Mobile Suit Gundam is a series near and dear to my heart. The very first anime I ever watched. In my memory its as clear as day. Sitting in front of my family’s moderately sized CRT television on an evening in 2000, and then, as the TV came on, there was Mobile Suit Gundam Wing The Movie: Endless Waltz. The last 15 or 20 minutes of it to be exact. And that solidified by my love of anime, and my love of Mobile Suit Gundam.
But to be honest, I’ve never really sat down and really thought about which Gundam series I like more than the rest. I love them all of course(Well, except for Turn A and Reconguista in G.), so its hard to choose, but if I absolutely had too, it would have to be these:
Gundam 00 is a real mixed bag for a lot of Gundam fans. The first season is by and large considered to be great, but the second season and film are considered to be average at the most. And I sort of have to agree with the general concensus. But Gundam 00 still manages to be one of my favorites because of how gritty it is and how human the characters are, and this plays directly into the shows core theme of mutual understanding. But what really grounds this series is that its set in the Anno Domini timeline, our current real world calendar, in the early 2300's to be correct. In that sense its the closest to how the future may play out if certain things became a reality.
Of course, I couldn’t go without mentioning one of my favorite Mobile Suits: Gundam Exia. I’ve always been a fan of close combat and the Exia is absolutely perfect, from its cool sleek design to its seven blades with shear through just about anything.
Gundam SEED is notorious for being very preachy and pretty average as far as Gundam series go, with SEED Destiny being considered below average. And of course the planned film which would have completed the story has been in development hell for going on ten years and shows no signs of ever actually being made despite SEED’s overwhelming Japanese popularity that managed to get it remastered in HD.
Unlike Gundam 00, I don’t agree with the majority(North American) consensus. I love SEED, I like SEED Destiny somewhat, and I absolutely love SEED CE 73 Stargazer. The reason I love it is because just like 00 it has very human characters. Each of them was drawn into this war through some personal reason that almost always leads to ideological clashes, and at the center of all this are two best friends who ended up on opposite sides of the war. And on top of that, this is probably the most R-rated Gundam series out there, which surprised me in a good way. I love shows that buck the norm. SEED was pretty gruesome and it is probably the one and only Gundam show to feature on-screen sex(and uncensored nudity in some spots.). Granted, we haven’t seen anything like it since because parents raised a big stink about it since SEED was aired while children were still awake.
Stargazer is actually a spin-off that takes place during SEED Destiny and is three episodes long, clocking it at around an hour total. I can’t say that the characters are especially good, but I loved the art, the music, the mobile suit designs, and of course the overall tone. It was quite different from the main series and the Stargazer Gundam is beautiful.
Gundam X is older than the other two series I’ve mentioned thus far. It was the third alternate timeline Gundam series following G Gundam and Gundam Wing, the latter of which it shares an aesthetic similarity too. Sadly, fans weren’t really interested in a Gundam series that not only looked similar to Wing and aried fresh off the heels of Wing, but also one that spends the majority of its story on Earth rather than in space. So sadly, the shows episode length was cut from 50 to 39, condensing the last leg of the story with a very rushed final episode.
However, a lot of my Gundam friends advised me to watch this series so I eventually took the time to track it down online and watch the whole thing. I binged it like a madman because I fell in love with it almost immediately. The soundtrack has this mystical feeling to it, the world it depicts is quite interesting, and the characters are just all around good. I also loved the mobile suit design, or at least, the main Gundams. The GX is pretty cool looking, especially with its silver panels, and the Leopard Gundam is pretty cool for a Heavyarms rip-off.
This is the most recent Gundam series to grace televisions everywhere and it is a very welcome return to form for the Gundam franchise. Gundam Build Fighters was a nice break from the usual Gundam shows, but Reconguista in G was an utter disaster of a show and AGE is only passable if you only watch the first 15 episodes and the two Memory of Eden films. Iron-Blooded Orphans is exactly what a Gundam series is meant to be. A boots in the mud story of soldiers on the battlefield using giant robots known as Mobile Suits as tools of war with the Gundam being the most powerful Mobile Suit ever created. And of course the icing on the cake is that this series has the best char clone that I’ve seen in a long time.
I’d also have to say that IBO is perhaps the bloodiest Gundam since SEED and SEED Destiny(Well, that’s not entirely true. The also currently airing Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt surpasses just about everything in that category.), which is an instant win in my book. Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing too. Can’t wait for the second season.
