Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ala Mode Retrospective: Mobile Suit Gundam Countdown

I decided that with 2013 now a month and some change in, I need to get back on my butt and do more reviews. So, with that in mind I have decided to tap into my nerdiest of things, one of that many of you will be interested to know: Anime. Now, many of you will be shocked to know that if one was to trace the steps, Anime was a huge gateway drug into what would be my interest in Japanese Street Fashion, (I hope you got the sarcasm within that phrase) but what might actually come as a shock that most of my interest in Anime deems in the classics of the 80's and 90's and are mostly not all girly. 

To tell you the truth, my favorite series of all time being a toss up between The Vision of Escaflowne and Revolutionary Girl Utena, but my favorite anime related thing? The Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. Yes, I love mecha series - the bigger the robot and political intrigue, the more I am addicted. So with that I find it appropriate to dedicate a post (or possibly the start of more) to my favorite giant robot political drama show. The one that is 30 plus years old, has a lot of lingo that makes Star Trek's seems strangely childish, and too many masked villains to keep track of. 

So instead of doing some sort of usual countdown of my favorite series that many a Gundam fan has seen before, I wanted to put my own unique spin on it. But how? Will candy be offered? Where is the Senpei romance, Dalin? Oh hold on fictitious reader character, just give yourself a moment to take a deep breath and realize that aside from the series you do know (Yes, yes, I will address that series) this is probably gonna be a new territory for you (or maybe it isn't) and if so, then welcome to a whole new (or old, depending) mecha world of Gundam. 

5. War In The Pocket
Now this may be another shocking revelation, but Gundam is a franchise that I believe can be even better enjoyed with taking seriously. Now I know its hard for many that have not watched this series to see that it can be viewed as a piece of dramatic art, especially when you see its iconic centerpiece being a giant robot suit. But Gundam's real strength for me come within its dramatic war stories. This is perfectly shown and executed in War In The Pocket. Prior, Gundam had been primarily from the perspective of teens and adults, but not even really through their eyes but more next to their shoulder and wasn't as deep emotionally as one might have wanted. 

This series though dramatically changes that perspective to a child's eyes, and we truly see through the innocence of the main character who reflects those dreams of maybe a young Gundam fan, who dreams of action without the consequences. But as this short series ends, it truly becomes a great first look at character development in Anime if you haven't been able to focus prior. If you want to be introduced to the reason's why Gundam can be incredible emotionally, give this one a try. Also for the ladies, this is one of the few series to feature a female Gundam pilot.

4. Gundam 00

So yes, I thought I would bring up Wing for a quick second. This probably comes from the fact that most of you wouldn't be even reading this article if it wasn't for the series release in the United States back on good ol' Toonami in the 90's. I can of course say that this was one (but not actually the first) time I had seen anything Gundam, so it does ring with some importance to my experience with the franchise. But as you can see it isn't in my top 5. Sure, I love the show - it has it moments of greatness for what it is. But the thing is, it isn't ever going to be a favorite of mine. Maybe this is because it's a bit overrated in comparison to the other series mentioned on this list, or it might be because it created such a painful area in my nerdom that it's hard to watch it without making a giant loud sigh. 

But you might actually like another show if you happen to like Gundam Wing, and that is my number 4 pick: Gundam 00. If you are into watching anime for the pure purpose of hot men with long flowing hair, this show has got you covered big time. If you are into the political drama and such that the other series offer and not so much for the big sexy bishonen hotties, you are all set with this one. 

But why do I like Gundam 00 enough for it to beat the nostalgia factor of Wing? It's much less whinny. Maybe it's cause I am passed my what the kids would call "emo" phase, but sometimes I like to have my characters a bit less butthurt and have much more focus. Sure, war sucks and is depressing as hell, but as one can see from the countless examples in the Gundam franchise: Not everyone suffers under the pressure. In Wing, its much more obvious how much of a backstory these characters have and how it influences their choices, to which it sometimes can be antagonizing to continuously view to the end. Gundam 00 is considered to be a cold series in emotion, but perhaps cold is better then  forced moodiness that Wing posses on multiple occasions.

Gundam 00 has a message that is relievent to our current dilemmas in society, features characters that are headstrong and much more interesting (to me though), and was gripping enough to get a second season and its own original film (one of few in the franchise.) If you want to start watching Gundam for the first time with a whole series, this would definitely be my recommendation. 

