Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Zeta Gundam
Related: Mobile Suit Gundam (prequel)
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (sequel)
Gundam Neo Experience 0087: Green Divers (side story)
Similar: Gundam SEED Destiny
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 50 episodes
- Surprising consequences.
- Good conflict and turns.
- Cements the UC Gundam art style.
- Unlikeable protagonist.
- Several idiotic characters run rampant.
- Poor execution of ideas.
- Where is the security?
- Mediocre dialogue and acting.
The first two episodes of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam had me in stitches with their absurdity. You have to see it to believe it, but I will try my best to describe the events. We first get to know what sort of a kid 17-year-old Kamille is when he jumps a turnstile to punch a stranger and superior officer in the face for making fun of his name. He even yells, “I’m a MAN!” He’s arrested, of course, receives an earful of forced expository preaching, attacks the arresting officer, escapes by luck, steals an officer’s car without objection, crashes through a military barricade under gunfire without a scratch, and jumps from the speeding vehicle for some idiotic reason – there’s an explanation, I’m sure. Next, he waltzes into a Gundam right in front of its pilot and several soldiers, and after a brief battle simply flies off with it to join the enemy. Just gifts the Gundam along with another mech to the attackers. Who looked at this start and greenlit it without question? (My suspicions fall on some shadowy Kamille-looking figure.) Gundam truly knows how to lay on the stupid sometimes.
Anyway, on to the actual review. Zeta Gundam takes place seven years after the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the war between Earth and Zeon over, though remnants of Zeon remain. To hunt them down, the Earth Federation created the Titans, an elite Gundam unit (the one Kamille stole from). Given free reign, the Titans have gone beyond protocol to become power-crazed thugs, which gives rise to the rebellious Anti-Earth Union Group. After stealing the Gundams, Kamille joins the AEUG where former Zeon hero Char works as a pilot called Quattro (poor disguise, to be honest).
Interestingly, barring Kamille and the idiocy around him, Zeta’s premise is a strong one, ripe with conflict. The protagonist joining the enemy right away is intriguing. It even redeems itself from Kamille later by having serious consequences to some of his actions. The execution could be more believable, but it’s something. And he at least has piloting experience before using a Gundam, unlike many protagonists in this franchise.
It’s a real shame they made him so bloody unlikeable – a petulant child. If he didn’t have plot armour, he would have been shot dead several times from all the absurdities he pulls. They aren’t even ‘action movie’ absurdities that fall under ‘The Rule of Cool’. His actions are simply stupid.
This stupidity isn’t isolated to him either. One character later on frees a prisoner for a stupid reason, when the episode previous he was the toughest on the enemies. What loopy character development is this? Zeta is also the origin of the Gundam trope where a character volunteers for war but refuses to kill anyone, yet imagines they won’t die on the front line. The failings may remind you of a modern Gundam. Where Gundam SEED was a throwback to the original, SEED Destiny paralleled Zeta, intolerable protagonist and the pacifist included.
Remember Kamille stealing a Gundam while no one did anything? I lost count how many times someone unauthorised gets into a mech on impulse and petulance, screwing up for everyone. Don’t these mechs have security? Zeta exemplifies why teens should never be in charge of war.
You can see what the writers wanted to do with, for example, starting Kamille as a prick before he gains responsibility and grows up. Sadly, they don’t sell the transitions, primarily because they allow characters to pull off the most absurd actions without consequence. If they want someone to free a prisoner, that’s fine, but don’t let it slide with an insignificant punishment, simply because of plot armour. When a character screws up, make them pay or the audience won’t buy the story. These consequences should be the driving force in character development, not some out of nowhere change the writers suddenly need.
Zeta has a good story when viewed from a macro level or when following the adults like Char. It’s simultaneously worse and better than Gundam 0079 – worse because it fails in more areas, yet better because its strengths are more engaging than its predecessor was. The writers seem to have forgotten what made Amuro a good protagonist in 0079. However, more happens this time around. Gone is the season-long escape from a single enemy and the flat lined third act.
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam took the franchise in a direction closer to what we would recognise today – flaws included – and is well worth a watch to Gundam fans.
Art – Medium
I like how Zeta Gundam cements what would become the franchise’s art style for the next two decades, but its age shows, particularly in the animation department. The need for smoother frame transitions becomes apparent in the first scene with Kamille running. Thankfully, mechs flying in space don’t take much work.
Sound – Medium
Zeta Gundam still has the old-timey music – OP could be from an 80s prom – but the background music is more modern. The acting is a bit stiff, more so in the dub, and the dialogue could do with work.
Story – Medium
An elite mech force called the Titans are responsible for eradicating the remnants of Zeon, the antagonists of Mobile Suit Gundam, but the Titans may be just as bad. A teen boy finds himself amidst the conflict alongside a man who looks a hero of the previous war. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam has great ideas and conflict; however, the execution of these could do with serious work – start with the protagonist.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For Gundam fans. Only fans of the franchise can handle the bad Gundam tropes that bog down Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and see the qualities beneath.
Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)