At Anime Boston 2012, I attended a panel hosted by Charles Dunbar of Study of Anime called “The Honor of a Greater Power: Activism and Politics in Gundam.” There were two other guys co-hosting the panel with Charles: Doug Wilder of Animecons.com and Tomoaki Ishigaki. The panel was ok; inevitably, since the panel was open to the floor, there were going to be a lot of, for lack of a better word, stupid and eye-roll worthy comments. I’ve decided to write up a small piece about my views on the various ideas in the various Gundam series. While this post won’t necessarily be about activism and politics, it was indeed inspired by the panel. “The Courtroom” makes its triumphant return.
The Universal Century
The UC timeline is my favorite Gundam timeline because it reflects humanity in its true grotesque nature without sugar coating any details. People fight and die for no apparent reason. People cling to ideology in hopes of a “better” world. Obviously, the definition of “better” is subjective. Despite countless years separating each series, humanity’s cruel nature seldom changes. Despite the efforts of a few characters, the cycle of death continues. Kamille Bidan of Zeta Gundam is one of my favorite characters because he grows from an idealistic fool, to one who realizes the cruel reality of the world. His final act, while courageous, changes nothing. Uso Ewin of Victory Gundam is another great example of an idealistic young fool becoming a hardened realist. Nearly 70 years after Zeta Gundam, and the world hasn’t changed. If you want death, Victory Gundam would be right up your alley.
Conversely, Banagher Links of Unicorn Gundam makes me want to vomit. This kid thinks he knows everything after viewing things from a few different perspectives. Unfortunately, every human has his or her own perspective. It (humanity) is impossible to understand. War is stupid, but it’s something that will walk hand-in-hand with humans for the rest of our existence.
The idea of Newtypes is a central theme in the Universal Century. It’s a flawed idea at best; Newtypes are still human, and therefore, they are still flawed. There’s no prize at the end of the tunnel, the prize being mutual understanding and peace. I still hold Char Aznable’s original assessment of Newtypes to be the most accurate one: mutations due to war. Elite soldiers. That is all. The whole relationship between Amuro Ray and Lala Sune is infuriating. While they claim to understand each other, they still fail to agree on what is right. Various human emotions interfere. Newtypes are no moar special than you or I. They bonded out of desperation, since they were the only ones around. It’s quite simple really.
Verdict: Depicts humanity in its truest light.
Every Gundam fan’s first Gundam show was probably Gundam Wing. While it holds a special place in my heart due to the nostalgia factor, it unfortunately is pretty bad. The central theme is ultimate pacifism. Just throw down your guns and get along. If you skip forward 50 years, they’ll probably be at it again, but there is no series after Endless Waltz. People may get tired, but they’ll always find something to argue about.
Verdict: Relena Peacecraft spawned an archetype that has plagued Gundam since. Bleh.
G Gundam is a cult classic. It’s over-the-top and at moments flat out ridiculous. But if you think about it, the solution humanity has come up with is pretty good. While we can’t contain our ugly nature, we can keep it in check. Enter the Gundam Fight, a convenient cover-up for unleashing our destructive natures. It’s ironic that after the world unites to stop the Dark Gundam, the words “See you at the next Gundam Fight” (or something similar) flash up on the screen. In other words, “Yeah we united briefly, but 4 years from now, we’ll be back to kicking each other’s asses to rule over all humanity.” Cool.
Verdict: Absolutely ridiculous, but it works without trying to hide the fact humans are destructive.
Oh Gundam Seed (and Seed Destiny), how you troll me so. This series is pathetically bad. Its ideology is second worst in my opinion of all the Gundam series, but in terms of overall enjoyment, it’s the worst. You have genetically modified humans vs. regular humans. Basically, it’s people hating on other people for playing God. It’s super conservatives versus liberals. Coordinators want to be the next link in evolution; this is fucking stupid. Last I checked, evolution is a natural occurrence. You don’t force it upon anyone. And if you want my opinion, humans aren’t evolving any further. But enough about that.
You also have this third group led by a pink-haired Relena, who want to just get along and understand one another. So they interfere in everything to get their way. I’m all for committing acts of “evil” (again, subjective) to accomplish your goal, but this is downright stupid. “Let’s kill so people can stop and understand each other!” Yeah, that’s smart. I can say one thing this series did right: it only takes one event or madman to plunge the world into utter chaos. Humanity is always teetering on the edge; all it takes is a little push (courtesy of The Joker for that one).
Verdict: Not worthy of a verdict.
Turn A. My friend and fellow writer Laevatein puts it best: “Everyone wants to get along but there are always a few people who get in the way.” Well, he said something like that. Turn A is definitely in my top 5 Gundam series. Post-apocalyptic worlds are interesting to analyze. The only way I can possibly imagine humanity changing, is if everyone was blown away to kingdom come and forced to start over. That is somewhat realistic. I can’t say I fully agree with the ideals preached in Turn A, as I believe as time goes by, there will be moar and moar Gym Ghingham’s born into the world, but it spins a story to make me briefly believe.
Verdict: Interesting. That is all.
Like Turn A, Gundam X is set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is referred as the “what-if” of Mobile Suit Gundam. Nearly everyone is dead, so what now? Well for one, it affirms that Newtypes are mutants. As Chris Guanche of MAHQ.net put it, “Although this series is not part of the Universal Century, its last word on Newtypes serves as a fitting end to the UC Newtype saga. Even in entries as late as Gundam F91 and Victory Gundam, it’s quite evident that Newtypes aren’t the future of humanity.” Thank you. While the story isn’t as well-done as Turn A, it has it’s own merit. There’s a little too much optimism in this show for my taste, but that was one of its themes. I have to remind myself that this is in a post-apocalyptic world, so it’s very possible that humanity can change.
Verdict: Like Turn A, it is interesting.
Enter Gundam 00, the series whose ideology is the absolute shittiest. It takes the idea of “if we understand each other, we can all be happy” and multiplies it by 1000. What you get is a sickening amount of stupidity. It takes the worst from Wing and Seed and adds some moar terribleness to it. The only reason this isn’t the worst series for me is because I’m spared from the emo drama of a bunch of kids. Humans are flawed, deal with it.
Verdict: Aeolia Schenberg, Innovators, and the Borg from Awakening of the Shitblazer can all die.
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