So this week, in honor of Gundam Week, I’ll be reviewing After War Gundam X. Airing from April to December of 1996, one quick glance at a picture will show that it oozes that mid-90s style that can be seen in some more popular series, like Gundam Wing that preceded it. I would say that among all of the main Gundam series (the UC stuff, Wing, Turn A, SEED, 00, and AGE) this one flew a little bit under the radar. Arguably, Turn A is the same way, but since Turn A is rather unique (and praised for a variety of things), Gundam X just seemed more low-key. In that respect I would say it’s comparable to ZZ, but that one at least has the benefit of having a long UC history behind it. I’ll admit my first exposure to the Gundam X was via the Super Robot Wars videogames series, particularly the title Alpha Gaiden, followed by Z. In both of those, Gundam X took the forefront (it’s not in many SRW games), and I thought it was just too cool. So, eventually, I picked up the series. While it didn’t live up to my internal hype, and fell short in a few places, it wasn’t all that bad.
Starting off with the plot, the themes are very similar to many major Gundam series. It’s that time-honored tradition of people from space (space colonists, or Spacenoids) hating the people from Earth for whatever reason. Gundam X takes a neat twist on it by having the war already ended and having the Spacenoids succeed in their colony drop on the Earth, ravaging the Earth’s landscape. As such, the Earth at this point is mostly a desolate wasteland. And that’s where the story starts. I will give Gundam X credit; I really like the post-apocalyptic setting, I think it leads to some cool social dynamics (particularly the uprising of powerful gangs) and in that respect, Gundam X is fairly novel. Moving on, we’re introduced to a young upstart named Garrod Ran, a kid who lived for himself thieving and selling mobile suits on the black market. Through various events (as it often happens in Gundam) he inadvertently stumbles onto the X Gundam and Tiffa Adill, a young mysterious girl Garrod instantly fell in love with. The X Gundam, it turns out, was a demon of the previous Earth vs. Space war, with a monstrous weapon, the Satellite Cannon. Eventually, he falls in with a mysterious Vulture (a group that scavenges old parts left over from the war) group led by Jamil Neate. And of course, as a group they run into situation after situation, realizing that the culmination of many of these could result in some world-changing event, and it’s up to them to stop it. Of course, it’s a fair bit more complicated than that. In the midst of it all is the potential for the reigniting of war between the Earth and Space. In addition, the two Frost brothers, Shagia and Olba have their own agenda and serve as the primary antagonist for Garrod, Jamil, and Tiffa.
One important point to note for Gundam X is the pacing for the show. The first twenty six to thirty episodes are alright and consistently paced; there are several short arcs and hints of a larger story throughout. However, as the show hits its last third, it becomes evident that the show was slated to be cancelled and there’s a rather rushed ending. That’s not to say the ending is terrible, but it’s fairly evident that there was a more complete story that wasn’t quite told. Unfortunately, anime is a business and it’s not too common for this to happen. Due to this, while the plot quality and pacing is rather consistent and average to above average for the first two-thirds of the show, the last third of the show suffers from this rushed plot and ending and becomes just a little bit convoluted.
I would say the characters are the best part of Gundam X. All of the main characters are likeable and have believable motivations. I like Garrod because he didn’t have any historical connection to the plot. That is to say, he hasn’t been trained to be a Gundam pilot since he was a kid, or his father didn’t invent the Gundam, or he’s not a super powerful Newtype or anything like that. He’s just a kid that knows a little bit about piloting a mobile suit, and as the show progresses his skills grow and he becomes a very skilled pilot (though the fact that his suit is more powerful than most of his opponents’ suits doesn’t hurt). It’s just fun to see Garrod grow. On the flipside you have Tiffa, a mysterious girl with a mysterious past. There’s a cute little love story between Garrod and Tiffa, which is nice to see. I don’t particularly like Tiffa as a character, but I think her interactions with Garrod are interesting and I like the love story in this show. The last protagonist I’ll cover (though there are many more) is Jamil. He’s arguably the most complicated character due to his past. He’s the leader of a Vulture band, but he previously fought in the war, and like Tiffa, is a powerful Newtype in his own right. However, due to the stress of the war he has gained a cockpit phobia that he could not overcome and is thus relegated to being a mother ship commander. He receives some development as he comes to terms with his past and once again takes up the reigns of piloting the X Gundam (as Garrod ditches it and upgrades to the Double X Gundam). I would say next to Garrod, Jamil is the most interesting character to watch develop as the series goes on.
