A couple of weeks ago I spoke about my first Gunpla build and a week later I wrote a primer about it on GeekOut South-West. In the coming weeks not only will I build more models, possibly record or broadcast the process, but also write another “primer” but this one on the overall Gundam franchise.
With that in mind I thought it would be great if I spoke to you about my favourite Gundam series. To date, I have watched most if not all the series in the franchise, from the Universal Century ones to even the Gundam Build Fighters series, the one that inspired me to get into Gunpla in the first place.
Yesterday I gave you the first few entries into my list of favourite Gundam, here are the rest (that I can think of at the moment):Mobile Suit Gundam: The Iron-Blooded Orphans: This is a new show, one that aired last year but I only got around to watching during this one. I’ve already seen the first season and I’m already on the second, which is now airing in Japan.
Iron-Blooded Orphans presents an intriguing scenario, where Mars lives under the Earth’s oppression and a military organisation polices the galaxy. This is a world that survived a harrowing war thanks to the mysterious Gundam mech frames.
Because of the war, cybernetic augmentation is taboo on Earth, seen as being akin to losing your soul, but on Mars and the different colonies, there are hundreds of children forced into a surgery to implant them with machine interface on their spines, so they can control equipment as if it were their own bodies.
This is a series about child soldiers, who know nothing but war but still cling on the hope of finding their own place someday. The protagonist, Mikazuki is right there with Heero Yuy and Setsuna F. Seiei in terms of cold-bloodedness, though I would give Mikazuki the lead most of times. He isn’t uncaring, but he doesn’t express any emotion, possibly repressed after years of violence.
But it goes even darker with “Human Debris,” the name given to orphans sold into slavery. From even their own perspective, they are worthless and expendable.
The stories of these characters manage to be both heartrending and inspiring, and it was what drew me to the series before I even noticed the politics and economics involved, which are a staple of the Gundam franchise—along with guys in masks!
Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Speaking of Setsuna F. Seiei, Gundam 00 is simply phenomenal, and the characters, Setsuna included, are some of the best in Gundam, though their interpersonal relationships could’ve used some work, particularly in the second season and the film.
In Gundam 00 there are constant wars for fuel and resources all over the world, forcing the creation and entry into effect of the organisation Celestial Being, tasked with ending all wars through armed interventions using Gundams.
Gundam 00 reminded me a lot of Code Geass, another story about liberating and uniting the world against a common enemy, because in the end that is the goal of Celestial Beings’ creator, to bring the world together, to destroy the borders that separate us and the politics and religions, and Gundam 00 fully explores what this sentiment and goal really means.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team: There are many OVA and films in the Universal Century, but Gundam 08th MS Team is by far my favourite, set in the middle of the original series but with a small squad of Earth Federation officers tasked with not only fighting Zeon but uncover their plans and bases. Their mission is pretty much a suicide one, but they manage to pull it off beautifully and what’s even better is that its plot elements tie into the original series seamlessly when they could easily feel shoehorned in.
But the story has another aspect and it’s the relationship between the protagonist and a Zeon pilot, and it shows something of a Romeo & Juliet scenario, only instead of Capulets and Montagues, we have the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation.
Mobile Suit Gundam: the first series, the big bad granddaddy of them all, Gundam is only second to Zeta Gundam in terms of Darkness, and perhaps the series that earned Tomino the nickname “Kill’em All” for his killing of major and secondary characters as he saw fit.
Mobile Suit Gundam stars Amuro Ray, a young man from the colony Side 7 whose home comes under attack by Zeon—their goal being the independence of the colonies, particularly those part of the Principality of Zeon, from the control of the Earth Federation government.
Amuro takes up the Gundam, a secret weapon—and the first Federation Mobile Suit that can match those of Zeon—developed by his father and uses it first to repel the Zeon attack and then to fight their forces in the war as a member of the army, drafted as they escaped the colony aboard an experimental military vessel, the White Base.
Mobile Suit Gundam is the template for all other series, including personal and family drama, PTSD on the pilot and his evolution into a “newtype“, a kickasss dude in a mask, politics and economics driving the conflicts along with and even sometimes despite the different peoples’ ideologies.
Sure, the animation is extremely dated, but it’s still worth watching it!
I could go on at length on the entire backstory for the series, but I won’t, as I don’t wish to ruin anything for you.
Gundam Build Fighters: In the past, I’ve seen many series about toy lines put to battle, from Angelic Layer to Medabots, but Gundam Build Fighters had something special about it and it wasn’t just that they used Gundams or mechs from the franchises.
Gundam Build Fighters and its sequel put as much effort in showing the cool fights as it did in showing you the construction behind the model, the Gunpla, which I thought was brilliant. You often see the characters putting together their new models, unboxing them, fitting and then even painting them.
And beyond that, Gundam Build Fighters accepts where the it comes from, it shows you that it knows it’s based on an anime called Mobile Suit Gundam. Often characters will refer to events and characters in the series, from Setsuna in Gundam 00 to even Amuro Ray.
Build Fighters is not only entertaining, but also feels like a love letter to the franchise. Hell, the first season ends with a raid on A Baoa Qu, the Zeon space fortress that was also the site of the final battle in the original Mobile Suit Gundam.
Gundam Wing: I’m leaving this one for last because it’s the very first Gundam series I even watched and one I truly love to this day.
Gundam Wing follows a similar story to the original Gundam series—and in fact it takes many elements from the original such as a kickass masked dude—with the colonies demanding their independence. The difference is that in this one they send five Gundams into Earth for guerrilla operations, along with their five pilots. These pilots each answer to a different scientist handlers and while they know there are other Gundams and pilots around the world, they have never met nor do they trust each other.
Their relationships and budding friendships and rivalries is one of the central stories in Gundam Wing along with the idea of pacifism in a time of war, and when that must give way to armed revolution to truly enact changes.
Gundam Wing also has a lot of style, with some wonderful Napoleonic era uniforms and aesthetics, giving the Earth a classic if not antiquated look despite being culturally and technologically advanced. It’s also perhaps the Gundam series with the highest number of recycled scenes, particularly the Wing Zero Gundam’s spinning beam blast—if you’ve seen the show you know what I mean!
And once you’re done with the series you go for the film Endless Waltz (a metaphor for war and peace) and end it all on a really high note!
So, there you have them, my favourite Gundam series and media. I could expand of course and I probably will when I go over the entire franchise in an upcoming set or articles, but if you’ve ever wondered if a Gundam series is good, the answer is yes. For those I’ve mentioned though, the answer is a resounding HELL YES!