When it was announced that Yoshiyuki Tomino was coming to NYAF Narutaki and I jumped for joy, it was without a doubt a dream come true. While it was fantastic news it also meant we had to radically change our viewing schedule to accommodate watching one of Tomino’s most respected works, Zeta Gundam. While Zeta Gundam does not go without criticism it is one of the few parts of the Gundam franchise that gets universal approval by all but a few heretics. So this is one of the few Gundam series I went into with high expectations.
Even if I wanted to go into Zeta Gundam without expectations, it was virtually impossible. After I watched Original Gundam, all I heard was talktalktalk about Zeta and chastising for putting it off as I have. Well, that is all over! I have watched it kids, and though we aren’t doing a full run down of the show, we are sharing some choice thoughts from the series.
Seven years after the One Year War things are very different. While Zeon has been defeated, remnants still remain after all these years and plan to overthrow the Federation. In response the Federation created the Titans a task force given extraordinary powers to root out any Zeon or other anti-federation forces. But with extraordinary powers can come extraordinary abuses and the Titans have abused their power to the extreme. The Titans do what ever it takes to ruthlessly crush anyone who gets in their way including people who speak out against them and any bystanders. Zeta starts when Kamille Bidan helps the Anti-Earth Union Group steal three new Gundam Mark II prototypes. Soon Kamille is caught up with the AEUG’s three way battle against the corrupt Federation forces and the Axis Zeon forces.
Taking the Federation and making them the ones with the crazy plans this time around was a nice change. This also helped press the idea from Original Gundam that both factions have people in positions of power who abuse it. In conjunction with this it was great to see characters switch sides even if some of them happen very abruptly. One problem I found was that the opposing side didn’t really have a rival for Kamille considering Jerid is more of a joke and usually only survives by the skin of his teeth. There was tension there due to many deaths of many characters for each of them but I never wondered who was going to be victorious. So while many of the plots of the Titans put things in dire straights, the personal factor of suspense was sometimes lost. Though such was not the case in the final episodes when characters square off and it’s a coin toss to see how it was all going to lay out after the dust settled.
Kamille is very similar to Amuro but also his own character. Both are mechanical geniuses who through their Newtype abilities are natural born pilots and they are socially awkward and self-involved. But where as Amuro was dragged into the conflict, Kamille throws himself into the conflict the Titans. Amuro was paranoid and untrusting where as Kamille is oddly naive. If Kamille is like Amuro then Fa Yuiry is definitely his Frau. Fa is Kamille’s long suffering pseudo-girlfriend who fights with Kamille all the time and winds up taking care of the kids aboard the ship. Unlike Frau we have Fa trying to be a pilot to support Kamille on the battlefield but most of her sorties find her getting into a mess that Kamille has to bail her out of. Most of the old gang is back as well. From Bright still being Bright and punching people to Kai the whip cracking investigative reporter. Oh I love when they mention that Mirai Yashima must be the closest a human can come to being a Newtype without being a Newtype. Narutaki and I got a good long laugh from that. Oh and we only get one shot of Sayla for the whole series. BOOOO! Sayla could have turned this whole series around with her sexy awesomeness.
I can’t say I liked Kamille much, especially in the beginning though one good thing did happen, I like Amuro quite a bit more now! And while I certainly accepted Kamille in the end, I stand by my statement, “Kamille may be a super newtype, but that doesn’t mean he is smart!” As far as other new pilots go, Katz is nothing short of irritating and dumb (and he kicked Haro!) and Fa somehow sucks just as much as a pilot but isn’t as annoying. There is also Reccoa who starts off as an excellent strong female pilot, even Char (I mean Quattro!) trusted her and asked for her help but she disappointed me in the end. The addition to the cast that I really liked was Emma who is a good fighter, doesn’t act like an insane woman controlled sorely by her hormones, and tells it like it is. Many of the other female characters either start out strong and deteriorate or aren’t around long enough to make an impact. Now on to my favorite subject: Char. Why does most everyone continue to call him Quattro after it is revealed that he is indeed The Red Comet? Anyway, as usual he distinguishes himself from the very beginning (and gives a hilarious little pep talk about himself!) and mentors Kamille while also jumping head first into politics though he doesn’t get a lot of cool battle scenes. I couldn’t dislike Char on any account, but in Original Gundam he was a great rival and gray villain who was looking out for number one; in Zeta that is taken away and diminished what made me like him in the first place.
