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IRL (In Real Life) => Music, TV, Movies => Topic started by: Jarhead0331 on January 07, 2018, 09:00:07 PM

Title: Gundam?
Post by: Jarhead0331 on January 07, 2018, 09:00:07 PM
Anybody a fan of this series? I’ve always been aware of it, as well as it’s importance to anime and it’s pioneering impact on the “giant robot” genre, but I never took a close look. Recently, I picked up Gundam versus on the ps4, and it has me interested in picking up the fiction. Problem is, they’ve been making the films and series for almost 40 years! Hard to believe this first came out in 1979! Anyway, It’s  gotten pretty confusing. Is it worth the time investment?
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 06:38:59 AM

Edited to add a link to a tl;dr version downthread:
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 06:45:44 AM
Note: this is a series of posts I set up for another forum to introduce people to the Gundam franchise. It comes with some explanations of the various series (up to the point I had written it -- several more now!), including my recommendations about the best "gateway" series to start with. And which ones aren't great to start with. And which ones aren't all that great sometimes. ;)

So! -- let's talk about Gundam.



"Gundam" refers to a Japanese animation series (or anime) which has run mostly-continuously since 1985 (after an initial hiatus from 1979), bolstered by numerous other media (comic-books or 'manga', 'light' novels, one live-action movie, etc.)

Japanese animation series (anime) maker Sunrise worked closely with toymakers such as Bandai, creating properties meant to be licensed to sell toys but also being willing to write good stories for the series. In this case, Sunrise wanted to create another children's TV show about super giant robots (a hot idea at the time), but the lead writer for the project, Yoshiyuki Tomino, wanted to try writing something much more realistic, more hard sci-fi. He still included colorful giant robots, but by his efforts he virtually invented the "real robot genre" in Japanese animation with Mobile Suit Gundam.

While originally unpopular due to its suprisingly grim tone by the standards of late-70s animation, Tomino and Sunrise (and Bandai who as licensor for the toys of the series often insisted on adding more colorful details) persisted through their uneasy relationships to create a franchise that, in its home country, now exceeds the popularity of Star Trek in North America. An actual university was established in Japan to train scientists for bringing about the technology of the Gundam series!

The Gundam series is (usually) a fairly realistic science-fiction story stuffed with details about how humans might 'really' live in space colonies and fight with large armored suits (the "mobile suits" of most of the series titles). The series is also (even more usually) stuffed with high-concept human drama and philosophizing on the dehumanizing nature of war. The series as a whole, despite often temporarily glamorizing violence, presents war itself is humanity's ultimate enemy, and mutual understanding between people as the ultimate enemy of war. Despite being nominally a show for children, main and secondary characters frequently die; and their deaths, even if heroic or the just deserts of villainy, are typically treated as tragedies.

It might seem like 35 years (as of 2014) of a series would be too much for any newcomer to find an introduction, but Gundam proceeds in bite-sized seasons (often a season is a completely self-contained separate series to itself), building on themes, equipment and ideas as its writers move through the years. This means new continuities are regularly introduced as similar stories are retold in new settings each year, or as new plots are added to the longest running single story in the series. On the other hand, this proliferation of stories can still make it hard in another way for curious people to try to get into the series! -- if there are a bunch of possible starting places, where should a person start?!

In these posts I will cover the animation series for Gundam, with an eye to giving newcomers an idea of the richness of the series on one hand, and some ideas of where to start watching on the other. I will present the series mostly in order of production (aside from some continuity orders); and I will mark reasonable contenders for introductions to the series (in my opinion) with an asterisk.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 06:58:03 AM

* MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM (aka MSG, 1979, 1981-2) -- although the production values are relatively primitive by modern standards, the creation of the series is still one good place to begin, since easily 80% of the story concepts were invented here.

In the early 21st century, global human population problems lead to both the union of most nations under one federation, and also a project (spearheaded by the scientist and social visionary Daisuke Zeon) to migrate humanity into space colonies, orbiting the sun along the same path as Earth (with a few colonies also built on the Moon). By the mid-century, the first colonies are finished and in honor of this the calendar restarts at year 0001 of the Universal Century. (Gundam continuities are typically named after this new timeline restart, when humanity first starts permanently living in space, so this is the UC story, the longest set of stories in the series.)

By 0078, billions of people are living in dozens of massive satellites (each around 100 kilometers long) grouped in clusters (known as "Sides") at various points within sublunar orbit and along Earth's orbital path (preceding and following our planet around the sun). But the years of general peace as humanity fought the harsh conditions of space have dwindled to an end, for now that things are relatively comfortable and even idyllic in the colonies, agitation grows.

The revered doctor Zeon theorized that humanity would begin to evolve more quickly in its new habitat, leading to a new type of humanity (Newtypes) with greater intuition and mental powers, thus also leading to greater understanding among people, putting a final end to human war. But in his old age Zeon grew disillusioned with how the Federation insisted on meddling in colony affairs, and now that he has died (under mysterious circumstances) the Zabi family carries on a policy of colonial self-government based on the genetic and technical superiority of colonists over people still living on Earth.

With shades of both the American Revolution against Great Britain, and the transition of Imperial Germany to Nazi Germany, many colonies join the Principality of Zeon and rebel against the Federation government, while other colonies and clusters insist on neutrality. So in late 0078 a war begins (the "One Year War" in Gundam parlance). The Earth Federation has vastly more resources and manpower, but the Zeon Principality has much higher quality of troops and technology, including the first combat deployment of mobile suits (previously used for helping construct and maintain the colonies) as anti-ship weapons, too small and fast to target. (The mobile suits themselves, while visually personable, are not persons, just big flying tanks.)

Despite the superior quality of Zeon's forces, the Zabi family realizes the Federation will win any protracted war, and so take the drastic step of invading and gassing Federation (and some neutral) colonies, then reprogramming their orbits to crash onto the leading cities of Earth (known in Gundam lore as a "colony drop"). This kills 50% of humanity outright, and Zeon follows up with a ground invasion, hoping to put the Federation permanently out of commission.

(In later installments this "Operation British" seems to be retconned into being one neutral colony which was intended to be dropped onto the reinforced Federation military headquarters at Jaburo, on the Amazon River, and then due to problems en route was accidentally dropped on Sydney, Australia instead.)

The MSG series starts with all this having already happened, and follows a high-school boy, Amuro Ray, who lives in a neutral colony, where unknown to him his father is working on a prototype mobile suit for the Federation (which so far has fielded crappy units) made of an exotic lunar-titanium alloy known as Gundariam. Zeon forces, learning of this research, invade the colony to secure the new suit, and through a series of events Amaro ends up in the cockpit of the "Gundam" prototype suit, barely defending himself from Zeon attack and accidentally killing his father along the way without even realizing it (one of the first signs, after the "colony drop", that this series intends to play rough!) Amaro and several of his schoolmates escape his doomed colony with the help of the crew of a small but potent warship, the White Base (known to the Zeons as the Trojan Horse), where he becomes progressively embroiled in the war against the Zeon.

Along the way he meets a mysterious blond masked man working for the Zeon, Char Aznable, secretly one of the surviving children of Duke Zeon, seeking to retake control of the Principality from the Zabi family. Char and Amaro become frequent rivals on different sides of the war, and while the Zeon are typically presented as the villains there are broad moral shades on both sides. The White Base descends to Earth and tours across it for a while as Amaro learns to pilot his Gundam more effectively, eventually helping drive the Zeon off the planet for good and then returning to space for the final campaigns to stop Zeon aggression and bring justice to the Zabi family. With help from the captain of the White Base, Noa Bright, Amaro slowly matures from a selfish and depressed boy to a reluctant but competent warrior, saddened over being repeatedly forced to kill people in order to survive, but determined to bring an end to the deaths of the war.

MSG wasn't a big hit originally in Japan, combining a somewhat dour tone with much plot fluffing and filler. Essentially inventing the "real robot" anime genre in a market of popular super-robot shows, didn't help it either. It plays much better today as a fairly sophisticated literary work, but its producers (reasonably) kept trying to force the main author and creator of the series, Yoshiyuki Tomino, to lighten the tone and include more colorful characters and robot enemies for Amaro to fight each episode -- in other words, make it more like a super-robot show! Eventually the producers announced they would pull the plug at 43 eps (out of a planned 52, or two standard American seasons -- and the immediate producers had to fight to get more than 39 eps!), but that didn't phase Tomino as it meant he could finish out the series cleanly with less filler, though the rush in production aggravated his chronic depression.

