Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985)…

This follow-up to ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ is set 8 years after the events of that series, which saw the fall of Earth’s enemy, the Zeon empire. The Earth Federation has created a specialist force, the Titans, set on hunting down the last of the Zeon forces. While the Titans are widely considered the hero protectors of the Earth Federation they are establishing themselves as a totalitarian military dictatorship over the colonies.

Elements within the Earth Federation forces recognise what is essentially a coup and defect, creating the Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG) and soon the members of what was once one military force have to choose sides in a civil war.

Kamille Bidan, a colonial teenager, feels the brutality of the Titans himself and gets caught up in the struggle and into a Gundam when the AEUG and Titans fight in his colony. In the chaos Bidan secures a Gundam for the AEUG, and after the Titans use Bidan’s parents as leverage against him, he commits himself to fighting the Titans with the AEUG.

While the animation and characterisation of ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ may not have been as sophisticated as the modern anime I’ve seen, I made allowances for its age and the complex and pretty mature stories which had made that first series an enjoyable watch. I was interested in seeing where this 50 episode run would take the characters we’d followed from the first series. There was a little thrill at seeing the original crew of the Whitebase in the opening sequence all grown-up, and I realised how fond I’d become of them. The opening music for the dubbed version is great by the way–would love to hear that played live. Would ‘Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta’ match or better ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’?

My enjoyment of the show was slightly tempered by how the original protagonists that did make it back into the show, only really did so as supporting characters who popped up and disappeared again without much of a story. This is a new tale–even though the set-up is similar to it’s predecessor–that introduces a wide range of new characters. Sadly few made much of an impact on me. The interaction between characters had been a little off in the first series–the second even more so. With a few exceptions there was little sense of connections between the characters which lessened the impact of the inevitable betrayals and deaths.

The Bright slap which had been quite a shock in the first series returns with avengence. Everyone is literally slapping each other about–it was laughable. I wish we’d kept score. I’m pretty sure every episode someone ‘corrected’ someone else. Even Bright had his ass handed back to him in a proper brutal beating. Bizarre. I actually think this should be a thing in the office–it would cut out a lot of stupid I’m sure.

OprahggGundam

If you can get past the slapping around then the story is quite complex. It’s brave to turn the world on its head in its second series by having the good guys turn bad and the villain become the hero of the rebellion. It does, however, make it a little confusing. There are also factions within factions as the plot progressed–which didn’t help me. I’ve noticed with anime there’s very little exposition or info dumps, you either accept what’s going on, keep up, or enjoy watching the pretty colours. There’s some oddness in the fact that the villain of the first series is not recognised by the others, and when he is he’s so result accepted. There are also some unbelievable moments, like Bidan suddenly having a sister–which Bidan accepts curiously easily even though it reeks of a trap. Kotz suffered a similar gullibility which just made me want to slap them both around myself.

The titular Zeta gundam seemed to take its time to come into play, and while the series revisited the anguish of children at war it did little with it like it’s predecessor. It did offer some unsettling scenes of losses for the main characters, and deaths of colonies, which made the point that there’s nothing romantic or clean about war which were effectively tragic and haunting. The Jedi-like new type plot–which felt like a bolt-on to the original series–had a greater role this time around, with the Titans developing artificial new types for piloting their gundams to make them super weapons. I have to admit, the new type story still didn’t grab me or feel needed. We already have giant robots fighting one another–who needs much else?! Sadly I did, and this series just didn’t deliver and the end, while dark, felt empty. I’ve read that it leads into ‘Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ’, so perhaps that would give it a more complete story.

As it stands, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first series, but it was watchable. I’d give it 2 slap blocks out of 5.

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