First off, here are the assumptions: Gundam 0079 is special. It started the real-robot mecha tradition, paving the way for Macross (which makes all the difference to me). Zeta Gundam is special. It brought heavy character drama, political science fiction conflict (handled quite maturely), and very good mecha designs together in what is considered by many as the best mecha series ever. Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket is special, because it alone truly delivered the “ugly face of war” message of the franchise in a powerful and beautiful way. The 08th MS Team is special, because it felt like a real robot anime in ways that any other Gundam doesn’t. G Gundam is special. It out-supered most super robot shows, and paved the way for the alternate continuities of Gundam. Turn A Gundam… I’ll finish watching it and then give my verdict.
I didn’t watch the rest of Gundam (save for Stardust Memory which is awesome, but not necessarily a milestone the way the abovementioned are). I didn’t watch Wing and Seed, and the negative opinions on these series prevent me from prioritizing viewing them over the other anime I plan to watch.
Gundam 00 however, is my gateway Gundam. It was very pretty to look at (currently the character designs have suffered – season 1’s characters had the sexiest hair in all anime), it had an interesting story (considering the post 9-11 politics as a backdrop), and the mecha battles were very entertaining. I relaxed my objections towards the franchise and just took it all in with glee.
My hopes and dreams for Gundam 00 is for it to be the foundation of the (definitive alternate) retelling of the main Gundam storyline. I want the series to reach the point where the colonies were at the time of 0079. This fascinates me, because on paper, Gundam is an awesome science fiction saga. This projection of mine tempts me to take the 00 more seriously than I perhaps should, which actually detracts from my enjoyment of the show itself. I now have expectations that the creators may have no interest in fulfilling.
Why, so serious then? (From the comments section of this post)
Honestly if anyone feels the need to ask the question, “Should I take this seriously?” in response to a form of entertainment media (especially anime) then they should probably be looking into a new passtime. That doesn’t mean everything has to be a lolfest, but that people probably shouldn’t be taking any form of entertainment to seriously for the sake of their own enjoyment of it. Suspension of Disbelief, it’s been around since the dawn of theatre.
There’s also no such thing as a show that forces you to take it seriously. A show can’t force you to do anything because it can’t interact with you in any way. Only you as an individual could ever make such a decision. This serious discussion about the topic of seriousness in giant robot anime has been brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood Kaioshin.
Let me be clear that even as I disagree with the opinion stated here, I respect it. I’ve read Kaioshin Sama’s heroic apologetics for Code Geass R2 for all the episodes and then some. He put up with a lot of whining that superficially sounds like the comment I posted that he’s reacting to. I know where this opinion of his comes from.
Taking shows seriously is a subjective prerogative to anything and may well be the source of utility and value in experiencing the subject.
I purposely take experiencing “The Brothers Karamzov” as well as “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” quite seriously because if I went approaching it the same way I would approach “G Gundam” or “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” I feel I would miss out on a lot of what makes it great. To paint a picture, I read Dostoevsky always ready to cross-reference to other novels past and future that somehow relates to him, with Nietzche, and existential philosophy, with theology and the apologists, etc. I don’t read Douglas Adams with an open browser window for tropes (though that may be entertaining), and with an intent to distill his humor as philosophical treatises. It can be interesting, but is obstructive to fun which is the primary intention for reading him. None of this is required, but in cases a heightened experience can be had.
I don’t watch Gundam 00 for the lulz. I just take it as a light cartoon with awesome robots and brooding characters. It’s fun without me reading into it any further. But is there more to it? Am I missing out on something?
Now there are shows that give every impression that it shouldn’t be taken seriously – due to taking refuge in audacity, rule of cool, fanservice, and a host of tropes that can be said to detract from a “straight” anime or any cultural product for that matter. However, there’s a genius to them that makes it all work, that shows us a depth we didn’t expect to be there – even if perhaps we’ve always wanted it to be. Code Geass and Gurren Lagann did this splendidly. SDF Macross did it too, and Macross Frontier did not.
Now Kaio is absolutely right that a show cannot force me to do anything because I’m responsible for my own feelings and actions. However, what he said about not interacting with me is not true. A show is a system of signs, organized in language, sounds, and visuals. It acts on me, though I cannot act on it back. That’s where there’s a lack of interaction. But the show is designed to make me feel a certain way. As to what that way is, it is the intention of the creators. If it works, then I behave in (some of) the ways the creators intended:
- Blog effusively about it (check)
- Discuss it in various fora (check)
- Buy Gunpla (check)
Hair splitting: I am of the opinion that even at gunpoint, I am completely responsible for my actions. It’s only that certain actions are highly penalized which reduces the probablity of it occuring.
I’ve mentioned Code Geass and Tenggen Toppa Gurren Lagann. I believe those shows to be transcendent, as I do SDF Macross and Neon Genesis Evangelion, as I do Monster. Season 1 of Gundam 00 doesn’t make a strong case, even if only on a superficial “how did it make me feel” reaction. And as much as I find s2 interesting, I don’t know if it’ll have what it takes to make it.
What would make it special, if not transcendent i believe if it pursues the goal of quantity. Make a few more seasons. Make the characters really mature with the fans. It will fail to attract new fans, unless they dilute the cast with new characters that fit the fanservice bills. If they do so, I will bear it. Because a long series with a clear narrative goal that is the re-telling of an alternative history one-year war is special. It cannot not be, unless the execution is botched to a spectacular degree. I overlooked many things about Code Geass, because the heart of it was so awesome. I don’t see why it can’t be done for Gundam.
But it’ll take commitment and risk. How many episodes will that take? How many mobile suits can be reasonably generated (and Gunpla marketed) prior to the one-year war? I’m more than interested in how these questions can be answered. Can they break free from the oppressive aspects of character recycling? I’m not totally against it, just do it better. As I’ve said in some other comments section, I’ve no reason to want a show I’m investing so much time and effort watching to fail. I want Gundam 00 to be special.
Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? Find your Gateway Gundam!