-Z- (Z@Gundam.Com)
Wed, 04 Aug 1999 19:04:19 -0700

At 14:17 8/4/1999 +0200, you wrote:
>Let's face it: while Gundam is an evolution from the classic giant robot
>still has some early mechanical/mood concepts. The mid-air assembly, for
>example, remind me too much the old "and I will form the head!" without
>pilots. Then the Gundam, Guntank and Guncannon are very similar to the
>three-robot squad: main/sky robot, water robot and earth robot.
>Fortunately the G-cannon isn't a water robot but the G-tank remind me
>the Getta 3 and Amuro/Kai/Ryu trio is too similar to Ryo/Hayato/Musashi
>squad for example. Then we have the "one of a kind giant monster" of
>Mazinger Z' memory: the Mobile Armors and the Gyan. The evolution here
>is that the "monsters" are supported by mass-produced units.

Just so. Tomino introduced a number of "adult" concepts in a rather
subversive manner to what would otherwise have been just another Heroic
Robot versus Monster of the Week show, but he had to kowtow in that
direction at every stage, hence the Tinkertoy Robot combinations and all
those wacky Zeon one-shots.

Remember, also, that, like Star Trek, Gundam didn't find its audience on
the first run. It wasn't until it was in reruns on TV that it began to
find its true audience and not until the compilation movies that it
actually got them. The movies cut out the silly kid stuff, going so far as
to reanimate a good portion of the third movie to take out the G-Armor and
replace it with more realistic Guncannon.

Z Gundam, produced five years after the original series, is closer to what
Gundam could've been if Tomino had had his way. Even here, he had to
accomodate the toy makers, but now he had both the belated success of the
original Gundam and the popularity of competitor Macross for leverage.
Some of the combo mecha lived on with Super Gundam, side by side with the
hot new transformer mecha, but both were done with a great deal more
realism and justification. My own Gundam experience begins with Z and that
may color my view, but I consider it to be, in many ways, the pinnacle of
Tomino's Gundam oeuvre. I think he pretty much said all he had to say with
this series, hence the seeming repetitiveness of his later works.

Then came Gundam ZZ. Tomino says he was engaging in self-parody of both
the genre in general and Gundam in particular, a change of pass after the
grimness of Z. The first half of ZZ is certainly that, resurrecting the
Tinkertoy Robot with a vengeance and depicting the Young MS Pilots as a
gang of self-centered and self-absorbed yahoos not unlike the ones you see
on MTV's The Real World. But the second half of ZZ takes a turn for the
darker side and, some more silly MS notwithstanding, the usual kick in the
pants for which Tomino's notorious.

CCA was Tomino's attempt to wrap Gundam up, once and for all, and
everything is deadly serious as a result. Consider it Cliff's Notes of Gundam.

Things go in two directions thereafter. Various hands toss in their own
brand of Gundam with 0080, 0083, G, W, X and 8MST. Meanwhile, Tomino
concentrates first on setting down on paper what he couldn't do on
celluloid and trying to ride herd on the young ones from his perch as
Creator of Gundam. First, F91 -- the Future of Gundam, attempting to
retell the original story for a new audience with a great deal more
sophistication than the old. The movie ends with the message "This Is Only
The Beginning" and, had Tomino had his way, that surely woud've been the
case. We need only look to Crossbone Gundam to see where he was angling
with the series -- at once serious and comic, in the same vein as Patlabor
but with a much deeper bite.

F91 bombed, alas, and so Tomino had to regroup. This brings us to V,
another attempt to retell the original story for the modern audience, with
slick new MS designs and even younger protagonists. Here again Tomino had
to bend to the demands of the toymakers and thus we get another helping of
the Core Block System, but, like Z and unlike ZZ, there's no hint of parody
here and the CBS is handled with the same degree of realism and
justification as the transformers in Z. The menacing Zanscare one-shots
are no less Monsters of the Week than their original Gundam counterparts,
but they are not so blatantly obvious. After Z, I rank V as being the
quintessential Gundam series.

And now we have Turn A and I'm not sure what Tomino's doing here, but I
suspect that it's along the lines of what Heinlein did with Number Of The
Beast and Asimov did with Robots Of Dawn, weaving all of the threads of all
of the Gundam canon into a single tapestry. The overall picture won't
become visible until close to the end, I think. Tomino may or may not be
able to pull it off, but, as with J. Michael Staczynski's Babylon 5, it
should be a worthy attempt.


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