(To be fair, the American anime network Toonami tried to air dubbed versions of this original series twice in the early 2000s, and canceled the screenings early each time. The production values of the series just don't hold up very well.)

One result is that when Bandai had Sunrise re-edit the series into a trilogy of 2-1/2 hour movies in 1981 and 82, to capitalize on the popularity of the return of Star Wars films to the theater, the 14 hour 20 minute series ran well trimmed by about half. So riding the coat-tails of The Empire Strikes Back the movies earned enough profit to spark new interest in the series and inspired Bandai to commission Sunrise (and Tomino) to try again with a sequel series in 1985. The sequel, Zeta Gundam, was such a hit that the series has been in more-or-less continual production ever since.

Sunrise recently re-released MSG in its full North American series export as two DVD collections; but the three theatrical features (typically collected together) are in most fans' opinion (mine included) the better way to experience the first story, despite some plot jumpiness (as storylines are compressed and leapt between) and a lack of English vocal dubbing. The English subtitles are at least professional, and the animation while primitive by modern standards is cleaner than in the original series. The age of the series, even as the theatrical movie trilogy, admittedly makes it a bit hard for modern audiences to accept for its production values, so this isn't necessarily the best place for any Gundam seeker to start; but its introduction of the archetypal Gundam story-formula keeps it important to the whole series, and certainly anyone wanting to track the progressive development of the series over the years will want to start here. (By "here" I mean the compilation movie trilogy, not the series per se.)

Toonami's trailer for its (attempt at) running the original series back in 2001. Optimus Prime approves its existence.  :mrgreen: (The war doesn't rage "to the stars" however; more like from the Earth to the Moon. Amaro's "powers" aren't all that beyond imagination either. ;) )

Update: since the time several years ago when I wrote this, Sunrise/Bandai have released a total remake series with updated animation (naturally) and a somewhat expanded plot. This expanded plot, largely dealing with Char Aznable (as might be expected), has come with some criticism from fans (as might be expected. ;) ) I haven't seen it yet myself, so cannot comment on it -- but IN THEORY it would also be a good place to start.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:02:43 AM

* MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM 0080: WAR IN THE POCKET (aka Pocket, 1989) -- after the success of several full series set after the One Year War, Sunrise went back to the OYW for its 10th year Gundam anniversary and its first Original Video Animation (or OVA) Gundam series. An OVA is a miniseries released directly to video rather than first to television, which in the anime market is usually an important thing because costs can be concentrated into making a better looking product. It also means the series doesn't have to deal with television censor standards (yes even Japan has TV censors, as unlikey as that seems by North American cartoon standards!), so there's more cursing and bloody violence and brief nudity.

The six-episode series (in effect a 2 hour movie) has some confusing continuity issues. Theoretically it's a side story set toward the end of the war, but it plays much more like it's set in the days of early skirmishing before the war seriously ramps up: no one seems to think the Federation has any mobile suits yet, or any good ones, Earth doesn't seem to have been invaded or even colony-dropped (and there's no fear the Zeon intend to do that in the colony where the miniseries is set), and the fighting in space seems sporadic with secret missions to Antarctica (for the prologue) and the colony using fairly primitive suits. The date suggested by the title, 0080, would be after the war had finished, on the other hand!

For "official" canon purposes I'm putting it here after the main series; but because the mini-series plays fairly well as a prequel to the main story, I'm marking it as a good introduction to the series: it establishes many of the basic story tropes or concepts, while allowing MSG to add more if watched next.

The Zeon colonial government has been sparring with the Federation for at least a little while, and has learned of a Federation project to create a new mobile suit better than the mass-produced crappy ones it currently uses in battle. Since this would be disaster for Zeon if the Federation started mass producing the prototype instead, a Zeon commando team (during the exciting prologue) raids a Federation Antarctic base to stop research and maybe capture the "Gundam"; but the lead scientists escape with it in a shuttle to a neutral colony while the Zeon commando team mostly dies in the failed attempt.

(As with most Gundam series, the morality isn't black and white, but rather features good and evil and mixed people on each side. The Zeon commando team and its survivors are portrayed sympathetically for example despite their murderous and drastic next assignment.)

The remnants of the Zeon team, fleshed out with a completely novice recruit named Bernie, are assigned to follow the "Gundam Alex" suit (Armored Layers EXperimental, but in Japanese a spoken pun for "RX", the designation of Universal Century Gundam models) to the neutral colony, infiltrate the colony, and then locate and destroy the Alex/RX by any means -- up to and including destroying the colony if necessary.

Along the way, the easy-going and somewhat inept Bernie meets eleven year old school-boy Alfred Izuruha, who with his friends just ADORES the rumors of war going on, and who is excited at first when mobile suit battles start breaking out inside the colony. He doesn't care when he learns Bernie is (barely) a Zeon pilot, he thinks that's just as cool as anything; and touched by the hero worship Bernie makes up stories about being an ace pilot.

Unbeknownst to either of the guys, the cute and friendly red-haired woman who has just moved next door to Al, Christina MacKenzie, is the assigned Federation test pilot for the RX. The situation steadily escalates until to save the colony Bernie and Al must find a way to stop the heavily armed and armored RX/Alex Gundam.

Pocket not only serves as a neat introduction to the Gundam franchise, saluting the various themes and general storyline (especially the maturation of a young boy in a time of war), but it also plays around with those story tropes in unique ways. The young boy practically "falling into the cockpit" in other series becomes a young boy literally falling into the cockpit of a Zeon suit, not the Gundam -- and then being completely unable to do anything with it (other than think it's unbearably cool) BECAUSE HE'S ONLY A LITTLE BOY, DUH!! Each Gundam series tends to have at least one "Char" character, called by fans the "Char clone"; but Bernie Wiseman is the "Char" for this series and he's nearly incompetent with a much friendlier disposition and no secret motives or special powers. The Gundam RX is so overpowered in its design that only Newtypes are expected to operate it (eventually it's meant for Armaro Ray, one way or another depending on when the series is actually set) -- but there are no Newtypes in this series, and Chris though a skilled pilot is merely human she so can barely work it. This leads to the final battle where two pilots who can scarcely operate their machines are forced to fight one another, each of them trying to protect the colony from being destroyed. Al learns harsh lessons about war and ends the series broken-hearted, but never becomes a mobile suit pilot (much less an ace), and unlike normal Gundam heroes of this period he doesn't start out as a pacifist ruefully thrust into fighting -- he starts out thinking war is JUST AWESOME YOU GUYS!

Pocket features tons of nifty details and even fun comedy moments to leaven the often grim story, packed into a colorful two-hour experience. The art, being from 1989, is a little primitive by modern standards but holds up well thanks to the concentrated production costs. The North American DVD set is readily available, with professional English dubbing and subtitling both. I often recommend this mini-series as someone's first introduction to Gundam as a whole: as a concentrated introduction, it can't (yet) be beat.

Optimus Prime('s voice) himself promos War in the Pocket for a Cartoon Network airing apparently stitching it into its 2 hour movie form. "In war, EVERYONE IS A CASUALTY!" Not an actual line from the show, but that's a classic Gundam concept right there.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:13:39 AM

* MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: THE 08TH TEAM (aka 08, 1996) -- this twelve episode Universal Century Gundam side-story might count as the first alternate continuity: in the original MSG, the Federation are planning to mass produce Gundams from their headquarters on the Amazon River, but are thwarted by Zeon attacks which destroy the stockpiled Gundams. 08 posits that a large number of these Gundams, dialed down so that normal humans can use them while still benefiting from the advanced armor and weaponry, were shipped off to various battlefronts on Earth to fight the Zeon invasion, allowing the Federation parity with Zeon cyclopian suits. In this case, the setting is Southeast Asia.

So, Gundam Vietnam.  :D

Set during the events of the second MSG movie, the series follows new ensign Shiro Amada, last survivor of a (the?) neutral colony gassed and colony-dropped by the Zeon, and the first late-teen hero of the series. Naturally he has signed up with the Federation, who recognize his piloting and leadership talents and so have assigned him to bring the scruffy and wacky 08th Mobile Suit Team under better control -- but being a genius leader he quickly realizes everyone is better off if he just gives the team a little guidance letting them operate how they want. (Despite his traumatic backstory, he's already a mature and well-adjusted character, whom fans generally regard as a refreshing change from typical Gundam heroes.) Neither Amada nor his squad are ace pilots, although they're quirkily competent, one result being that even today this is still the most solidly "real robot" and hard sci-fi entry in the series.

