An anime DVD boxed set.
Let's face it; on the whole, Mobile-Fighter G Gundam is typically considered by fans to be the black sheep of the Gundam franchise. I knew this going into the 49-episode DVD collection, which is spaced out across two 6-disc sets from Bandai under the budget-friendly Anime Legends collections.
So consistent was the negative feedback of the series that I purposely began my Gundam viewing obsession with the original, followed by Zeta, Wing, Seed, 0080, and 0083 all before tearing into G. With apprehension and low expectations, I began the 49-episode journey of Domon Kasshu and company and am pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the highs and lows of the show itself, let us take a moment to discuss G Gundam's roots and developments.
As many know, the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise is one of the longest-standing and most successful licenses to come out of Japan, a nation known for an obsession with all-things Giant Robot. That said, back in 1994 the Gundam franchise was already celebrating its fifteenth year of existence and commemorated the occasion with three individual and unrelated programs (G was the first of the three, followed by Wing then the 08th MS Team).
Airing in Japan in 1994 (and running through 1995), G Gundam maintains the dark, gritty feel of shows from the era like Gundam Wing. However, unlike Wing, G Gundam takes place in the Future Century (FC) where the earth-nations-inspired space colonies battle it out to earn control over the planet for a four-year term. Democracy be darned, this responsibility is determined through a Roman Gladiator style tournament whereby each colony sends a Gundam (& pilot) to duke it out on the planet's surface, often at the expense of the population/ landmarks.
On paper the plot sounds pretty weak and certainly contributed to my low expectations going into the program. However, and like the rest of the Gundam franchise in general, the show's writers wisely pace the larger plot context against the more-immediate and relatable struggles of a lead character, his love interest, and a mysterious photograph. In truth, the "mortal combat" theme of each episode serves only as a story progression tool while the cast is methodically introduced.
Where the show succeeds is through its immature yet lovable cast of characters. National pride (and clichés) abounds and constantly reminded this author of the simple reality that nobody but the Japanese could have so flawlessly pulled it off. Die-hard fans of the Gundam mythos will likely cringe at Mobile Suits (or Mobile Fighters as the case may be) decked out to resemble a boxer or a windmill make their appearance. However I should point out that for every laughable gimmick displayed, there are at least a pair of wicked-cool Mobile Fighter designs including Neo-Germany's Shadow Gundam, Neo-China's Dragon Gundam and even lead character Domon Kasshu's Shining and Burning Gundams.
Of course the individual fighters pale in comparison to the larger conflict presented here in Domon's mission of vengeance against his corrupted brother, former master, and the dreaded and oftentimes disturbing Dark Gundam. Taking a chapter from The Empire Strike's Back, a large portion of the lead character's development comes in the form of training. Only unlike mastering The Force, Domon's own struggles involve mastery of an ever-evolving form of martial arts called Tohofuhai. Espeically noteworthy in this sequence is a dull and rusted sword that cannot slice through butter when operated by an unfocused mind. This representation of the acquisition of discipline works very well here and sets Domon up perfectly for an epic battle between multiple enemies.
Pacing of the story is quite fluid as well despite a bit of inconsistency in the lead characters' abilities. Early episodes show a Domon able to catch a barrage of gunfire with his bare fingers only to be intimidated by a lone pistol later on and his mechanic/ personal physician/ love interest Rain Mikamura starts out with a plethora of gadgets (like force-field-generator earrings) that seem to disappear as the show progresses as well.
I should mention that while the plot advances with steady authority, the maturation of lead character, Domon Kasshu is a bit more inconsistent. He is introduced as shadowy, almost supernatural character displaying amazing feats of strength and ability only to regress to a bit of a wild card about midway through the prose. His impatience and lack of discipline come to a fever pitch just before the showdown between he and his former master but his personality continues to fluctuate even throughout the Gundam Fight Finals in Hong Kong.
More consistent is the character of Rain who manages to become Domon's counterpoint in many situations with level headedness and patience.
In conclusion perhaps G Gundam's greatest strength is intertwined with its greatest flaw: It is a part of the Gundam Universe. Because of this, viewers are treated to a take on the franchise literally like no other before it or since. Classic and contemporary Gundam designs make cameos left and right (especially during the later stages of the tournament) including the likes of the original Mobile Suits, Zeta Gundam, F91, Victory Gundam and so on. Sharp eyed viewers will delight in spotting the subtle homage to the other series' hidden throughout.
Conversely, being affiliated with the Gundam Universe is a dangerous proposition for any show not because of continuity restraints but rather because the bar has simply been raised so far that anything that strays from the formula seems to be rejected. Viewers coming in to G Gundam expecting the political and scientific accuracy that the franchise is known for will surely be disappointed. To put it simply, G Gundam sacrifices nearly all aspects of political conflict or scientific intricacy to deliver its more action-oriented prose. Sure it's a step in the wrong direction for those who view the franchise as a mecha-oriented Star Trek but on the other hand it's no more unrealistic than beloved American robot shows like Voltron or Transformers (explaining its success during its 2002 debut on Cartoon Network).
What did you think of this review?
An anime DVD boxed set.
An anime DVD boxed set.
Anime DVD Collection