Is Gundam 00 special?

Not a troll post, I promise

Not a troll post, I promise

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?

I can appreciate LULZ, but it's not why I watch

I can appreciate LULZ, but it's not why I watch

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!

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, Gundam 00 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Is Gundam 00 special?

  1. Kairu Ishimaru says:

    NO

  2. I’m not sure I understand (and maybe you can explain) why you want 00 to be the launchpad for a retelling of the OYW, especially since that was the premise for SEED. I’m also not sure how it’s possible, given that 00 started by riffing on Wing and is now riffing on Zeta.

  3. mechafetish says:

    @ The Animanachronism

    Not to preempt Ghostlightning, but given the appropriate ending for this season and a timeskip, I don’t think its would be such a stretch for the 00 universe to arrive at the same geopolitical situation that the Federation and the Colonies faced which led the OYW.

    Also, this may be the be the ramblings of a UCtard, but SEED as a remake of the OYW was… unsatisfactory (I don’t however, hesitate to say that I enjoyed it nonetheless).

  4. mechafetish says:

    Of course none of us want an absolute rehash of the OYW, precisely because as you pointed out, the current 00 season already has overtones of Zeta. But so far, the series has explored political divisions along economic and ethnic lines drawn mostly on earth. As such, I don’t feel it would be so repetitive for the series to shift to an Earthnoid vs. Spacenoid orientation.

    Also, aside from isolated cases such as Soma and Alleluia, the series has yet to explore the themes surrounding the moral questions that face evolving human (newtypes, coordinators, etc.), an important theme of Gundam.

    Given this, Ghostlightning and I are hoping for an extended UC-like continuity that would explore all the familiar themes of gundam throughout the years, while offering us something fresh as well.

  5. ghostlightning says:

    @ Animanachronism

    Easy: willful ignorance. I haven’t seen W and SEED, but my friends who are hardcore Gundam fans tell me that I didn’t miss much. I offered to watch W with them and they told me to stop wasting their time.

    So my impression is that SEED did not succeed as a foundation for a re-telling of the OYW.

    UC Gundam is still the most romantic part of the franchise. I think that instead of rehashing individual series, the whole saga can be retold with an alternative narrative.

    Does this make sense? Am I imposing too much on other people’s beloved franchise?

    Rest assured that I’m not being snide. I can take people hating Macross. Values are subjective and personal – and inform the reading (experience) of any subject. I’m not in charge of Gundam, but the possibility above is something that interests me.

    @ mechafetish

    So you agree that 00 < SEED < W. Because this is the impression that I get from you. Since 00 is the best of these alternate continuities, it is then the best candidate to lay the foundational narrative for thhe alternate re-telling of the OYW.

    Ultimately, Gundam 00 is the best candidate because it is ongoing. SEED as far as I know will not have any sequels. 00 can take this all the way, so I hope.

  6. mechafetish says:

    @ ghostlightning

    I do indeed feel that 00 is better than seed, in particular, I feel the care that was taken with the aesthetic of the show (realistic politics/, semi-realistic tactics, etc.) could elevate it above the status of a mere rehash of the series. Ex. it could examine the realistic ramifications of newtypes and newtype assisted weaponry in the AD continuity, etc.

    I really hope however that they abandon the Wing aesthetic of using 4 “super prototypes” which for me is the only thing that mars the veneer of realism that the writers have managed to create for the show. At most, I want variable, mission specific, equipment on standard Gundam chassis (like the strike and impulse gundams in SEED). Also, mass-production should be king (like how CB got owned when the federation got its own solar furnace based mobile suits).

    FYI, I believe SEED is getting a sequel sometime in the near future.

  7. Hmm. It seems to me it might be useful to distinguish between ‘retelling the main Gundam storyline’ in terms of events (which is very much how the CE starts out) and ‘retelling’ in terms of theme. (I thought that the CE series were thematically rather different to the UC, and I’m trying to write an entry on that subject at the moment). I’m still not really clear whether you want the former, the latter, or both, but the idea’s certainly intriguing.

    I should probably say that I don’t really have any aspirations or desires for the Gundam franchise myself. I just hope for something mildly entertaining, and anything else is a bonus.

    SEED and Destiny were great commercial successes, and whatever decisions are made about the franchise will, I suspect, be made for sound commercial reasons. To become anything more than another alternate universe story which wraps up after fifty-odd episodes, 00 has to sell merchandise well, and keep on selling it well. Everything I’ve heard suggests that it’s doing well so far, though, and its ‘Winginess’ makes it a candidate to do well in the US.

    Mind you, I’m just speculating. I’ve no crystal ball and I’ve no real idea how the studio and their backers will think.

  8. SEED was my gateway into Gundam. Storywise it is top notch, however i feel that it was screwed up so badly in the execution and pacing. There were 2 recap episodes, a few that were half recap, and several that could have just been made into one episode. (ep 22-23, 25-28, 33-34, and 46-48) SEED could have done well with a few more battles and side characters with depth to show the scale of war. often i felt like the AA crew were the only ones actually fighting since the whole story basically took place on the AA. also, OMG the enemies were such cannon fodder that it was ridiculous. if i was ZAFT i woulda just built 20 Freedoms since the GINNS did absolutely NOTHING. Also, the ending could have wrapped up nicely with a better build up to the final battle and then an epilouge. If these conditions were met, then it would have been a wonderful retelling of 0079.