Another OVA series with greater than usual production values, in effect two good 2 hour movies (with a nearly pointless final epilogue episode, and a worse than pointless compilation movie), this mini-series is deservedly loved by fans, myself included. Though it only focuses on a small part of the One Year War story, and features no main or secondary characters from the main series, the concentration allows the writing and situations to shine out, burnished by the gorgeous animation and sound design. The Romeo vs Juliet romantic subplot doesn't hurt either. While it has nods to usual Gundam story tropes (the female Zeon heroine combines several previous character types including being the "Char" for this story), the restricted story focus looks more like a traditional action movie/series while still keeping up the sharp writing and characterizations. There are several Gundam series so different from 'regular' Gundam that they could be said to be Gundam for people who wouldn't or don't like Gundam, and this is one of them -- yet of that group 08 is also the one most like Gundam (paradoxically), so it jusssst barely makes my list of possible entry points for new potential fans to get a feel for the series as a whole.

It can be easily found in good English dubs (with professional subtitles if original Japanese actors are preferred). The 2013 anniversary re-issue of the series features a short film providing an extra 'episode' to the story, "Battle in Three Dimensions" as the 08th Team and the Zeon battle for a creaky bridge across a gorge.

Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) promos the 08th Team for Toonami.

There used to be a much better high-res fan trailer set to one of the Inception film's musical cues.  :'( It was copyright struck I guess?

Please accept this action-footage trailer set to the series' J-pop theme instead. (No great spoilers, but naturally a lot of the action shots.)

Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:23:24 AM

(*???) MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM IGLOO (aka Igloo, 2004-2009) -- originally created for the Bandai Museum, and given a limited DVD release, this Universal Century mini-series covers the One Year War, from its early days to the final battle, across nine episodes in the first fully computer-animation Gundam story. Or stories. The setup is odd, and [back when I originally wrote this] it isn't at all easy to find, and has never been exported to North America (or Britain), so the only way to get a quasi-legitimate copy is by buying (possibly bootleg) Malaysian editions with mind-cripplingly bad English subtitling. It doesn't help that the 1st and 3rd parts of the series are sometimes sold separately and sometimes together, without always being overly clear which is which!

(Updated for 2018 to add that last year Bandai got around to releasing all, or almost all, their Gundam series on Blu and DVD sets including this one, in North America, once they ginned up new distribution rights. So this can be found at Amazon etc. pretty easily now.)

This is too bad because its relative speed (only nine eps) and its epic scope combined with its stunning visuals (even if they seem like video game cutscenes today) would make it a good introductory series.

The first three eps, "The Hidden One-Year War", follow Oliver May, a young Zeon officer assigned to a secret crew tasked with testing prototype Zeon weapons, each of which intersects with (and is built around) a short story of another character. Along the way the first giant space fleet battle of the war is shown, where the Zeon first deployed combat mobile suits, plus the initial Zeon invasion of Earth; but despite great heroics from Oliver's team and assorted guest characters the super-weapons somehow never quite manage to work properly (leading in part to Zeon's decision to go with the mass slaughter of the colony drop plan, Operation British).

The second part, "The Gravity Front" (also known as IGLOO 2), switches side to the perspective of Feddie soldiers (whose stories are loosely linked by a semi-incompetent Federation lieutenant in the ground forces) as they deal with the Zeon invasion of Earth: the first battles against the Zaku mobile suits (a horrifying threat to Feddie forces); an Ahab / Moby Dick story set in the wars across Europe; and the final assault on Odessa as Zeon forces attempt to retreat off Earth.

The final three eps, "Apocalypse 0079", edited more as a full movie, catches back up with Oliver and Company again as they rescue fleeing Zeon troops and try to regroup in time to make some kind of meaningful difference in the last Zeon defense against Federal navies. (The Gundam itself makes a couple of small cameos, but this series isn't about it at all.)

The "grey and gray" morality of the series is in full effect with tons of great characterization, sadly obscured by the terrible English subtitling [of the bootleg Malaysian production]; but it isn't a "Gundam" story so much as a story about the One Year War. As such it would be an interesting introduction to important parts of the Gundam series (namely the OYW) without being an introduction to anything specifically Gundamish, so to speak. I don't know that I could recommend an "interesting introduction" SPECIFICALLY AS a good gateway to the series, though.

Bandai's official US trailer, for whatever it may be worth. (Not much -- they didn't even bother to provide a dubbed overview, only scrolling subtitles, blegh.)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:25:41 AM

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM 0083: STARDUST MEMORY (aka Stardust or 83, 1991) -- this sumptuous 13-episode OVA fits between the end of the One Year War of the Universal Century storyline and the beginning of Zeta Gundam. It exists to explain how a Nazi-ish Federation group called the Titans came into existence in response to continuing Zeon aggression, and why a certain secondary character from the main MSG series starts out with the Titans.

For that purpose it's a perfectly fine series, and follows a lot of the typical Gundam story beats (novice pilot falls into the cockpit of a Gundam during a crisis, is forced to mature into a competent fighter, while dealing with a Char-esque character -- surprisingly not Char this time despite the setting -- his Gundam is carried around by a small but powerful white space battleship, etc.), but naturally it doesn't work well as an introduction to the series as a whole.

Sadly, I couldn't find a promo featuring Peter Cullen's narration, so I'll have to make do with Wolverine (Steve Blum) instead.  :mrgreen:
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:34:04 AM

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM ZETA (aka Zeta Gundam or Zeta, 1985) -- the second Gundam series ever made, this was what cemented the property as an ongoing anime establishment. Written again by Tomino, and very much a direct sequel to the original MSG (even though eight years have passed in the story), it introduces wangsty teen Kamille Bidan, a hot-headed immature whiner who gets swept up into the Gundam story because his parents have been involved in developing a set of new black Gundams for the Federation's autonomous peacekeeping military group, the Titans, who have been assigned to keep watch on the colonies to prevent any more catastrophic rebellions {inhaaale!}.

Unfortunately for everyone, the Titans are led by men who want to take over both the Federation and the colonies, and so who have designed the Titans to be more Nazi-ish than even the Zeons. Not that the Zeons are going to take this turn of events lying down; a whole fleet of advanced technology ships from a prosperous colony near Jupiter have finally arrived, far too late to help with the One Year War, but ready to contribute to the power-grabbing chaos. Meanwhile Federation officers (including Noa Bright and other characters from the original series) form the small freedom-fighting Anti-Earth Union Group (complete with a new white small battleship/carrier, the Argama). No one wants the Federation hero (and living weapon) Amuro Ray tipping the scales of the oncoming conflict one way or another, which suits him fine as he's living a peaceful (though heavily monitored) life in retirement; but Char Aznable joins the AEUG in unmasked disguise (so to speak) as the dashing Quattro Bajeena, inspired by Amuro's efforts in the original series to help bring a peaceful end to this three-or-four-sided war even if he has to kill the heck out of everyone involved to do it -- insert irony as appropriate, and boy does this series do that!

Zeta introduces a lot of new notions to the series which will return in later installments, including the "Char" character (actually Char in this case) as an older mentor hero; one Gundam being saved by the hero from a hijacking of several by the villains; a mid-season upgrade for the Gundam; having one of the hero's romantic prospects defect for little good reason to the enemy (reputedly written into the story as a jealous take-that by Tomino because the actress playing her character dumped him for the actor playing the lead Zeon villain!); and weaponizing the telepathic powers of the Newtypes which leads to a tragic doomed romance when a woman victimized thereby goes crazy. Zeta also established a long habit of sort-of replaying previous Gundam stories again with variations in each new series: despite their different characterizations there are A LOT of parallels between Kamille and Amuro. And then Amuro himself returns to the story about halfway through, after Kamille has matured enough to deal with having his predecessor around competing for story attention.

Zeta also introduces the tendency for full Gundam series to have highly complex political plots, although later series would take this even further.

Many fans regard Zeta as one of the top two or three (or one) Gundam series, and that reputation is well-earned: it holds up very well in all categories despite being a 1985 series. The inevitable movie trilogy (released much later for Gundam's 25th anniversary) relies on this reputation, but cuts the story into an incoherent mess. I tried watching that first after the success of the MSG movie trilogy, and was hopelessly lost when not entirely dissatisfied. The movie trilogy has a happier ending, admittedly, which retcons the sequel series ZZ Gundam out of existence, but I happen to like ZZ (which still isn't necessary to continue on into the UC story) and the darker original ending fits the series much better in my opinion. (To be fair the movie trilogy rang up stunning financial success during its Japanese release.)

