Tsundere for Gundam

More a personal kind of post, this is just me coming to terms with a franchise that by all means I should be fanatical about, but am somehow not. That said, I enjoy a lot of it but find myself very critical about so many things about its many iterations and yet I watch a lot of it, on a pace that will probably cover most of the franchise within a year or two.

My favorite Mobile Suit

My favorite Mobile Suit

I mean you wouldn’t watch such a big chunk of shows if you weren’t a fan right? But I also feel that I’m watching Gundam the way I would read required authors back at university. I never read Dickens. I’m sure he’s great and all but I never went after him the same way I did Umberto Eco or Fyodor Dostoevsky. I’m watching Gundam because I feel that it is important as a mecha anime fan, the same way one can’t really earn a degree in English without studying Shakespeare (I was lucky Dickens was not required reading).

But wtf? I own zero Macross toys and end up buying this. You see I really like Gundam, and it’s just that I need to articulate my feelings about it in some form so I can shut about this borderline emo waffling about it. I want to write about Gundam in the future, so here I’m just threshing out my issues about it. As a Macross fan I don’t want to write a comparison post. I can refer you to Animanachronism, be sure to read the great comments as they fill in the blanks left by the main post body.

I first noticed Gundam as an adolescent in the early 90s. I saw the Gunpla in the specialty toy stores and was intrigued. They were mighty expensive and I couldn’t very well afford them so that was that. Some time in the very early 90s my younger brother brought home a Zaku II from War in the Pocket. It was so cool. It needed another suit to fight, but my allowance was tied up buying Dungeons & Dragons books so my brother got only other 3 Gunpla we owned: the Marasai (from Zeta), the Gelgoog-J from (Stardust Memory), and the JAGD-DOGA from Char’s Counterattack. We knew nothing about the toys and the anime they came from, much less that they all happened to be Zeonic mobile suits. They just looked awesome.

Our next experience with Gundam was with a video game: Gundam Wing Endless Duel (Nintendo Super Famicom). At this point we haven’t watched W (come to think of it, I never saw more than parts of an episode or 2), but we were so happy with the game. It was your Street-Fighter clone 2-D fighting game with beam spam galore. Epyon was overpowered, but then again so was Wing Zero. I remember thinking, “Who’s that man in the strange mask and why does he have the coolest mobile suit?” Tallgeese was my favorite by far (I named my first tennis racquet Tallgeese… what a geek).

My right hand burns with an awesome power, and it's telling me to BREAK THIS WALL OF TEXT

My right hand burns with an awesome power, and it tells me to BREAK THIS WALL OF TEXT! SHAINING FINGAAA!!!

After this, NOTHING for the next 12 years (in that span I discovered Hokuto no Ken, Dragonball Z, Ninja Scroll, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Ranma 1/2, Slam Dunk, Van Dread, Eva, Kare Kano, GTO, You’re Under Arrest, Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne, Macross Plus, and Hentai). When I met Mechafetish around 2006 he started introducing me to Gundam. I saw the first ep of Stardust Memory – got bored real quick (I watched it again this year much to my eventual satisfaction), as well as V Gundam – which I found equally boring and slow. In the meantime Animax was showing ZZ of all shows, which didn’t help convert me to the franchise at all.

About 4 years ago I was reading a lot of anime reviews, on places like THEM! and Anime Academy. The reviews for a lot of Gundam shows were quite glowing, and I started to feel I was missing out. Still, the sheer size of the franchise was intimidating. I really wanted to start, but I didn’t know where – and I missed the boat when Animax showed 0079. Sayang. But then my friend showed me Turn A Gundam – so highly regarded, with a Kanno Yoko score to boot! How can I go wrong?

After 9 episodes, I had enough. It didn’t seem any more real robot than SDF Macross. It felt every bit as super robot – with the robot doing nothing super. It was ugly with that upturned mustache and the most dramatic thing it did at that point was to save a cow. A COW!

I was not impressed at all. I wanted those 4 hours or so of my life back. But late last year he also introduced me to Gundam 00, and I said, now we’re talkin’! Lurking at anime blogs and in /m/ I’ve read a whole lot of complaints about this show. Frankly, the only thing I find bad (as in corny, in this case) was the ridiculous wheel defense the united forces in their faux-GN Drives used against the Thrones, particularly against the fangs of Throne Zwei. That sucked hard. Otherwise, I was hooked. I bought into all of it: Celestial Being, the prettyboy Meisters, the political double-dealing, all of it. This was great for a robot cartoon show. I loved it.

