Posted by psgels on 11 May 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


One thing I like about watching a classic anime is to recognize the different anime that would pay homage to it in later years. Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another example of this. Mobile Suit Gundam (0079) brought the mecha-genre away from the cheesy giant robot-shows of Go Nagai to a more serious and realistic side, and traces of its influence can still be seen in today’s anime. Haro from Gundam 00 actually turns out to be one such example, and the three kids in Eureka7 have also been taken from the original Gundam.

After watching this series, I finally understand a bit why the post Universal Century-Gundam series are so shunned by the UC-fanboys, and at the same time I came to appreciate a series like Gundam 00 a whole lot more, but more on that below. The battles in Mobile Suit Gundam are indeed extremely realistic, and there’s one key element that made this possible: the great focus on logistics. With this, military bases suddenly don’t have limitless supplies anymore, and the fact that this series is mostly about just one battleship, instead of an entire fleet makes this one war-series that features some intense battles. It also never loses steam: every episode has at least one battle that fits in the story, rather than filling the audience’s need of action. And this intense attention to detail indeed seems to be missing in the other Gundam series I’ve seen so far (Gundam Wing and 00)

The second great strength of this series is the amount of attention it gives to the enemy forces. It’s not like they develop every single enemy soldier into a likable character, but this series gives a terrific overview of all the different kinds of enemies that you can run into the battlefield. All have their own priorities and agendas, ranging from low-ranked soldiers to high officials, none of them is ignored.

Still, the thing is that this series hasn’t been perfect. Based on the stories of the fans of UC, I expected Mobile Suit Gundam to be something like the epitome of realism, but this doesn’t turn out to be true, as it has a lot of points where it could have done better. The most obvious being of course Amuro, the lead hero. The guy just looks at a manual, and within three days he’s able to pilot a complex mobile suit like an expert and he also turns into a master tactician. Something that would take ordinary soldiers years of training. The reason this series gives for these abilities later on in the series is rather weak. If you want to god-mode your characters, you’ve got some good explanation to do, and the thing about Newtypes feels just like a lazy excuse to let a teenaged boy be the centre of attention.

Probably because of this, Mobile Suit Gundam also has a really weird difficulty-curve. In regular anime, the different enemies get tougher and harder to defeat as the series goes on, but here it’s just the opposite: during the first half, the enemies are all really tough and hard to beat. They come with interesting tactics and don’t let themselves get killed that easily. Then the second half hits and even though the enemies seem to get their hands on a more advanced mobile suit with every single episode, they also become a lot more stupid. At one point, they just become sitting ducks for Amuro to hit. I was rather disappointed by that, to be honest. When you realize that the enemies aren’t a threat anymore, the series does lose a bit of its tension. I think this is also the reason why the ending screwed up so badly.

Don’t get me wrong: Mobile Suit Gundam is a great series, but these flaws do remain. Of course, the following paragraph will be just speculation as I haven’t seen Zeta nor Victory Gundam, but I suspect that these two, despite whatever greatnesses they may hold, weren’t completely perfect either. The thing is that every Gundam-series seems to have its own strengths and weaknesses, and there’s no way you can be perfect at everything at such a large-scale series. Mobile Suit Gundam focused more on low-scale battles with a focus on logistics, while Gundam Wing on the other hand focused more at philosophy and large-scale politics. If you keep expecting the same thing as the originals, then you indeed will be disappointed.

That’s also what I find so interesting about Gundam 00, as only now I realize that it was partially an attempt to flesh out the areas in which Mobile Suit Gundam didn’t do so well. While the original series had a clear good and evil side with the Earth Federation and Zeon, Gundam 00 never depicts anyone as truly good or evil. Gundam 00 also never bothered to god-mode its characters, and instead only focused on upgrading its technology, and the closest things that resemble Newtypes have actually been explained well and don’t stand out too much. There also wasn’t really an explanation behind the huge level of technology of the White Base and Gundam on Mobile Suit Gundam, and Gundam 00 managed to find a pretty good explanation of a plot that took 200 years to prepare.

On the other hand, Mobile Suit Gundam shows more how the different battles affect the mentality of the pilots, it’s cast of characters is more dynamic. It also doesn’t have any characters that sit in their rooms for episodes after each other being emo, and whenever a character’s angsting, you’ll know that in the next episode that person will have already progressed past this angsting-stage. In this way, you can see that these two series complement each other pretty nicely. What you miss in Mobile Suit Gundam, you can find in Gundam 00 and vice versa.

Normally my reviews are geared towards readers that haven’t seen the anime in question yet, but in this case, I had too many thoughts I wanted to share. I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but apologies if I ended up spoiling something. Despite its age, Mobile Suit Gundam is worth your time if you like war-stories. As it turns out, every war-anime is different and focuses at something different. Simoun had the religious influence, and showed what really happens if your technology is miles above that of your enemy; Heroic Age had space-battles of the highest possible epic-scale; series as Toward the Terra focused more on their characters and Flag was all about realism. I must say, that it’s a really diverse genre that you can’t possibly stuff into just one series.

14 Responses

  1. Avatar R says:

    Whatever you do, don’t watch double-zeta (Gundam ZZ). While Zeta Gundam took itself seriously (sometimes too seriously), double zeta (in the first part) tries to be a comedy aimed at little kids. I’m told that double zeta improves later, but I couldn’t endure the bad episodes to find out.

    If you’re watching UC Gundam series, I highly recommend the OVAs: the 8th MS team, war in the pocket, and to some extent, stardust memories.

  2. Avatar leongsh says:

    You need to watch Legend of the Galactic Heroes – all 110 episodes of the main series – for a truly epic and probably the most comprehensive war anime available.