Regardless of its many virtues, I obviously cannot recommend it as an introduction to the series, because it relies too much on plot from the original series. It can be bought easily in two official DVD sets with fine English dubs (though its subtitling of the Japanese actors is reportedly quite inaccurate). All 50 eps can also currently be watched (subtitled) for free at Daisuki:

Weirdly, I can't find even any fansub trailers of this series in English, not even of the movies, and not even with English subtitles! Sorry.

Nope, not even in Jan 2018 yet! This is just baffling, considering its high respect among Gundam fans.

Please accept this opening credit sequence with stirring music from the series instead:

Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:39:18 AM

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM ZZ (aka ZZ or ZZ Gundam or Double-Zeta, 1986) -- often reviled by Gundam fans, and at one time retconned out of existence (and then later retconned back in again), this series wasn't given a proper English export until very recently when Daisuke made it available to watch for free (with English subtitles) at their site ( If possible this is certainly the preferred method to watch it, as otherwise English viewers will be stuck ordering semi/quasi-legal Malaysian copies with mind-shatteringly bad English subtitles and grimy visuals. (2018 update: I'm pretty sure Bandai has given this a good North American export set now. In fact I use the cover to the export as a running pointless joke in my FIRE IN THE GROGS TOO DAR video series.  >:D )

For such reasons I can't recommend the series as a Gundam Gateway, but despite my handicaps in watching (via Malaysia) it I enjoyed it. I can see why this was the first series to break the fanbase, though, because Tomino tried a daring narrative experiment which tends to hamper the series.

Once again generally retelling the basic Gundam story as its own sequel (which must have started to feel old already), ZZ picks up only a few days after the end of the Titan/Zeon/AEUG war (the Federation being impotently caught in the middle) with all sides exhausted and shuffling around for most of the series trying to gather up enough strength to decisively defeat everyone else. That's a clever idea in theory, but in practice it naturally leads to pacing problems, made worse by the lighthearted mood whiplash with slapstick comedy (laced with sudden expected tragedies) following the bittersweet darkness of the end of Zeta.

ZZ has its good points and contributions to the overall form-development of the series, though; perhaps most importantly the introduction of the concept of a whole team of hero Gundams: the main character, Judau Ashto, helps keep his sister in school by being a plucky and cheerful trash scavenger at an obsolete satellite where the Argama is trying to hide for repairs (while being hunted by Zeon); and when he stumbles across the Zeta Gundam (now without its ruined pilot) he simply wants to steal it for the cash! One thing leads to another, and while Amuro and Char are written out of the plot (they were intended to conclude their story arc but Tomino got permission to make a theatrical film about that instead), the first Gundam of the Zeta show gets a pilot, Judau gets to pilot the Zeta itself, and then the mid-season upgrade arrives (designed by Judau) as the ZZ Gundam -- and now we have a Gundam team. (Also the ZZ is properly made of three independently flyable craft, a concept which will show up again in a couple of other series though not as often.)

ZZ was also the first series to show a colony drop as an in-story event, an appropriately awe-inspiring two episodes.

The series does feature a few filler arcs, so to speak, but got a shot of needed concentration to finish the plotline when Sunrise insisted on an early cancellation at 47 eps, preparing for Char and Amuro's big theatrical showdown instead. Overall I like it, but I understand why fan opinion is sharply divided and why many regard it as one of (if not the) bottom three Gundam series. Anyway, definitely not a gateway show.

Much to no one's surprise at all, no English trailers exist for this series anywhere I can find. ;) (Or even Japanese trailers really.)

Much to my surprise, this remains true in 2018, after the series is now readily available in North America, and after its reputation has been somewhat restored by newer fans (like myself).
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: Jarhead0331 on January 08, 2018, 07:42:07 AM
Jesus, dude. That's all almost as confusing as just watching all the series and movies...

A simple, "yes, its great!" Would have sufficed.  :2funny:
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:44:16 AM

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK (aka CC, 1988) -- As Gundam's first original theatrical movie, this is the climax of the story between Amuro and Char. Naturally it has strong production values (for 1988 anyway), but with Bandai having basically thrown ZZ to the wolves the film seems strangely disconnected from previous material. The script does try to namecheck prior events every once in a while, and Noa Bright returns to captain an updated Argama for a new colony police force, Londo Bell -- not a new Titan organization fortunately since Cpt. Bright can be trusted not to let it get out of hand. But the first time I watched the film I came away with jarring discontinuities which couldn't help feel like they were largely manufactured to force the plot to take a particular shape.

Among other problems it never bothers to explain clearly how Char survived an apparently fatal death back in Zeta (introducing by the way an annoying Gundam trope of having a main character mysteriously survive a Gundam explosion that ought to have clearly killed him, often with other characters fully expecting him dead!) It does work hard to try to justify why he now wants to drop two asteroids on the planet causing a non-nuclear nuclear-winter that would destroy all human life; but the fact it has to work so hard to explain his switch in attitude doesn't help the switch not feel forced to generate a final battle. (Lampshaded on a regular basis by some characters who can't understand his motive to switching to genocide, and by other characters like Amaro who never trusted Char to begin with -- but are still confused why he switched!)

The Gundam for the film, and the mobile suits generally, are nothing to write home about either. Nominally the new Gundam (called with dull literality the Nu Gundam, though spelled with a Greek 'nu' which looks like a little 'v') incorporates all the technology of the previous models, but it looks like a slightly improved version of Amaro's original; and aside from (finally) having some remote controlled bits, its power upgrade seems limited to providing a special ending to the series, where Char and Amaro (who despite being Newtypes simply cannot understand each other) are reconciled back into the universe through the ghost of their dead mutual girlfriend or something like that. Probably the best ending possible for the characters, but handled rather thuddingly. (To be fair, I do kind of like the final action sequence since even though Char and Amaro can't reconcile, the Federation and Zeon forces do.)

Also, far too much plot time is centered on a spoiled-nasty rich teen girl whose shallow self-centeredness ends up being weaponized by Char. Even her voice is meant to be annoying (whether in English or Japanese) and wow does that succeed.

Aside from my general disappointment in the film (other than time constraints and visual quality I'd rather watch ZZ again any couple of weeks than CC any night), obviously I couldn't recommend this as a Gundam gateway. It is however fairly easy to find in a professional English dub -- though if possible I recommend the subtitles as the English actors often seem two or three notches off-tone for the scenes they're playing.

Really, Prime? You'll take money to shill anything, won't you? ;)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:45:05 AM
Jesus, dude. That's all almost as confusing as just watching all the series and movies...

A simple, "yes, its great!" Would have sufficed.  :2funny:

Yes, it's great!, good luck finding a place to start!  >:D

(At least if you're poking around and seeing series titles, you can refer back to this thread with some hope of figuring out what they involve and whether they're a good place to start.  O:-) )
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:51:27 AM
Unfortunately, none of the next several entries serve very well either as "Gundam Gateways", because they all continue the ongoing story of the Universal Century. But if you're poking around looking for a way 'in', it's better to know which ones aren't good ways!   O:-) :hide:


MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM UNICORN (aka Uni, 2010-2014) -- this is a series of seven hour-long movies (originally meant to be six), picking up three years after the end of Char's Counterattack, with Char (maybe or maybe not) returning once again to kick the Neo Zeon in gear, and to be foiled by a young neutral teenager who falls into a Gundam cockpit during an assault on his colony where the Gundam is being developed. So business as usual, but high quality business, handily skipping a long series and going straight to the six-or-seven-hour compilation version instead.

The main plot has been described with some accuracy as "The Da Vinci Code Gundams", although the mystery involved is much less spectacular (or even controversial by our standards); and the story mainly exists to answer two questions leading into the two main following Gundam series: why isn't a particular kind of technology, finally implemented by Char and Amaro back in the Counterattack movie, still being used for Gundams later? -- and why are Earth governments barely a factor in later stories?

Some key characters from previous series return, most notably Noa Bright (still running the Londo Bell organization, though the Argama ship is being captained by a newcomer to the series) and Minerva Zabi (last seen as a little girl in ZZ where she was being manipulated as a political pawn by the main villain, but now the female protagonist.)