  9. ghostlightning says:

    @ Animanachronism

    Both. I want both. I don’t want a strict 1:1 relationship between alternate continuity and UC characters and narrative elements which is impossible, and would be better replaced by an outright update of the original anyway.

    What you said about distinguishing in terms of theme… I admit I haven’t thought this through. Now that you’ve mentioned it – I want it very much. I can imagine 00 being the proto-UC-ish foundation/prequel leading up to a 0079-based story that is much informed by post-9/11 and perhaps even post-financial industry crash of 2008.

    The commercial factor in determining the direction of the sequels is something I didn’t quite have enough juice for to deal with in this post. That said, doing it my way can make things difficult commercially for Sunrise, because I will find it quite off to have a half-dozen generations of mobile suits developed prior to the OYW or its equivalent conflict.

    @ MechaMarshmellow

    SEED with the problems you just shared definitely scares me off, given that the number of episodes requires significant time commitment. I’m currently watching G-Gundam (maybe a third of the way through), and have recently started Turn-A (my second attempt). Would you recommend the SEED movies?

    @ Mechafetish

    SEED sequel? Then my hopes are for naught. About the 4 prototypes idea… It should make sense, making variable purpose units. But what makes more sense to me is making a modular frame, or at least a frame with modular capability. This was done superbly in Macross Frontier, and Mechwarrior 3050 era with its Clan Omnimechs was ahead of its time back in the good old ’90s.

    Indeed, mass production should be king. The way the mass-produced EVAs signaled the end for NERV and gave us one of the very best mecha battles ever. That battle is the anti-00: the enemy made the giant leap technologically and had to be fought with personal reserves of awesomeness. As wicked the W mecha seem to me, I’m glad that 00 went for a minimalist ethic to maintain semblance of (real-robot) military application in mind.

  10. @ghostlightning

    YES! i had forgotten about those. yea watch the movies instead. Really, without filler there was only enough plot material to just about fill the three movies. Unlike the series, there is very nice pacing to the specials. i just hate that the final battle (which was top-notch excellent before) has a different choreography in the movie than in the series. (if possible watch the movies and then watch original final battle, you’ll see what I mean)

    and the awesome ep. 43 fight was left out 😦 WHY SUNRISE!?

    I guess the above really only matters to me and few other hard core SEEDers

    I know you guys are gonna hate me but i think GSD was actually very well done and vastly underated. Especially the first half of the series. 2nd half had that Cannon fodder problem again. (perhaps if a certain MS wasn’t freaking invincible!)

  11. @ghost and mechafetish

    As ghostlightning was saying about EoE. having MP units more powerful than the prototypes makes for epic battles of GAR and win. For many years someone will merely have to say “9 to 1” and mecha fans will bow their heads in silence with tears in their eyes.

  12. ghostlightning says:

    @ Mechamarshmellow

    So a good way to experience SEED is to watch the movies, then watch ep. 43 of the series? I’m sure Mechafetish has a copy somewhere…

  13. Crusader says:

    I am a sucker I still keep hoping that some of the old magic that I saw back in the ye olde days. At least back then the number of Gundams was more limited, these days I keep praying for something like Gundam 0083 or 8th MS Team and get sorely disappointed. I am still cautiously optimistic about Gundam 00 and hopefully the Ahead will remain a formidable match for the Gundams. Hopefully Prince Ali will be joining us for the great burning of Azadistan come Sunday. The Union of Sunrise and Bandai was one of the more lamentable things to happen to Gundam as a franchise, as in this day and age we will probably never see the likes of Norris Packard, South Burning, Alpha Bate, Chap Adel, and Monsha ever again. Sergei comes close but he needs a MS bad, though I will be happy if he starts channeling Captain Synapse to crush Sumeragi.

  14. Cuchlann says:

    quibble: suspension of disbelief has only been around since Coleridge coined the term.

    That’s my opinion, of course — others might say he was describing something already there. However, I say that if there’s disbelief to suspend, the text/author/actors have already fucked up. I prefer Tolkien’s terminology of primary and secondary worlds. Everything in the secondary world is perfectly believable within the secondary world.

    Sorry, nothing to do with your post. I just loathe the concept of suspension of disbelief.

  15. ghostlightning says:

    @ Cuchlann

    I’m so sorry your comment got stuck in the spam filter!

    I really would like to learn more about your views on suspension of disbelief. When I took an elective on Science Fiction suspension of disbelief was a core concept.

    If I’m to follow Tokien’s definition, then I ask the subject literature to prepare me for the (suspension of disbelief) event, and that it’s consistent within the rules of the secondary world.

    In my post on Samurai Champloo I felt that the subject wasn’t following its own rules, or at least it didn’t prepare me for the impossible.

  16. Cuchlann says:

    I can definitely see that, concerning Samurai Champloo. I liked the ending well enough, but it was as though the series were pointing in one direction and then ran off in another. Which, I think, is what you’re saying.

    And that’s related to the idea of the secondary world, yes — the world of SC seems to be one in which certain things will happen, but then an inconsistency develops. The basic idea is that the world of the fiction is a brand new one, even if it’s realistic, and it works in a certain way the author realizes and then the reader/viewer accepts as another world. It’s why, Tolkien claims, children aren’t deranged but still talk as though the things in their favorite stories are real, because they *are*, in the secondary world.

  17. Pingback: Is Gundam 00 ‘Gundam’ enough? « We Remember Love

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