A couple weeks ago, a friend and I were watching a rather bland and unknown fantasy anime from 2007 called Prism Ark. After finishing the series, we moved on to watching the remaining specials so we could wrap up the show and get on to something else, but there was a reference right at the end of the last special that prompted me to get around to writing this post.
This reference is one that any Gundam fan knows, but could easily be lost on someone who wasn’t as familiar. Personally, I definitely haven’t seen enough of the Gundam universe to speak as an authority, but I’ve seen enough to know that the original Mobile Suit Gundam series is a must-watch for anyone who considers themselves an anime fan.
It Permanently Changed the Anime Industry
When Mobile Suit Gundam (Gundam 0079 henceforth) first aired, there were two things that made it stand out: real robots and regular soldiers. Up to this point, audiences had grown familiar with super robot anime like Mazinger Z where you have an amazingly powerful robot piloted by a kind-hearted hero. With Gundam 0079, fans found a robot anime that treated its viewers like adults (compared to other shows at the time) and had a more “realistic” take on what mech war in space might look like. It’s also worth noting Gundam originally had a fairly poor reception, but went on to gain popularity after the success of Bandai’s plastic Gundam kits.
It was the first anime to really treat robots as nothing more than another military tool. While the Gundam mech itself was considered to be a special robot compared to others, the emphasis is really on the pilots themselves throughout the show.
The series occasionally takes a darker turn and recognizes the harsh realities of war. One good example of this can be seen when Amuro goes to eat his meal and notices that the people across the table from him barely have any food while Amuro himself has a full plate of food in front of him. He is obviously bothered by the realization that he is getting special treatment as a pilot and offers his food to the child and woman across from him.
Another interesting aspect is that the “bad guys” aren’t really obviously the bad guys. Char is portrayed as a complex character and isn’t an obvious baddie bent on world domination. While he does fight on the Zeon side of the war, he doesn’t seem to have a true goal besides revenge on the Zabi family.
It’s One of the Most Commonly Referenced Anime
If you’re a Gundam fan at all, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know. But if you’re not, you may have missed just how often Gundam is referenced in anime from all eras.
I considered putting together a collection of Gundam references and cameos, but there are just too many references to compile, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Gundam 0079 is probably the most referenced series, but other Gundam series get their share of references, too. To share just one modern example, let’s look at a character name from Ore No Imouto Ga Konna Ni Kawaii Wake Ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute).
When we first met Kirino’s internet friends, Saori introduces herself as “Saori Vajeena” instead of sharing her real last name. This is a not-so-subtle reference to the totally-not-Char character, “Quattro Vajeena”, from Zeta Gundam.
Zeta Gundam is a Really Enjoyable Sequel
If you finished Gundam 0079 and thought to yourself: “That would would have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t so campy and Amuro wasn’t such a whiny bitch”, then you’ll definitely want to check out Zeta Gundam. Even though Gundam 0079 and Zeta Gundam are only separated by about 3 years, they feel like they are a decade apart. With a much bigger budget, Zeta has vastly improved production quality along with badass 80’s character designs.
The Salt Episode
There is literally an entire episode that is centered around their ship running out of salt and the impact it could have on combat readiness.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m not a Gundam expert, so if I missed something or got something wrong, please let me know in the comments.