The movies have a lot of continuity with previous UC series and miniseries, as well as a few nods to previously produced series which happen 'later' in the UC timeline; also, its own homage structure emphasizes how little sense the same-story-but-later makes in one continuing timeline.  :crazy2:

So while the series serves as a decent salute to the Universal Century Gundam stories, I have to doubt it makes any sense as a gateway series.

Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 07:56:00 AM

* MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91 (aka F91, 1991) -- Tomino spent the late 80s writing novels about Char's Counterattack and events after that; but Bandai noticed that even when a series didn't do so hot on television (or in the theater) toy sales did reasonably well. They didn't have confidence in Tomino, so tried someone else for their first OVA miniseries (and 10th Gundam anniversary) "War In The Pocket", mentioned already above; and that did well enough that Bandai wanted Sunrise to take the series back to television. Contractually that meant at least giving Tomino rights to first refusal, but he decided to go for it and create a new Gundam series after all, incidentally erasing his series of post-CC novels out of continuity.

Fortunately it would have !!PIRATE GUNDAMS!!, so that was okay. Apparently Bandai approved a release of money to start making the toys after reading the words !!PIRATE GUNDAMS!!, surely one of the most reasonable-sounding actions ever taken by a corporation.

Unfortunately: when Tomino submitted his scripts for the first 13 eps of his new series, set 30 years after Char's Counterattack, the titular Gundam didn't show up several episodes. Oh, there would be a Gundam in the first episode but it would be a prequel episode introducing the new situation in the colonies and have nothing otherwise to do with the main characters. (Eventually this became a manga prequel to the story.) Also unfortunately, no PIRATE GUNDAMS for the first 13 episodes, maybe not for the first half of the series. Also unfortunately, Tomino was going back to his standard plot-well, once again reusing the same storyline: a masked Newtype antagonist (the "Char clone" for this series) is involved in leading a militant expansion of the power of one of the colony groups, and doesn't mind genociding whole populations who get in his way; the protagonist is a high-school boy (fortunately not an emotionally crippled one this time) whose absent parents turn out to be heavily involved in the creation of the newest Gundam prototype, and who turns out to be a Newtype himself; the antagonist's group (the Crossbone Vanguard) attacks the peaceful neutral colony of the protagonist causing massive death and destruction; the protagonist and his friends barely escape the destruction, falling into a Gundam cockpit along the way (sort of -- it's an old Guntank actually, the real Gundam shows up much later); the hero has a romantic interest in a princess of peace and in a woman who defects to the other side (same character this time); he struggles to learn the new Gundam while he and his friends join a small but punchy white battleship-carrier crew to engage in desperate guerrilla warfare against the antagonist's forceszzzzzzz.... Oh and the titular F91 Gundam is nothing all that special. Because later, Pirate Gundams.

For whatever reason, or maybe for obvious reasons, Bandai pulled the plug on the Crossbone Gundam series, but since they had already dedicated the money for the first 13 eps (and the toy line) they figured what the heck they could just spend that money all at once on a theatrical feature compressing the 13 eps into one 90ish minute film and be done with it.

And so F91 Gundam came to pass. (And then a few years later Tomino went on to write three highly successful manga series flash-forwarding the story into the !!!PIRATE GUNDAMS!!! situation everyone wanted in the first place.)

It might sound like this is only worth skipping, but despite some plot jumpiness and pacing issues the film works better than it has any right to. It practically compresses a full Gundam series story arc into one small easily digestible package, and unlike Pocket from a couple of years before this is a stereotypical "Gundam" story -- which could be considered a boring thing by now, but for introducing people to the concept of the series it might work well. The animation is up to par for 1991, so while richly primitive (so to speak) by modern standards at least it has good color and detail. And while the characterization is generally dull, it does feature the most mature and threatening Char-ish character in the series (incidentally the first full "Char" character who was not actually Char himself!) The DVD can also be bought easily in competent English vocal dubs and subtitling.

I can't say it's good enough to be a top way to introduce the series, so I won't recommend it; but I can also see how it might technically be competent for that, with some advantages lacked by other "gateway" options. No real knowledge of previous Universal Century stories is needed either.

I know there have to have been English trailers for the film -- I recall seeing some myself on other DVDs -- but it isn't that good as a gateway story anyway so never mind. :)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 08:00:57 AM

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM VICTORY (aka V Gundam or Gundam V or V, 1993) -- the latest (so far) story in the Universal Century timeline (aside from a poorly made and received live-action movie, G-Savior, which Sunrise doesn't like to talk about), Gundam V is a crazy beast, even literally so: after the failure of F91's launch, which didn't help Tomino's depression, Bandai was pressuring Sunrise for a hit series better designed to sell toys. It ought to feature a lot of young kids, and be a new property without all the UC baggage making it easy for new fans to get into (especially the new generation of young boys, but also young girls so have a really young girl carrying her baby brother around everywhere), and it should feature mobile suits that transform into helicopters and other things, and LOTS AND LOTS of motor bikes. Heck the enemy suits should ride motor bikes. The enemy battleships should be GIANT MOTORBIKES! Yes, that's the kind of thing Bandai wanted; and if Tomino promised to deliver that, Bandai would fund Sunrise for a full 50 to 52 eps this time.

This also didn't help Tomino's depression.

So he did what they wanted.

But in a giant Take That to the studio, he wrote the series as such a scathing indictment of war, with so many secondary and primary characters dying, that the boy hero constantly has to work through emotional trauma. (Tomino also made sure the Gundam only shows up for the first time in episode 5, leading Bandai to order Sunrise to run that episode first and cobble together the previous three or four eps as subsequent flashbacks through hasty re-edits.)

In effect, Tomino overtly did his best to suicide his own series so no one would bother him about it again -- in his own commentary for the original DVDs, he outright tells people not to watch it.

The result is a series which, despite only recently (2017) being exported to English speaking nations (Malaysian clunky English subtitles again for those who wanted to watch it before recently), and despite being somewhat poorly received by its target audience, has earned a reputation for being one of the best two UC Gundam series to date, up with Zeta Gundam.

In many ways it's a stereotypical Gundam story: a young Newtype boy (Uso Evin, or Uso Ebbing, depending on how his name is transliterated) whose absent parents are heavily involved in the new Gundam prototype, gets caught up in a colonial war against his will when a space colony group (the Zanscare Empire this time, complete with a mysterious white-masked prince antagonist "Char"-ish character named Cronicle Law) decides to militantly expand its influence; the boy falls into a Gundam cockpit through a series of coincidences and learns he has some nascent skill which he develops over the series into being an ace pilot; etc. etc.

But there are some interesting differences, too, the least of which being an inversion of the standard story progression: now the boy starts out on Earth in a settlement colony, goes to space, and finishes back on Earth. (And goes back to space. And finishes back on Earth. This series had a lot of executive meddling.) The series takes place so far into the future of the UC storyline (60 years after Char's Counterattack) that the mobile suits other than the titular Gundam look quite different. (Indeed aside from some brief mentions of the Gundam of the distant past, and the satellite designs, it might as well be a whole new series from scratch. Not coincidentally, most Gundam series henceforth would be fresh alternate universe continuities.) And a lot of mileage is wrung out of the idea that the weapons have advanced so far that even the Gundam's armor is easily breached, meaning Uso has to learn to fight with more obvious tactical skill than previous heroes. V is the first Gundam series to give the "peace princess" character actual political power, too, though unlike future versions of her character her political influence is with the enemy! The animation, though primitive and kind of jerky by 1993 television standards (much moreso by modern anime standards), does have the benefit of almost never using recycled footage: the money is up there on the screen, just not in a way that's easily obvious to appreciate.

Is it a good Gundam series? Despite Tomino's own efforts, or paradoxically because of them, yes it is. I'd still rate a lot of them over it, but it's a worthy entry.

Does that make it a good gateway series? It's a very standard "Gundam" series in many ways, while being surprisingly mature for its deceptively "kiddie" look, and its story stands alone well -- it treats prior stories in a very distant fashion. But I think there are better options.

This ends the report on the Universal Century Gundam storyline.

Next I'll introduce the Alternate Universe stories, which by design are much more self-contained.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: Sir Slash on January 08, 2018, 09:07:04 AM
Jason Pratt, Ladies and Gentlemen. The 'Cliff Claven' of the Grogheads.   :clap:  And if you don't know who that is..... I bet Jason does.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: mirth on January 08, 2018, 09:15:25 AM
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 11:27:58 AM

About half of the Gundam series are set in one continuity, known as the "Universal Century". Consequently, even though some of the later series in the UC are very good, they don't serve very well as gateways to the series as a whole. Whereas some of the earlier ones are of lesser quality (being older productions).

