a.k.a. Kidou Senshi Gundam
The year is Universal Century 0079, and the solar system is at war with itself. The Duchy of Zeon and the Earth Federation have begun a struggle for dominance over the interstellar colonies. It is in this war that a young boy named Amuro Ray has his life changed forever when he finds himself in the cockpit of the Federation’s latest weapon: the RX-78-2 Gundam.
summary by Ender
Highs: Dramatic story; fleshed-out characters; action sequences
Lows: Dated animation; occasionally loses itself
Here it is, the controversial and groundbreaking anime that started it all. Tomino Yoshiyuki’s Mobile Suit Gundam is a science fiction classic that forever changed the way giant robots were seen. Now, more than twenty years old, does it still hold the weight it once did?
Mobile Suit Gundam is a science fiction tale that deals first and foremost with the ideas of humanity, war and progression. This is not a glorified Crusher Joe space opera, neither is it a Grave of the Fireflies-type drama. This is an anime that mixes both of these elements to present an exciting and dark story of people’s lives as they are forever changed by war. Everyone fights (or doesn’t) for their own reasons, and each character’s reasons are fleshed out. Even characters that are only in for no more than three episodes are given their due. Again, as with most of Tomino’s works, the choices and changes that occur with these characters are accentuated in battles. Unlike most mecha series, this is an anime whose battles fit with the story and are not tossed in needlessly. True, there are times when much of the action takes place outside the cockpit, though a lot of the story is told on the frantic, desperate and darkened battlefields. If there is one thing that can be said during the battles, they truly show that war is something which no one is spared.
Of course, some otaku may be inclined to ignore an anime as old as this. After all, this doesn’t show any signs of hiding its age. Reused cells and scan lines are frequent. But the main problem is the occasional story break. Mobile Suit Gundam occasionally throws in an episode or a certain element (the g-armor and Gundam-hammer being examples) that bumps the story around. I can’t think of a reason why a series that relies so much on story would throw in filler episodes. Neither can I understand why it would toss in things seen in typical giant robot shows when it is clearly unique from the pack. These things, thankfully, can be overlooked.
Still, despite its flaws, Mobile Suit Gundam is still an enjoyable anime with enough action, characters and depth to satisfy most anime fans who crave these things. This is the very definition of an epic. So suit up and sit back because this here’s one for the history books.
Highs: Never stops building steam; well-developed characters and relationships
Lows: Slow beginning isn’t always focused; no time for reflection at the end
Here we have it: the anime that spawned a slew of television series, movies, OVAs, manga tankoubon and merchandise, plus influenced mecha anime for more than a generation. And Mobile Suit Gundam never even completed its original 52-episode run!
This begs the question, “What’s the cause of all of this?” It’s the way that Tomino Yoshiyuki stepped into uncharted territory for the time. No longer do flawless superheroes use omnipotent mecha to duke it out with heartless villains; instead, mecha here are used as principle elements in driving a war, rounded characters and even the politics behind it all. And just the way that everything keeps building up (and no, I’m not talking about upgrading Wing Gundam to Wing Gundam Zero) allows for this epic space opera to show that you haven’t seen the best until you’ve seen the last. Yet, at the heart of Mobile Suit Gundam lies the characters, who aren’t all good or evil but are imperfect in their ways. Time and patience yield that there are many sides and deeply intricate relationships held by people on all sides of the war.
At the outset, the story moves very slowly to properly build characters from the ground up; this is understandable. What isn’t understandable is the fact that numerous self-contained episodes only serve to harm the overall flow of the story in the first half. These episodes are used to shed light on characters and situations, but they border on being filler more often than not. I would argue that these episodes should’ve been thrown away to allow for a more suitable ending, but as it was, the Sunrise staff was barely able to get 4 more episodes in as the series was supposed to be cancelled at 39. My problem isn’t with the Battle of A Baoa Qu, but rather that the very end is a bit Disneyesque; it leaves off with a sort of “… and everyone lived happily ever after… until Zeta Gundam” feel.
I feel that watching Mobile Suit Gundam made me grow quite a bit as an otaku; it’s so much easier to understand the origins of modern mecha as well as just why Tomino Yoshiyuki is so highly praised. If you look past the old school animation, prepare to be immersed in an epic series that forever altered the face of anime.
Mobile Suit Gundam can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.