The land of Neotopia is attacked by the Dark Axis, evil invaders from another dimension who wish to conquer this land. Neotopia's answer: the secret Super Dimensional Guard and their defenders, the Gundam Force. Led by Captain Gundam, the Gundam Force and its team of Gundams with special abilities are aided by a boy named Shute as they stop at nothing to defend the land from the Dark Axis and to defeat them once and for all.
Time to review another "blast from the past" or in this case a bomb from the past. I had forgotten all about this series, but I recently saw a clip and the sheer horror my mind had so carefully repressed all came back to me at once! This is SD Gundam!
When someone asks you the question, "What is your favorite Gundam series?" There is a "correct" answer if you want to be viewed as a sophisticated anime critic online and there is your actual opinion, which may not be the same. The correct answer is 8th Mobile Suit Team, because it is SO much more
realistic (allegedly). If you want to invite a world of scorn and snarky comments to rain down upon you, join a forum of self-acclaimed elitists on MAL or /a/ and state that you enjoyed Gundam Wing. Now if you REALLY want to piss them off, state you thought G-Gundam was the best Gundam series. However, you won't get a big reaction if you bring up the unholy SD Gundam, because according to all Gundam fans, this series NEVER happened! It is so bad that it is basically unspeakable online. I believe SD Gundam still holds the record on what was the big anime rating site before MAL, (animenewsnetwork) as the worst anime of all time!
All Gundam series are slightly different, but almost all have overarching themes that make them Gundam series. They are about young men forced to experience the horrors of war. They are about humans piloting giant mech suits in a war between the space colonies and Earth. There are lots of complicated political sub-plots with Game of Thrones style betrayals and sneaky dealings. SD Gundam has NONE of that. It is the goofy tale of chibi kawaii robots who either align with good or evil with no complexity whatsoever. The series is for children under 10, but my brother watched Gundam Wing uncut when he was 8 and was able to follow the plot just fine. This is one of those shows that talks down to children and treats them like IDIOTS rather than try challenge them. SD Gundam is like the crackbaby of Mobile Suit Gundam and Barney the Dinosaur. It isn't just bad, it is insultingly bad! The CGI in this series easily takes the cake as the worst use of CGI in anime history! It is pure, unadulterated, eye rape throughout the entire show. The soundtrack is also garbage, which is surprising since Gundam series pretty much always have awesome soundtracks. Even G-Gundam has a kickass soundtrack for God's sake! SD Gundam is the single worst anime that Studio Sunrise has ever shat out! Yes, it is even worse than Valverave the Liberator! If you were unfortunate enough to have seen this on Toonami back in the early 2000s, you are my comrade in suffering! Let us remember the bullshit that was SD Gundam, so hopefully fans can convince Sunrise to never make something quite so heinous ever again!
To all the critics writing this was arguably the worst anime ever, 1 thing to consider: this got a full length movie and a second season. Total flops don't do that. ;) In fact, most anime never make it past 14 episodes and this has 52, making it one of the longest episodic gundam series to date!
When this show aired in 2004 on Toonami, I was not the target audience, I was just going into high school. My experience in the Gundam franchise of anime was Wing and G Gundam and my indulging in mass media anime was only newly blossoming with the dawn of
Naruto to the west. I saw the ads, laughed with my friends over how terrible this kid-version series looked in the ads, and then, in my stupid 14 year old wisdom, I decided to watch it to pick it apart mercilessly.
Then I fell in love.
Yes, that's right, this is actually a classic in my mind for 2004. And that may sound completely absurd to say this is my favorite Gundam franchise still to date, and you can judge me as you will. But I came in with low expectations and I felt I ended on much higher enjoyment watching week per week.
Will the effect be the same watching it now? As a rerun and having memories fondly attached to the entire series, I say yes and I HAVE been rewatching it. As a new consumer approaching 15 years past the original airdate? I can't promise the same. There are better stories now, with better CGI, and nostalgia seems to be a staple only for older media. So I'll be talking about how it felt at the time with my scores.
Story - 8
If you come in expecting a Gundam storyline, you're going to be disappointed. So don't.
However, there is a beauty in the contrary--- this is a stripped down Gundam. There is hardly any fantasy-tech talk. There isn't dread or a sense of political turmoil or getting bogged down in details and the mental stability of key individuals.
This is 'good clean fun'. There's a team of bad guys, doing bad things, and a team of good guys fighting the bad guys. The mysteries presented are not deep or emotionally damaging, they grip with intrigue and curiosity that is usually light hearted and perfect for the genre. And THEN they twist things unexpectedly just when you begin to feel a bit ho-hum, next thing you know the suspense is real. Slowly the entire tone of the series gets darker, especially beginning in season 2, but I find beauty in that they don't start with a crap setting and end in a crap setting with some glimmer of hope like Gundam series tend to. This starts in a high note, goes down to a pretty big climatic situation, and then returns us to an even higher note than we began. That is solid story telling. There's also no grating sense of "plot armor" either, real consequences can happen to the heroes in time.
