As you can glean from the main page, Mobile Suit Gundam
was a watershed in anime history. Not only did it mark the beginning of one of anime's most successful and important franchises, it spawned a new subgenre of Humongous Mecha
anime. It is fondly remembered by Gundam
otaku, but it's also from 1979/80. How well does it hold up today? Having seen other '70s anime like Gatchaman
, I expected something really cheesy and dated, with lots of bombast and overacting.
Surprisingly, that's not what I got. Yes, the biggest problem is probably the art and animation, which are about what you'd expect from this era. Colors are severely limited, character designs are plain and sometimes downright weird-looking, and the animation is often stiff and poorly done. Even the mecha designs are not up to snuff. But I was very impressed with the story. The characters themselves are very believable and well-fleshed out, the plot is as complex and involving as any other Gundam
offering, and the series' themes are surprisingly mature and thoughtful for a kids' show. It definitely shares features with other Gundam
series: moral ambiguity, an emphasis on war and politics over personal heroics and grandstanding, and just enough behind-the-front-lines soap opera drama and emotion to keep viewers entertained. But this gets credit for doing it first, and doing it in the '70s. Watching this, you are seeing the development of tropes that would inspire Japanese for decades to come. Amuro's vacillating interest in the war he is fighting in foreshadows Evangelion
's Shinji, and Char's Magnificent Bastard
personality has always resonated in Japan.
This old show holds up very well to more modern Gundam
offerings like Seed
. However, this raises the question: why not just watch the newer shows? Most modern anime fans will probably just do that, and it's understandable. The show does have its flaws, and it's creaky by modern standards. But if you watch Seed
and get curious about how the Gundam
mythos began, it's worth your time to check out this old classic. It's basically the Japanese equivalent of Star Trek The Original Series
, or perhaps Star Wars
(closer in age). It may look like crap, but sit down for an episode (or one of the compilation movies) and you may find yourself drawn in.