I'll mark the series which seem to me (for various reasons) to be good gateways into the overall property.

* MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM -- this is the original series. As a series it's kind of painful; as the three compilation theatrical films, it works quite well as an introduction to the UC story and, naturally, it introduces a lot of the story tropes that future series play with. (And you need to know this series is ALL ABOUT playing with its own story tropes. Usually; there are a few exceptions.)

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: ORIGINS -- this is a series of prequel films, setting up the original series. They retcon some things, and also focus on the rise of the main antagonist of the series (and his sister). I've heard variable things about the quality, but I haven't seen the films yet myself so I don't know how well they'd serve as a Gundam gateway.

* GUNDAM 0080: WAR IN THE POCKET -- this was the first Gundam OVA series (produced to sell directly on home video, not broadcast), created for the 10th anniversary. It's basically a 2 hour movie broken into four episodes, and might have a compilation film. Its plot structure is a little weird, as though the writer(s?) couldn't decide if this was supposed to be set toward the end of the original series or as a prequel. (I like to watch it as a prequel; but officially it's the other way around.) It plays around with its established story tropes a lot. In a way it's a good introduction to the series, packed into a little pocket of a story, so to speak.

* GUNDAM 008TH TEAM -- this is another OVA series, set during the period of the second theatrical film of the first main series. It has very little to do with the plot of the first main series, but a lot of fans regard it as one of the top 5 or 3 (or 1) best. The short version is "Gundam Vietnam", and it remains one of the most "real" of the "real robot" entries in the series (despite the vagina telepath superweapon at the end. ;)  :D ) It can serve as a good introduction to the series per se, but not very good as an introduction to the plot of the story of the Universal Century.

* GUNDAM IGLOO -- the first all-CGI series, created as 9 sequential short stories which cover the periphery of the main original series story from the start to the end of the One Year War. Despite looking like a PS2 cutscene, it's pretty good, and could serve as a good gateway series. It's also verrrry strong on the "real robot" aspect of the series. (On the other hand, the facial expressions go for hyper-emotional anime types in a realistic 3D model so... ymmv.) It hammers down hard on the war-is-the-greatest-enemy themes, although by its design it tends to avoid child soldiers.

GUNDAM THUNDERSTRIKE DECEMBER SKY -- a miniseries created as webisodes, compiled into a film. This is set near the end of the One Year War, but only deals with the main plot in a periphery way. The film is set in and around the wreckage of a space colony destroyed by the fighting of the war, which by a quirk of the war's development now controls a key logistic track. (Like a ruined fortress tower overlooking a road.) The Zeon hold the ground, using the "Living Dead" battalion: an experimental unit comprised totally of handicapped soldiers wounded in combat. The Federation group trying to take the ground are based around survivors and family of the colonists who died thanks to Zeon's war in the area. The film (miniseries) was created by the team who made "Cowboy Bebop", I think (or if not they're aping that style amazingly); so for anyone who knows that show, this is essentially "Gundam Bebop". ;) It plays around a ton with established story tropes, which is fine. It's a flashy and stylish but also hard-hitting war film. I greatly recommend it, but maybe not as a gateway introduction to the franchise. (A sequel series is being produced and running right now somewhere; I look forward to the film compilation.)

GUNDAM 0083: STARDUST MEMORY -- another OVA series, set as an immediate sequel to the original main series, and bridging into Zeta Gundam. As such it doesn't serve well as a gateway series; but among established fans it has a high reputation.

GUNDAM ZETA -- also known as Zeta Gundam. The official second series in the UC continuity, and the second Gundam anime ever produced. It's also the whole reason why Gundam has continued on until today, since the first series flopped hard! The series itself has a well-earned reputation among the top 5 (or 3, or 1) series, and introduces a lot of story tropes that future series play with; but naturally it isn't good as a gateway really. Avoid the compilation films in my opinion: they chop too much of the story out, leading to incoherence.

GUNDAM ZZ -- also known as ZZ Gundam or Double Zeta. The official third series in the UC continuity. Often reviled by older fans, it was only recently given a proper North American release. It introduces a few important new story tropes for future series to play with, but its overall concept (of the aftermath of a three-or-four-sided war where the sides are all exhausted and trying to scrape up enough oomph to finish the conflict) naturally generates some serious pacing problems. Also the start of the series involves some major mood whiplash compared to the end of Zeta. Personally I like the series, but not a good gateway recommendation.

CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK -- the first (and as far as I know still the only original) Gundam cinematic feature film. It has some plusses and minuses, more minuses in my opinion, and concludes the storyline of the main protagonist and antagonist from way back in the original MSG series. This isn't the end of the "Universal Century" storyline. Nor, regardless of quality opinions, is it a good gateway. A lot of fans adore this film, probably for the grand finale where everyone sacrificially cooperates to save the world.

GUNDAM UNICORN -- a series of seven (originally meant to be six) movies. Sort of "The Da Vinci Code Gundam", but not that controversial. Consciously tries hard to give the stereotypical tell-the-same-story-over-again-but-different Gundam story design (for which the series is famous and infamous), but does so for purposes of saluting the series. Personally I wasn't much of a fan of the series, but it has its supporters. Not a good gateway in any case.

* GUNDAM F91 -- the second produced feature film, but cobbled together with some animation upgrades from 13 episodes of pre-production on a series that was sold with the promise of !!PIRATE GUNDAMS!! but which was taking too much time to get there so the producers abandoned the project. Better than it has any right to be, it manages to tell a whole stereotypical Gundam story arc in 90 minutes, and while it's a sequel to everything in the above list the story doesn't really require knowing that. Technically I list it as a gateway, but there are better options. (The !!!PIRATE GUNDAMS!!! do show up eventually in some manga sequels to this movie, and were a huge hit among fans.)

* GUNDAM VICTORY -- this series, one of the few that ended up running the full planned 50 eps, happens so far in the future of the UC that it kind of counts as the first alternate universe story. It's readily available in North America now, and fans tend to think highly of it, but it's a quirky beast because the lead writer was intentionally trying to kill the franchise (and in the commentary for the original DVD release, he actively tells people not to watch it. ;) ) Features a lot of the typical Gundam story tropes, but plays with them a little more, and is liked by fans for being more grimdark than the bouncy toy-like presentation (battleships made of motorcyles!) would visually indicate. Technically I suppose it could count as a gateway, but there are better options.

G-SAVIOR -- this is the only live-action film so far, set sometime after GVictory, and it's so bad that Bandai practically disavowed it so that it doesn't use the "Gundam" name or terms. Might be impossible to get anyway, and we shall never speak of it again.  :crazy2:

GUNDAM RECONQUISTA -- really it's own self-contained alternate universe story, but technically takes place very far in the future of the UC (so no longer called the Universal Century). Gorgeous animation, in some places; but while I own and have watched most of it, the age of its main characters feels too young for me to care much about the situation, and in my opinion it doesn't distinguish itself enough from many previous series (some of which it apes, as traditional for Gundam series). Technically I suppose it could count as a gateway, but there are better options.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 01:00:09 PM

I figured I'd spare the thread from essays on these. But I have them. I DO HAVE THEM!  >:D

MOBILE FIGHTER G GUNDAM (aka Mobile Suit Gundam G, Mobile Fighting Legend G Gundam, Gundam G, G Gundam, G, 1994... it has a lot of nicknames and relabels) -- this is one of those Gundam series for people who hate Gundam series, but it's ssssoooooooo different that I can't in good conscience call it a good gateway series. Yet it's the reason the series wasn't canceled after Gundam Victory (see previous entries), where the producers felt like the series was running out of gas and figured they couldn't lose anything and would still sell toys for a final 15th anniversary run, so they gave the keys to a writer/director who did not even remotely want to make a Gundam series and told him "make it about whatever you want to do that sounds fun and awesome; just include some Gundamy things occasionally for flavor." {inhale!} The result not only kick-started the never-ending Gundam series going down to today, but also is a wild, epic ride in its own right. Assuming you like crazy super-robot martial art tournaments where the martial artists pilot giant robots. Including a giant robot horse. Piloted by a horse. This is Gundam on way too much breakfast cereal. I find it deliriously entertaining, but it's admittedly an acquired taste -- and admittedly this series kind of spoiled the whole "real robot" genre standard. (But Gundam was slowly doing that anyway.) Pacific Rim borrows a number of things from this series! For my essay on it click here (

!* GUNDAM WING -- this series helped launch the American anime network TOONAMI, and introduced Gundam to major audiences in North America for the first time. It takes the competing/friendly martial artists in custom Gundam suits from Gundam G, and marries this concept to the original storyline, serving as the first real reboot to the proper series. It was freakishly popular, and due to its cute-boy character designs almost single-handedly brought a major girl audience to anime (and to Gundam) for the first time. (It also, incidentally, started serious fan shipping of the characters as homosexual couples, though this is not literally part of the show at all.) The series has a grand finale film (sometimes split up into a 3-part OVA) called Endless Waltz, which is worth watching as a finale although the series doesn't really need it. It takes the themes of youth in war from the original series a lot more seriously than Gundam G did, and with its snazzy art and complex political plotting and hectic action sequences and decent soundtrack... {inhale} I actually recommend this as a gateway to the property more than I do any of the series from the main UC continuity! It's still one of my top three recommendations. My longer essay on it here. (

Toonami gets some details wrong, but focuses more on the plot than Bandai's own trailer. And still, it's Optimus Prime promoting the series.

