Tag Archives: Gundam

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam – Anime Review

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

Aldnoah.Zero

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 50 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Surprising consequences.
  • Good conflict and turns.
  • Cements the UC Gundam art style.

Negatives:

  • Unlikeable protagonist.
  • Several idiotic characters run rampant.
  • Poor execution of ideas.
  • Where is the security?
  • Mediocre dialogue and acting.

(Request an anime for review here.)

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.

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Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Induces Stupidity

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Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kidou Senshi Gundam Unicorn

 

Related: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096 (full series version)

Similar: Gundam SEED

Eureka Seven

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 7 episodes (1 hr. each)

 

Positives:

  • Gundam has never looked better.
  • Detailed world design.

Negatives:

  • Poor dialogue, particularly for protagonist.
  • Soulless characters, particularly the protagonist.
  • Strangely similar plot to Gundam SEED.

Gundam is one of anime’s most frustrating franchises. I love the premise of the Gundam universe, its depth and breadth – the possibilities for stories across hundreds of years of lore – but so often, it feels as though Gundam directors don’t know how to handle all the elements that make this franchise what it is. Whether it’s the politics, the characters, or the structure, something usually falls by the wayside. Early reviews of Gundam Unicorn indicated promise, so I was excited – after a decade, finally a great new Gundam series! Sadly, no, Unicorn stumbles as many had done before it.

Like most Gundam works, Unicorn follows a teenager, Banagher Links, more distant and brooding than his predecessors. As always, he meets a mysterious girl, Mineva Lao, with a secret mission of political and global importance centred on Laplace’s Box, an object sought by all sides and said to contain the key in the war. Banagher aids Mineva and is caught up in the greater conflict, for he becomes pilot of the mighty Unicorn Gundam.

So far, it has all the hallmarks of a Gundam series, which is fine, even if almost the same as Gundam SEED’s setup. However, unlike SEED, Unicorn does not sell its ideas, most notably, the contrivance of having two middle schoolers as the centre of attention. In SEED, Kira’s ability stems from genetic modification. They highlight the genetic modification’s significance by having his ordinary classmates contribute much less to the war effort. In Unicorn, Banagher matters because the Unicorn’s creator ‘said so.’ As a person, he has nothing to offer. His atrocious dialogue, designed for naught but preaching, grates the senses and the brooding works as a great sleeping draught. Why were the writers so afraid to have an older protagonist? An advantage of being an established brand is the ability to break the bounds of genre conventions without fear of losing the audience. In fact, several older, more qualified characters could have been protagonist.

A bad protagonist is enough, but the girl, Mineva, makes matters even worse. She reminds of Gundam’s worst ever character – SEED’s Cagali. What is it with Gundam and having incompetent kids as ambassadors for empires? Any empire under the charge of Cagali or Mineva would be conquered in a day. Mineva even has a desert resistance group around her as Cagali had. Honestly, the first four-five episodes feel like a SEED re-tread.

Unicorn suffers from ‘allegiance bingo,’ made famous by Pirates of the Caribbean 3, where characters change alliances every episodes, only to break away just as suddenly – why did you ally in the first place?! This results in an unfocused narrative too busy trying to juggle the allegiances. Furthermore, because the writers had to make these characters flip-flop all over the deck, we rarely get to see them as people. They are soulless, tools for the story rather than characters of their own.

If you look past the characters, the story doesn’t have much to offer – again, those weak characters drag the whole series down. It is by no means a bad story. The overarching political implications are interesting, but when you get down to the micro level, it’s rather dull. I was simply bored to the point where I finished five other anime while drudging through Unicorn.

Art – High

Gundam has never looked this good, sporting a more mature visual style (if only the protagonists matched) than longer Gundam series. The colony design, details and construction, which reminded of Mass Effect, looks notably nice.

Sound – Medium

The VO is good, but the script keeps a barrage a cringe worthy lines that get in the way. Seriously, scenes fared better without Banagher. Good music.

Story – Low

Factions fight over a mysterious object that could change everything in the war. Though a significant piece of Gundam Universal Century history, the characters make this a difficult journey.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For hardcore Gundam fans. Even as a Gundam fan, I found this difficult to finish. However, the more hardcore will likely find more engagement from Gundam Unicorn than I had. Note: The extended series version doesn’t change much, so both versions work equally.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

DissapointingRubbish Major Characters

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Shin Kidou Senki Gundam Wing

 

Related: Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (sequel – included in review)

Similar: Gundam 00

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Mecha Science Fiction Action Drama

Length: 49 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Good voice work.

Negatives:

  • Awful characters.
  • Pants-on-head stupid politics.
  • Stilted animation.
  • Cringe worthy dialogue.
  • Two episodes of recap.

I wasn’t prepared for it to be so terrible. Gundam Wing, what a wreck.

