I remember the first time I dove into Double Zeta Gundam. I was in that time period where I just watched anime to fill time and for no other reason. I wasn’t just watching it for the deep commentary, I wanted entertainment and I got that by watching episode after episode after episode on end when I had that free time in college. That’s why my feelings were pretty blank until I would watch it again. Nowadays, as a blogger, I watch anime series a lot slower so I can analyze them as I watch them. I just watched Zeta Gundam this year and I now watched Double Zeta. I went in not expecting to love it as much as I did. As much as it’s a somewhat controversial opinion in the Gundam sphere, because I have a lot of controversial opinions this year, I really liked it. Possibly loved it. It just really clicked for me this time. For as great as Zeta Gundam is, and it really is, Double Zeta treats its characters with much more humanity.
This show lives in such a weird place in the Gundam world. It existed at a time where the film Char’s Counter Attack was uncertain. There was a plan to have the final encounter between Char and Amuro take place at the end of Double Zeta until a movie was called in. I also feel like, but am not completely sure so don’t quote me on this, that Glemy Toto’s (a blond character who somehow become a leader in Neo Zeon) role in Double Zeta was supposed to be Char’s as well. It only makes sense seeing Char as a subordinate to Haman for the moment until the inevitable betrayal. Instead, Char and Amuro are just briefly mentioned in Double Zeta and some of the show was retooled. Honestly, for the better. I really liked Double Zeta as a whole because it didn’t do too much. It feels right to now have Char and Amuro in it even if it breaks the time line a little bit. Having the movie and series be split feels much more natural for the Universal Century experience because it makes the show feel larger.
Mobile Suit Gundam Double Zeta takes place almost immediately after the conclusion of Zeta Gundam. The year is now Universal Century 0087. The Titans are completely destroyed, Neo Zeon led by the very sexy Haman Karn have control in the world, the AUEG are not down for the count yet but are badly out numbered, and the Argama is licking its wounds in a colony called Shangri-la. A colony where a group of teenage trash collectors by the names of Judau Ashta, a candidate for best girl named Elle, Beecha, Lino, and Mondo plot to steal Zeta gundam from the Argama. There is also an obvious Neo Zeon presence led by Mashymere Cello there as well. For all the drama that was in the ending of Zeta Gundam, Double Zeta is so much more relaxed and goofier at first. I guess I understand why people got annoyed with the mood considering that Zeta is serious, but this really is a different series with a mostly different cast. The tension from Zeta has never left it, but giving Double Zeta more emotional flexibility felt like a good choice.
Double Zeta’s entire set up was so different from Zeta. One could say much more basic. Five teens working the junkyard and ignoring school to get more money and cause more mischief. They have no parents at present and only Judau is left with his sister, Leina, who is his main motivation factor. The appearance of Zeon slowly changes them as they learn to get used to the situation around them and join the crew of the Argama and use their mobile suits. Seeing these teens who were singular focused on themselves and riches and then carrying about something bigger than themselves. Judau starts to learn he has a talent for piloting a giant mecha suit after his many encounters with Mashymere and the rest of his Neo Zeon crew. The teens see some opportunities for monetary gain on the Argama at first until they finally get onboard with saving the Earth’s sphere for tyranny. Well, it really isn’t that fast here.
So, all in all, that is why the beginning of Double Zeta’s mixture tone makes sense to me. Double Zeta is not only trying to establish its own cew, it’s also putting some actual fear in the situation around them. For all the humor that occurs in the opening act revolving around chasing chickens or the Zeon’s members yelling at each other or plotting things that will fail, these are still young teens who don’t know what they are doing in a world that feels like it never wanted them. Of course, there is tension when Judau or anyone else flies in space against enemies for the first time when they could die. Of course, things get shaken up when a teenager who is more serious about the conflict, a wonderful girl that is full of herself named Roux, adds some tension to the thing by questioning the other teen’s motivations. It always felt like a lot of tests of character for me and after some of their missteps, with some of them finding themselves on the Zeon side for a bit, each of them passed.
With all that in mind, I really do love the second half of Double Zeta even more. No questions asked. It is almost perfect Gundam material. Possibly more then perfect then Zeta, which is an absolute hot take to be sure, but I believe in it. What happens when you have a bunch of teenagers piloting robots? Then you have a Gundam team? What also happens when Judau’s sister is stolen by Glemy Toto, one of the people that eventually rebels against Haman Karn, and a certain cyber new type name Pleo? Well, then you have some famous set up for the rest of the Gundam series. The second half of Double Zeta has the Gundam Team fighting against Zeon directly in the African deserts that have cultures beyond their understandings, having to deal with the colony drop in Dublin, and eventually the space wars against both Zeon conspiracies later on by themselves. It’s a lot to take in for people so young, but watching them succeed in their own way is great and watching them feel horror for the first time is powerful. IN these experience, these characters never lose who they are. They react like real people.
