I am reaching far into the A.S.S. vault with this episode, the furthest I’ve reached yet, to discuss the greatest, most over-the-top Gundam series ever: Mobile Fighter G Gundam. This series happily spits on the Gundam franchise with a gloomy smirk, all while presenting some of the most bizarre Gundam frames and absurd battles. With a sprawling journey mixed with old and new allies coming together to defeat old and new enemies, all of whom are constantly changing allegiances, G Gundam is so goddamn 90s, it hurts.
G Gundam is set in the ‘Future Century’ timeline of the Gundam franchise, and all that really means for newcomers is that it’s a one-off, alternate universe that doesn’t factor in to the main canon of Gundam’s ‘Universal Century’. Planet Earth is utterly devastated, and mostly inhabitable, but there are established colonies in space that correspond to various countries on Earth. United States, Japan, Germany, essentially all get their own colony, and every four years a representative from each colony is granted a spot in the Gundam Fight. The Gundam Fight is an event that pits colony against colony, with the winner’s home colony being determined the ruler of Earth for four years until it all starts again. Yes, it as silly and ridiculous as you can imagine, but I like it better than Democracy sometimes.
The Gundam Fight is a sincere contest, with strict rules and guidelines the entrant must follow. Everything from keeping battles to one-on-one, to allowing direct attacks on the pilot, is amended to allow a clear winner. Our protagonist is Neo-Japan’s Domon Kasshu, who is really just looking for his brother Kyoji who is missing. He’s blackmailed by Neo-Japan’s government to pilot their Gundam and fight for them, by holding his father in cryogenic sleep for building the Ultimate Gundam but allowing it to be stolen. SO Domon is at gunpoint to fight for his colony through most of G Gundam, so he’s often a dick to most people he meets that won’t or can’t lead him to any details on his brother’s existence. He’s not unjustified in his plight, but he is presented as a selfish character for a bulk of the series, but his mechanic, Rain Mikamura often can bring him back from the brink. Domon and Rain’s relationship is as obvious as you would expect, but the treatment she endures and is susceptible to while traveling with Domon makes me feel that she really should have looked elsewhere for a lover.
The cast of characters continues to grow significantly as the series progresses, as Domon and Rain work their way through the Gundam Fight. They gather comrades from various countries, but more importantly the candidates of Neo-China, Neo-Russia, Neo-America, and Neo-France, to eventually form the Shuffle Alliance; a proverbial super team that assist Domon’s journey to find his brother. Despite the ludicrousness already discussed, G Gundam does feature one of my all-time favorite, most entertaining characters I’ve ever come across in time with my anime: Master Asia. Master Asia quite figuratively steals any scene he is in once introduced, and completely breaks the show multiple times. He’s so nonsensically strong that he’s literally defeating Gundams with his scarf in his first onscreen appearance. The man wraps his scarf as one does a wet towel right as they’re about to pop another with it, and is slaying Gundam frames one after another. Master Asia and Domon’s master-student motif is so damned charming and commendable; they’re basically best friends. Master Asia is universally the great Gundam character every created, and his legacy is one I’ll never forget.
Now as to why G Gundam even exists is an, almost soulless, attempt to make money. Yes, obviously, all anime aims to be profitable and sell merchandise and prolong the brand. But Sunrise was specifically asked by sponsors to make a product less-realistic, and aimed to push toy sales. Sunrise were able to create something that would seem soulless when reading about a vague synopsis, but would have heart, personality and, most importantly, a soul that more than the dedicated demographic could respect. Director Yasuhiro Imagawa (who was familiar with Gundam and other ‘real robot’ series, and would later be a screenwriter on the 1997 Berserk series) realized that this Gundam would be unlike any Gundam’s before it, so he aimed to inject it and its universe with a personality all its own. He has said he’s proud of G Gundam’s final product and stands by it, but despite all of this, if you go into Gundam expecting a silly, light-hearted/campy “robots fighting other robots to save the destroyed planet Earth that heavily borrows Dragon Ball themes” then that’s what you’ll get.
G Gundam follows an episodic nature, with most episodes featuring Domon stumbling across an area or character that ultimately leads him to battling in his Gundam to save the day. The stories and repetitive setups do hurt the overall lasting appeal of the G Gundam story, but the creativity of every element’s design are the high points. Various nations Gundams are so stereotypical, some to a questionable, potentially offensive degree, but there’s something about seeing a Gundam from Neo-Norway arrive via a Viking ship to do battle. Or, a Gundam that is a cobra from Neo-India. It continues the charming design the series never hesitated to pure to the forefront. Rather than continue the overly-dramatic stone-faced storytelling previous Gundam series told, G Gundam went profoundly melodramatic but still kept a self-effacing element to its story.
G Gundam never takes itself too seriously, and despite literally being created to save face for the franchise and make a buck, it has created a legacy for two decades now. Before it was ever widely available thanks to Crunhyroll, G Gundam was a series that was often talked about and was often one of the first Gundam series most Americans who grew up in the 90s recalls. Well, this and Gundam Wing, but thanks to the programming block Toonami from the mid-90s, G Gundam found a new audience in the 2000s as Toonami brought it US viewers. Your mileage may vary when it comes to G Gundam, but if you don’t mind a campy, mindless-most-instances tale, wrapped around giant robots fighting for galactic dominance, do yourself a favor: give it a go. After 20 years the plot is quite predictable and shallow at times, but the endgame is as enjoyable now as it was when I first experienced it nearly 15 years ago. My only forewarning towards G Gundam is that Crunchyroll only has the subbed version, and will likely never receive the English dub, and it’s a shame. Sure, the subbed version will be way more on-the-nose and accurate, but a lot of the charm of G Gundam, for me, was the English dubbing. I’m not implying it is bad, it’s not, it’s excellent, especially for its time, but hearing Domon shout “Shining Finger” in English, or Master Asia and Domon yelling at one another, isn’t the same without the English dub. It’s a minor, personal preference, but I think a lot is missed without it, and I can only hope we receive an anniversary re-release in the coming years. Be sure to check out Crunchyroll for the complete G Gundam saga, as well as other Gundam series they’re currently offering.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!