* AFTER WAR GUNDAM X -- only recently made available for the first time in North America, this series is beloved by fans for... well, I honestly don't know. I like it, but it isn't the best thing out there. It's the shortest of the full series, and that's a plus I guess! Also it has an especially dark Mad Maxian post-apocalyptic setting, where 99 percent of humanity has been wiped out; and yet the series is pretty upbeat and chipper (with telepathic dolphins even), with one of the happiest endings ever in series history. It takes the basic series tropes and has fun playing around with them. I'd recommend it over the later UC series as a gateway, but there are better and/or more important series (to the property) out there.

TURN A GUNDAM -- the original series creator returned here for an alternate universe story, which he intended to be his final work on the series, and which he designed as a distant future sequel to all previous series before (loosely tying in the alternate universe stories, too). It is one quirky beast! -- uhhhhh very roughly, it's World War One Gundam. Not quite as cool as that sounds, mainly because not quite as WW1 as that sounds. People on Earth are living a late 19th / early 20th century European life when Spacenoids from the Moon start arriving -- and start causing trouble, both politically and in an HG Wells War of the Worlds kind of way. I really thought I was going to like this series, but perhaps due to only being able to get a Malaysian subtitle I've never finished it. It's available now in a proper North American release (but the effort to release it originally in North America sunk Bandai's distribution arm!) I don't really recommend it as a gateway.

If you watch this promo for its original canceled American release and think, "Wow that looks dumb as hell"... yeah, trust your instincts on this one. It isn't that dumb, but it's reaaaaaaaalllllly an acquired taste.

!!!* GUNDAM SEED -- this was the first truly modern reboot of the original story, although still in its own separate continuity and storyline (with different characters and situations), bringing along a lot of the new trope developments since Gundam Wing. Very popular in its day, this is still my top choice for a gateway Gundam series, combining at least a little of the best of all previous series before it. It only suffers from too much repeated animation, and (more importantly) too many flashbacks and recap episodes -- a sign that Sunrise was struggling to fill the expected 50 episodes. Notably in the recent High Definition Remaster, at least two episodes were outright omitted for being mere recap eps! My essay on it here. (

Let Optimus Prime commercial this for you:

GUNDAM SEED STARGAZER -- a very skippable short animated sidestory in the "SEED" continuity, technically set during the sequel. It has its fans, partly for showing better a colony drop situation from the sequel, and partly because it takes an interesting route of designing a Gundam for exploration rather than combat.

GUNDAM SEED DESTINY -- the only full sequel series to an Alternate Universe series so far, roughly comparable to Gundam Zeta's plot. It's a fine followup to SEED, and if you like the first series you should continue on hereby, but I personally recommend getting the series of four compilation TV films instead (which are typically sold as an OVA set) since the series per se includes a ton of filler and recap and flashbacks. Obviously, being a sequel series, it isn't a good gateway candidate. My essay on it here. (

SUPERIOR DEFENDER GUNDAM FORCE -- the first fully CGI Gundam series (not miniseries, but series), this oddity remains hard to find in English and very expensive to collect, at least in its first season. (The second season can be found in a nice collection pack for reasonable prices.) It is at least three thousand percent insane, and intended for young kids; and its plot has nothing to do with Gundam story tropes. But I was surprised to find I really enjoyed it, and it was produced in North America (for American kid consumption) with good English voice acting. My essay on it here. ( Not at all a gateway to the franchise per se, but in its own way it's a Gundam series for people who hate Gundam series, and as a serial cartoon for young kids it has some dark seriousness to it every once in a while.

!!** GUNDAM 00 -- a verrrrrryyy loose thematic remake of Gundam Wing (much as SEED and SEED Destiny remade MSG and Zeta Gundam respectively), this series benefits from its two seasons being twice as short (25 eps each) as usual, keeping production values high and the plot moving along briskly. Like Gundam Wing, a somewhat older teen cast might resonate better with older watchers. It makes just as good an introduction to major Gundam ideas and themes as Seed (+ Destiny), in an attractive and easily accessible package (including fine English vocal dubbing). Seed (+ Destiny) admittedly fits the basic Gundam plot much more closely, but Seed's 100 episode length also decompresses into filler much more often (though largely addressed in Destiny by the special edition films). Arguably 00 provides the highest quality gateway to Gundam (even if not to the basic plotline) currently available, though Wing itself is no slouch in that department. I give the slight edge to Seed as a gateway show only because of its more traditional plot structure.  My essay on it here (

This series didn't need an epilogue film, but got one anyway: "A Wakening of the Trailblazer". I enjoyed it a lot as a fine send-off to the series, and it's worth watching if you like G 00, but otherwise don't bother.

There have been several more series since I compiled that report, including two I own (a super-deformed kid's version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and a UC story called Thunderstrike) but haven't watched yet; and one that sounds good on paper (the colonies typically found on the story are on Mars instead of orbiting along with Earth), Iron Blooded Orphan. Reconquista I just can't get myself to finish. Gundam AGE I haven't watched, but its fan reception has been highly variable, with everyone agreeing that the premise (to run three generations of kids in a somewhat typical Gundam story) sounds better on paper than in execution as the series goes on.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 08, 2018, 01:11:17 PM
Since my TLDR posts need a TLDR...  :timeout: :wow: #:-)

Recapping my top three recommendations for getting into the series, in ascending order:

• Gundam Wing (and its epilogue movie Endless Waltz). The first "modern" series.

• Gundam 00, which (with its grand finale movie A Wakening of the Trailblazer) I'd regard as the best Gundam series on the market currently.

• Gundam SEED (plus the four Destiny TV movies) which though not quite as high quality as 00 is the most traditional of the recent Gundam series -- thus arguably serving as the most representative version of the franchise as a whole.

These are all self-contained series which don't require knowing anything about each other, although watching Wing first might help in appreciating some tropes it establishes when they show up in later series.

My best recommendation for the classic Gundam "Universal Century" storyline, remains the MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM compilation film trilogy, which introduces the whole franchise from scratch. If you like that, and want more UC story, try Zeta Gundam afterward (though not the film trilogy compilation), with War in the Pocket, Stardust Memories, 08th Team (especially), Thunderstrike (especially), and Igloo all salted in for sidestory taste.

For something completely different afterward, and/or if you just like the idea of a martial-art competition series like Kickboxer or Enter the Dragon (or Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter) featuring giant robots wearing sombreros or dressed like a windmill -- Mobile Fighter Gundam G is a fun hoot with a serious meditation on the horror and grandeur of war sprinkled among a Gundam shaped like a cobra.  :D (It was also hugely influential in shaping story tropes afterward.)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: Sir Slash on January 08, 2018, 02:14:52 PM
WHO hid Pratt's Decaf? PLEASE, give it back!  ;D
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: mirth on January 08, 2018, 02:22:50 PM
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: Staggerwing on January 08, 2018, 05:40:55 PM
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: undercovergeek on January 09, 2018, 07:41:39 AM
Could you elaborate on that Jason?
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 11, 2018, 10:30:20 PM
Of course!

...just kidding.  >:D

I legitimately tried to get back into Gundam Reconquista tonight, but only could get through one more ep (to the 2/3 mark) before calling it quits and consigning it to be resold back on Amazon if possible. I can understand why other people might like it; even other Gundam fans maybe: it has good art (usually, not always, and the distinction can be insanely jarring), some colorful designs, a generally bright upbeat tone...

