It is year 0079 of the Universal Century. Mankind has moved to space, living in colony clusters known as "Sides." One of these Sides declares itself the "Principality of Zeon" and declares war on the Earth Federation, the governmental body currently ruling Earth. Using powerful humanoid robots known as "mobile suits," Zeon quickly gains the upper hand.
Nine months into the conflict, the Earth Federation has developed its own powerful mobile suit called the Gundam. When Zeon launches an attack on the colony holding the Gundam, a 15-year-old civilian named Amuro Ray suddenly finds himself thrown into a conflict that will take him all across Earth and space, pitting him against the enemy's ace pilot, Char Aznable.
Mobile Suit Gundam was not popular when it first aired, and came close to being cancelled. The series was originally set to run for 52 episodes but was cut down to 39 by the show's sponsors, but the staff was able to negotiate an extension to end the series with 43 episodes. When Bandai bought the copyrights to build plastic models for the show's mecha things changed and the show became popular.
It revolutionized the genre by portraying mecha as piloted military weaponry with real-world scientific basis instead of superheroes' giant robots. Often referred to as the 'real robot' genre, it became the norm for mecha anime in the following years after its release.
The series was the first winner of the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize, in 1979 and the first half of 1980.
Mobile Suit Gundam, a title every anime fan has surely heard. Some of us love and praise the franchise spawned by this original series, and for some of us it just didn't quite do the job. Regardless, there is no denying it is a revolutionary title that has advanced anime as a whole. It's truly a classic series that has left its impact, or rather, is still making an impact on anime. As you can see by my high rating of 9, I'm one of the fans that adored this series. So now let's see why this is an outstanding series.
The central plot of Mobile
Suit Gundam is fairly simple, laying out a brutal war between two sides: the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. Amuro Ray, our main character, gets involved in the conflict by boarding the Federation's great weapon, Gundam (I'm not gonna explain details because then it defeats the purpose of watching for yourself.) Long story short, he becomes the Gundam's pilot and a valuable member of the Federation crew that works aboard White Base (a war spaceship.) Now what makes this great is the fact that everybody aboard White Base, from the Commander of it to Amuro, is a total novice with little to no experience. Over the course of the series we get to see their development together as well as individuals. The tale is filled with elements of stuff like death, killing, family, friendships, etc., all building up to a spectacular finale. Our story of course focuses primarily on the White Base gang and their adventure, but it does a good job at also centering in on the opposing side at the right times and giving insight to their side of the battle. Also, just to add, the pacing is exceptionally good.
The series is from 1979, so do not expect top-notch animation by today's standards. I'm sure it was five star art in its time, but I simply rated it a 6 by today's standards. Don't let that turn you off though. The sound is obviously old as well, so the sound effects have that old recording sound that really doesn't stand up to today's sound quality, so again the 8 is by today's standards. But again, give it a chance because it's actually pretty cool. As for the opening and ending themes, they're just kinda fun songs that, as you'll see, are for the purpose of Mobile Suit Gundam alone. The background music actually consists of some pretty interesting and catchy tunes that couldn't fit the show better. They're different than a lot of the stuff you hear in today's anime.
Now for Characters. As I've said, they're all amateurs. A lot of the characters aboard White Base go through tragedies that bring out great development. Some of them have hidden secrets and relations, some of them fall in battle, some of them leave White Base, and many other things. There's plenty for you to discover about our crew as you go through the series.
Enjoyment is definitely at its best. The father of mecha, Mobile Suit Gundam, sure doesn't lack in its action. We have a nice variety of different Mobile Suits on both warring sides to switch things up, and the Gundam itself is very entertaining to watch because it has a large array of weaponry. Also, a battle takes place in just about every place you could think of: space, land, sky, underwater, underground, and even inside White Base itself. The enjoyment factor does not disappoint, and always entertains your eyes with superb military brawls between mechas, and even hand-to-hand combat.
Obviously there's some contrasting opinions on this series and its status concerning its rating. However, I truly feel it is worth a shot from any anime fan, just because it is a classic title that has had such influence on anime and the mecha genre especially.
This highly original and innovating anime offers so much in terms of being the original “realistic mech anime series.” It talks about the potential realities of war on both a battlefront and political scale. It’s a wonderful coming of age story for many of the characters that each develops for not only the good guys, but the bad guys as well. I’m not sure if relate to them is a right word, but you can sure bet sympathize and understand them is something you can certainly do. And it’s a story of trust and betrayal on both fronts as well. All I can say is,
it’s the perfect story about everything you can possibly get on human nature in an anime. I feel that even if mankind can advance this far, sadly, there can never be any absolute peace, and the realities war can have on a person on all scales.
OK, granted this was animated nearly 30 years ago, so the colors, resolution, and movement are most certainly not as up to some people’s standards. But I feel for its time, I do have to give it some of the credit it does deserve. I feel in terms of design in both character and mechanical, it is excellent and innovative and can transcend into our current generation’s style of animation and makes it timeless, which has been proven in some of the animated cutscenes of the PS1 and PS2 games such as Federation vs Zeon or Journey to Jaburo and thus keeps it up to date. And the battles themselves are pretty intense and plays careful strategy into it. Afterall, in war, you always got to think two steps ahead of the game. Such as when Char and Amuro first fight, Amuro easily loses energy on the beam rifle because he relied on it too much. So such tactics in terms of both offense and defense in this anime are effectively applied.
