Monday, June 3, 2013

Revisiting the Classics -- Mobile Suit Gundam

Here it is, the one that started it all: the 1979 anime Mobile Suit Gundam.

The story takes place in the year 0079 of the Universal Century. Mankind has spread out across the solar system, taking up residence inside floating cities called Sides. One of them, Side Three, decides they've had enough of the Earth people calling the shots, and proceeds to wage a war of independence against the Earth Federation, even going so far as to drop one of the colonies on the planet. Side Three--now calling themselves the Principality of Zeon--gains an early advantage because of their mobile suits, giant robots with a pilot inside each one.

The first episode introduces us to Amuro Ray, a 14-year-old engineering prodigy who lives happily with his family on Side Seven. His world is changed forever, however, when Zeon attacks the colony and he discovers the Federation has been developing their own mobile suits there in order to turn the tide of war. In order to protect his friends and family, Amuro hops into the most advanced mobile suit ever created: The Gundam. Despite having never piloted anything like this before, Amuro learns quickly and soon becomes a member of the prototype Federation spaceship White Base, fighting alongside a crew of colorful characters. Does he have what it takes to defeat Zeon's greatest pilot, mysterious masked-man Char Aznable, AKA the Red Comet? Is Amuro truly a Newtype? Will he ever see his family again? Just who is Char? To find out the answers to these questions, you'll have to watch.

I've enjoyed the various Mobile Suit Gundam anime since I first started watching this one in high school, and it remains my favorite. Before 1979, giant robot anime were all about unique machines fighting evil. But with Mobile Suit Gundam, things changed. Giant robots were now merely another tool of war, and the distinction between good and evil wasn't so clear (a fact many Gundam characters found out the hard way). The soldiers in this war had to figure out just what they were fighting for, and whether or not they were on the right side. Furthermore, the series challenged us to decide if it's acceptable to force children to fight our battles. We may survive, but their innocence won't.

You can pick up the first part of this show online. Unfortunately, Bandai--the distributor--went out of business and so the second half of Gundam is rare and hard to find. You can get it on Amazon but you'll have to pay an arm and a leg for it. If you can find it for a good price, though, I heartily recommend you get it. It has a strong story, memorable characters, and a powerful message.

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