  3. There’s a legitimate reason why the enemies later on start to become less of a threat. For one, Amuro’s newtype powers start to awaken, and for another, Zeon had already lost most of it’s aces in the ground war and before the final push of Operation Star One and were fielding fresh graduates in the Gelgoogs and Dom’s we start to see show up near the end.

    There’s a lot more going on then you think including Mobile Suits that were supposed to have been introduced for the final battle at A Baoa Qu, but never made it to rollout because the war ended to soon.

    The technology of the White Base and Mobile Suits in U.C is also explained quite well too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Universal_Century_technology

    One last thing, MSG does have scenes of Amuro angsting early on and it lasts for quite a while as far as the series goes. Like at least 1/2 of the series until he smartens up once and for all. Gundam 00 is actually probably the least angsty of all the Gundam series where it stands other than maybe ZZ or X.

  4. Avatar a dog says:

    I second the suggestion for Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

  5. Avatar Tert says:

    If I may add, Turn A Gundam (for all its unconventional mech designs, though I thought that they were unique) is another good Gundam series apart from 0079. Its characters are fleshed out nicely and its not a ‘point and shoot at lame-duck grunts’ Gundam. The battles are actually interesting because strategy is involved. It takes a few episodes to take off but after that its solid gold :D

    If you want realism, 08th MS Team has got to be the most realistic Gundam I’ve seen. It has a strong cast and a compelling story-line to boot. There are no overpowered items like Dragoons or chest cannon particle beams.

    tl;dr Watch Turn A Gundam and the 08th MS Team. Its worth your time.

  6. Avatar zaki says:

    I introduce japan TV Anime for from 1963 to 1973.
    Please link to this site

  7. Avatar Archer says:

    this is quite a surprise,one anime i did not expect you to watch but i am glad you did

    i also watched it like a month or so ago but i watched the 3 movies that summarize the story from this series and i might have missed some things(maybe more) but overall i liked it and i also started to love the UC time just like many others;i liked the rivalry between Char and Amuro and i can say that i found Char to be a lot more interesting than the rest and is maybe my favorite character

    also i don’t think you spoiled anything,overall i like this review but sometimes it is good to spoil,to go into more detail so you can have amore interesting discussion but maybe for those who did not watch this series they will be grateful and give it a chance or at least watch the movies as i did :D

    i also agree with the people who say that 08th MS team is the most realistic Gundam so you might watch it since it only has 12 ep and i also am going to watch Z gundam since it is suppose to be very good

  8. Avatar lmfs says:

    And you can’t forget the movie “MSG: Char’s Counterattack” which provides such an epic ending to the whole Amuro vs Char rivalry.

  9. Avatar Gustavo says:

    Good review. As a UC lover, I really cant say you did bad in giving 85 for MSG 0079, as it really isnt that great. But, please, watch the sequel, Zeta Gundam. This is the true shining gundam for me and for many fans around the world.

    And about the newtype thing: do you know the oriental religions, such as budhism, xintuism etc? Well, resuming, it was said that many samurai masters were able to feel the enemie’s presence and intentions (aka KAI). It was the true meaning of becoming one with the universe. Read about many masters, as Miyamoto Musashi, Morihei Ueshiba, and you will see the great number of possibilities.

    When something aproaches me, I can feel it inside my head. Its a uneaseness, even with my eyes closed.

    I think thats why I liked so much the newtype idea: an evolution to the new enviroment, the space.

    Watch the sequel, Zeta Gundam. To me, MSG 0079 is not even close to the beauty of Zeta. And open yourself to the great universe of the human energy (aka KI, CHI, Chakra etc)

  10. Avatar Neflyte49 says:

    Zeta Gundam its a better anime than Gundam. More “realistic” and a girl killing anime. Watch it and post your review :D

  11. i like Gundam wings Zero

  12. Avatar Frostymourne says:

    I have to agree with most people here to 08th MS team is one of the most enjoyable gundam series for realistic war mecha lovers like me. I cant seem to find any other Gundam series close to 08th MS team.

    I just dont understand why are there more gundam series portraying invincible gundams which can take out squadrons of mobile suits these days. Its just total bullcrap, espescially gundam wing, its one of the most horrible yet popular gundam series. 5 gundams can actually take out an entire nation’s army, extremely unrealistic battles which does not involve strategies but just plain trigger happy shooting. As a conscript in my country, i feel that the series is just an insult to the military yet its a war anime..

    They should continue to produce good series like 08th MS team. Where the characters are not portrayed as gods but as real soldiers in the military.

  13. Avatar Ratatosk says:

    Bearing in mind that this came out a couple of years after the first Star Wars film and has several obvious influences (giant lightsabers anyone?), at least the whole Newtypes thing always made more sense than the Force..
    and it might be by accident, but I still think Amuro Ray comes across as uncomfortably real compared to all the other main character mecha pilots out there.

    Zeta Gundam is definitely worth watching and has a higher animation budget than this, and an ending that Im surprised that they got away with as a bonus. Gundam ZZ has some horrifically brilliant moments in the 2nd half of the series, but the bad comedy approach ruins it; I sat through that one mainly in the hope of finding out what happened to various characters from the first 2 series, but seriously, it’s not worth it; just watch the Colony Drop on Youtube and skip straight to the Char movie.

  14. Avatar Firechick says:

    Psgels, I think you’d really like After War Gundam X. It has a bit of a more realistic feel than the other Gundam series, and even calls out the whole Newtype concept and lampshades how the characters want them to be saviors of the world when they’re really not. I think you should give it a try sometime. You may like it.

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