3. Turn-A Gundam 

All right, this is about to shock you but guess what? I am a girl! That's right, if you couldn't tell from reading this article or the pink borders of my blog the surround it, but I on many occasions love what I would label as "girly shit". Now sadly, Gundam has never done a series purely for women (except if you wanna label Wing as that) but I think what could be considered the closest to this would be Turn A-Gundam. First off, it's best to mention this for because it features the music of Yoko Kanno (which in my mind, in music porn to my ears), this series also takes places in the universe in which things a reverted back to the 20th century, so there are lots of fluffy dresses. And yes, this series is considered on the romantic side, which is unique since its written by Tomino, who is one of the most depressing writers/creators in the industry. (Fun fact: He created Gundam - the whole thing. Think about it.)

Turn-A is a series, similar to Escaflowne on its own, that is much more fantastical and magical in comparison to the other Gundam series. It has a more light and airy feel to it, which is great for someone casually getting into Gundam as opposed to someone that is hardcore and looking for the real thing. But I do feel Turn A is an excellent showcase of Tomino's later work, especially since the prior series Victory was made under some emotional conditions for Tomino and was obvious from watching. It also features probably my favorite Gundam design of all time, simply because it's so bizzare in comparison to the other Gundam designs, and it's designed by Blade Runner alumni Syd Mead. So if you need a good dose of fantastical elements with your Mobile Suit, I say go for Turn A. 

2. Mobile Suit Gundam 0079

In my own personal opinion, I don't think you can have a Gundam countdown of some sort without mentioning the original series. Now for all accounts, it doesn't have to be in your top ten nor does it even have to be at any top spot, but it can't be ignored. Like Star Wars: A New Hope or the original Star Trek, you can't forget where a franchise starts and what made the way or the roots of its popularity. Fun fact though, Gundam actually really wasn't a hit. It actually was cancelled upon initial release, and thus it's ending was shortened (but which was repaired in the compilation films). Also, in reference to my Turn A rant, the majority of the fandom for the series was female (Girl power!) and because of its initial ideals is probably what attracted me to it as a youngster.

I loved the drama, the small talk, the character designs, and all the weird little quirks that made Gundam well, Gundam. It's hard to in some way not get hocked to the elements that made the show so unique and different for it's time. No, it isn't perfect (that's what my number one pick is for me) and it truly has some huge flaws (the animation budget was pissed poor for it's time.) along with a sometimes confusing story. But what made Gundam the classic that remains to this day is the mark it left on War stories in the anime universe, and the inspiration it gave it's viewers - to reach for the stars and to change the world for the better, one Zeta battle at a time. 

I would like to add my own personal remark that 0079 featured what would be my favorite Gundam characters of all time, Char. Yes, he is the guy with the white mask that started it all. If you were ever curious as to why almost every single Gundam series has a villain with a white mask, you can easily look on the family tree to this individual. Yeah, Char might not be the most interesting character in Gundam's history, but you have to admit that he is important and one that would create a legacy in anime history for decades. This is why one day, my body will dawn a small tattoo inspired by him. 

1. Zeta Gundam

Now if you are a true Gundam fanatic, you might disagree with this title as my number one, yet I know many would also agree with it. Zeta Gundam is the direct sequel to the original series and in my mind, fixes the issues that the first series had and makes an almost perfect archetype of what a Gundam series should be and follows all the golden rules of the franchise would afterwards. I also believe this to be Tomino's best work within the franchise (along with the movie, Char's Counterattack) and gives some of the most interesting characters within the franchise.

For me, my favorite male pilot of the franchise is also featured in this series, Kamille. Kamille is a very angsty pilot, but one that makes sense and you are able care for him even if he might not be the best person. Kamille is one the most realistic anime characters I have watched, even if sometimes he doesn't make that much sense. He also might be one of the few characters I have seen that is written with an apparent mind difference (specifically I think he has Aspergers), only based on a few moments that reminded me of my past with friends that had a similar condition. 

This, along with the body count, I found daring for it's time and incredibly compelling. It wasn't anywhere close to the first Gundam series I saw, but it's the one I have held the closest to my liking and have felt that I like to revisit the most out of all the other series. This definitely isn't the show for you if you aren't a Gundam fan, but if you become one it's a must. If any of this intrigues you, I really strongly suggest it to be a series you see. 


So there you go, my first of many a countdown/review I hope to do more of in the future. Did you like this? Was it awful? Would you wanna hear more? I would appreciate to know your opinion. Now get off your butt and watch some Gundam!




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