In this post I reflect on some stardust memories. I was a mecha fan before I was an anime fan (if that’s even possible), but I’ve only become a fan of Gundam sometime after I started writing here in October of last year. It doesn’t mean that I love Macross less, there’s just more mecha anime to love.
When I started this blog, I initially wanted it to be about anime in general. Mechafetish gave me the title ‘We Remember Love’ and I saw it encompassing enough for all the anime that influenced me, if not everything I’ve seen. My monstrous devotion to Macross got the better of me and I pretty much became a supporter of any and all Macross propaganda. At that time, I’ve seen a few Gundam shows and was watching Gundam 00, skeptically. But I so very wanted to get into Gundam, I was fascinated by the range of love, hate, intelligence, and idiocy within the fandom. We Macross fans are a simple and happy lot, I think (though recent forum activity brought to my attention shows how any fandom can have hateful and unintelligent representatives). The Gundam fans are far more interesting.
I didn’t say better. In this post some of my remarks may seem disparaging but I mean not to disparage or make fun of anyone here. I’m counting myself as one of the fans, so anything I say about the fandom I liberally take on myself. Gundam fans routinely rage, hate, and troll at each other. There’s always someone who gets real upset about something in a particular episode or series. I have my own litany of discontent for Gundam 00.
I had said in the beginning that I was tsundere for Gundam. The extent of my feelings for the franchise then:
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).
…or Tolkien, who I wrote my undergraduate thesis on. Anyway, I really felt that the franchise is nowhere as good to merit the fanaticism it inspired. Reading the reviews that I had access to at the time, Gundam shows do get a lot of acclaim. But I just didn’t get it.
[Mechafetish] 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.
I had since changed my mind about the show, and that cow did give me an important lesson. I quoted the above excerpt from my post to illustrate what I think is an important point:
We will not like some anime because we are not ready for it.
It doesn’t matter whether the show in particular is widely regarded, and is a 10 on many people’s scales. I don’t care if the anime is Aria itself. I am not always in the best place, the best time in my life, the best context to be in, to appreciate an anime. Looking at the above example, I had created for myself an idea of what real robots shows should be like. And I expected all Universal Century (continuity) Gundam shows, and the best-regarded Gundam shows to conform to my idea of what a real robot show should be like. Iknight responds,
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.
And I do agree that there’s no obligation to like the whole franchise – as in like every series in it, but that’s different from liking the franchise as a whole.
Some of the shows I dropped include Eureka 7 and Last Exile. These are both well-regarded shows. I don’t think that they’re bad, but I did not make a connection with them and I didn’t feel compelled to complete them. There will be shows that are recommended to me that I won’t appreciate immediately. I hesitate to give fixed evaluations in part because I know I can change my mind later on, after subsequent viewings.
So it is with Gundam. I’ve tried watching Gundam shows before and I’ve dropped them all: the original series, ZZ Gundam, Mobile Report Wing Gundam, Victory Gundam, the aformentioned Turn A Gundam, and 0083: Stardust Memory. Of these shows, I’ve re-watched Stardust Memory and am re-watching Turn A. The experience is much different and far more satisfying. Did the shows change in any way? No. I did.
At present, these are the shows I completed:
- The movie trilogy of the original series (worth watching)
- MS Igloo 1 (started great, ended good, middle bored me)
- 08th MS Team (excellent)
- 0080: War in the Pocket (transcendent)
- 0083: Stardust Memory (worth watching, enjoyable battles, very enjoyable mecha)
- The movie trilogy of the Zeta series (worth watching, the best of Char)
- Char’s Counterattack (disappointed me very hard)
- Gundam 00 (s1) (worth watching, fun)
While I am currently watching:
- Gundam 00 (s2) (good and bad together, but worth watching)
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam (what a great ride so far, and it keeps getting better)
- Turn A Gundam (gems inside, but takes getting used to)
- MS Igloo 2 (awesome)
I can’t place it precisely, but something turned in me. I was really getting into Gundam more and more. It’s a late marker, but a definitive one: I finished watching the 08th MS Team a week after my birthday, and having done so I launched a campaign to promote Gundam to a fine Macross fan. I think I did a fair job, utilizing tools such as Finding Your Gateway Gundam, and providing a concise background to the UC as can be done via instant messenger.
At present, she’s enjoying her potential gateway experience. I’m confident since I think the 08th MS Team deserves its reputation. I’m waiting to see if she’ll agree with me about the epilogue (I liked it, it seems a lot of people didn’t; here’s one).
Looking and reflecting on that list, I really think that the experience of Gundam is greater than the sum of all the hours spent watching. It’s the interaction with the fans that does it for me. People really get a rise out of this metaverse, and of course, the pretty robots. Schneider and I are alike in this, though his Gundam-Fu is far more advanced than my own. When I watch a good show, let’s say Ghibli’s Mononoke Hime. I’m totally absorbed, and am very very impressed. After the show, I don’t have a context to relate my experience to – given that Nausicaa, Laputa are similar and awesome Ghibli films, they don’t exist in the same world.
I thoroughly enjoyed Code Geass, but after 50 episodes I don’t feel that there’s a larger world for it to relate to. It’s not the case with Macross Frontier, and certainly not the case with Gundam 00. Both franchises allow us to take the events in a particular member anime and reference the whole metaverse. This is why I like the Universal Century so much, and feel so cheated by Char’s Counterattack. The sweep of the continuity is so romantic to me. Amuro, Bright, and most especially Char are gigantic characters. I enjoyed watching the compilation movies even if to just look at the footprints they left on anime itself. I don’t say this to disparage alternate continuities like SEED and 00. There’s something about the root text, akin to what I felt when I read the Silmarillion after reading the Lord of the Rings books. It was obvious to me what work I’d choose for my undergraduate thesis.
It’s amazing how many stories a one year war can yield. Honestly I dearly wish for side stories in the UC to be set in other contexts, particularly during the time of Zeta Gundam. Stardust Memory was a step in the right direction, I wish they’d make more. 2009 marks the year of Gundam’s 30th anniversary. Old franchise is old. What a great year for me to hit my stride as a fan of Gundam! We Remember Love will be doing something pretty special to commemorate this event. Here’s to the future!
Some acknowledgements: with Mechafetish aside being the primary Gundam, and anime pimp in my life, the following bloggers influenced me greatly in my ‘transformation’: Kaioshin Sama, Iknight, Crusader, and OGT (links are to posts they wrote with the ‘Gundam’ tag, except for Crusader’s which is a comprehensive listing). Kaioshin really makes time and effort to ‘educate’ me into his particular taste for Gundam, which involves OPs and EDs of the classic shows. I really appreciate this.