Speaking of villains, pretty much all the Titans went to Evil University and graduated top of their classes. Bask Om with his silly hat and glasses and casual disregard for human life tops the list of baddies. Then there is Jamaican Daninghan who is the whitest Jamaican ever.; Jared or The Subway Guy whose main purposed is to keep killing Kamille’s loved ones after Kamille keeps killing his girlfriends; and Yazan Gable aka evil (eviler?) David Bowie who wins the prize for most bloodthirsty pilot. Then there are the female cybernewtypes that are totally out of their minds and and all strangely attracted to Kamille. Four Murasame either tries to kiss or kill Kamille every chance she gets. Rosamia Badam thinks that Kamille is her big brother and people seem fine humoring her even though she is so obviously a Titan. And Sarah Zabiarov is just useless. The two real major villains are Paptimus Scirocco and Haman Karn. Paptimus Scirocco aka the Jerk from Jupiter’s strongest power seems to be hyper-pheromones that make any and all ladies do his bidding. Haman is Scirocco’s counterpart in the Axis Zeon. She does not pop up in the series until late in the game but when she does she is always making problems for everyone by playing both ends against the middle. I don’t know why Tomino loves to bring in major villains only off handily introduced in the first 2/3 of the series but Haman is a prime example of this.
The attitudes of the cyber newtypes made me ponder the possibility that Zeta Gundam was a cleverly disguised harem show. But I have dismissed this theory for one much more proven, Tomino just doesn’t know how to write relationships. In the spirit of Original Gundam, Zeta plays a game of upping the ante on people being thrust into love rather than slowly building up to that point. Although, I suppose to be fair, a good portion of the cast is insane so maybe everyone was exactly as they should be! Most things run the gamut from meeting for two minutes and being madly in love to falling in love and becoming the biggest idiot on the planet. The destruction of love in this series is mostly due to one or both parties being killed. Zeta certainly lives up to the body count hype for the show, though for the most part the bigger deaths are left for the end.
Zeta Gundam is famous for many things and mobile suits is no exception. The big gimmick in Zeta is transforming mechs. Despite how much the characters make a big deal about them I was rather unimpressed with the fighting power of any of the transforming mecha. They looked cool but you never got the feeling anyone one was getting a distinct advantage from the ability to transform like in Macross. Also while it looked cool, Paptimus’s the O did not impress me but oddly enough did in Dynasty Warriors: Gundam by pulling of some impressive moves with its four arms. The Titans have to go through the most mecha in the series because every time Jared sorties they give him a new suit. He gets everything from horribly mundane suits to crazy mobile armors. Axis Zeon will forever be remembered if nothing else because they funnel system in Haman’s Qubeley. Oh I have to add, while it’s no Zakrello, both models of the Psyco Gundam are quite silly looking with their ability to transform into flying boxes.
Not surprisingly the animation for Zeta Gundam is better than its predecessor but still, it is an 80’s TV anime so let’s not expect too much. Quite a bit of effort goes into the battles, happily, and they are fast paced and fierce for the most part. Off model characters seem to be in check for the most part (I don’t recall any giant mutant sized Haro moments this time), but some characters from Original Gundam had me scratching my head for a minute (Hayato?) with their updated designs. A sad fact for the domestic release of Zeta Gundam is the absence of its opening and closing songs.
I enjoyed Zeta Gundam, it was a fine edition to the Gundam legacy but I did not feel the overwhelming love that real Zeta fans have. I see what is really good about Zeta: The three way battle; by the end of the series you have no idea who is going to live and die; and seeing old you favorite characters from Original Gundam while making sure they don’t overshadow the new ones. On the other hand Zeta is also like Tomino in overdrive at times. The odd relationships, dialog, and character decisions are back in full force and often stronger. I was also never as invested in any of the characters as much as I was in the original cast. Still I assume anyone thinking of watching Zeta is a long haul Gundam fan. For you I say, “Thumbs up but never going to displace my love of Turn A Gundam.”
Despite all my poking at it, I found Zeta quite entertaining. Zeta Gundam interwove robots, politics, comradeship, and space together quite nicely. However, I have heard quite often that Zeta Gundam is even better than the show that it is based upon. I have also frequently been told that any Char fan would love Zeta more since he is in it so much. I disagree on both counts. While the overall story may be darker than the first, it doesn’t hammer out a more cohesive story. As far as Char goes, he isn’t in the forefront of this show much more. And Char aside, I have to agree with Hisui, I wasn’t as fond of Zeta’s cast. There is plenty to enjoy in Zeta Gundam and it is a worthy squeal to the series that kicked off a large franchise but it doesn’t blow Original Gundam out of the water.