It may seem like a long time, but I’ve only been a fan of the Gundam franchise for two years, if it makes sense to affix the date on the publication of this post: Before I Knew it, I Became a Gundam Fanboy. Due to the sheer breadth of shows in the franchise, I have written more about Gundam more than any other subject here in We Remember Love (my Macross posts are inflated by my episodic blogging of Macross Frontier).
Last year I took on the shows didn’t like, and the posts I wrote reflect my intense feelings about them:
…and then recently I consolidated my feelings for my gateway show in the franchise:
That’s a lot of hate, which I find rather uncomfortable since these posts got a fair bit of attention compared to my other posts, both in comments, link sharing, and discussion in other forums. While I did enjoy writing these posts, perhaps compensating for how much I disliked watching the subject shows, I do love Gundam.
My appreciation for it, or at least the possibility it represents, is now very clear to me, and I will share all of it with you today. My appreciation for Gundam is part of my love for anime itself.
To begin with,
I love illustrations.
What can I say? I really do.
I love illustrations in color, and illustrations that move (hence, animation).
I believe that the most exciting depiction of movement is in fighting.
The drama is all there, the direction, choreography, style, fireworks, speed, etc. All of this find expression in the depiction in combat, and sometimes all at once.
I believe that combat between very large robots is the greatest possibility for all this to happen.
Size, range, variety of weapons, destructive potential; sure you can have tiny sprites like Vegeta or Freeza destroy planets, but they do great things by spamming energy attacks which is in its own way a illustration therefore animation shortcut. Giant robot battles occur in different size levels which allows for the viewer to find points of perspective that lets the spectacle immensity, allowing us easier access to feelings like awe.
Super Robot style combat resembles gladiatorial combat or less charitably, pro-wrestling matches.
Real Robot style combat is more similar to military fighting.
A wider range of tactics, ordnance, combined-armaments, scale, environments, etc. are available. It can be very, very serious and when it isn’t it can easily encompass some of the things that Super Robot style combat offers.
Related to this, is how I find the human figure to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing things to watch. It is also the most accessible thing to observe (as opposed to blobs, tentacles, or truly odd monsters). The action becomes clear and easy to follow, and therefore to enjoy.
Humanoid robots fighting in space, where multiple vectors of attack are possible; Gundam gives me the range of combined arms fighting while retaining the duel as a conceit in mid-battle. The mobile suits still cross swords, throw strikes, and grapple. This kind of close-quarters fighting has been rather comical for me in many cases, but there are moments where these are just the finest of things: (08th MS Team, War in the Pocket, Unicorn).
The Gundam shows I dislike indulge in a more stylized kind of fantasy fighting. Alternative Universe Gundam shows depart from my preferred kind of robot action, and are more similar to shonen battle shows, or perhaps specifically Dynasty Warriors video games, or the Sengoku Basara anime wherein an individual unit lays waste to many grunts using flashy powers.
While I can enjoy these things to some degree, I don’t enjoy them that much.
Where is Macross in all this, given that I am a lifelong Macross fan¹? Macross’ dogfights are still the best in and out of the atmosphere, while FLAG’s ground engagements are the best on the ground. Neither are consistently satisfying however, because in Macross’ case the biggest battles are either really old (Saturn’s Rings in SDFM) or caught up in concerts (DYRL?, Macross Frontier), or are on the small side of conflicts (Macross Zero) which is the case with FLAG. While the quality is superb, the quantity is small, compared to the buffet of say Mobile Suit Gundam Igloo 2 episode 03.
In hindsight, given what I like about anime it is only natural that I ended up being a Gundam fan. After tuning my expectations I’ve found myself incredibly taken by the franchise and its fandom. So here I am, having watched more Gundam than there are shows left unwatched; and while there are many purposes to watching anime, it’s become such that Gundam is a big part of what keeps me looking forward to the new. It may not always give me what I want (as The Awakening of the Trailblazer only awakened hate from me instead of making me remember love), but there’s always that possibility that it will, and even do better.