needs to overcome the fact that Cucuruz use to fight for Zeon. Cucuruz needs to overcome the fact that Amuro is still a soldier (regardless of allegiance) while protecting the children.
Also, this is still a Gundam story set during the One Year War. Many of your favorite characters do appear at some point. It’s truly a special treat for the fans without hurting the story.
Welcome to Cucuruz Doan’s Island
Right away, I have to commend it for not wasting any time recapping the series. Mobile Suit Gundam was first broadcasted in 1979 while the original series and the abridged film trilogy are available on most major streaming services. Fans are all too familiar with the One Year War along with the story of Amuro Ray and Char Aznable. Thus; a recap was not needed and Yoshikazu Yasuhiko understood this all too well.
If you’ve watched The Origin OVA then you should have a good idea of what to expect in regards to the animation quality and visual details. The animation style has always been the perfect balance between using traditional animation and CGI animation. This time it excels at showcasing a story that is more about character development and less about showcasing major battles. But when the battles do happen, they are just as exciting to watch.
Finally one has to appreciate the soundtrack of the film. It’s the perfect combination of the classic along with some new scores. Almost every Gundam series knows how to use its soundtrack to work with the animation to set the environment. Cucuruz Doan’s Island is no exception as it does this exceptionally well.
Confronting Your Sins
When it comes to adopting an episode or a short story into a movie, you need to stretch it out. This can always be a problem as the film could be too short or bloated with unnecessary fillers that offer no narrative value. Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island somewhat falls into the latter (and I say somewhat with good reason). While it’s not too short and most of the additional context makes sense, it’s also too long. At times the film feels like it’s been dragging on to justify itself as a movie.
Cutting out almost any reference or backstory about the Southern Cross Corps would have helped. This is their introduction to the series, thus they have no real established lore. None of them are interesting on an individual level nor are they that menacing as a group. The villains could have been some random squad and it would have worked to the story’s advantage.
Despite this annoyance, you won’t be bored by the overall film. In the end, it’s a fitting second chance for an episode that was plagued with production issues.
When it comes to retelling a familiar story, Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island hits all the right marks. It’s a story Gundam fans know all too well that is presented in a visually stunning manner (while complemented by a great soundtrack). Once a stain on the legacy of the original series, it now has a fitting place in the story of the One Year War.
Disclaimer: Crunchyroll provided a screener of the film for this review.
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Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island
- A familiar story to the Gundam franchise with a unique change up.
- Doesn't waste anytime to recap or retell a familiar story.
- Visually stunning as it knows how to set the emotional tone.
- Soundtrack perfectly sets the tone of the moment using classic and new musical scores.
- It feels unnecessarily long and it could have been shortened.