For the voice acting, this is the anime that helped define the careers of Furuya Tohru, who plays Amuro, and would later play Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon, Seiya in Saint Seiya, and Yamucha in Dragon Ball. This also helped the career of the late Suzuoki Hirotaka, the voice of Captain Bright who is also famous as Kuno from Ranma, Kaifun in Macross, and Shiryu in Saint Seiya. And one more mention I want to make is Furukawa Yoshio as Kai which is quite a surprise because he plays bad ass characters like Shin from Fist of the North star and Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. And the cast list goes on. In addition to a great Japanese cast, the English dub of the TV series (don’t remember the movie dub too much) is also incredible. As much as I can’t stand Richard Cox as Inuyasha and Ranma, I thought he was dead perfect as Kai. I thought his voice matched the character well and I think his performance equals to that of Furukawa’s. I also enjoyed Brad Swale as Amuro. He portrays a character that is young, intelligent, and growing. But the problem I had with the dub was Char. I don’t remember who played him, but I felt he was not as charismatic as Ikeda Shuuichi. But overall, you’ll get an incredible experience watching it in either language though it is a pity that the TV series DVD set is only in English and the trilogy DVD set is exclusively in Japanese. But the DVD trilogy does have a new set of voice actors such as Dozle’s and Ma Kube’s voices were changed. Ma Kube’s original voice actor passed away while Dozle’s voice actor, Gouri Daisuke was busy with other stuff, I guess.
The music is also cheesy, but also catchy. If you think of the Ashita no Joe themes as true old school Japanese music, expect the same, but still represents a transition period to where Japanese popular music is now with beats but in a retro sense. The TV series music is of course a bit more campy, but sings about how the Gundam will rise and defeat their enemy and the ending theme is about Amuro being a man. But the trilogy soundtrack is much more mature and also maintains themes in relation to the series.
I understand that Gundam isn’t really a series that’s for everybody. Afterall, I grew up on Transformers and Voltron, and the concept of robots as a potential military weapon does have a lot of appeal to me. But when I got a first hand view of the series, I was later captured by the characters and intrigued by the story and that this just wasn’t some shallow action anime. Tomino truly made a revolution of this series that initially failed in the ratings, but would now become one of Japan’s biggest anime franchises. Despite the success Gundam continues to have, it is a pity it never caught on in the long run outside of Japan, but I still manage to always find myself back to sometimes watching either the TV series and/or movie.
Mobile Suit Gundam, the father of mecha anime, is without a doubt a revolutionary title. This is one of the titles that brought about more mature themes and stories to be animated. However, just because it was revolutionary doesn't mean the quality is up to par after 25 years. In addition, this review will compare MSG to the narrative standards of today and ignore the art and sound.
The first few episodes of MSG were interesting, setting up what would seem to be an epic tale. Also, we are able to see the origins of many
mecha themes and ideas. My only real complaint with the first few episodes was the way Amuro (zero experience) was able to go toe-to-toe with Char, a legendary pilot. A mecha convention that just has to be accepted, not a big deal I guess. After the initial episodes, one would expect the action to die down and start developing the story and the characters. However, in the next few episodes there was more fighting. A few more episodes passed and it started to feel tedious. In comparison, Gundam SEED had several episodes that were completely devoted to character development.
In between the fights far too little happens to develop the characters and the story. Yes, there is some development but that is clearly overshadowed by the shear number of battles. As for the story itself, it seems to follow a "monster of the week formula" with new mechs and mini-bosses. The transition between each mini-boss/arc was quite bad and broke the overall flow the series. While this was expected and bad enough there wasn't enough continuity between each episode. Every time an episode ends, it ends. Conflicts arise and the resolution all happens within the course of one episode (cliffhangers don't seem to exist in MSG). Essentially, there is an episodic feel most of the time and the flow was not seamless. Gundam 0079 followed this straightforward and monotonous path until the last 8 episodes. The last 8 episodes were pretty good and the story finally starts to get interesting, especially when they introduce the concept of 'Newtypes', finally! However, that does not make up for the 30 episodes you had to go through to get here.
As for the characters, let me start off with Char. Simply put, Char is the most interesting and most complex character in MSG, perhaps in the whole Gundam universe. However, this can only be said after watching MSG, Zeta Gundam, and Char’s Counterattack, nearly totaling 100 episodes. Unfortunately, I can’t really say he received too much development over the course of MSG. He’s already quite charismatic and admirable from the beginning and pretty much stayed this way through out. Amuro, well at least in MSG, is quite a brat and does what pleases him as well as whine. Not exactly the most likable of character. However, this is nowhere as near a bad as Camille in Zeta Gundam and he does change over time. While Amuro may have been a brat for the first half this was no where near as annoying as the actual children. Why where they allowed to roam as they please? Perhaps they were used as comic relief? Either way, they were quite annoying and hurt the overall character score. However, the only characters that stood out in MSG were Char and Amuro, the rest were flat and forgettable.
