Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Don't cry, Al. Soon there'll be an even bigger war with even cooler mobile suits!"
—One of Al's classmates, demonstrating a profound lack of understanding of the reasons for his Heroic BSOD

The first OVA of the Gundam franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is a six-episode series that offers a significant change from the standard Gundam formula. As suggested by its subtitle, War in the Pocket is a small, personal story; a side story focusing on the experiences of a eleven year old boy during the One Year War. Released in 1989, it served to commemorate Gundam's ten-year anniversary. It was also the first time anyone other than creator Yoshiyuki Tomino was given a chance to direct a Gundam story.

The story follows Alfred "Al" Izuruha, an eleven year old resident of a neutral space colony, as his home is drawn into the One Year War. Though supposedly uninvolved in the conflict, Al's colony is in fact home to a secret Earth Federation base, currently hosting the Super Prototype Gundam "Alex", which is undergoing final testing before being sent to White Base's Amuro Ray. A Zeon commando team is dispatched to destroy the Alex, but during the mission Al befriends the team's most junior member, Bernard "Bernie" Wiseman. A precocious kid who idealizes war (he's eleven, and this war happens to involve giant robots), Al is impressed with Bernie's (false) stories of being an Ace Pilot and general Badass, and the two of them investigate the Alex as part of their ultimate plan to destroy it. However, unknown to them, the Gundam's test pilot is none other than Al's attractive neighbor (and Earth Federation officer) Christina "Chris" MacKenzie. Also altering the situation is Bernie's awareness of his superiors' willingness to stop the Alex at all costs. The entire series follows Al's growing awareness of the reality of war as his two friends draw closer to an inevitable confrontation. Oh, and it all takes place during the Christmas season, with significant plot and background details revolving around the looming holiday.

