19 February 2003 | Dr Wily
Supporting cast just manages to save this show from its star
To start off, an overview of the program. In an alternate, future Earth, colonies have spread throughout the solar system. Every four years, a grand tournament is held between fighters piloting giant robot weapons called Gundams. The fighter that wins, his represented nation controls the rest of the colonies until the next tournament. Enter Domon, representing Neo-Japan, first looking for his missing brother, but eventually becomes involved in a fight to save the universe when others behind the scenes of the tournament make their own plans for the outcome.
And, it is Domon, the lead character, who brings this show almost grinding to a halt. Rarely has such a flat central character carried a program. He wins 99.9% of his fights simply because he is the main character. The writers pull off the most unbelievable excuses to make sure he wins, if they even bother to do that! Sometimes, they just have Domon win for no real reason at all. As a martial artist, his character takes the stance that "he can only communicate with his fists." Well, what a great rationalization for violence, eh? And, strangely enough, everyone around him just accepts and believes this! Add to this several sub-plots involving him that are rather blatantly obvious: the mystery of the fighter Schwarz Bruder (Anyone with a German 1 high school level of the language can guess who he really is.) what happened to his father, and the unexpected love story that develops in the last few episodes, and, we really come to care less about whatever happens to Domon by the end. We know he'll win before he even enters a fight, so, there's no sense of tension.
That having been said, the supporting cast of characters is quite a surprise. Save for a couple, most have believable motivations. Argo fights to free his friends wrongfully imprisoned because of what he's done stands out, even though this plot element isn't touched that heavily upon. Even a minor character, who only appears a couple of times, becomes important and interesting when it is learned his wife was killed accidentally involving Argo. He blames the Russian for her death when, actually, he had been trying to save her at the time. The current colonial leader, Wong, is manipulating the tournament so his nation can rule for all time by resurrecting an all powerful Gundam. Domon's teacher, Master, is using Wong to get the Gundam for himself because he's become mad with the belief that the Earth must be saved from mankind itself. Even George, whose reason for fighting is one of the less creative ones, to battle for the honor of his country, is carried off better than the star's.
In the end, the smaller stories do manage to save this series from its bland central focuses. The idea of giant robots battling for a specific purpose beyond war is also a refreshing take on the past Gundam shows. Not the best action cartoon ever, but, better than some Gundam series. Definitely a show that is better than its main character.