By the time I was watching 00, I had already seen both Gunbusters, the Ideon movies, gave up on Mai Hime and Eureka 7, fallen in love with all things Ghibli, and Tenggen Toppa Gurren Lagann. I’ve even seen “Close Encounter” Deculture edition. I found something I could really get into, a gateway Gundam series if you will. After the wtf battle with Alejandro at the end, and the glorious wtf that was Graham’s attack – I’m enjoying 00 S2 even more. I don’t even find the meisters as emo as people complain. The worst emo I ever saw was Amuro. I hate that guy. He stole the Gundam and HID IT IN A HOLE! Too emo to function.

Taleweaver, another friend who is a serious Gundam otaku since at least the ’90s got me to re-watch Stardust Memory. And this time, I was ready. Stardust Memory opened the world of the Universal Century for me. It got me interested about A Baoa Qu and the One Year War. The characters didn’t do much for me (Gundam’s characters rarely do), but I really enjoyed the mecha and the space battles. I felt like I really got part of the mystique that made the franchise special: Universal Century mobile suits and how they fared in battle. Now as much as I enjoy the suits from W and 00, they’re super robots as far as I’m concerned. They’re bigger than Mazinger Z anyway (who’s shorter than the RX-78-2).

UC has a romance that I feel is better than any of the actual anime produced. Granted, I’ve only seen the movies of 0079 and Zeta so I probably missed all of the supposes awesome moments that are supposed to “make me a man”. I prefer the side stories – I still haven’t finished 08th MS Team though I like it a lot, but the king is 0080: War in the Pocket (find an excellent post here). That was really good. I don’t care what anybody says, that story was better than anything in mecha anime. I feel Al and Bernie are my friends, and although I don’t ever want to go through watching it again, they’ll be friends with me forever. I have seen Char’s Counterattack, and to me it exemplifies what I dislike most about the franchise.

I’m so irritated that I’m concerned that I won’t make any sense. Let’s start with an easy mark: Quess Paraya. I don’t like her not because she’s a stupid whore, but how important Tomino makes her in the story. A big part of the revenge of Zeon, CHAR’S FUCKING COUNTERATTACK, is distracted by her. Her storyline (ugh) caught EVERYONE in its web: Amuro, Char, Gyunei, Hathaway… it’s sickening. Hathaway Noah is one of the worst emotards in all anime (if there’s a worse one I don’t want to know) – he endangers missions and fucks everything up for her sake. He’s NOBODY! Gyunei would’ve been an interesting character, save that the rivalry with Char that would’ve been good to watch became more about Quess Paraya… Oh good lord. Conveniently, Quess just happens to be A POWERFUL NEWTYPE that has a CUSTOM MOBILE ARMOR that conveniently, the WHOLE OF ZEON CAN’T FIND A PILOT FOR. She enters the battles as a completely random entity – totally unconcerned with any of the causes, and fights for… wait for it… CHAR’S LOVE. Oh give me a number of dunderhead Rankas to equal the stars.

dunderhead battle for the ages, but really no contest

dunderhead battle for the ages, but really no contest

Totally ruined the whole Universal Century for me, and I would normally forgive the Amuro Newtype Super-Saiyan power move to save Earth from the asteroid. This tainted my experience of Char Azanble, who is truly one of the most interesting characters in anime (I like Ver.Quattro Bajeena the best). I’m not fond of the Newtype concept, the battle tactics and technologies it begets (bits and funnels: meh). And I’m totally not sold on the rivalry between Char and Amuro. Over Lalah Sune (among other reasons I keep getting reminded), give me a break. I’ll take Lelouch v. Suzaku any day. I wanted to be a big Haman Karn fan (because it seemed the right thing to do), but what I saw of her was underwhelming, and I know ZZ exists. Paptimus Scirocco as a big bad: ugh. I wanted Gundam to be grit and metal the way 08th and War in the Pocket, and in a lot of ways Stardust Memory are. SDF Macross was ridiculous, but the whole Minmei defense was based on a cultural difference and not mystic Newtype/Fold-wave/Spiritia magic. Ahh sequels.

