So this week is going to be a little bit of a celebration for two large franchises in the anime universe. The first is the Gundam franchise. While there are a lot of shows to talk about considering that it’s been running for 40 years, talking about the most creative show in the franchise seemed like the most interesting way to go, so I took it. It may have been because I rewatched it recently. Since doing that, I’ve been watching some more of the director’s (Yasuhiro Imagawa’s) works recently. (Can’t wait until Giant Robo is released) Yeah, there are at least two more super robot shows that will appear in the very near future. I’ll let you guess what shows those are for now. But for now, let’s talk G Gundam and about how it’s fantastic and unique addition to the Gundam franchise.
G Gundam is somewhat of an anomaly in the Gundam verse. Not only is it a stand alone production with it’s own universe and everything by being the first to be an Alternate Universe, it doesn’t fall prey as much to the usual Gundam tropes that almost every other part of this franchise does. It indulges more in Super Robot, Shonen Battle, 90’s anime, and Martial Arts tropes while also playing around with some older anime references with some Gundam tropes on the side. Combine all of those together and you get one of the most unique works in fiction possible. I loved G Gundam back in the Toonami days even if it never got the attention it deserved because it wasn’t Gundam Wing. My brother even called it stupid back in the day, but that didn’t make me stop watching it. Maybe not as much as the original series, but still it was there and entirely more watchable. I’m going to evenly boldly say that it aged a lot better then Wing because it actually has a well thought out story and doesn’t jump from one heinous plot to another. That’s a post for another day though.
G Gundam takes a place in a universe that replaced an all ensuring war with what is known as the Gundam Fight. Every country has a colony in space and have their own Gundam take part in a tournament every four years for control of the entire UNIVERSE (or the Earth’s sphere). So that sounds pretty happy compared to the usual Gundam spiel right? Unfortunately it’s not. The broken down countries on Earth are the victims of these gigantic robot fights. There is almost no effort to rebuild the broken down cities and decay that are the result of these fights. Because of that, the world is in chaos while the colonies live all high and mighty in space doing whatever they want. Is this better then an all out war? That’s up to you to decide.
Our story starts when our representative from Neo Japan, Domon Kasshu, and his assistant and childhood friend, Raine Mikamura descend to Earth. One reason is to take part in the Gundam tournament fights, which is normal. Every country has a Gundam representative after all. Here is the not normal part, Domon has a photograph of some person he’s looking for with some nations on the back of it that might know something about this person. It’s a very deliberate break from usual plot expectations that adds such an amazing layer of intrigue to the show. Intrigue that not only allow gets resolved but adds so much more to the plot in a lot of great ways later on in the story. Almost all of G Gundam is a tournament arc, but it also has something about the Dark/Devil Gundam destroying the world which is the scariest thing in the world, unique and possibly racist Gundam designs and names, master and pupil succession battles, real friendship with many other nation’s Gundams, and just chaos. It’s a campy good time all around with a lot of feels behind everything. So what I’m saying is that G Gundam is incredibly cool.
Domon Kashu is a character that I feel like I can easily describe as a standard dimwitted shonen protagonist trying his hardest by being extremely serious. In the first episode of the series, Domon Kashu comes across as very straight forward and mean with maybe a hint of heart behind him. The thoughts of “how can can Rain even stand him” show up until the reason why Domon is on this journey is revealed in a heart breaking manner. Then it all makes sense. Now you get a better understanding of who Domon is as a person and why he is forcing himself to be serious on this journey. The poor guy has suffered a lot and seeing him grow and lighten up a lot over the course of the series is a lot of fun and heart warming. He isn’t the perfect shonen protagonist, but then who is? No one is perfect.
If Rain Mikamura was in a different show like Dragon Ball or even Fullmetal Alchemist, she would be a rich billionaire with her own sort of scientific empire. Instead, she follows around her reckless childhood friend and love interest by the name of Domon Kashu. Sometimes she is left with the work to fix the Gundam, other times she is kidnapped by either really nice people that don’t mean her any harm or bad people that do, and it’s up to Domon to save her. Rain honestly gets so much more flack then she deserves, but she is a solid character in her own right still. To balance all of the negative sides, Rain gets a lot of time to be nice, caring, ingenious in engineering and medical fields, and even piloting a Gundam sometimes too. Domon and Rain are also obviously in love with each other even if none of them can spit out their feelings. The little bit of frustration was worth it though because Domon does confess to Rain in the most powerful way during the last episode and it’s worth it.