Gundam Wing’s first episode overflows with the arse gravy that will set the tone for the rest of the series. We witness the space colonies fight back against the tyrannical Earth Alliance by sending five Gundams down to Earth disguised as meteors. At first, the plot only follows one pilot, Heero, the brooding one from the Backstreet Boys for girls to squee over despite having no personality, as proven moments later when he threatens to kill Relena and she instantly falls in love with him. Of. Course.

Heero’s cover is as a student in the richest school, where Relena is the richest of them all. She is a Mary Sue in every sense of the term. She is so loved by all for no reason other than being rich (a level of wealth that isn’t achievable as the daughter of a minister, for that matter) to the point where she receives a standing ovation for giving Heero a birthday invitation. You think I jest; you think I miswrote; surely, it must be something greater than an invitation? If only it were. If only it were…

Later on, she ascends to leader of a pacifist faction. Her strategy to world peace? “Hey, everyone, why don’t we all throw away our weapons.” (And all writers around the world collectively facepalmed at such stupidity.) Don’t mistake this for some naïve ideal that a five-year-old would make when she hears her father, the president, is struggling with an armed conflict – “Daddy, if no one had guns, then no one could kill.” “Aw, that’s cute sweetie.” Of course, the president doesn’t take this endearing remark seriously. But in Gundam Wing, Relena’s imbecility is not only taken seriously, but is also the prevailing theory for the good guys. It isn’t her age (fifteen) that bothers me, but the incompetence of character and writing. I would wish for the antagonist to win, but his theory is to achieve peace by destroying everything – again, not ironic. Unlike Gundam 00 where many criticise war as a deterrent for war, here, he has huge support. There is only so much stupid you can cram into one story, yet Gundam Wing manages to push that limit.

The rest of the Backstreet Boys (watch them pose for a photo shoot in the OP and I defy you not to think ‘boy band’) are Duo (two), Trowa (three – wait a minute…), Quatre (four – oh!), and Wufei (five – my mind is blown! [Sarcasm] Did they have to be so on the nose?). Like a boy band, they each do one thing, never-evolving, never showing variance by show’s end. Even their introductions are like a boy band. They turn to the camera and say, “My name is X, for the record.” How did no one point out the forced nature? How did anyone even consider this good writing to begin with, worth the time to write down?

Bloody hell, I almost forgot the obsession with being An Hero. Seemingly every episode, some guy has the idea to self-detonate his Gundam. One does detonate while standing in the cockpit (it’s to look cool, okay? Pfft, obvs!) and he survives with barely a scratch. Pity. It’s as if these characters are desperate to exit stage left as soon as possible. Then again, which such awful dialogue, which actor wouldn’t want to exit? A gem comes from Wufei when he says (paraphrase), “If you are right [in this argument], then you will beat me in a fight.” Yes, Wufei, because the more intelligent people always hit the hardest. Again, I must stress that all this is delivered and accepted without a hint of irony. The writers truly thought the audience would find this cool.

Then there is this irritating Gundam trope where every character and their mums have to have a say in the scene. Two pilots fighting, let’s cut away to some irrelevant git giving his opinion. Imagine trying to get through a dialogue with someone, only to have a dozen other people inject “cool” one-liners about how awesome the person you are talking to is. Shut. Up. I feel this stems from an inability for two characters to carry the dialogue due to writer incompetence.

There is so much more wrong with Gundam Wing, but it would take pages to cover, so I will touch on a final flaw: the plan. These pilots come down to Earth and they don’t know each other’s identities. Really. The writers probably thought it would be “cool” to have the Backstreet Boys fight each other before they realise they’re on the same team. Yes, because basic sense and logic mean nothing beside fan service rubbish. If these guys were the only hope for my country, I’d say we are screwed.

Gundam Wing’s core idea – rebels versus tyrants with lots of politics – isn’t a bad one, but the execution certainly is. I can’t believe how much I wanted to see Gundam Wing after those ads on Toonami back in the day. With Gundam Wing’s fame, it is no surprise that many avoid the Gundam franchise after watching this.

Art – Medium

Gundam Wing has a decent aesthetic but the production quality is sub-par, particularly when you compare to the likes of Bebop and Trigun that extracted more with the same resources. There are a lot of still pans across groups in conversation with no animation.

Sound – Low

The OP song is a nostalgia trip and I still enjoy it today (helps if you don’t know what the Engrish is trying to say). The voice work is good, but the script is utter arse.

Story – Very Low

An action and political space opera that doesn’t know the first thing of politics and tries too hard to make characters cool during action. Could have done with one decent character.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Avoid this. If you watch Gundam Wing, it will likely put you off the franchise as a whole. Watch Gundam SEED instead, or Gundam 00 if you want a similar plot.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None.

Negative:

Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueDissapointingInduces StupidityMary SueNo DevelopmentRubbish Major CharactersUseless Side Cast