2021’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway painted the horrors of war more vividly than ever before, so where the heck is the sequel?
Mobile Suit Gundam is one of those franchises where there isn't necessarily a good or bad place to start, with an abundance of alternate universes and continuities akin to the Fate franchise. However, the original Universal Century timeline has a timeless charm to it that was given new life thanks to director Shukou Murase with Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway.
Based on the novel of the same name, Hathaway was marketed as the first of a trilogy of films that would serve as a direct sequel to the events of the 1988 film Char's Counterattack. It was a gorgeous film that breathed new life into Gundam's old aesthetic but with a far more realistic look, evoking a live-action political drama. It's been over a year since the film was released in Japan and soon after on Netflix worldwide and fans have been clamoring for news on when to expect the next part of the story. And unfortunately, details have been scarce, which is a shame because Hathaway isn't just a great Gundam story, but one of the best anime films of the last few years.
The opening scene of Hathaway alone is a gold standard of how to begin an action film. It is a patient opening that effortlessly introduces its main cast while laying the foundation for the ensuing plot. The setting – a luxury space transport vessel – bathes the intro sequence in a retro-futuristic aesthetic that's written like the start of a classic spy film.
Once the hijacking begins, the performances and the realistic character animation entwine to present something tense and satisfying. Each gunshot and punch is felt, but the prior buildup pays off in the pauses between outbursts and the shared glances between our protagonist and assorted players on the chess board.
Critics have attested that Hathaway's best attribute is that the action mostly takes place from outside a Gundam. As the attack on Davao rages on, Hathaway is simply a bystander to the terrifying power of the Gundams, well before he pilots his own at the climax. And that detachment, where the audience would typically find themselves in the thick of things, is where the film is so effectively chilling.
Before "Penelope:" – the Federation's experimental Gundam – is revealed, audiences hear its animalistic cry and know that something dangerous is coming. Later, when sparks fly, Hathaway and Gigi's embrace breaks the tension with one of the most human moments of the film. It's a smart script, but it would be nothing without such committed and refreshing visuals.
Hathaway Noa is a character whose family name follows him everywhere; a legacy that weighs on his every action as he acts as the leader of an anti-Federation terrorist group. The film's messages feel exceedingly relevant, and as always, it doesn't pull punches with the moral gray, nor does it shy from treating its characters as humans that the audience can come to care for.
As a spy story, it's full of suspicion around every corner, wondering who knows what, what secrets are being kept, and how close Hathaway is to having his cover blown. It all culminates in a conclusion that is lightning-fast but nonetheless feels hugely satisfying and leaves the audience wanting more.
And that's the biggest problem at the end of the day. Given that the film only came out a little over a year ago, the demand for an update might sound excessive compared to the anticipation for something like one of MAPPA's unreleased film projects. However, it's not so much about what hasn't been announced as much as it is about what has.
Naohiro Ogata has given the clearest idea of when the sequel will happen and even then, it's a fairly broad timeframe. He said it will be completed "before the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. That's for sure." The first film was already delayed numerous times on account of the pandemic, something which is similarly impacting the development of the sequel now
Ogata mentioned that to compensate for not being able to location scout in Australia – where the next film is set – director Murase utilized a flight simulator. Photography is an underrated component in productions of anime that aim to create lived-in locales and photorealistic backdrops. A film like Hathaway, with its emphasis on realism, hinges on such things.
Shukou Murase as a director has been attached to some very compelling projects over the years, but likely because of his visual style, they've been intensive undertakings. Famously, Genocidal Organ, part of the Project Itoh film series, was in development hell for years, outliving the death of Studio Manglobe until it was finally finished at Geno Studio (Golden Kamuy).
Murase is not only a director but a character designer and animator, hence why many of his projects tend to have a similar look, notably the characters in his works. Genocidal Organ, Witch Hunter Robin, and Ergo Proxy are prime examples of this style. It wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that it takes time to get this style right.
Sunrise has been the sole studio responsible for Gundam since its inception, and through them, talent from across the industry have lent their talents to the franchise. It's not the kind of franchise that settles for less and Shukou Murase's works are unwieldy in even the most adept hands, especially nowadays in a swamped industry.
There's no doubt that Hathaway 2 will come out. It's just a matter of when, which is frankly a much kinder punishment than if it were showing signs of much more serious production issues. Gundam Hathaway is a rare delight that is both a celebration of the series up to now and a delectable tease of what stories are possible to tell in animation.
Source: Mantan Web, Crunchyroll
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Matthew Magnus Lundeen is a writer, critic, podcast host, and aspiring cinephile trying way too hard and simultaneously not enough. He writes anime features for GameRant when he isn’t trying to write his novel series.