Build Fighters is a glorified toy commercial... and I absolutely love it. Gundam is a series with over 35 years of history and its longevity is not only owed to its popularity, but also its model kit sales. Gunpla are awesome and there are so many creative things you can do if you’re really good at building them. My attempts at building gunpla have been... pretty good for a beginner, but still lacking. And it was this show that convinced me to actually invest in Gunpla.
If you had come up to me and said that the latest Gundam series was about two kids playing with model kits, I would have laughed and walked away. But when that message came with a trailer, I was interested in where it was going. And I was not disappointed by the ride or the destination. Sure, the second season could definitely have used some work, but it was still good for what it was: a glorified toy commercial that was a long time Gundam fans wet dream. I’m expecting a film to be announced at any time.
The Gundam series of the mid to late 90's have this sort of... charm about them. And I imagine its that charm that captures the attention of Wing’s viewers. I wouldn’t call it the greatest story ever told, even with the great film to end everything(And then the Frozen Teardrop light novels screwed everything up. I try to ignore them.), but I could never forget Wing’s great cast and of course the awesome mobile suit designs. Wing Zero and Gundam Epyon will forever remain two of my favorite mecha of all time.
The music also has this classical feeling to it which just makes it all the better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put the soundtrack on and just listened to it for hours. Composer Ko Otani sure knew what he was doing.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
- Mobile Suit Gundam F91
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam
- MS IGLOO
Now you may be thinking, “Hey, he’s gonna close out this article now.” Yeah, no. Not yet. This may have been a list of my favorite Gundam series, but that wouldn’t do as the whole article. I feel I should explain why those that aren’t even mentioned under the Honorable Mentions section, well, aren’t there.
Turn A Gundam is a really mixed bag for me. On one hand, it had its great moments, and its definitely a good story. But on the other hand it was not at all what I expect from a Gundam series. Build Fighters got a pass because it wasn’t trying to be a regular Gundam show. Turn A Gundam was trying to be a regular Gundam show. And in my eyes it failed. It was wacky, it was way too happy. Where is the death and destruction, the grand philosophical debates? I felt like I was watching a Miyazaki film(Normally, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.).
I do, however, have to give this show credit for actually having a protagonist that wasn’t white or asian(And then later we got Gundam 00's Setsuna who was Middle Eastern.), and quite frankly there was one scene that made me question my sexuality and that is not something that happens very often.
Just like Turn A Gundam, Reconguista in G was written by franchise creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, and also just like Turn A, G-Reco started out promising, but very quickly became a very wacky and happy series that just didn’t feel like Gundam to me. But to be honest, that really isn’t my biggest gripe with this series. It is just downright bad. The writing is all over the place, the characters honestly weren’t that good, and the story was confusing as all hell. The mecha designs were pretty interesting though...
Gundam AGE had so much promise. A story spanning three generations. So much potential, completely ruined by the shows pacing and crap third act. The first act, which consisted of the first 15 episodes, was fairly decent and I watched it in one sitting. The second act lasted somewhere around 25 episodes, a majority of the series. I didn’t watch all of it. I stopped at episode 23 I think. I eventually got around to watching the two Memory of Eden compilation films. Unlike most series where the compilation films would cover the whole series, Memory of Eden doesn’t touch the first act, makes the second act even better, and more or less writes out the third act so you don’t have to sit through it. Fifty episodes was just not enough to cram a three generation spanning story into, it just wasn’t. So everything was rushed, especially the third act.
Thunderbolt is really, really weird. It’s a canon story, but it makes absolutely no sense for the time period. The Thunderbolt Gundam is far more advanced than the RX-78-2 piloted in the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, yet they exist during the same period of time. Its even more advanced that the Gundams that came after it such as the Alex, all three Gundams from 0083, and beyond. The setting is cool, the story is all over the place, the characters really don’t grab me though I am sympathetic to the Zeon guy, the art is the best I’ve ever seen in a Gundam series. And that about sums it up. I watch Thunderbolt for the amazing art and absolutely grisly setting it establishes. But I just cannot bring myself to like it enough to make the main list because it just fails at everything else. I would rather have seen Crossbone Gundam get an adaptation than Thunderbolt.
As for every other Gundam series that didn’t make the list, I haven’t watched them yet. The original MSG is so old that I really get thrown off by the vintage art and animation. Zeta and Double Zeta fall into that same category. Victory is different. I started to watch it, but I was eating a bad slice of pizza at the time and that taste just stuck with me. So every time I tried to watch Victory Gundam I was reminded of that horrible pizza and just stopped attempting to watch it. I should probably get around to trying again at some point. And to clarify on the original MSG, I have experienced its story in other ways such as video games. I also watched two and a half of the compilation films. And for anyone that was wondering, yes, I’ve seen G-Saviour.