25 August 2009 | xamtaro
Ever wonder why the hardcore Gundam fans love this series so much?
7 years have passed since the events of the original MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM and the battles lines have shifted once again. Yesterdays heroes are today's oppressors as the once heroic Earth Federation has degenerated into a nearly fascist ruling party whose iron law is upheld by the "Titans", an elite task-force created to quell any form of possible insurrection. Opposing them is "A.E.U.G", formed by a number of ex-ZEON members including the legendary Char Aznable, a secret group of freedom fighters slowly gaining support and power among the colonies. Enter the brash and hot headed Kamille Bidan who, during the events of an A.E.U.G attempt to capture some experimental mobile suits, lands up piloting the newly developed Gundam MK2. A series of tragedies occur which forces Kamille, who already harbors a dislike for the Titans and the Federation, and his friends to join up with the A.E.U.G as they make their way to earth.
What struck me about this series was how the various players in the war were portrayed. Instead of going for a morally ambiguous stand and make each side seem "good" in their own way, this show is quick to bring out the "ugly face" of each side, ally or enemy; it is either you root for the devil or the demon. Even the heroes do some morally questionable things over the course of the story, but it all plays into some very well thought out character development.
This series focuses more strongly on its main character of Kamille Bidan,his point-of-view and how me meets the various different characters as the story advances. Kamille starts off as, quite honestly, a self-centered brat with an identity crisis and a dysfunctional family relationship. But his development over the course of the series is heart warming and emotionally engaging as he matures and is given a crash course in "growing up" and being a responsible soldier. I would not spoil anything here, but let us just say that the poor kid experiences quite a good number of deaths, especially involving some people close to him.
How the characters react to their situations are realistically logical, in a style that one would expect from any real life person thrust into that situation, and lead up well into their subsequent actions, be it a subtle change of attitude or even defecting to the other side. From the inner turmoil of Kamille Bidan, to the crazed obsession of Jared Messa. to Quattro Bajena's loss of faith in his leadership capabilities. All of them are equally compelling.
The story moves along at an excellent pace with enough twists to keep you coming back for more. It may start off a little slow for the first few episodes, mainly just to get all our main cast into place, but manages to pick up after that. The episodes never seem to drag and the intrigue just keeps building especially after the introduction of the cyber newtypes and "Axis Zeon".
Created in 1985, Zeta Gundam's animation is actually quite good for its time. It can hold up to many anime series up to those in the late 1990s thanks to its detailed artwork. The director does use a number of stock footage and repeated scenes especially in battles, but he does it in such a way that it is never really obvious the scenes are re-used. Little things like using a stock footage in mirror-image or re-coloring the background of a stock footage or even playing with the speed of the animation all helps to "mask" the re-used scenes and animation. A very shrewd bit of directing there that allows the animation to look great while saving on cost. In fact, one can argue that the style of the art and animation here lends a very "gritty" look to the show that goes well with its darker storyline. Thanks to that, the action in Zeta Gundam is intense and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Some psycho-babble about newtypes and psychic powers near the latest parts of the series may tend to seem "far removed" from the otherwise realistic feel of Gundam, but that is my only gripe here.
Personally I enjoyed MOBILE SUIT ZETA GUNDAM very much. With animation beyond its time, a dark but highly engaging story and an emotionally identifiable cast with strong characterization, it is no wonder many long time Gundam fans regard MOBILE SUIT ZETA GUNDAM as the best Gundam series ever. Totally Beats the crud out of any other modern Gundam series.