OPs for OVAs tend to be different from OPs for TV shows. Unlike TV OPs, which are primarily concerned with catching a channel surfer’s attention, OVA OPs can afford to be more experimental or less grounded in formula, because the viewer has already bought or rented the show.
That, and you can’t air a scene of underage drinking on TV.
The Gundam OVA OPs (War in the Pocket, Stardust Memory, 08th MS Team) don’t subscribe to the standard pattern of OPs, and they have their own gimmicks. They’re all quite interesting and I’ll expound on that when I go through each of them.
So what’s 08th MS Team’s gimmick?
The entire OP is set in the Federation’s point of view. There are no Zeon characters! Some parts of it look like a Federation recruitment video. Makes sense, when the show’s name is The 08th MS Team, but if you’ve actually seen the show, you’ll know that the good guys are frequently outclassed in their battles. They aren’t heroes, they’re grunts who only happen to have a few spare Gundams in their possession.
The 08th MS Team portrays Gundam in a way that isn’t like its predecessors–the RX-78[G] Gundam Ground-Type is a scaled-down version made from surplus parts. It doesn’t even have the original’s iconic beam rifle (which was a game-changer during the One Year War). The OP portrays exactly this: the Gundam is a soldier, not a savior. It isn’t pew pew space battles, but grimy ground war.
And there’s the song. Tell you what–when I hear the words “90’s anime music”, I don’t think of the iconic Evangelion or Utena or even DBZ songs, I think of The 08th MS Team. Arashi no naka de kagayaite (or Shine in the Storm) is as cheesy as any pop song should be, and that’s why.
Let’s talk about some of the scenes.
This is straight out of a war film! It took me a while to perfectly capture the silhouette of an attacking Zaku here before it’s riddled with machine gun fire.
First glimpse of the Gundam, and the tropical jungle setting.
A reminder that tanks remain cool, even in a world where they’re all but obsolete.
It’s the 180mm cannon, a really cool-looking gun with a wallop, which isn’t as effectual in the actual show. Shame. On another note, I really like the Ground Gundam’s shield, it looks functional. It can also be used to prop up the cannon, which is parodied at times.
A cool shot of Michel here that is funny in context. Karen fares better in the show.
Army life in stills. I like how laid-back and goofy they look in them. The old guy drinking, Eledore complaining about the rations and the rain.
Note how the buggy driver clamps his headphones tight here. That shit is loud. Hey, at least the shell casings don’t cave his head in, like in Gundam F91…
I have a Master Grade kit of the Ground Gundam (the only MG kit I have, in fact), and this is my favorite pose of it. Though the gun sags a bit in time. But hey, if there’s no shield to stabilize it, you gotta make do with your knee.
So what’s cool with this OP? There’s a surprising amount of detail crafted into it. The budget isn’t very big and there are a lot of pans and stills, but they work very well in painting a picture of Federation army life in Southeast Asia, as well as the fighting they do there. It’s not pretty, but people will make do with what they have.
It also has flow; while it doesn’t tell a complete story from start to finish, its sections transition naturally. Characters and technologies are naturally introduced. It borrows a lot of imagery from war films, adding a popcorn cheesiness to the mix.
My favorite part in the OP (and arguably my favorite Gundam OP moment of all time) is the Gundam paradrop scene during the chorus. It’s got great detail–the booster backpack is jettisoned right as they land. Screencaps don’t do it justice; it has to be watched with the music.
While my opinion on 08th MS Team has changed over the years, my love for its OP remains constant. A lot of it is from the song, but the visual side is also great and ages very well.