Re: [gundam] What next? (Was Re: Even more Tomino interview)

Prabal Nandy (nandy@U.Arizona.EDU)
Sat, 20 Feb 1999 21:07:51 -0700 (MST)

> >post-VG or something... why this endless re-hashing!
> I guess Tomino's current feeling may be that any kind of a direct
> sequel would be a mere retread, and that the only way he'll be able to do

  A retread... or something worse?
  I'll post some of my thoughts here in a little bit, but I'm beginning to
see/suspect that what Tomino wants out of Gundam is very much like what
Anno wanted out of Evangeleon, to have his audience question themselves.
"Do _I_ really want to be the anime mecha hero? Don't I _really_ just wish
I had a nice family and friends? What do I really want out of life? Am I
chasing after things that _other_ people want me to be?"
  I get the feeling from the first Gundam that this was the point of Amuro
and Char, two very different people who reacted to similar situations in
completely different ways. Amuro the wayward, humble, sad child who
eventually realizes the importance of the people around him, while Char,
the charasmatic manipulator gradually destroys everyone around him and
ends up alone and tormented. It's an almost classic Tragedy thinly veiled
as a giant-robot smashup.

  So what is a Gundam sequel? Well, the story is DONE with the the
original series! If you continue it, all you do is take the 'plot threads'
and 'historical details' and propell them into a future that was not MEANT
to exist. Who _cares_ about future mecha designs, or the JEF, or minuture
minofsky generator systems? What does it mean, how can it not pale in
comparison with the private battles fought by the soldiers of sorrow from
the original Gundam series? A man with a heart of ice loses a woman he
cares nothing about in a careless mistake to a man who could never be with
her, plunging these two into a secret war that destroys the lives of so
many innocents. Isn't this the private tragedy of so many people in RL who
go on to live bitter, sensless, manipulative lives dreaming of a day when
they could just drop a rock on the world and let it all just go to hell?
In this sense CCA is the fitting epiloque to the Gundam legend, though
personally I think Amuro should have survived (though I'll wager Tomino
just wanted to finish it once and for all). But it is the ending we all
knew would happen given the events of MSG.

  To continue gundam endlessly is like to have a play in a room after the
main actors have left the stage, just so you can re-use the sets over and
over again. Make a new story, throw out the trappings of the original and
tell your own story! As much as I love gundam 0080 after watching the
original gundam movies I can honestly say I wish they had let it end with
> anything interesting with the premise would be to start from scratch. I
> don't necessarily agree, and I may be misinterpreting his comments
> anyway, but there you go...

  I don't know... I don't think there's any point to simply retell the
same story with different sets and mecha or with yet another
alternate-universe that sort of mirrors and copies the original too
closely. It's kinda cheesy.

> Personally, I do feel like the followup UC stories never really took
> advantage of the potential of the original series. All that stuff about

  Absolutely NOT!

> human evolution and newtypes just turned into an excuse for psychic
> superpowers, and none of the conflicts of the original story were ever
> really resolved. I like V Gundam and Crosbone Gundam a lot, but they're
> certainly not on a par with the original story.

  Absolutely not again. The whole point of the Newtype (as I see it) was
completely perverted into some kind of de-facto anime superheroishness in
later series, concluding with the orbital abomination of Angel Halo (which
if you think about it, is virtually the antithesis of CCA's ending.).

> Then again, after Evangelion, I dunno what you could do with the
> newtype concept that would still be particularly surprising. You could
> say that Anno kinda stole Tomino's thunder. ;-)

  That is what I've been saying... I mean, Tomino set out to break the
molds and force his audience to take a hard look at themselves (my
opinion). Anno did the very same thing, just in a more modern time and
fought the more modern anime conventions with the same kind of effect. I
have to say that EVA is the only show today that captures the essence of
what the original MSG was like.
  That being said, I fail to see what you could do with the new Gundam
that would break these conventions again. After all, there's not a whole
lot left to break except "Fan service" and nobody seems willing to tackle

> >originally created to get away from! What gets be about G-Gundam was the
> >very same sort of super-hero-ish-ness.
> You don't think G Gundam debunked the stereotypes of the "realistic
> robot" genre? <grin>

  That was an interesting thing to say, but now that you mention it I
wonder if you're right? Heh.

> Fact of the matter is that, Nadesico and Gasaraki aside, the
> Gundam-style "realistic robot" genre is pretty much extinct now anyway.
> There's not really an established orthodoxy there to challenge. There are

  You're absolutely right, as usual. Anime itself seems to have
stereotyped itself into a corner, with endless incestuous self-copying and
cookie-cutter shows piled on each other, with only occassional gems
appearing here and there. As far as mecha have gone, they've almost
completely dissappeared, certainly the giant-robo school is no more! So
what's the point of having mecha in Gundam? A matter of fact, the retro
"Superhero Robots" of Wing Gundam may have been done that way deliberately
to buck the trend of the realistic robot.

> Perfect Blue, Evangelion, Lain, yadda yadda - but they're not reacting
> against the tyranny of the robot show because there's not really anything
> left to rebel against there. If Tomino's stuck in the robot-show genre,
> how does he avoid becoming a dinosaur?

  By rebelling and completely _ignoring_ the mecha aspect of the show
somehow. How he can get that past Bandai though, is beyond me!
Unfortunately, I keep hearing that the point of Brainpowerd was to buck
the trends and blow the audience away, and that it completely failed at
that task. It really bode that well for Gundam.

> > Ironically enough, it's _Evangeleon_ which is the recent anime show that
> >most closely fills the place that Gundam created, a show that dares to
> >take all the classic anime sterotypes and flip it upside down on its head.
> I'd agree there. It was very, very different. But the realistic
> robot/super robot/Ultraman pantheon was just one of its targets; that
> genre is too irrelevant now to be worth challenging by itself.

  Absolutely... anything left for you to do risks dropping yourself into
the domain of self parody or something like that, which nobody wants!

> Essay question: What other anime stereotypes are left to topple? Or,
> put another way: What's holding the genre back? I'd say fan service, for
> starters, and that's a sacred cow even Evangelion was cautious in tackling...

  Yes, fan service, "Child Bride" underage female characters and love
interest (which has always disgusted me), the "Western Woman = Forward
and Evil" / "Eastern Woman = Subservient and good" stereotype, the
excessive machismoism and needless violence, the absolute lack of
characters that seem able to communicate with each other on a personal
level, the leering, treacherous badguys, the hyperhonorable robotic
badguys, the always-corrupt, always older-white-male administrators of the
good guys, the complete lack of meaningful social commentary, the utter
unwillingness to challenge any ingrained social convention or condition,
the casual brutality to the non-warrior elite, the subtle and not so
subtle racism, the willingness to write off the 'faceless minions', the
love of high-tech killing weapons, big explosions before character
development, the old-wise-warrior/teacher stereotype, the
hotshot/pigheaded American yahoo stereotype, the socially accepted ogling
of the always hypershapely 'female pilots' stereotype, the
philosophy-as-saber duel soliloquies, etc etc etc.

  There is ALOT to rebel against, and Tomino is about the only guy who
could do it and get away with it. But I don't think he'll try... here's to
hoping though.


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