(Just that alone makes this better storytelling than SAO which spends huge blocks of time explaining exposition in a cafe scene. Even SDGF's recap episodes still actively moved the plot forward.)
Art - 9
For the time it was, this CGI was very good. This was one of the best CGI pieces I had seen in 2004 timeline. I feel the human models were not as appeal stylistically but the Gundams (being the 'main stars' of the show truly) were great. The battle directing was elevated in Season 2 as well which is a huge highlight because by the end of Season 1 I began to feel most of the fight scenes lacked presence (exceptions being the first Ashuramaru fight where the setting felt real-time).
The character designs are not as paired down as we might imagine for a kid-audience Gundam series or for SD Gundam, which the original japanese shorts were VERY toned down in art style to be entirely comical. The setting is a futuristic tech-paradise and the tech, while not very modern looking by today's standards, reads the tone presented to the audience. Neotopia tech is lighter colors, friendly shapes and eye LED panels, they're helpful and they're friend-shaped. The bad robots from the Dark Axis are dark colored, they're inhuman looking and they sound either intimidating in their own unique way per each character, or comically inept and nearly harmless like the Zakos. I would have loved to see more detail into their worlds and especially more into the backgrounds as some were reused a bit too much (Season 2 again helped this aspect tremendously as we gained all 3 alternate settings in the last 26 episodes while were mostly stuck in the one setting for Season 1. It did make sense for the story, though.)
Sound - 10
The music and the sound effects in this were excellent and immediately recognizable. I had very few complaints on the voice acting too- if they felt overdramatic or overdone, that fit right in line with the storyboard of the theme. This was quality production in both the Japanese and the English voice over.
Character - 10
Honestly, this was my first hook. When I began this series coming from a critical eye, I expected this to be a royal joke but the characters-- while cliche in many ways-- felt unique; their goals were evident and important to the viewer, they had flaws which were humorous and sometimes worrisome, they didn't fit together like the most perfect pieces and cultural clashes happened-- this media, for as 'bare bones' as the expectation was set up on the premise of story, still took the time to make real investments in the main characters.
I would have only loved to see more of that investment placed in more of the minor characters, but I can't say they were ignored either. Some people read the bonding episodes as filler, but I felt they were the #1 reason I kept watching, and not because I thought this was a goofy and "sad" gundam series like I first interpreted, but because I became emotionally invested in these character's struggles. I wanted to see Baku return home. I wanted to see Lacroa returned to glory and the triplets de-petrified.
Enjoyment - 10
What could define enjoyment more than transforming from a pessimistic initial approach to sitting here buying merchandise and feeling at peace with a ""simple story""? I think most people in their lives would be blessed to have that experience. If you have it for SD Gundam Force like I did, then I'm extremely happy for you! And if you didn't, I still hope you find it someday.
Remember that diamonds hide under dirt sometimes. All you can know for sure is if you try.
My quest to complete all of the Gundam series took a great stride forward with the completion of this series, which wasn't as bad as I had feared it would be.
This series is set in an alternate gundam universe and begins in Neotopia, a futuristic utopia where robots and humans live in peace and harmony as friends. There are several noteable departures from the standard gundam series the main one being this series was serialized in Cartoon Network and aimed at the younger set (5-8 years old in my opinion), so tons of stuff is dumbed down and the series as a whole comes across
This was the beginning / test phase vehicle for the CGI techniques employed in later gundam series. In this series the gundams are not just mecha, they are sentient! This is both good and bad. I like the idea of sentient gundams but all the characters pretty much come across as one dimensional stereotypes - gundams are no exception.
The 4 main characters are:-
* Captain Gundam is the leader type.
* Zero is the heroic knight, which means he's dumb but noble.
* Bakunetsumaru the hotheaded samurai, honor trumps all
* Shute the good natured overly unrealistic optimist
There is a large supporting cast of other characters.
* Genkimaru the brat gundam with a great special ability
* Princess Rele the pretty but shallow leader of Arc
* Token female "love interest" who makes delicious cake
* Gunbike, Gundivers, Guneagle, Chief Haro, all the bad guys and Zakos.
Everything is very cutesy but surprisingly I wasn't as annoyed as I thought I would be. I guess Kawaii is my Kryptonite. I liked the cute sentient gundams but I wanted to kill Shute and the other little gundam because their characters WERE annoying. That being said when Zero and Bakunetsumaru got their special "upgrades" I still found myself cheering for them.
The soundtrack was ok, nothing special. The ED of the final 26 was a very catchy japanese rap type tune with dancing Zakos. It was so cute it ended up playing in my head for days after ....
