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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘G-Gundam’ proves another awesome anime

Published: April 8, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc.

A long, long time ago, back when I was barely a teenager, I received my first introduction to anime though Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. It was through this block that I first started watching “Mobile Fighter G-Gundam,” one edition in the lengthy “Gundam” franchise. While “G-Gundam” does not conform to what I later learned were the standards of the “Gundam” franchise, it still turned out to be a very entertaining story.

“G-Gundam” takes place years in the future, at a time when most countries have established colonies in space. Every country has renamed itself by basically adding “Neo” as a prefix to its name, and governments based in the colonies rule over their earthbound counterparts.

Most “Gundam” series revolve around wars between Earth and these space colonies—or, in some cases, between Earth and the moon. Tension in the “Gundam” world also exists between evolved humans and natural humans. Evolved humans were simply meant to serve as the next stage in human evolution, but, due to their inherently superior skills, the majority of society distrusts them.

Another typical element in installments of the “Gundam” series is some type of romantic plot that usually involves people from warring factions.

Things change a bit with “G-Gundam.” To prevent war among the colonies, a year-long competition called the Gundam Fight is hosted every four years, with the winner’s country earning the right to rule over space for the next four years. With the establishment and acceptance of the Gundam Fight, war has become a thing of the past.

Gundams are technologically advanced fighting machines piloted by a representative of each country. Each country chooses its best fighter to serve as its representative. Earth serves as their battlefield and, for almost a year, they do nothing but fight and work to survive until the finals, an elimination-style tournament.

There are many rules governing the Gundam fight, with two being particularly important. The first is that a fighter cannot target the cockpit area of another Gundam. The second states that, if the head of a Gundam is destroyed, then the fighter is disqualified from the finals.

Neo-Japan’s fighter, Domon Kasshu, has a second mission in addition to competing. He became the pilot for Neo-Japan in order to clear charges against his father after his brother, Kyoji, stole a classified Gundam prototype referred to as the Dark Gundam. Domon, tasked with finding his brother and returning the stolen prototype to Japan, travels the world while competing against any fighter that stands in his way.

Along the way he encounters and befriends fighters from other countries. They include Neo-America’s Chibodee Crockett, a boxer who grew up in New York; Neo-France’s George de Sand, a fencer who considers his honor and chivalry to be very important; Neo-Russia’s Argo Gulskii, a convicted pirate fighting for the freedom of his friends; and Neo-China’s 16-year-old Sai Saici, a child fighting to resurrect Shaolin-style martial arts.

These characters serve as great foils for Domon, as well as for each other. Chibodee and George, for instance begin as complete opposites unable to get along, with Chibodee rising from the bottom against George, a member of an established aristocracy. Saici, the youngest and most energetic member, starts off unable to see eye-to-eye with the reserved and disciplined Argo Gulskii.

Domon and his friends, while not any more evolved than average humans, are exceptionally powerful. While the series lacks the tension between evolved and natural humans that characterizes previous “Gundam” series, the show substitutes this with a system in which intense training provides great gains

In addition to his fellow fighters, Domon receives support from his childhood friend and present crewmember, Rain Mikamura. Rain’s father built Domon’s Gundam, so Rain is uniquely able to repair it. Domon’s travels take him around the world to Africa, Europe, the Americas and beyond as he defends a Tokyo besieged by his brother, trains in the Guyana Highlands and even makes it to Neo-Hong Kong (notable because the show was made before its reunification with China) to compete in the finals.

The show’s first episodes seem overly formulaic: In each installment, Domon arrives in a country, finds its fighter, and proceeds to fight and then interrogate them as to whether they’ve met his brother. The series improves around episode nine. At this point, story arcs begin to emerge, and the show becomes much more about the battle between Kyoji’s dark army and Domon, who receives support from his friends.

Eventually Domon’s Gundam—known as the Shining Gundam—is rendered useless. By a special application of the rules, namely that the Gundam’s head hasn’t been destroyed, Domon is granted a replacement Gundam. In the English dub, the replacement was known as the Burning Gundam, but the original Japanese version referred to it as the titular god Gundam.

The Gundams at times offer the show degree of humor. Neo-Mexico’s entrant, for instance, is known as the Tequila Gundam, while Neo-Canada’s Gundam is called the Lumber Gundam. While not all of the names poke fun to the same degree, names like these proved especially entertaining and comedic.

With a careful balance of interesting characters, engaging story arcs and the occasional shot of comedic flavor, “Mobile Fighter G-Gundam” proves to be a very entertaining series.

At 49 episodes, it achieves balance in being neither too long nor too short and also serves as a great introduction to the entire Gundam Franchise.