The Gundam universe is best known for its focus on fighting robots, and I must confess right away that it's a genre of anime I don't really know or understand. I haven't even seen any other Gundam stories except for the bits of Gundam Wing that aired on the Cartoon Network. But I saw this short, bittersweet series at a college anime club and liked it a lot, though it doesn't seem very typical of what I know about the Gundam universe.
This short series (I believe it consists of six episodes on two DVDs) is set against the larger backdrop of the Gundam universe, where the Federation and the Zeon Empire are conducting a great space war. I assume the rest of the Gundam titles tell you what the war is about, but this one doesn't, because it's really not about the war but about those caught up in the fringes of it.
The story is set on a Federation colony which is rarely touched by the war, except when the fighting interferes with the supply lines. It is told from the point of a young boy named Al, who is mostly preoccupied with school, homework and playing and fighting with his friends. For Al, a bit of plastic that his friend claims is a genuine Federation ID badge is the most exciting thing imaginable... until a mobile suit (Gundam -- this is the name for the flying giant robot battle units) battle takes place nearby and a young Zeon pilot's machine crashes to earth near Al's school. From this point a peculiar friendship is struck up between the two, even as the Zeon pilot Bernard (who looks suspiciously German, a sort of kindly Hitler Youth) is recruited to infiltrate the colony on a secretive spy mission involving the Federation's new-model Gundams -- a mission the hero-worshipping Al knows nothing about.
The plot develops from there, but the series is less about the plot than it is about evoking a mood. I found it very reminiscent of the equally bittersweet British film "Hope and Glory," which also revolved around a young boy, a nine year old growing up in London during the blitz. The innocence of childhood, and its disillusionments, is played out against a background of violence, chaos and political intrigue that the main characters are mostly too young to understand or even really fear. This title is not big on the fast-paced action, but if you liked Hope and Glory or My Life as a Dog, be sure to check it out. As usual, I recommend listening to the Japanese rather than the English track!