Oh Gundam, one of the most prolific anime multi-series this side of the last century with more shows than 1980’s sitcom spin-offs. But, once upon a time, when I was a wee child growing up, I didn’t know what anime was. Sure, I watched Sailor Moon and Tenchi Muyo, and Rurouni Kenshin, but I didn’t know that they differed from other cartoons other than how they looked. That’s how I came across G Gundam; it was playing on TV and I was like “Why not?”
What I found was not only my favorite Gundam series, it became one of my favorite anime series period. The plot was more intricate than any others I had seen before, I fell in love with the characters and countries, and it seemed like a more adult show than I was used to. But is nostalgia clouding my judgment, or is this really as great a show as I recall? Let’s check out G Gundam.
G Gundam follows the adventures of Domon Kasshu and Rain Mikamura, a Gundam fighter pilot and his mechanic. The series takes place in the far future, where most people no longer live on Earth, but rather space colonies, such as Neo-Japan, Neo-America, etc. Every four years they partake in a international Gundam fight, where the winner’s country gets the right to rule over all the other colonies and Earth. Not the best ways to run governments, but you know, whatever floats your landmasses into space.
However, nothing is quite that simple. Domon’s mother is dead, his father is in cryo-freeze, and his brother is (apparently) a traitor of the state who has either disappeared or died. Domon trained since this incident with Master Asia, once the leader of the mysterious Shuffle Alliance, and has now been chosen by the government to be the representative fighter. Along the way, Domon and Rain must find the other shuffle alliance members and fight a series of friendly matches, as well as looking for his missing brother.
The whole Shuffle Alliance thing seemed really cool as a kid, a small group of fighters who kept an eye on the world to keep it from destroying itself. The fact that they had to fight the best in order to be deemed part of the Alliance, and to receive their crests works in development of the members both in terms of plot and for the development of the characters. However, much like Domon, the whole screaming awkward phrases really takes all the seriousness out of the moment, and while it didn’t bother me as a kid, it sure does now. And it makes this show, at times, a little unbearable…especially when the main attack sounds hilariously lame.
Neo-France, Neo-America, and Neo-Russia’s fighters, George, Chibodee, and Argo respectively, are very stereotypical. George is the romantic, sensitive gentleman, a knight in shining armor for his princess (who is a real princess). Chibodee is an arrogant, womanizing show off, who uses flashy theatrics, and is brash. Argo is the typical Cosak stereotype of strong, silent, murderous looking man, whose completely no nonsense and has a weird dominatrix commander/love interest. Is that last part a stereotype? Because it sure feels like one. The only member of the Shuffle Alliance who isn’t a stereotype is Sai, whose Neo-China’s fighter, mostly because he’s the token kid character – hyper, inexperienced, and way too enthusiastic.
However, they are still pretty likeable characters, who grow somewhat during the series. For all the stereotypes that are present in these characters, their heart and real character comes through as the series progresses. The friendship between the members of the Alliance is great – you feel like they work well as a team, and it’s not forced in the least, and the back-stories given to each member is intricate and relatable, pushing past the obvious cultural stereotypes. Sai gets the least development cause…well, token kid characters tend to be almost like throw-aways, and this kid is my least favorite character in the show. Little development, constantly in the way, and really seemed like the show used all their half-assed ideas on him.
While the characters are a little on the bland side at times, the plot more than makes up for it. It’s intricate, both emotionally and politically. The show doesn’t skimp on the explanations, dialogue, or story. By the end of the series, all the loose ends are tied up, all our characters find their happy endings, and while it may seem superficially glossed over, you really do want these characters to do well and be happy before the end. I don’t want to give away anymore than I have, because it really is worth all the little surprises the series reveals over time.
The Gundam fighting was certainly not my favorite part of the show, but I feel it was done well enough to make it interesting. The battle are all different, really showcasing the pilots’ strengths and weakness that are both physical and emotional. And not just anyone can be a Gundam pilot. The process of gearing up involves the wrapping of a spandex censor suit, so that the pilot can directly relay motion from their body to the Gundam, and the process is painful. In one episode, a young boy steals into Domon’s Gundam, and tries to operate it, almost ending up crushed by the gearing up portion. This adds the layer of difficulty and real skill to pilot these giant mechs, instead of the underdog on the learning curve which is so overused. The Gundams have some cool designs and powers…well…
The show itself doesn’t look very good, which is really a terrible shame. You can tell it’s from the 1990s, it looks like it, and it certainly hasn’t aged as gracefully series like Utena or even Zoids. It still looks fine, even watchable by today’s standards of HD and 3-D animation. The soundtrack for this show is repetitious, to put it nicely, while the dub is a mixed bag. Master Asia is…terrible, so is Sai. Domon, Rain, Argo and George all do a great job, making it believable and fluid. I am not touching Chibodee’s borderline offensive dialogue and “typical American accent” with safety gloves and a tiki torch, but its not…horrific. Everyone else is a huge mixed bag, which I can reveal without spoilers, so you’re going to have to take my word for it.