Join us for our Pilgrimage to Mecha – where I go back in time and catch up on some of the classics and hidden gems of the mecha genre. Whether it was before my time or I simply missed out on them, it’s time for me to watch them and let you know why you should too!
This time, we have guest author Iro sharing his thoughts on the glorious aberrant of the Gundam franchise: G Gundam
Mobile Fighter G Gundam
TV Series (49 Episodes)
Directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa
War has devastated the Earth, leaving the planet and its nations in a state of post-apocalyptic disarray. In response, the wealthy and important have fled to orbital space colonies, all conveniently patterned after their old countries. In an attempt to do away with conventional warfare, the space colonies hold the Gundam Fight – a tournament where giant robots punch each other in the face – on Earth’s battered remains to determine who will rule for the next four years.
Enter Domon Kasshu, son of Neo-Japan’s greatest scientist and disciple of Undefeated of the East Master Asia, the previous Gundam Fight winner. His brother Kyoji has hijacked the
Devil Dark Gundam, the ultimate weapon created by their father, and fled to Earth. Domon is blackmailed by the government into competing in the 13th Gundam fight as Neo-Japan’s representative: he must win the Gundam Fight and defeat the Dark Gundam, or his father’s life is forfeit. Joined by his childhood friend and Gundam mechanic, Rain Mikamura, Domon must beat up all of the other nation’s Gundams and claim the title of “Gundam of Gundams”, all while chasing down Kyoji and the Dark Gundam.
Though I love robot shows like Gunbuster, Gurren Lagann, and GaoGaiGar, my experience with the Gundam franchise is… limited. My first Gundam was Gundam Build Fighters, full of hundreds of jokes and cameos drawing upon 35 years of franchise history. After that came the 08th MS Team OVA, often said to be one of the most down-to-earth and “real” of Gundams, depicting guerrilla ground warfare. Thus, the logical next step (bolstered by years of hounding from Gee, Marlin, and Zigg) was the most ridiculous, super-roboty of all Gundam shows: Mobile Fighters G Gundam.
True to super robot form. G Gundam managed to be fun both in spite and because it was incredibly stupid and low-budget. Nearly every confrontation is solved by Domon’s trademark Shining Finger attack, and later by his
God Burning Finger. He and the rest of the Shuffle Alliance whip out new attacks and abilities whenever the plot demands it. Most infamously, nearly every character who isn’t Domon is some incredibly overblown racist stereotype of their nation, complete with ethnically themed Gundam. Neo-Mexico pilots a giant bandito robot with a sombrero and cactus motif called the Tequila Gundam, for instance. I’d normally find it distasteful, but G Gundam is so silly about everything all the time (Neo-Germany’s representative is a masked Ninja Nazi for goodness sake) that I can’t help but let it all slide. Special mention goes to the show’s English dub, which is just shy of being completely terrible; far from making G Gundam harder to watch, it lends a sense of ham and cheese to the already silly events onscreen.
Alas, as entertaining as many of the episodes were, G Gundam was made in the age where fifty-episode anime were commonplace. Making my way though large arcs of filler turned into a slog at times, not helped by the show’s low budget. While the overall silly tone usually worked in the show’s favor, in a few instances it unduly killed the tension (in particular, an episode where Domon is hampered by a giant horseshoe magnet under the arena). I definitely enjoyed G Gundam, but I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed after my Glorio compatriots built it up to be the Gundam of Gundams.
Why You Should Watch
G Gundam was the first show in the Gundam franchise to not be set in the Universal Century timeline that had persisted since its debut in 1979; it was also the first Gundam to air after toy company Bandai acquired Sunrise, and it definitely shows. Gundam was always meant to shill toys, but G Gundam‘s entire plot is centered around a worldwide tournament that can introduce new characters and robots every episode. This definitely makes G Gundam stand out among its franchise siblings, and I think it’s worth watching alongside a more conventional Gundam show to see how it differs in tone and scope.
Also notable is that G Gundam aired on Toonami in the early 00s, making it one of the first anime that a lot of kids in America ever watched. If Marlin and Gee are any indication, growing up with G Gundam on television has given it a special place in their hearts alongside the likes of Dragon Ball Z and YuYu Hakusho. Apart from the show’s historical value as one of its franchise’s black sheep, it’s worth watching to maybe catch a glimpse of what it was like to watch anime everyday after school. Those really were golden days to many of us.