The awesomest Char ever

The awesomest Char ever

Quite anticlimactic. I was ready to become a total UC freak the way my friends are, but alas – I find myself finding joy in 00 and find no compelling reason to watch ZZ, Victory, and F91 though I’m still open to watch the Zeta series in full. I’ve committed to re-watch Turn A, and am currently enjoying Domon’s JOYFUL WONDROUS ANTICS IN G-GUNDAM. So right now I’m this Gundam frankenfan monster…

The possibility that now opens is that I can enjoy the franchise in my own terms. It’s really difficult if not outright impossible to enjoy a series in a vacuum, but something like that is what I want to create for myself.

Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? Find your Gateway Gundam!

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in fanboy, Gundam and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Tsundere for Gundam

  1. Kairu Ishimaru says:

    Gundam ftw O_O

  2. What Kairu said.

    I think you’ve more or less said what needs to be pointed out yourself: the majority of the UC isn’t ‘grit and metal’ like some of its sidestories are. (*cough* cf. VOTOMS, some of the time *cough*) And really there’s no great obligation on fans to like the whole franchise.

    I suspect some of the elements that irritate you in CCA may be a result of the film squeezing a lot of story into a container that’s a bit too small, but then that is my pet theory so I would say that. Quess and Hathaway are plays on familiar figures from previous series, and I think they’re considerably more interesting when you put Hathaway alongside Young-Amuro/Kamille/Judau, and Quess alongside Lalah. Hathaway’s essentially a Gundam hero who can’t have a Gundam, because the mature Amuro is much more qualified for the job. Quess is there partly as a variation on one of the UC’s running themes, the control of powerful-yet-vulnerable young women by older men (I’m not sure if the Zeta movies bring that out as much as the series does).

    Incidentally, I thought that wheel defence was one of the best moments in the first season of 00, so we obviously have quite differing tastes . . .

  3. ghostlightning says:

    @ Kairu

    Yes, Gundam is indeed win… [dere dere mode]

    @ Animanachronism

    Yes, watched 2 episode of Pailsen files because I keep reading your blog – and yes, I’m enjoying it. But your apologies for CCA are not getting through my stubborn skull, especially that I don’t like any of the characters referenced by Quess and Hathaway (though the Gundamless would-be Gundam pilot is a really good angle, points for YOU).

    As for the wheel defence… I would expect and enjoy that if it came from something like the Experts of Justice redshirts from Giant Robo, or anyone in Gurren Lagann, or even from the Vajra… but not from mobile suits fighting the Gundams. Tastes are not that different, given how much of Gundam I’m also watching out of reading your posts. It was jarring, to say the least.

    You are a good influence – so I hope, as my anime viewing backlog and viewing increase to unhealthy levels…

  4. I forgot about G Gundam, I saw that too–Domon was such a character ^^;

    I wanted to watch 08th MS! And now that you mentioned 0080…hm. This is obviously my waterloo about Gundam–never saw the beginning (and I regretted not watching Gundam in Animax before they started dubbing their series) so not very much into the history. What I do know is that at times, Gundam characters (well, not every single one) and plot are pretty much grounded. It’s relatable and oh, I don’t know, human?

    The one early critique I heard about 00 is that initially, it was dubbed as a slight rip off of Full Metal Panic, character-wise. FMP’s lead and sidekick were both Middle East child soldier and a sniper, respectively and both “pilot” mecha armslaves. But still, 00 brought out the Gundam-ness in these characters that even if FMP=WIN for me, G00 =/= FMP characters. So, yay for Gundam =3

    ( T_T Wah, this post also reminded me how I have pending Eco and Dostoevsky novels to finish T_T )

  5. I didn’t watch FMP though I thoroughly enjoyed FMP Fumoffu. I’ll lend you my copies of the Gundam shows you want no problem since we play tennis so often anyway. I’ve started re-watching Turn A Gundam and so far, so good. I can’t really say Gundam pilots are relatable because they’re so… emo (though I may be biased because I’m older and past adolescent brooding), save for Domon of course. But I do think the 00 bunch are quite interesting.

