Let’s talk about Gundam

I can be a prejudiced bastard sometimes. Of course this blog post would be ill-served by me just stating the blatantly obvious so let’s pull back and look at how I came to this conclusion.

My first introduction to the Gundam series (and, apart from watching episodes of Pokémon and Digimon when I was a kid, anime in general) was Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. For some crazy reason (and I still commend 2BE for doing this) every day for about a year, I would come home to Gundam Wing and Dragonball Z airing back to back. In many ways it was the perfect welcome my TV could give me after a boring day. While others might have prefered DBZ, I was mesmerized by Gundam Wing. Here you had an excellent piece of military science fiction, with a great voice-cast (yes I normally watch dubs, not subs, get over it purists), amazing animation, mature subject matter and giant mecha. For me Gundam Wing opened the door to the crazy but wonderful world of anime.

I went from GDW and watched a whole slew of mecha anime. Stuff like Linebarrels of Iron (one of the few cases where breasts were a negative factor), Code Geass: Lelouch Of The Rebellion (my all time favorite anime) and The Vision of Escaflowne (which I did watch in Japanese). I also expanded out to other types of anime, shamelessly giggling during every episode of Lucky Star (timotei!), loving every episode of Darker Than Black and Rurouni Kenshin and even taking a gander at the tittilating Ikki Tousen.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Gundam series wasn’t limited to just Gundam Wing but comprised a whole metaseries of different shows, games and manga. I was understandably eager to check all of these out. I watched a few episodes of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, didn’t like it and then sought out the original Mobile Suit Gundam. I was surprised to find it held up amazingly well, with solid animation and a great English voice cast. There were a few idiosyncracies typical of Japanese culture that kind of annoyed me (not to mention the slapping!), but on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. I branched out to the many sidestories of the Universal Century, shows like Stardust Memory and The 8th MS Team (both were amazing, while War in the Pocket… not so much). It was during this trek through the land of Gundam past, that I first become aware of Gundam SEED. That’s where the prejudice kicked in.

For some reason, having watched a few trailers, this idea of me not liking Gundam SEED formed in my head.  I convinced myself that this was a bastardization of the franchise, a kiddy version ment to pander to a wider audience. It’s not a fun thing looking back on that period of time where I loudly proclaimed Gundam SEED was an inferior product.

The moment I realized I was prejudiced was the moment I realized that the Gundam series wasn’t perfect, like I always thought it was. Sure the shows I’d watched were good (apart from Mobile Fighter G Gundam) but I hadn’t watched Turn A Gundam or Gundam X so I had an incomplete view of the series. It really hit me when I watched Mobile Zuit Zeta Gundam (the succesor to the original Mobile Suit Gundam). That show unlike it’s predecessor, has not stood the test of time. For some reason every element of it just rubs me the wrong way. The animation, the horrible dubbing (with a different cast from the original), the inane plot twists, the endless amount of “I just saved you in the nick of time” moments, the way new Mobile Suits were introduced willy nilly and especially the fantasy (read Newtype) elements that were creeping into the show episode by episode. So Gundam wasn’t perfect and my views were flawed. This having been established, I once again cast my (prejudice-free) gaze at Gundam SEED.

You know what? I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad because Gundam SEED is a damn good show. It may never dethrone Gundam Wing as my favorite Gundam show (partly because of sentimentality I guess), but it gets very close.

I’m currently five episodes in which means it has easily passed my “Three Episode Test” (basically a rule that says that any show that fails to grasp my interest within the span of three episodes gets mercilessly cast off) and I love it. The animation is superb which is no surprise when you factor in that this is the first Gundam series to make use of digital coloring. The characters are very believable and are portrayed by a phenomenal voice-cast. I especially enjoy Lisa Ann Beley (Relena Peacecraft in Gundam Wing) as Murrue Ramius and Mark Oliver (which I’ve loved ever since he did the voice of Isador Akios in Dawn Of War) as Rau Le Creuset. It treats its subject matter in a very mature way and isn’t afraid to make an occasional injoke at the expense of the Gundam Metaseries. It’s also probably the best way today for any newbie to be introduced to the world of Gundam

Now coming into a show late means you know exactly how much goodness is awaiting you. I’ve watched 5 episodes which means I still have 46 to go as well as 50 episodes of the spin-off Gundam SEED Destiny and a possible feature film. I personally can’t wait.