Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Release: 1985

Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Rating: *****

Now we reach the meat of the pie as it were. After the original Mobile Suit Gundam was cut short, Yoshiyuki Tomino continued having little luck creating a hit mecha show. Once Gundam started to obtain followers, and shows like Macross proved you could stick a high production value on a TV anime and turn a profit, Tomino was ready to try again. This time he would succeed.

Zeta Gundam is set eight years after the conflict in UC0079. After Zeon loses the war, the Earth Federation goes to great lengths to keep the colonies in line. An elite faction called the Titans was created to impose it's grip on spacenoids, quelling any call for equal rights. The only opposition to the Federation's complete domination of space is a rebel group called the Anti-Earth Union Group, or AEUG. This small faction is helmed by some of the veterans of the previous war. Gone is Amuro from the pilot seat this time. In his place is Kamille Bidan, a young, hot tempered teenager who builds a personal grudge against the Titans.

Zeta Gundam marks a huge increase in art and animation quality compared to the original show. While the original Gundam was a product of the 1970s with it's bright colour palette, Zeta is a product of the 1980s. Most of the tones are darker, with less goofy designs by comparison. While the mecha in the original series moved like a person in a costume, Zeta feels much more realistic. The continuity of sound effects are present and they still sound great today. The music is also some of the best in the whole franchise.

The show is not without some problems to note. It is a sequel to the original Gundam and as such, it's really suggested that you see that show first. It's not a requirement but it really helps flesh out so many of the characters who return for Zeta. Also, something you will find to be a trend for the Gundam universe is that it sort of just drops you in the middle of it all. If you don't go with the flow early on, you'll be asking questions that the show is not prepared to answer yet.

Some of the series tropes are first created in Zeta. This is the first Gundam series where the pilot gets a mech upgrade during the show, something that happens in nigh on every main Gundam series after this. This also is the first to do a faction role reversal. While you spend the whole time watching the original Mobile Suit Gundam on the side of the Earth Federation, Zeta portrays the second half of the coin. This is also something that happens reasonably often in Gundam. Finally, Zeta Gundam grows to be incredibly dark in tone. I won't spoil the show needless to say, it was not something that people did when writing a mecha anime at the time.

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is the anime that cements the Gundam franchise into Japanese pop culture. While there are many great Gundam shows to come, it's difficult to say if it ever got better than this. Most anime are flawed and I throw this word around for very few of them but Zeta Gundam is perfect. I would not change a thing about it.
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