The filmmakers and characters hit their stride, as this "Alternate Universe" saga progresses. Domon acts less like the arrogant jerk he was in the initial episodes and more like a familiar anime figure: the hot-tempered young warrior who must train to channel his latent strengths. These adventures focus on Domon's betrayal by "Undefeated Asia," the Master who raised him but who has joined forces with the Devil Gundam stolen by Domon's brother Kyoji. The Master and Kyoji command the Death Army, a seemingly endless armada of ineffectual robot-warriors. Domon forges an alliance with rival Gundam pilots Chibodee Crocket (Neo-America), Sai Sici (Neo-China), George de Sand (Neo-France), and Argo Gulskii (Neo-Russia) as the "Shuffle Alliance"--each member has an identity taken from a playing card. A mysterious new sensei
, Schwarz Bruder of Neo-Germany, appears to save Domon's neck and teach him to control his anger so he can achieve the ultra-powerful "Super Mode" in the Shining Gundam. The confrontations are drawn out, with enemies who are destroyed in one episode reappearing in the next.
Acting as a time lock is the upcoming Final Battle, a gladiatorial Gundam combat held every four years to determine which orbiting Colony will rule space. Domon has to win for the glory of Neo-Japan--and to save his father, who's in a state of suspended animation. After a titanic battle, he arrives at the arena in Neo-Hong Kong seconds before the deadline. (Rated 13 and older: violence, nudity, grotesque imagery, alcohol use, ethnic stereotypes) --Charles Solomon