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AFtM Presents: 31 Flavors of Gundam August 12, 2006

Posted by animerambler in AFtM Presents, Mecha.

In honor of the release of Super Robot Taisen for the GBA I thought I’d do a quickie rundown of the illustrious history of oldish Mecha series, which is, of course, a history of Gundam.The 31 (X) Flavors:

Mobile Suit Gundam: The original, like Vanilla really, a little something for everyone, but kinda plain at the same time.  In my mind James Taylor occupies a similar conceptual space, yeah I like his music, in reasonable amounts, but no one is ever going to open a “just James Taylor” CD store.  Key points involve: “realistic” robot action (dunno, maybe something to do with the military didn’t just give a kid a giant killing machine robot and tell him to do whatever with it), whiney-ass protagonist (a staple of later mecha series), high body count (of extras), and “war is bad” message.  These have led to my pillars of Gundam, the more of which the following series had, the closer to the original they were:

1. B^$*# protagonist who is young but also an inexplicable killing machine once inside the robot.  Nigh invincible to unnamed extras.

2. Lots of flashy, colorful robots, Lucas wasn’t the only one worried about marketing and toy sales in the late 70’s.

3. “War is bad, but stopping it is hard.” message.  Kinda makes you wonder how far we’ve advanced since Edwin Star turned his cerebral thesis into pop music.

4. High body counts, which are the norm for Tomino, the series creator, but primarily for the nameless/faceless throngs.  The worst are incurred by dropping large objects (like space stations) on earth, or nukes on space stations.

Moving on…

Zeta Gundam: The first real follow-up, produced in the eighties, pillars 1-4 are included.  2 and 4 have the stakes increased by making some robots transformable and whacking a healthy amount of main characters respectively.  The series is known for being targeted at an older audience (as it is more serious, and sort of Gundam, with politics lite) and apparently pissing off the TV execs due to poor toy sales given the next series.

Double Zeta (ZZ) Gundam: 180 degrees from Zeta.  A continuation of Zeta, with new good-guys for the most part (Zeta’s being killed off or made unstable by the carnage), but a teen comedy!  That’s right, imagine Empire Strikes Back, but instead of Han, Luke and the gang you get the kids of Saved by the Bell staring, and its funny, or it tries to be.  Known for: Bright, the straight laced captain of the first two series getting into an orange-throwing fight early in the series.

Char’s Counterattack: One of the few non-compilation movies made.  It seems that they still couldn’t decide to be serious of funny, so the pendulum swings back to serious this time.  Although after ZZ I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one of the most beloved Gundam enemies/protagonists dropping asteroids on Earth in a comedy.  Maybe they’re comical space boulders?  Known for: decent animation quality (being made in ’88 and a feature-length film with associated budget helped this), and rubbing out the two most popular characters and rivals from the first and second series.  Whoops, where do we go from here?  Pillars 1-4 are again present.

Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket:  OK, kinda com-tragic-edic?  The war from the first series through the eyes of a child, on the moon (people live there now!).  Proving what we already suspected, the most popular character in Gundam is Gundam, a large inanimate (without a pilot) robot.  Take that humanity!  All your acting and emotingcan’t compare to a tri-colored death machine.  Pillars 2 and 3, 4 might be debatable, but primarily off-camera.

Gundam F91:  Another non-compilation movie.  Fifty or so years in the future, apparently the creators wanted to get away from the shadow of the war in the first few series, and the characters in them, and well everything but that big blue, red and yellow robot.  Apparently the old social order has broken down, we’ve got something resembling feudalism (maybe?), but hey, gigantic robots still hack away at each other.  Some things never change I guess.

0083 Stardust Memory:  OK, now we need to get back to the original wars and setting (Creators: “WTF was that last movie, quick, more of the original stuff!”).  Playing it safe character designs were from Toshihiro Kawamoto who would go on to do Cowboy Bebop, and the mecha are from (in part) the fellow behind Macross (another old, well-loved mecha series).  Apparently Zeon (baddies from Original) are back and need to have giant space battles, colony drops (what it sounds like, sorta like what happened with Skylab, but on a much bigger scale) and nuclear exchanges in order to warrant the SFX budget.  Pillars 2-4.

Victory Gundam: Having done a lot of cool stuff they’d probably always wanted to but never had the money for with Stardust, we’re taken back into the future (no Marty, no!) to 30 years ahead of F91 (70 or so ahead of Stardust).  There society is still breaking down and the smaller states that form are fighting amongst themselves.  Largely by throwing oranges.  No, kidding, still giant robots.  Down with changes over time, up with crazier mecha designs and pillars 1-4.

Mobile Suit Gundam The 8th MS Team: Marty and Doc take us back to the original war, being fought by a bunch of nobodies in SE Asia.  Pretty much Gundam: Fanboy Unit as this is the story of some people who fight in the robots for 12 episodes and are then never heard from again.  Ever.  Also an extended length 13th episode of what happened to everyone and compilation movie came out of this, apparently there was money left over.  Pillar 4, lacks 2 due to no really new robots.

G Gundam: In an alternate reality (sure why not after all that time travelling!) giant robots fight once a year to determine which political faction will control the Earth.  This sounds like a great idea if the UN or EU determined their chairmanship in such a manner, but both of those are boring and not watched on TV so it kinda sucks for a Giant Robot show.  Notable for: Neo Mexico’s Tequila Gundam.  I’m not kidding, how they did 49 episodes of this I don’t know.

Gundam Wing: Between Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura magical girl shows had really hit their stride by the mid 90’s, hell they were even being (heavilyedited and shown stateside), so of course Gundam would want in.  In another alternate reality Wing is about a team of 5 teenage guys of various nationalities who fight as a giant robot team.  So kinda Sailor Moon/Power Rangers meet giant robots.  Notable for: pop-music openings (a first for Gundam?), apparently being well-liked (according to Animerica’s Gundam Official Guide) and having an all-male robot team leading me to call it Gundam W@ng, which was a stunningly successful marketing technique to lessen the sausage-fest viewership of typical Mecha shows by adding shojo elements.

Gundam X: Gawd, how many have I gone through already?  Ok, Official Guide says alternate reality (again!) but faithful to the original series.  Don’t think its over here yet, so assume all pillars and move on!

Live Action Gundams: No, just no.

Gundam Seed: Gundam for the 21st century!  What’s updated, let’s take a look:

  • non-craptacular animation
  • pop and quasi-techno openings and endings
  • um, a pink-haired chick?
  • emphasis on intra-character relationships

So basically they just said, let’s get some hot guys for the chicks, hot robots and chicks for the guys, use a more colorful palette, and write the non-giant robot fighting scenes like something out of 90210 goes to war.  Resounding success apparently!  All pillars accounted for, with extra attention going to 1 (Kira channels episode 4 Luke for awhile there, but isn’t Shinji Ikari material) and 3. given the amount of “War is bad.”  “Yeah, you’re right, war is sooo bad.” dialogue.  Probably the closest to the original.

Gundam Seed Destiny: Continuation of Seed.  Invincibility of returning characters is such that it sometimes appears that the Globetrotters are playing the Generals retarded farm team during space battles.  Shinn provides the he-b!tch for much of the series, but in the end certain questions like “who’s the protagonist?”, “WTF?” and “wait, what just happened?” made it appear that Sunrise was indeed pulling later episodes out of its collective ass.  It’s still pretty though.

Next Mecha article: Neon Genesis Evangelion rundown, or “How I Gainax learned to stop worrying and make a suicide inducing pillar of anime.  Espeically the movie.”



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