Ever since I decided I was going to do a gritty mech space opera as my next project, I've been consuming as much science fiction media as I can. Mostly I've been revisiting a lot of old shows that I was obsessed with as a kid, in particular anime from the 80s and 90s as well as their modern counterparts (Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, I'm looking at you).
While going through this stuff, I can't say that everything I (re)discovered was "good" but alot of it was really interesting. It's obvious that retro anime was influenced by the western pop culture movies of the time, but distilled through the Japanese lens. Some of it was amazing, some of it was a little bizarre, but all of it was a fascinating trip down memory lane.
There were alot of classic shows like Bubble Gum Crisis that I knew I wanted to revisit, but I also stumbled onto a lot of obscure stuff that I completely forgot existed. While looking for new toys to buy for "research", I came upon this mech:
I knew I had seen it before but for the life of me, I just couldn't remember which show it was from. Turns out it was from a cartoon called "Metal Skin Panic Madox-01". It may or may not have been the best show ever, I can no longer recall, but I'm hoping to unearth more forgotten treasures as I dive deeper into retro anime.
Gundam sure is different now.
As a lapsed anime fan, its also interesting to see how a franchise has evolved over time, sometimes in bewildering ways. Case in point: The early Gundam series (all the Universal Century stuff) were sci-fi war stories that tended to star angsty, emotionally unavailable teen boys that were sorta assholes (I think it was supposed to make them seem cool). Amuro Rey was kind of a selfish, whiny jerk at times but that was understandable since he was essentially a reluctant child soldier.
I don't know if I would consider him likable but he seemed at least human-ish.
To tell you the truth, I've been having a hard time rewatching the really old Gundam shows. I really do love the classic Gundam designs but it's a little hard to sit through the entire series when you're mostly enjoying them in an ironic, hipstery sort of way.
However, I did discover "Gundam: The Origin" manga which is a modern retelling of the original series. It's beautifully illustrated and has been a wonderful way to re-experience the story.
When I think of Gundam, my brain still defaults to the early Universal Century stuff and I think the series hit its peak with Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory and Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. I loved these two shows so much as a kid that I've flatly rejected any Gundam series that was not part of the Universal Century timeline. I've since softened my stance and have been watching some of the newer stuff.
It's been interesting to see how much a series needs to retain of itself to be still be considered as part of the same franchise. I've concluded that anything can be a Gundam show as long as the best mech is a big white, blue, and yellow robot that has a red goatee. After that, anything goes.
For instance, I've been enjoying Iron Blooded Orphans but that show seems to have two completely separate personalities. On one hand you have this gritty story about child soldiers like Mikazuki Augus, the main Gundam pilot, who just straight up kills fools without hesitation.
On the flip side, there's a dude in there who is married to a child for some reason. And then there's another dude that captains a spaceship whose crew consists solely of his many buxom wives. Both of these guys seem to be portayed as paragons of manhood.
And I've never seen Gundam Wing but Irma sent me this clip of what I assume to be the main character's bewildering reaction to a birthday invitation.
It's clear I'm no longer the target demographic for these shows but am I the only one who finds these characters unrelatable? Perhaps because I've aged out of the franchise, I can no longer see the aspirational qualities of these characters.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. In fact, the less I can relate to the story the more I seem to be enjoying it. The newest Gundam series, Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, seems to revolve around a school where the students resolve their disputes by clambering into gargantuan mechs, dueling it out, and then... uh... marrying each other.
It's all pretty bewildering to me, but sign me up. I'm down for all of it.
Anyhow, thank you for indulging my completely random Gundam tangent. Although uninformative and confusing, I hope that it was at least entertaining.
In case it's not evident, I'm clearly not a Gundam historian. If you have any recommendations for me to check out, please let me know in the comments below!