Wow! WOW! If this is what most Gundam OVAs are like, I’ll surely enjoy watching other OVAs in the main franchise.
Thunderbolt Season 1 (referred to in the compiled home video release as December Sky) is incredible. Easily right up there with the original series as some of the finest main anime in the franchise. For me what makes it work is the relationship between our protagonists Io and Darryl. Io already strikes a nerve with Darryl and the rest of the Living Dead division by killing one of his fellow snipers and stealing his Dom, and it’s this incident that forms the basis for the rest of the show/film. As Io gets his hands on a Gundam and our cast experiences escalating pressure, the relationship between our leads soon, almost IMMEDIATELY becomes one of mutual hatred (people who’ve seen the series should know what I’m talking about), culminating in a gruelling final bout which is one of the finest in the entire franchise. The theme is basically how we and our enemies are not as different as we think like most Gundam shows, but the way it’s done here is so perfect and so blunt that it’s impossible to miss the point!
Add on this some incredible animation, a unique soundtrack that mainly consists of in-universe jazz and old pop, a foreboding atmosphere, some of the best, most realistic mechanical design in the franchise, brutality that rivals the likes of Zeta and great voice acting (in the EN audio, but also possibly in the JP audio if I decide to watch it again with said audio track) and you have a truly unique experience that is worth watching at least once, even if you haven’t finished watching the original series yet (it’s in a parallel universe, trust me if you’re a newb).
So yeah, I really enjoyed Thunderbolt S1. I’ll DEFINITELY pick up the HG Full Armor Gundam and Psycho Zaku when they’re in stock because this show just rocked. I’ll probably also read the manga it’s based on to compare and contrast, and maybe watch S2: Bandit Flower if I feel like it.
P.S. Yes, I saw it with the English audio. COME ON GUYS, it features Max Mittelman stealing the show as Io and a character actually saying “IT’S A GUNDAM!”. It’s also much better than it had any right to be considering when it was recorded.