It's the bright upbeat tone that does me in along with the overly young age of most of the cast. The latter isn't unusual for a G property, but the former is.

I actually like another even more upbeat G series, Superior Defender Gundam Force, but it's more of an affectionate fan homage with tons of references but not really a "Gundam" story. It also has a much smarter plot than the American kiddie presentation would suggest on the surface, and plays somewhat like a (very affectionate) satire of what the Japanese think American kids' action serial cartoons are like. But the key point is that SDGF isn't really a Gundam story, so I don't mind its tone so much.

G Reconquista is very overtly a Gundam story all across its surface. But it seems shallow and repetitive, and the spirit of the franchise just isn't there -- not for me anyway.

By illustrative contrast, I hopefully popped in the film (based on a limited manga series) Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky, and in that 70 minutes of story was more of the spirit of the franchise than in 2/3 of Reconquista so far.

The essential thematic premise of Gundam has always been, from the beginning, that war, while often glorious, is the true and ultimate enemy of mankind generally and of individual persons specifically. That's a concept simple enough and deep enough to run many variations on (even if the franchise sometimes runs the variations too similarly.) And it necessarily rests at the root of all character designs, character arcs, and dramatic tensions in the best representatives of the franchise.

Thunderbolt gets that. Reconquista doesn't seem to. The form of the theme is occasionally there, and that was when I had some hope for the series, but I just lost patience waiting for the theme to come back.

Thunderbolt is a dark, gritty, adult rumination (set toward the end of the One Year War of the original series, as a side story) on those themes, from plenty of different angles and to different degrees. It also looks sharp as hell (despite some intentional deformities in facial animations), being set in and around the ruins of a couple of shattered space colonies, where the debris itself is lethal (hard sci-fi in space, woo!) and the static shocks spark off the huge thunderbolts of the title.

It also leans hard on how monstrous the Zeon (space colony faction) mobile suits seem when fighting the under-developed Federal suits; and on how monstrous the Gundam is by comparison to most of the Zeon suits. I ate that up like cake, on the side of the steak of the rest of the film.  :smitten: The general grey and gray morality of the franchise is in full effect, too, as good people try to deal with the war situations they find themselves in -- sometimes crumbling under the pressure, sometimes rising above it, sometimes both at the same time.

Thunderbolt doesn't require knowing anything about the main plot of the (early part of the) main continuity of the series; anything necessary, the plot delivers brief instruction on. The Zeon want to be self-determining colonies, and are willing to lean into fascism to get there. The Feddies don't want them to and ditto. A war about this has been going on for about a year, and everyone keeps being scarred by it, physically, mentally, and (so to speak) spiritually. The heroism of war is necessary just to keep going; but slams repeatedly into the harsh realities of war, rising to transcend beyond war on rare occasions. (More rare in this film than often in other G series.)

A Federation task force, comprised of survivors of the doomed colony, fights to drive out the Zeon battalion that has taken up position within its wreckage, which both sides think (rightly or wrongly) to confer a strategic position in the broader strategic war around them. That battalion, known as the Living Dead, is also a science research project on how to fit disabled soldiers with prostheses to continue the war effectively: which means on defense they take up positions and snipe incoming Federal attacks.

That's all you need to know; the rest is gravy and icing (and steak).

Also unlike Reconquista which has no English dub at all (which usually doesn't bother me much), Thunderbolt has a fine English dub.

For those who know the now-classic anime series Cowboy Bebop? It's like that, but in the Gundam franchise. (Otherwise never mind; but go watch CB sometimes, a super-stylish bounter-hunter series blending a lot of genres set in a pretty realistic sci-fi future of colonizing the solar system.)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: BanzaiCat on January 12, 2018, 05:15:56 AM
I'm still not getting it. Are Gundams like Pokemans?
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: Barthheart on January 12, 2018, 06:25:45 AM
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: mirth on January 12, 2018, 08:26:47 AM
That's not a Gundam. Or a Pokieman. Nor is it a Digomin.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 12, 2018, 12:19:40 PM
Is it a Dogman!?  :D

(I lol'd at poking the bear, btw.)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: mirth on January 12, 2018, 12:21:47 PM
Is it a Dogman!?  :D

Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: BanzaiCat on January 12, 2018, 01:27:38 PM
Oh, so it's based on that anime with the kid with the crazy hair and the table strapped to his forearm which he deals dice that kids roll and try to hit small monsters so they can "capture" them and sell them into slavery.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: mirth on January 12, 2018, 01:34:52 PM
I tried watching Robotech the other day on Amazon Prime. Man, that show does not hold up well.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: BanzaiCat on January 13, 2018, 11:35:46 AM
I never got into it and I tried also to watch Robotech last year, but I couldn't get into it at all.

Star Blazers doesn't hold up well, either, at least not to me. I really liked Space Battleship Yamato though...great movie.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 16, 2018, 09:37:33 PM
I thought Robotech held up fine -- better than I expected -- when I picked up the full collection a few years ago. Well, the Macross Saga parts; the other two parts (from two other anime) I had never seen before, and they didn't hold up well at all. But I persevered and got through them, just to see how well the adapters brought them into the Macross Saga parts. (Surprisingly not much needed to be done; just a few lines here and there. Elegant "angulation".)

Star Blazers, yeah, first season especially can be rough, although I cobbled together two feature length animated films out of season one for the nieces a couple of years ago. That artificially made things flow a bit better.

Random amusement: Star Blazers / SBY correctly (by accident) guessed that Pluto not only had (frozen) seas but enough atmosphere for (sort of) blue skies!  :o

The second season runs better, partly because they based it on a single theatrical sequel film that they just added some plot filler to (and a happier ending). The TV movie and other animated theatrical films (through "Final Yamato") are... variable. Season three between the latter two theatricals, whuf. Doesn't help that the old English dubbing team was long gone and the replacements aren't as good (or as numerous so lots of the same voices in other parts.)

Modern Yamato film, trying to start another sequel series after the "Final Yamato" movie -- I've got, but I don't much like it. Looks great tho.

The live-action film from a few years ago? -- a few pacing problems, partly based on how they chose to end it, but otherwise impressive. The nods to modern Battlestar Galactica aesthetics were nice (including the diving warping battleship), considering Galactica (and even Star Wars) borrowed somewhat from the original series.

The modern season one reboot series looks great, but while I understand some of the plot changes (especially so that the series as a whole is more cohesive and less episodic and randomly bad science), I didn't like it as much as the old 1974 series for some reason I can't pin. I really should like it more. The plot differences after the first 1/3 aren't always paced well I guess? I should rewatch soon and see if I like it better.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 16, 2018, 09:41:39 PM
Oh, so it's based on that anime with the kid with the crazy hair and the table strapped to his forearm which he deals dice that kids roll and try to hit small monsters so they can "capture" them and sell them into slavery. fact, there are two animated seasons (and some related spinoffs) which are sort of based on the mobile suits being collectable toys that kids duel with!

So surprisingly, the answer is yes. Sort of.  :o :2funny: >:D

(And no, I haven't watched those two seasons and don't care to. But the "Gunpla" back in Japan makes alllllll the money for the franchise, so I don't blame them for spending a couple of seasons producing stories of that sort.)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: BanzaiCat on January 17, 2018, 05:50:13 AM
So which Gundham is seven-zark-seven in?
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 19, 2018, 03:08:48 PM
He was only in some American non-canonical eps where they battled over some planets.

Gotcha, man.  :D
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: BanzaiCat on January 29, 2018, 04:49:37 AM
I think my favorite episode of Gundam is "Transformation" where civilians are trying to normalize their life aboard the mobile battle fortress. Roy Fokker is a badass, especially when they invade Zeon territory to fight the AEUG.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 29, 2018, 03:01:21 PM
That needs some quote marks
next to Patrick Stewart's head
assigned to Gandalf.
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: Jarhead0331 on January 29, 2018, 03:08:29 PM
I think my favorite episode of Gundam is "Transformation" where civilians are trying to normalize their life aboard the mobile battle fortress. Roy Fokker is a badass, especially when they invade Zeon territory to fight the AEUG.

Roy Fokker? Wasn't he in Robotech?!?
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 30, 2018, 07:04:05 AM
See prior post. (And
insert enough syllables
here for a haiku.)
Title: Re: Gundam?
Post by: JasonPratt on January 30, 2018, 07:06:29 AM
iirc that
Robotech episode had
underage shower.  :o