Reviews: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

Butchering the Sacred Cow: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate Zeta Gundam

I can't stand this show. I really can't.

I don't like the mech design. Everything that isn't taken from the last show just looks stupid.

I don't like the plot inconsistencies, particularly how Jupiter goes from being seven years away from Earth to the site of the bad guys base.

I was never fond of Newtypes, even in the last show. I'll go to my grave saying they were a complete mistake from square one, but here, they go from psychics who are better than you at everything to space wizards who can bend physics with their minds. I'd accept that in a Super Robot show, but this is the *granddaddy* of all Real Robot television. Let's not even touch on the racist implications.

I disliked most of the characters. I appreciate that I wasn't *supposed* to like most of them, but the cast, with a few exceptions, was never fun to watch. As someone who never bought into the Char fanboyism, I don't even like Quattro.

I was turned off by the sexism. Read the quote that opens the page. 'Nuff said.

But, most of all, I hate its fans. (You may notice I didn't use the word "hate" until now.) Normally, when I don't like a show, I'm quick to say "That's just my opinion. I'm entitled to it, just as you're entitled to yours. Saying I don't like it doesn't mean you aren't allowed to." This show's fanbase was not so accommodating. I got bile, hate, angry comparisons to other, newer, to my mind better Gundam shows by people who insulted my taste and told me that I wasn't entitled to my opinion, that I must have actually liked it and just not wanted to, etc.

In short, I would have been content to leave your sacred cow be, if you hadn't thrown its dung at me.

Does the show fail completely? No, there are some successes. I liked some of its underlying ideas, like the way mechs have to be built to dodge because no armor can protect against beam weapons (making the final boss's inexplicably-immune space-magic mech even more irritating), and I love to watch Yazan Gable, even if part of it is the thrill of watching a human eau-natural butchering his "betters" with sadistic glee.

But, I still disliked the show, and my encounters with its snobbish and bitter fanbase have only cemented that dislike into hate.

Good Show: Awful Protagonist.

Zeta Gundam is one of those anime shows that I simultaneously genuinely enjoy and yet sincerely hate. That may sound like a very odd way to put things, but there is good reason for it. Without a doubt, Zeta is better-animated, better-plotted and has better characterization throughout most of its run than the original. It deserves the praise that it gets, and represents an impressive milestone in the history of the Real Robot genre.

However, not everything about Zeta is good. The main protagonist is, without a doubt, the most whiny asshole in the entire history of anything ever. I enjoyed the portrayal of Flay Allster in Gundam SEED because I felt the trauma she endured throughout the series justified her more irrational actions and behavior. Kamille has no such excuses. Lip service is paid to the idea that he is autistic, but his behavior crosses the antisocial border so much that it simply isn't a worthy excuse. For a start he prattles constantly about wanting peace, while at the same time amassing a kill-count equal to (possibly surpassing) that of the previous Gundam protagonist. He also actively insults and belittles others, and even treats his would-be girlfriend with utmost contempt at several points during the course of the series.

What really annoyed me about all this is that it wasn't even necessary. Char Aznable could very easily have filled Kamille's shoes for Zeta Gundam, and lost nothing for it. He is just as flawed a protagonist as Kamille, yet simultaneously a much more likable and endearing character than Kamille is. (then again, one could say the same of a flatulent moose). In a show filled with excellent and highly memorable characters, Kamille's sheer lack of redeeming features stand out like a sore thumb.

Another moderate issue with Zeta is the fact that a lot of the deaths are entirely avoidable. The idiot ball is passed around quite frequently, with certain people apparently losing their mental faculties just long enough to bite the dust and add more ghosts to Kamille's ethereal army at the endgame.

Yet despite these flaws, Zeta Gundam still stands out from the pack. It has very well detailed animation, great pacing and a very solid plot overall. There are certainly issues, but the fact I was willing to ignore them and still enjoy the series shows that where Zeta shines are the parts that truly count.

A must-watch fantastic series, despite a few faults.

Zeta Gundam is a milestone of anime history, often claimed to be one of the greatest and most popular of the Gundam franchise, and for some, best anime, period. I stand wholeheartedly by this statement. At the same time, I can say with all honesty that upon first watching Zeta, I found it much different from what I expected. After finishing it, I felt conflicted over my reaction to it.

All the praise it got ended up clouding my judgement, and I ended up expecting a masterpiece along the lines of Evangelion or something of the sort. In a way, that's exactly what I got. In the same way that Evangelion would go on to become mainstream franchise, Zeta would go on to become Gundam's most famed series, and would shape the Real Robot Genre to what it is nowadays.

The plot is simple as an outline: The Federation suffers from corruption and forms a military branch that becomes oppresive and tyrannical. In response, a rebellion is formed, and among this all is Kamille Bidan, angsty teen and pilot extraordinaire, who joins with the aforementioned rebellion. Since the plot is moved primarily by the motivations and goals of the characters, it manages to become deep and complicated, filled with political intrigue, moral ambiguity and even a bit of philosophy.

One of the things that Zeta does best is to improve the problems that the original Gundam had: Where there was once shoddy artwork, there is now more fluid animation. Music as a whole is improved, and generic plot elements are replaced with more meaningful conflict that has many repercussions later in the series.

My (former) beef with Zeta: Since it managed to have such an impact on later works (mainly because of how dark it was), the drama in the show seems tame compared to what we're used to. Even though I mentioned Evangelion earlier, it's actually quite probable that without Zeta it wouldn't exist. Annoying kids and constant slaps make for one of the most annoying trends in the series, mainly because neither of them contribute anything meaningful to the story. In the end, when I managed to look past these faults, I realized I actually, truly liked Zeta. Weird, huh?

I highly recommend you watch Zeta, even if you're not into mecha anime.

Final thoughts: Believe in the sign of Zeta!