The pressure on these young teens and their own ability to resist it is the real story of Double Zeta to me. The system of the AEUG, the elites in the Earth Federation who want to make deals with Zeon which are horrible for the normal people living on Earth Federation, and such don’t want the teens to mess up their deals. Haman Karn, on the other hand, wants Judau to join her because of how a legitimate new type he is. Supposedly, they are alike and that difference between them creates some very interesting conversations. In fact, in the right mood, Judau is obviously more powerful then her. So, a lot of time is spent ignoring and destroying the systems around them. The teens eventually take the new Nahel Argama for themselves in the end, getting Haman Karn to see reason, and allowing those Earth Federation elites to just be killed off on their own stupidity. Besides Xabungle, this really is the most anti boomer show that Tomino has ever created. A show where teenagers stand up for themselves against the system designed to subjugate and destroy them and not give into the temptation of just getting more power. Just having them be themselves in the difficult world around them.
Which leads to something else here, Captain Bright is the best dad in Double Zeta. Maybe not for his own children who he left behind with Mirai, but for these six teenagers. Can you imagine all the patience it takes in the world in somehow getting every single one of these teenagers to fight in a mobile suit against their will? He didn’t have as much of a presence in Zeta Gundam besides being a tool for the story to function around, so its nice to see him be an actual person here. That tolerant dad that accepted the chaos his teens would start and giving them his undying trust for everything they’ve done. I love him standing up for all of the Gundam Team when they had a feeling he didn’t understand or know something he didn’t because the teens were right most of the time and Bright was not ashamed to say that he was wrong when he was wrong. Something that not many other adults could say in Double Zeta or even in the Universal Century itself. Best dad is best dad.
Double Zeta also sends off a lot of things that occurred in Zeta Gundam in style. Kamille was not left in the best condition after Zeta thanks to a certain person from Jupiter, so Fa Yuiry has watched over him or taken care of him through Double Zeta. Far has had a lot of talks with Judau and the others in the beginning of Double Zeta because she is the one who has felt the seriousness of the that conclusion while the others can’t see it anymore. So in the beginning, Fa was left behind to care for Kamille. Though, Kamille and Fa make appearances later on. Kamille helps Judau and the others out with his enw type powers even if he can’t speak, Fa shows up to save Bright and Judau’s lives, and their conclusion is a happy one as far as we know. We see Fa and Kamille at the beach running in the end. From Zeta Gundam’s pessimism comes Double Zeta’s optimism. An optimism for importance and change. Of course we know that it won’t happen that quickly, but it’s nice to have that optimism in hand.
As with all of Tomino’s shows in one way or another, the world it appears in Double Zeta is incredible. The art and animation in the show is what drives it as being so good. From the forgotten colony to time to the many places on Earth to even the Zeon Base on axis which is an 80’s city to even the moon and it’s own city. There is a lot of things that Tomino does to make the show just work and function. Same with the cast itself. The character designs from Zeta Gundam to Double Zeta Gundam are obviously the same style. There is no way that a world could move from one series to another without their being a continuity in art and animation. That being said, the teenager’s designs, featuring what they wear and how they carry themselves makes them stand out in a way that makes sense. In a lot of ways, they don’t belong in the world they are doing even amongst the AEUG who have no set uniform. Then again, there is the Neo Zeon side with people wearing all sorts of different and strange uniforms and hair colors. Haman Karn allows her people to wear whatever they want as long as it’s a uniform it seems.
The mobiles of Double Zeta are special in their own way too. For the AEUG, a lot of the suits are just copies of what was before and that makes sense too. The Gundam Mark 2 is their, the Zeta Gundam is there, the Hyakku Shiki is there, and other units that were previously present. The different for the AEUG is the very huge super robot called the Double Zeta. Yes, name drop here. It comes in three parts and is formed through a very complicated gattai sequence which makes it feel like it doesn’t belong in the universe a bit. It is a very powerful and wonderful machine that can be outfitted with all sorts of weapons on it. So yeah, it’s just really cool. The same for simularities could be said for the Neo Zeon, except they have more units like usual. Multiple Quebley units that fit their cyber new type pilots, a Zaku 3, and so many other units that obviously influence later UC in Char’s Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn. No one is starved for choice and their animation is surprisingly really good. Infact, all the mechanical animation is good including the different space ships. It’s incredible stuff.
Even if Double Zeta is the odd duck of the Universal Century, it’s so unique for what it is. No war trauma before hand, just facing all of it as it gets to them. The Neo Zeon stopping at their home colony shook them up and they finally learned to care about people around them, how people should be treated, and got to pilot some cool robots. They’ve changed a lot and every interaction feels much more genuine in Double Zeta compared to the very focused and goal-oriented Zeta Gundam. Zeta Gundam is a series that deserves all the love it gets, but Double Zeta needs more of it too. It needs more respect, more recognition, and more credit for everything that it brings to Gundam. Not just in the Universal Century, but in all of Gundam because this is where the new type concept really took off. There are some mixtures of tones that can drive people away at times, but Double Zeta is wonderful and respectable for everything that it sets out to do. Absolutely solid and stellar series. I am shocked that Tomino wrote this one too because Zeta and Double Zeta are like night and day from each other. Both great but in different ways.