Twilight AXIS: A Gorgeous Missed Opportunity

Announced in 2017, anime production studio Sunrise made the undertaking of adapting Ark Performance’s and Kojiro Nakamura’s light novel, Mobile Suit Gundam: Twilight AXIS. The series was produced exclusively as an ONA(Original Net Animation) streaming on Gundam FanClub and Gundam Info.

The story is set in U.C. 0096, several months after the Laplace Incident in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. Two former Zeon members, now civilians, are approached by the Earth Federation Forces to join a research group investigating the drifting Neo Zeon colony Axis: Arlette Almage and Danton Hyleg. Having infiltrated Axis, the investigation team come under fire inside the supposedly abandoned base. As they confront this mysterious group of mobile suits, Arlette and Danton also confront their Zeon pasts.

Sunrise greenlit the project with a limited budget as a Gundam Fan Club exclusive series, briskly adapting the 20 chapter novel into five three-minute and one eight-minute episodes. In a Gundam Fan Club interview, it was confirmed the series was intended to be produced in a “PV format” designed to be digested in short segments for the app. Despite a very tight budget, director Sejoon Kim and animator Shingo Abe worked vigorously to produce the best adaptation they could under the unfavorable conditions.

While the original net series feels disjointed as a story with clear moments of budget animation, the following compilation movie, Akaki Zan’ei, manages to salvage this adaptation. The short film adds additional footage and cobbles together the series into a much more coherent story. The mecha animation is phenomenal, each of the battles feel very intense and intimate, with entirely hand-drawn mecha. The anime features one of the more unique examples of cinematography in Gundam with well composed shots, surreal cutaways and superb color design. Risa Shimizu steals the show as she delivers a captivating, emotional performance as Arlette Almage. The music score was beautifully composed by Takashi Ohmama, producing an impassioned soundtrack that expertly enhances each scene, arguably the highlight of this work.

Despite the anime’s impressive artistic qualities, the short runtime just isn’t sufficient to properly adapt the Ark Performance novel, and much of the story is left out with an unfulfilling ending. Twilight AXIS is a missed opportunity of what could have been a very meaningful Gundam entry if it had been given a substantial budget and distributed to a larger platform.

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