  6. Thanks!

    About the characters, I realized I meant the situations they get themselves into can be relatable but sometimes, yeah, the adolescent angst is there. They *are* kids, afterall. It’s a nice change to see at least one main character/pilot to be above 20 in G00, and now in S2, characterization (of a lot of people) is getting quite promising.

  7. The truth of the matter is that no matter how much a person might deny it, on some level every anime fan loves Gundam.

  8. The CharxAmuro rivalry is made soo much better because they were reluctant allies during Zeta Gundam . Perhaps you can say that they were a bit Tsudere for each other. Then in CCA they go right back to enemies. Despite their hate, there was always a man to man respect.vChar let Amuro go in the beginning of the movie, even though he had him on the ropes. Why? because it wasn’t fair unless Amuro had an equal mobile suit.

    In fact, Char gave Amuro the psychoframe so that their inevitable final battle would be fair. Watching it, you get a sense of a boxing match: no kidney shots, no hits below the belt line, just a one on one slugfest with no interference

    Char didn’t even destroy unpiloted Nu Gundam when he had a chance.

  9. ghostlightning says:

    @ Kaioshin

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve always felt I should be loving Gundam – that if I didn’t then something was wrong with me. That said, I’m coming to appreciate the franchise on my own terms and not through the subjective values of its longtime fans.

    @ MechaMarshmellow

    I agree with the Zeta reference. Quattro is awesome and that uneasy alliance was indeed good to watch. As for the rest of your points… I couldn’t care less. The foundation of their rivalry is flimsy, and the fact that they made such a big deal about the quasi-peseudo-love triangle involving Lalah Sune gives me headaches.

    Here are some rivalries that rivet me (even if they don’t have the breadth and scope of Amuro v Char):

    Asuka v Shinji (especially since Shinji wants no part of it)
    Isamu Dyson v Guld Bowman (Macross Plus; this led to probably the best mecha dogfight ever)
    Lelouch Lamperouge v Kururugi Suzaku (made me rage against Suzaku and in the end they both won me over)
    Kallen Kouzuki v Kururugi Suzaku (GAR mode of the above rivalry, and tragic ending from the perspective of their relationship with each other moves me)
    Yagami Light v L
    Sakuragi Hanamichi v Kaede Rukawa (immature and moronic, but very endearing)
    Atobe Keigo v Tezuka Kunimitsu (they should just yaoi it, dammit)

    Other rivalries that didn’t interest me as much as it could:

    Uraki Kou v Anavel Gato (Stardust Memory)
    Uraki Kou v Bernard Monsha
    Schneizel v Lelouch
    Saotome Alto v Brera Sterne
    Setsuna F. Seiei v Ali Al-Sarchez

  10. I suspect that some of CCA‘s force comes from the fact that Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta has spent 93 episodes watching that rivalry. After a time commitment like that, I’d suggest that even a rivalry with mediocre execution (and I’m not convinced that it’s really mediocre) takes on a certain something. I should probably add that I’m not blaming you for not watching the television versions, or indeed saying that they’re necessarily better than their movie adaptions; I’m just searching for a reason why fans might find that rivalry rivetting.

    The conflict of ideas in CCA has an interesting relationship with TTGL: in terms of his ambitions Char is almost exactly opposed to the plans of the Anti-Spirals, but their positions as amoral villains who retain their integrity are very similar.

  11. ghostlightning says:

    I didn’t see the parallels between CCA and TTGL and perhaps it does merit a re-reading from me. I’m not a fan of the whole Newtype concept so that’s the bias that gets in the way. What I failed to mention here is that I’ve seen MS IGLOO, and while the whole of it doesn’t move me, the first and final episodes were quite enjoyable!

    Gundam is really capable of grit like this, and it seems that MS IGLOO 2 has started in the right direction. I want more of it in their mainstream series please.

  12. @ghostlighting

    The Sayla Mass factor!!!!! at one point she was a part of the rivalry as well. AmuroxSayla–I seriously wanted this couple and considered it a possibility till i saw Zeta. But just going from MSG it did add a bit more to the depth of their rivalry.

    I agree with you on the point of Lalah (annoying)–Char wants a new mom WTF?! i guess its understandable given his childhood but its still kinda weird to me.