Tropes used in Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket include:
  • Ace Custom: The Alex is intended to be one for Amuro Ray.
  • Action Girl: Christina is one of the few female Gundam pilots in the entire franchise, and unlike most did not inherit her Gundam from a male character.
  • Aerith and Bob: Averted. With the possible exception of Killing J. Dannigan, most of the cast have ordinary sounding, if sometimes mismatched, names, which makes it fairly unique among Gundam series. This is also the show that mostly started the trend of giving Zeon military hardware Gratuitous German names...
  • All There in the Manual: Technically, any of the Alex's standard weapons, since we only see its arm Gatlings and beam sabers in the OVA. The beam rifle and shield come standard in model kits, but its hyper bazooka is infinitely rarer, so far only appearing with the Gundam FIX Figuration action figure.
  • Alternate Continuity:
    • The novel version merely has Christina and Bernie argue with one another before both walking away from battle.
    • Zeon Quest has another, happier ending: Bernie successfully steals the Gundam Alex, but is forced to scuttle it. He then decides to go AWOL so that he can be together with Chris.
    • In keeping with its many background Mythology Gags, Gundam Build Fighters has Bernie and Chris cheering on Al visible in the background of an episode.
  • An Asskicking Christmas: The final battle occurs during Christmas, with Bernie hiding a bomb in a giant inflatable Santa.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The colony is safe, Al survives unharmed and Chris has only relatively minor injuries, but Bernie dies needlessly and Al will never be the same again. Adding insult to injury, in their final farewells to Al (Bernie via recorded video) both Bernie and Chris ask him to say hi to the other for them. Al's the only one that knows the truth of the situation. Appropriately, the final scene of the OVA is Al collapsing into tears when some of his classmates express disappointment over the war's end and suggest that the next one will be even cooler.
    • It's also implied at the end that Bernie knows Chris is in the Alex and deliberately lets her get the killing blow so he wouldn't have to kill her himself. Chris never finds out the truth about Bernie.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Al lies and claims Bernie is his half brother. Nobody questions this, despite Bernie's blonde hair.
  • Character Development: It'd be easy to dismiss Al as a fool for not realizing good people die in war but again, the kid is eleven.
  • Cool Big Sis: Christina.
  • Cross Dressing Voice: Al's Japanese voice is an exception, done by then child actor Daisuke Namikawa. Since he performed the role in 1989, this is played straight in all spin-offs featuring voiced dialog from Al. His former voice actor however does get cast as the narrator for War in the Pocket based scenarios in the SD Gundam G Generation series.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: A story about how glorifying war through cartoons and toys is wrong... in a Gundam series. It's likely that 0080 knows this, given the reaction of Al's friends at the end. See the page quote.
  • During the War: A sidestory of the One Year War.
  • Energy Weapons
  • Fun with Acronyms: "Alex" apparently stands for "Armored Layers EXperiment," for its optional Chobham armor. In Real Life, it's a pun on the phonetic pronunciation of "RX", the model number for Federation prototypes.
  • Gatling Good: Alex Gundam has one small gatling gun built into each arm.
  • Glass Cannon: The Kämpfer was designed as a high-speed assault model, capable of incredible speeds but possessing rather thin armor as a result. Demonstrated rather viscerally when it plows through an entire MS team while staying mobile, but gets shredded like tinfoil when it tries to engage the Alex in melee combat.
  • Global Ignorance: An in-universe example. During the Cyclops Team's covert attempt to steal the Alex, Bernie's cover story gets blown when he mistakenly describes Sydney, Australia being covered in snow at Christmas the middle of the southern hemisphere's summer. Not to mention that Sydney was wiped out by The Colony Drop and no longer exist at that time, anyone from Sydney should not be talking like that about it.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Present as ever. The Federation's behavior in Side Six is highly questionable (among other things, they're building and deploying mobile suits in a neutral colony with a large civilian population before the treaty allowing them to do so is signed), and Zeon's response is to try to blow the entire place up, civilians and all. Would qualify as Black and Grey Morality if the Cyclops team (and Bernie in particular) weren't so sympathetic.
  • Heroic BSOD: Al, when he watches Bernie's Zaku get destroyed, and later sees Chris removed from the cockpit of the Alex.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Admit it, for a moment, it actually seemed Bernie could win, didn't it?
    • Or that maybe, just maybe Al would make it in time to stop the fight.
  • Flynning: Subverted: The Kampfer gets out its beam sword but is immediately pulverized by the Gundam's machine gun.
  • Humongous Mecha: Duh.
  • Husky Russkie: Mikhail Kaminsky, pilot of the Cyclops Team's Kampfer mobile suit.
  • Killed Off for Real: The Cyclops Team, Bernie
  • Latex Space Suit: The pilot suits
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Alex. Designed for Newtype pilots (Amuro, specifically), the Federation lacks remote weapon technology, so instead they make it a high-class high-speed machine capable of keeping up with a Newtype's superior reflexes.
  • Made of Explodium: Averted. Lots of mobile suits are taken out by gunfire, but the only ones that are actually blown up during battle are in a simulator and Bernie's Zaku at the end, when it takes a beam saber through its jetpack.
    • Notably, after the initial attack on the arctic base, we are treated to a view of the aftermath, including one GM who is still holding it's arm up to aim it's gun. Rarely does any gundam series have whole mobile suits still intact, especially like this.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Gundam "Alex" has the heavy armored shell that protects the actual mecha even when caught in a chain mine detonation. Even when the armor is ejected, the Alex is still a Lightning Bruiser.
  • Minovsky Physics[context?]
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Colonel Killing.
  • Neutral No Longer: Side Six colony Rhea (the one in the show) and its gradual shift towards backing the Federation (and the Federation's willingness to take advantage of that) is what kicks off the whole plot. Subverted in the settings, where different colonies in Side Six support Zeon or the Federation, depending on the economy support from behind.
  • New Meat: Bernie is this to the Cyclops Team, an attitude not at all helped by their still dealing with the death of their buddy Andy Strauss in the first episode.
  • Nuke'Em: Zeon is NOT going to let the Federation introduce another Gundam into the war, by any means necessary.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Bernie attacks the Alex in order to keep the colony from being nuked, but the ship dispatched with the nuke was captured, and its captain committed suicide. When Al learns this, he rushes to the battle in an attempt to let Bernie know that he doesn't have to fight anymore -- arriving just in time to see the explosive end of the fight, nearly dying himself in the process. Played razor straight, and for tragedy. Very effectively.
    • They actually mislead you with another potential STSD story. Killing revealed he was going to nuke the colony regardless of Cyclops' success, just to make sure the gundam's dead and buried. Regardless of whether or not Bernie would have destroyed the thing, the colony would have been nuked anyways. You'd think that he'd succeed only to realise that they're all doomed anyways, then the series throws you the curve ball above
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The triumphant BGM that plays during the climactic battle between the Alex and Bernie's Zaku almost makes you think the story might have a happy ending after all.
  • The Squad: The Cyclops Team
  • Super Prototype: The Alex, a Newtype-use Gundam intended for Amuro Ray. Since the Federation doesn't have remote weapons yet, "Newtype-use" simply means it's fast enough to keep up with his superhuman reflexes.
  • Super Robot Wars: Also appears a few times such as 3,4, F, FF, Compact, Compact 2 Trilogy, Impact, Alpha and GC/XO. As is the case with a lot of the games it tends to be more kinder to the characters and as such usually spares Bernie from dying but usually both Chris and Bernie are second line characters with poor stats that players seldom use.
  • Sword Fight
  • Throw-Away Guns: The Kämpfer carries two of each of its main weapons (shotgun, giant bazooka, and sturm fausts) because none of them can be reloaded; its only internal weapons are beam sabers and head vulcans.
  • Tomboyish Name: Christina MacKenzie usually is referred to as Chris.
  • Wham! Episode: Episode 4. Most of the Zeon reserves that Al and Bernie cooperated with through the last three episodes die during the attack on RX-78 Alex and Chris gets her first taste of actual combat against a Zaku.