The best part about G Gundam being 49 episodes is that not only the plot can do whatever it wants to do in a good amount of time, it also enables the show to fully fleshes out all the side characters and villains. Domon is apart of an important group of people that watch over everything called the Shuffle Alliance. Some of the characters he meets up with on the journey join that group too, they also get their own development and their own stories, and become best friends with our Neo Japan fighter. Same for the villains. While some of them are just evil people with big plots to rule the universe or just “haha, kill them all for revenge” sorts of things. At least they feel more like real people then just existing to be used by the plot. Some even like Master Asia have a lot more complicated things like going on which is pretty great.
All of these characters are introduced with episode with a different genre to them to give each character their own identity. I really mean that which is not something most gundam series do. There’s a crime drama episode, a Rocky like episode, a hunting sort of episode, a sort of crime episode, a martial art’s episode. The only way these episodes connect to each other is Domon and Rain plus an inevitable Gundam fight somewhere in the midsts. It’s such a wonderful way to give each character a defining character and tone. It’s so fun and so creative.
This show was wonderfully creative on a visual level. The show is filled with all sorts of 90’s character designs and playful Gundam designs either boarding on racist or way past it to represent each countries. Each Gundam also having their own sort of ability too. One of them is a ninja that disappears into thin air and that’s the kind of insanity you are in for with this show. Some evil Gundams even have mouths that open up with giant teeth that go along with their terrifying designs. Considering that most Gundams don’t even open mouthes except the F91 while it was in super mode, it’s completely shocking to see Gundams open their mouths in the first place. What? Where did that come from? Doesn’t matter, the show is beautiful for it’s time visually and animation wise despite it being 49 episodes.
Then there needs to be some talks about this show’s direction. Yasuhiro Imagawa is genius in what he does, though I don’t think I am the best person to explain everything because that is not my department. Still, the way moves and feels gives you the impression that each character is their Gundams. Wherever it’s the quick flashes between the Gundam and the Gundam Pilots during action scenes, having Gundams being replaced by their character’s faces during specific spin moves of fast movements to save on animation, or having the characters being shown on frame right behind their Gundams during specific scenes. Also, there were a lot of moments that made everything feel huge and dramatic without taking it too far. All so well done. It’s very stylistically cool and fun. I wish I was a major sakuga person or story board person because I can only comment on some things when they are massive and noticeable. Just wanted to let you know this show is very stylish and fun.
At the center of all this serious shonen and martial arts sort of things that are apart of this series, it’s also filled with all sorts of wonderful nineties cheese and charm. I know that I said something like this a few times before on different reviews, but G Gundam really is nineties the anime. It has giant robots, shonen tournament battles, one gundam fighter is a magical girl, the boss with a group of four minions, themes about how love wins the day, and I can keep going. The best part about all of that is how perfect the experience is. Especially when the right music kicks in during the right moment or attack giving you the feeling of “yes!”. The hype, the camp, and the ludicrous attacks that giant robots should not doing! All that 90’s camp with some of the weirdest Gundam designs in existence help provide the “anything can happen” atmosphere that is G Gundam.
Even if the themes and backstories of G Gundam are very dark, there is no doubt that you are going to get some fun and emotional feelings out of this show. It’s just too honest with itself not to do that to you too. I highly recommend that everyone should watch G Gundam because it’s a massive anomaly in the Gundam franchise that I wish other series would follow suit in. (People shouldn’t just say this show isn’t a Gundam series like the others. It is just, just playing around with tropes in it’s own way.) There are other creative Gundam series, but most of them fall into the same tropes and similar story lines again and again. There needs to be another out there main line Gundam series that takes creative measures and pushes the show in a much different way. Maybe a fully Shoujo Gundam series? I would watch it. If you have seen this before and want to see another series directed by Imagawa, stay tuned for next week.
Happy 40 years, Gundam. Here’s to many more.