Cleaning the Plate is my form of final reflections and maybe a type of mini-review after I watch or read something. Today I’ll be writing about Mobile Suit Gundam 0079, the first installment in the UC Gundam series, and whats keeping me from completely falling into Idol/Magical Girl hell. Giant Robots that always makes people want to talk, now I do too!
When confronted with the dilemma of ‘where to start?’ in a major anime franchise, usually the simplest answer would simply be ‘from the beginning’. However with Gundam, while it is an immensely important in regards to the history of anime, starting from the beginning means engaging in what is known as UC timeline, a main story of sorts that spans multiple series, OVAs, and films, which is very intimidating. In addition, the very names of Tomino and Gundam are quick to spawn discussion in any circle without much push, just by the sheer impact of Tomino and his creation. Therefore, as someone knowledgable in only one small part of the major Gundam franchise, discussing and reviewing any installment in the UC timeline is very difficult as they seem to flow chronologically and thematically. So it practically impossible to understand aspects of Tomino’s directing and writing from simply one series, especially since he might have changed over time. As such, I will simply be describing my experiences going through the first entry into the UC timeline, 0079.
I’m not going to lie, previously I had high expectations of Gundam due the immense affect it had and still has throughout the anime community, the mecha genre, and the evolution of anime itself. Even though I tried to suppress those expectations, I still kept speculations since I didn’t actually know what the series was, only the impact that it had. Going in completely blind, I envisioned that I would be getting either some epic space action adventure across many backdrops both in space and on land, or a thought-provoking and crushing take on the emotional impact of war. I’m quite sure yet, but I think in the end the series landed somewhere in the middle actually, but I still have some reservations and “hmmm”s about the story Tomino began to lay out in this series.
I had a very lukewarm start to 0079, as both the premise and the gundam itself interested me, but I wasn’t sure at this point if this was something I’d really like. Things like Amuro just suddenly knowing how to pilot the Gundam, and some other parts of the start were weird, but they weren’t detracting. As the series progressed to its mid section, I started to get a bit disheartened about my engagement in the series. While I had seen some textual value in the story progression, Amuro’s character arc with his rising angst and leaving the White Base annoyed me more than it interested me, and only later did I come to tolerate him. Getting though those middle episodes were a drag sometimes and I even put down the series a few times, but as I trudged through them I began to appreciate and like some of the White Base crew (starting with the three adorable kids and their comic relief). Some of the later fights were exciting and the developing mystery of Char and Sayla’s connection was an engaging subplot. Towards the end though, the Newtype developments left me confused and unsatisfied, as the concept itself was not fully explained nor did I feel much gained from introducing it (so far). Also, while Lala’s role in the story became more defined and with a lot of potential I thought, her development became cut short by Amuro’s swift path to becoming basically overpowered. By the end, I enjoyed what I watched, the space adventure of White Base as well as the military movements in the background were something I could get behind, but some parts of the show I wasn’t that keen on.
The show in some ways did feel cut short at the end, but it did finally set up Amuro and Char as distinct rivals, though a bit questionable about how they got there, and I am excited about where they could go from here. I started Gundam with high expectations that felt a bit betrayed during the middle, but as the series was coming into its own and my enjoyment began to rise, it was already ending. 0079 was an interesting watch for me, but I definitely enjoyed it enough to get into UC timeline as a whole especially if the later installments get better and, more importantly, the memes. I won’t be starting Zeta Gundam just yet, as I have a few things in my backlog I want to complete first, but I might go though some of the OVA series in the meantime too.