Jan 22

So you want to get into Gundam – A small introduction to Japan’s biggest big robots Part 1

Hey so I’m writing up a thing for the blog about gundam because I’m terrible boring and “on brand”.Untitled-3
Mobile Suit Gundam is pretty much THE long running series of Sci-fi Mech Anime. it’s pretty much THE DADDY when it comes to japan’s love affair with giant robots and the very idea of anime fandom can be traced back to it, with the release of the mobile suit gundam movie being attributed as the beginning of the Otaku movement in japan.it’s kind of a big deal over there. hell, they even made a life-size version of the gundam. beacuse they like gundam in japan.
but with that said it has only ever really retained a cult audience over here in the west, largely resting on the nostalgia days of Gundam Wing on cartoon network some 20 years ago. G as a franchise is sort of hardcore niche when it comes to anime fandom with many people knowing the name just out of reputation without much actual experience or first hand knowledge in the field. as one of the weirdos who’s really into it i feel it’s within my scope to try to recommend the show to people who might be hesitant and to try to offer some direction as, with close to 40 years of constant media, it’s a bit hard to really tell where to start.
So with that I’ve put together a short list of good starting points of what might be good ways into Gundam.

The first thing to note is that there are 2 types of gundam shows. the distinctions largely come from the continuity the shows sit in.
the main series happening within a timeline called The Universal Century (UC) you have a number of shows all set within a shared universe, feeding off each other’s events and stories and ultimately building out a world and timeline that bridges about 60 years and tells multiple stories all built among similar themes. if you’re familiar with comic books this is similar to marvel’s 616 universe or DC’s earth 1. it’s the main place where stories happen.
the other type of show is basically anything NOT set in UC. these are shows often with self-contained continuities that usually run for a season or 2 and then end. they usually deal in their own themes and ideas, tell their story and then aren’t really touched upon again outside of more niche spin-off material like the odd sequel manga (which may never be translated, shout outs to frozen teardrop*). this means that a Non-UC show can be easily digested without fear of continuity or foreknowledge, but when you’re done you’re back where you started when it comes to picking a new show. they also aren’t all guaranteed to be good, so don’t just expect them all to be worthwhile.
with all that said let’s get on with this a bit:

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

00 is my first pick when it comes to initial gundam shows because it is likely one of the easiest shows in the franchise to get into from the perspective of a modern anime viewer, but doesn’t stray far enough from the overall gundam idea as to give a false impression of the franchise (that will come later).
gundam 00 is unique amongst gundam shows as it is set within a timeline somewhat resembling our own. set in the Anno Domini era in which we ourselves live, though some 2-300 years later, it tells the story of an international group of pilots called Celestial Being who seek to use the advanced Gundam Mobile suits to eliminate war through armed interventions.
the conflict in 00 plays out in a Multi Angle struggle between a few country-like factions, each vying to gain the upper hand over each other in the far off world of space elevators and asteroid mining. all the while the maverick celestial being breathing down everybody’s necks just waiting to say “hey you guys doing a war over there? yeah stop that or we gonna fuck some shit”. it’s one of the more complex and interesting conflicts within gundam but it’s real world basis makes it easier to grasp than some of the headier space-politics unique to other shows. you all know that Russians and Americans don’t like each-other so it only makes sense that they’re fighting here too.
00 is also one of the more thematically diverse Gundam shows, tackling topics of terrorism, child solders, the morality of genetic augmentation for combat purposes and what happens when nutcases have giant robots and don’t like weddings.

with a wide cast of characters, each fleshed out over the course of the 2 seasons (and a movie, but that’s mostly just fight-porn) you can do a lot worse for your first gundam show than 00. its from 2007 and had a pretty decent budget so it’s not aged terribly in its visuals and it has some of the best mobile suit designs of the past 15 years. It’s a solid show with an interesting hook and a plot that keeps moving and regularly twists enough to keep your attention. while it may not be the best gundam show, it’s certainly one of the most accessible to those unfamiliar with the franchise and will help prepare you for anything else you might encounter in other shows (except G gundam).

Its biggest flaw is that it’s rather dry and humorless, especially in it’s earlier episodes, so those going in for a fun-time goof-fest will probably be quiet bored. but as a representation of the franchise as a whole. it’s dense like a fruit cake too so it doesn’t lend itself to marathon viewing, nor long breaks between episodes, so keep that in mind. Season 2 also has a significant drop in quality within the fights due to a sort of super saiyan mode which robs some of its tension. and the movie is just sort of weird (though it’s pretty and has good fights).
Final Thoughts:
00 gundam is a good litmus test for if you’re willing to get into gundam. it provides most of what you’ll get in other shows in a relatively easy to digest way, but by the very nature of the high concept sci-fi the franchise deals in, it’s up to you how much that’ll grab you. it’s got appealing character designs (with glorious sexy hair), good robots and decent animation that hasn’t aged too poorly for its vintage so those used to modern animation shouldn’t have an issue with it visually. if you’re on-board for political struggles, complex morality, a middle eastern protagonist who wants to be a robot and some weird high concept sci-fi, you should be good. oh and both the sub and the dub are good so you can’t go wrong with how you choose to watch it.


*frozen teardrop is a novel series sequel to gundam wing that has a semi-infamous reputation for being more than a little fanwanky and panders largely to the show’s shoujo/Fujoshi demographic. also it looks like wank and is a sequel to wing and wing is garbage and can fuck off. Fuck Wing.