  13. ghostlightning says:

    Sayla Mass… what a waste. I really liked her, and despite not being the ideal pilot for Gundam, I rather enjoyed the bit when she took over – and I would normally be turned off by scenes like this. I guess I really am annoyed with young Amuro.

    Did anything happen for Sayla after Zeta Gundam? Was that just a tease? I just realized that she wasn’t there in CCA. Was she? WTF?

  14. @ghostlightning

    It’s just as you say. They just wrote one of the most interesting characters out of the franchise. Not even an appearance in CCA. I guess she doesn’t want anything to do with her precious Onii-chan anymore.

    It’s not like she didn’t notice her brother throwing GIANT ASTROIDS at the planet, she knew all about it–the whole world did. How about dialing Oni-chan’s cellphone and telling him to knock it off?!

    Maybe she is dead.

  15. ghostlightning says:

    @ Mechafetish

    Didn’t you say that Sayla was intended as Amuro’s love interest but executive meddling kept Tomino from making it happen?

    What’s your take on Sayla and all these girls in Amuro’s life? Maybe MechaMarshmellow would be interested in reading all of this production gossip…

  16. mechafetish says:

    Yes. I believe Tomino intended Sayla to be Amuro’s long term love interest in the original series. In the novels, which I have as of yet been unable to read, I understand that their love story was more of major plot element than in the show (to the point where they even have sex).

    Due to executive meddling, Tomino created a new love interest for Amuro in Zeta, that is Beltochika Irma. I believe that Tomino also wanted her relationship with Amuro to be long term. In fact, the Char’s Counterattack Novels features them as still being together and with Beltochika pregnant (or they have a kid already, I forget). Anyway, the execs didn’t like the idea of Amuro as a daddy, so Beltochika was written out and replaced by Chien.

    This is as far as I remember it. Feel free to correct me.

  17. ghostlightning says:

    @ mechafetish

    Sauce… sauce plz

  18. @Ghost and mecha

    I need to read these novels then. From what you say, it basically solidifies what what I had always felt. It seems more believable when you consider the Char vs Amuro rivalry as more of “avenging your best friend”, instead of a love triangle.

    Hmm Amuro as a daddy? That would make him that much more Gar, me thinks. And negate quess. I kinda like Chien too. If only there was a side story on the Chien side…everyone else got one! RAAAAGE!

    Now to hunt these books down, lol where would you find 30 year old translated Japanese novels?

  19. The original trilogy of novels (Awakening, Escalation and Confrontation) were relatively recently republished in one volume translated by Fred Schodt. I don’t know how easy it is to get hold of a copy where you are though.

    The novels themselves are harder sf than the series (invisible laser beams, for example) and follow a pretty different plot too. The CCA novel(s) have not, to my knowledge, been translated, but then I’ve never looked for them.

    Incidentally, there’s a fan translation of Gundam Sentinel knocking around somewhere on the ‘net, too.

  20. jayers says:

    Sorry for being a N00b about this, but I haven’t seen any of the older gundam series. So pray tell, how does one hide a gundam in a hole?

  21. @ Jayers

    They don’t actually show the RX 78-1 digging itself a hole, but it’s probably one of the first LOL Tomino moments: the Gundam is buried VERTICALLY feet first, all 60-something feet of prototype mobile weapon. The head kind of sticks out from the sand.

    Okay,the cockpit of the Gundams are on the abdomen area. This means Amuro had to dig up from 20+ ft. down in sand to get out of the hole. Or, it could be that Amuro just digs really really well – as in better than Simon well.

  22. Obviously Amuro has some kind of Fremen survival pack replete with sand-manipulation tools . . .

  23. ghostlightning says:

    @ Animanachronism

    Rawr yeah! A Dune reference! Shai-Hulud be praised!

    The whole sequence was a plot device to get Amuro to meet with Ramba Ral – one of the awesome pilots whose kind has not been seen in mecha anime for a very long time (more’s the pity).

    I realize I should go easier on Amuro, because the maturity is quite clear come Zeta Gundam, and he was very much the stuff of champions come CCA. Mechafetish keeps reminding me that 0079 indeed aired in 1979 when I was but 2 years old. I should be more patient towards anime of such vintage, as I kindly request everyone who reads this to be patient with me as I come to terms with my own relationship with Gundam.

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