The last two characters I’ll cover are the antagonist pair, Shagia and Olba Frost, otherwise known as the Frost brothers. They are two ruthless and cunning men who are contracted by the New United Nations Army for their goals. Of course, Shagia and Olba have their own goals. Products of Earth’s old Newtype program, they were experimented on and eventually discarded as they could not be Newtypes. While Shagia and his brother share a deep connection (not unlike that of some Newtypes) their abilities unfortunately stop there. As a result they want to kill all Newtypes. While they are efficient and effective enemies, and possess some pretty cool mobile suits, I found their motivations kind of one-dimensional. Partially due to the plot, I think the antagonists and the central conflict between protagonist and antagonist suffers.
The art for the series screams that mid-90s style. I can’t say much to its quality (it’s certainly watchable) as I didn’t really watch anime in the mid-90s and don’t have too many comparison points, but the DVDs I watched were crisp and easy to follow. The character designs were pretty good though. I especially liked Garrod’s and Tiffa’s looks. Garrod’s look is very casual and shows off how he’s just a teenager. Its presence throughout the entire series seems to remind you that Garrod’s really a kid throughout all of it. Tiffa’s dress is very conservative and I think her turtleneck is kind of cute. Now, I’d be remiss if I finished this section without mentioning mecha design. Starting with the titular Gundam, the X Gundam, I do like its relatively simple design. It’s not decked with armaments, and besides the giant satellite receiver on its back it’s actually quite plain. The color scheme is the standard red, white, and blue of most Gundam series. I think it works. Its armaments are kind of boring (besides the Satellite cannon, but that needs a Newtype to operate) but that gets fixed with the Gundam X Divider. One of the mechanics rebuilds the unit after it gets trashed in battle. It’s outfitted with this new shield that opens up to reveal several beam guns dubbed the Beam Harmonica. It’s a cool and unique weapon, and I like it a lot. I was kind of disappointed with the Double X Gundam that Garrod eventually upgrades too. The color scheme is a little darker (with more black) and it doesn’t really gain any new armaments besides adding another Satellite Cannon. Obviously in the context of the show that’s a dramatic power increase, and there are the obvious general mobility and armor improvements along with other passive bonuses, but all in all I don’t think it’s a very impressive suit. There are also Shagia and Olba’s units, the Virsago and the Ashtaron. I would say their units are rather sleek and very reminiscent of the Epyon unit from Gundam Wing.
The animation for the series is fairly good. While I wasn’t really on the lookout for the reused animation frame thing Gundam SEED became kind of infamous for, I don’t think it was nearly as noticeable if it happened. The action scenes are all pretty cool and I’ve always been a fan of the mecha combat. All in all, I have no complaints on the animation front and in fact I think it was one of the better parts of the series.
The last section I’ll cover is the music. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the series, so I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember nearly any of the music besides a few tracks that were in the SRW games. I will say two tracks that stood out are the openings, DREAMS and Resolution, which I thought were very good. And there were a couple of other BGM tracks in the SRW games that I thought were alright, like Satellite Cannon. But those are generally remixed so I can’t really say that they’re the exact same as the show’s, so I still can’t say much about the music.
Director: Shinji Takamatsu
Character design: Nobuyoshi Nishimura
Music: Yasuo Higuchi
Original run: April 5, 1996 – December 28, 1996
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