I haven’t played enough of the games to make an exhaustive analysis or comparison, so I really am asking for guidance rather than telling you about my observations here. The Final Fantasy franchise of games features a struggle against authority by teenage protagonists, that is somehow connected to a world-threatening evil that is bigger than the initial conflict. Somewhere along the way, the protagonists come of age.
The Gundam franshise of media can be (haphazardly) summed up as personal conflicts of protagonists and their antagonists set against a backdrop of war for the future of mankind and its evolution as a species on the precipice of space colonization as a response global ecological disaster. I present these recurring themes/narratives here not as a basis for contrast but just to present the idea that both franchises rely on telling a similar story over and over.
I’m not here to say that this is a problem, but rather to look at some ways this method of retelling plays out.
Again, I can’t be exhaustive because I haven’t played enough of the games. Also I willfully avoid watching several Alternate Universe Gundam shows so I am not the best evaluator. But you might be! And I will appreciate any observations you can share here.
What I am particularly fond of is the use of the recurring character in ways distinct to both franchises. In Final Fantasy, this is the authority figure ‘Cid,’ and in Gundam this is the unmistakable Char (clones). In the games I’ve played, there’s always a more powerful side character named Cid (or someone who has ‘Cid’ as part of his name), but never powerful enough to usurp the main protagonist or become the solution to the conflict.
My favorite version is Orlandu of Final Fantasy Tactics. Dude is awesome, and shoots lightning bolts like nobody’s business. My least favorite version is (btw, I haven’t met a Cid that I didn’t like so I’m not hating here) is Final Fantasy XII’s just because he isn’t older but is instead a combination of an older Cid, a bishonen, and the personality of Irvine from Final Fantasy VIII.
In Gundam you have a ‘romantic’ antagonist Char, whose antagonism of the lead character(s) is almost incidental… like they would be friends (or slash fiction partners) if not for the pesky war and eventual ideological differences.
My favorite version is quarter-life crisis Char in Mobile Suit Z Gundam: (appropriately named LOL) Quattro Bajeena. Sleeveless uniform, sunglasses IN SPACE, a mobile suit in GOLD PAINT, and fighting on the side of the angels… what’s not to like? My least favorite version (among those I actually care about) is a tie: Chronicle Asher with his Kycilla Zabi mask (to AVOID AIDS, CANCER, AND SWINE FLU ON EARTH) from Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, and Mr. Bushido from Mobile Suit Gundam 00 because I can’t stop laughing at him (again I like all of them really, so I’m not hating on them here).
While each iteration of the characters in the respective franchises bring with them certain attempts at nuance and distinction from the others, Final Fantasy I think does almost the opposite wherein the different Cids have lesser similarities from each other, and their ultimate commonality is bearing the name Cid.
Gundam on the other hand, relies on the mask to establish the similarity. The mask is the calling card, and other aspects of the original Char Aznable character are optional, though a case may be made for Zechs Marquise (not even his real name just like Char!) of Mobile Report Gundam Wing just spamming everything about Char.
Preferences to the original versions of the characters notwithstanding, do tell me about your favorite and why?
Also, what other parallels, if any, can you see in these franchises?
Are there any other franchises that you think make for better comparisons?