While derivative and extremely predictable, I was surprised to find some dark underground humor and parody in this series, that was the only thing that put the story above a 5 for me. For example, the samurai Gundam Bakunetsumaru, when he's about to do his special attack (2 swords) he circles his katanas together forming Twin Circles of light. I was rather shocked because those look like the twin circles of light from the twin drive effect in Gundam 00 Season 2.
Notable parodies (some adult humor) include ripoffs from:-
* Apocalypse Now - "I love the smell of concrete in the morning"
* Star Trek - "I'm a robot doctor, not a miracle worker!" (Bones McCoy)
* And my favorite, I could hardly contain myself from snickering - "Can I touch it?" ... "Ooh, it feels warm" - ok ok, so I have a dirty mind.
Kind of funny, the last really good thing I saw in the series was a parody of Winston Churchill's WW2 "We Shall Fight On the Beaches" speech by Chief Haro, the one that goes "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall NEVER Surrender!" Now that was impressive how they worked that in.
So, in summation, it was ok, nothing spectacular, very dumbed down with cute but one dimensional characters. I found myself looking forward to seeing what other pop culture/historical parody references they would put in more than anything else, but it did get really exciting in the last 8 episodes. However, by then it's too late to save this series from getting any more than a 5 from me.
I have never written a review before, but Superior Defender Gundam Force has inspired me to do so. You see, I generally like anime. I find it difficult to hate or even dislike an anime, because I know that there is a fandom for it out there and that a few sad, lonely, animators worked hard to make it.
But I can't say that about SD Gundam Force. If Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam showed us how awesome U.C. can be, Gundam Force shows us the depths of human depravity. I stumbled upon this blight on the anime world when a local video store was having a
sale and my friend bought episodes 10-12 for a dollar. As it turns out, a dollar was asking too much.
When someone tells you the good thing about this story is that you've seen it a million times before, you know you're in trouble. The story is set in the futuristic city of Neotopia, where everything is peaceful until an evil force called the Dark Axis arrives from another dimension. Shute makes friends with the sentient, mini-sized gundams and they fight bad guys. It's stereotypical, contrived, and one of the few parts of this anime I can stomach.
Can you call an anime made of CGI an anime? I'm sure you can, but with Gundam Force, I'd rather not. This CGI may have been almost viewable when it came out, but it has aged far worse than the original 1979 Gundam ever did. Some may claim that it's from an era where CGI was new, but it's not. It's from 2004. Let's put that in comparison with another completely CGI series- Jimmy Neutron. Jimmy has been around since 2001 (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, a movie I hadn't seen in nearly three days), and his animation is still watchable. There is no excuse for Shute's mother, Keiko's, breasts, which also seem to function as double missile launchers. No excuse.
As far as the soundtrack goes, it's completely unmemorable, except for one very strange battle song. It boils down to country fiddle music, and combined with the robots attempting to kill each other, it's very jolting.
The voice actors are as ashamed of being in this as I am for watching it, and most of them go under pseudonyms. Yello Lollicup (I am dead serious), AKA Yuri Lowenthal, plays at least two characters in the dub, and they frequently fight each other. They brought together a great cast for an absolutely terrible anime, and they know it. Shute's (Deborah Sale Butler) base excitement comes from knowing she's getting a paycheck out of it. Dave Wittenburg's in there somewhere, but for the first time in his life, he actually succeeded in disguising his voice. As for the sub, they brought back seiyu who've played recurring characters from other Gundam shows, which is the best thing about this entire anime.
Our characters range from Shute, our main character, to a variety of robots, good and bad, to-
I'm kidding. That's it.
Any other humans are minor or temporary. The characters are one-dimensional, and I honestly don't know why Shute needs to be there. There's a character named Sayla, and the homage did more to piss me off than feed any nostalgia.The robots include a knight who uses magic, which makes me bash my continuity-loving brain into a wall. I hate them all, but I hate them equally.
There is one character who deserves a special mention- Chief Haro. Let me explain- Haro is a green, round, robot about the size of a small child. You can fit it in your arms, but it's a pain in the ass. It was built by Amuro Ray, and rolled around White Base being mildly annoying.
Now take that and dress it up in a military uniform. It speaks and moves and waves its little ears just like the original did, except now instead of endearing it's terrifying. One glance at this abomination stopped my in my tracks. I can't sleep at night knowing that monster has been created. Upon seeing it I screamed and paused the video so I could take a picture of it and share it with all my equally appalled compadres.
I know that's a high score, considering my obvious hatred. But if you pretend this anime is a gag anime it becomes incredibly hilarious. Yuri Lowenthal's lack of voice differentiation when fighting himself is ludicrous. It helps to down a couple shots of whiskey before you sit down to "enjoy" this piece of crap executives like to call entertainment, but to each their own.
When taking this anime seriously, its sucks. There is no excusing this. It actually manages to be less than the sum of its parts. It is, without a doubt, the worst anime I have ever seen.