Although it seems that I'm being very harsh towards this title I actually enjoyed it somewhat. Perhaps its a bit unfair that I'm reviewing this title 25 years after it was first shown. I'm comparing it to some modern titles that does what Gundam 0079 does but better in every possible way and I'm not just talking about animation and music. (note: I do not imply that all new mecha anime is better. There's plenty of crap out there and far inferior to MSG) At the time Gundam 0079 can be considered innovative and new. MSG pretty much redefined the whole genre of mecha anime, from super robot era of the 70's to the real robot era of the 80's. Mecha lovers should watch this if only for historical reasons. Ok, on second though you should probably watch the movies…
Overall, Gundam 0079 focuses too much on fights and not enough on the development of the story and characters. It loosely follows a "monster of the week" formula with its mini arcs. Not only is the continuity overall bad, it also has bad continuity in-between episodes. It seems every time an episode ends, it ends. As for the characters, only Char and Amuro stood out and the rest were quite flat. Sadly they didn’t spend enough time on the characters. The depiction of war and the people involved are far beyond its time. The ‘enemies’ are not evil, but simply on different sides. If only Gundam 0079 didn't have those 30 some episodes in the middle.
The original Mobile Suit Gundam - often known as Gundam 0079 to avoid confusion with later installments - is a clearly flawed work. However, it is a highly impressive and progressive work given its age, and we owe a lot of what makes anime great today to its existence.
Of course, being highly influential doesn't excuse its flaws. The most obvious is its terrible animation, which isn't a case of it aging badly - it was made on a shoestring budget, and the animation was very bad even for its time. This is forgivable, as a great story doesn't necessarily need good animation to thrive (although
the mobile suit designs aren't as good as later Gundam titles). Its biggest problem, however, is one that it shares with every single Gundam TV series that I have seen so far: it is very badly paced. Gundam 0079 is 43 episodes long, but for all the events of substance in it, it could easily have been cut down to as little as 26 without losing anything important. As a result, there are several stretches of episodes that drag on tediously and can be a chore to get through.
In spite of these flaws, though, Gundam 0079 is still an impressive anime, one of the best installments of the Gundam franchise that I have seen so far, and has aged better than any other 70s anime I've seen.
The best thing about Gundam 0079 is how believable its conflict is. Rather than the cliché of good vs. evil, neither army can truly be argued to be either. The Earth Federation are the ones defending themselves against the invading Zeons, but with their constant injustices towards Spacenoids, they pretty much had it coming. However, the extremist actions of Zeon and the resulting immense body count can hardly be called "just", in spite of their good intentions (and the Titans of the subsequent Zeta Gundam only prove further how, despite our protagonists fighting on their side, The Earth Federation is not good).
Similarly, there is an impressive balance of respectable soldiers and complete assholes on either side - most of the Earth Federation are merely incompetent, or not in a position to help, rather than being malicious. On the flipside, most of the Zabi family are surprisingly believable antagonists, and save for Gihren every single one of them is shown to be a multi-dimensional character, even if few of them get a chance to explore that any further. That and Ramba Ral, perhaps the epitome of Gundam's frequent "friendly enemy" characters.
Our protagonists, the crew of the White Base, don't really fit into either category, as most of them are teenagers who, for reasons outside of their control, are forced to fight in a war that is beyond their control. As a result, they make a good neutral party who fight in the war on the side of the Earth Federation, but without representing the Federation's poor and/or amoral choices. Amongst them is our protagonist, Amuro Ray, whose frequent whining can be annoying - but given the circumstances, it's hard to blame him.
Of course, the standout character is the masked Char Aznable, Amuro's rival, a character so iconic that every single Gundam series since has either featured him, or had a character who is strikingly similar to one of his many iterations. As a parallel to Amuro, he isn't really on board with his army's goal either - while he is anti-Federation, Char has a number of secret objectives that he intends to carry out over the series. Figuring out just exactly who Char is and what it is he's trying to do is the most interesting part of the series' story.
The only particularly questionable part of the story itself is the introduction of Newtypes, the series' only supernatural element - essentially, minor ESP developed out of adaptation to being raised in an outer-space environment. It wasn't foreshadowed as much as it ought to have been, and feels out of place in an otherwise realistic series.
Nonetheless, it's impressive that a show from the 70s managed to feature a war without feeling the need to dumb it down for the viewers, and as such it is quite ahead of its time. It's unfortunate that some of the later installments felt the need to take the focus away from the war aspects and focus on godawful character drama instead.
Final Words: More "important" than it is "good", but it is good nonetheless.
On June 11th, DRAGON BALL FighterZ was announced as the the latest DBZ fighting game for home consoles and PC. Unlike previous entries, this is being developed by Arc System Works and is bringing the series back to 2-D while greatly enhancing its artistic flare.
Mecha anime shows are awesome but it's a shame that so few are released nowadays. Fortunately, AIC is bringing back one of their classics for older and newer fans. Is a reboot of Megazone 23 exciting enough to secure a successful crowdfunding campaign?