Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top 5 Gundam Series

The latest Gundam show--Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn)--is heating up forums and the fan base, mostly for its revitalized interpretation of the franchise's familiar tropes.

That got us to thinking, which gets us to listing. Here's our

Top 5 Gundam Series

Caution: Spoilers, angst and the horrors of war to follow!

#5 - Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

Granted, this 6-episode OAV series does slide into some childish hokey-ism, thanks to 11-year-old Alfred and his school chums. But it also features some amazingly choreographed and vicious mecha battles, most inside the confines of a space colony.

Like the best Gundam series, War in the Pocket examines sympathetic characters from both sides of the war, leading to some dramatic irony (literary lesson, kiddos). And that last Gundam/Zaku duel? Talk about a gut punch.

#4 - Mobile Fighter G Gundam

Ridiculous? Yeah.

Unrealistic? Isn't most anime?

Basically, G Gundam is a shonen fighting show dressed up in mecha suits. Martial arts, special attacks, winning by pure willpower, and a lot of shouting all add up to something Gundam fans have never seen.

#3 - Turn A Gundam

Dubbed "the last good Gundam" by some, Turn A was also the last series created through hand-painted cel animation. Both zany and elegant, Turn A exists in its own universe, complete with aliens and some alien-looking mecha. Pray that Bandai Entertainment does something with its license in North America.

Oh yeah, Yoko Kanno composed the soundtrack. That alone is worth the ticket price for 50 episodes.

#2 - Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

Gundam Wing is responsible for introducing 95% of all American viewers to the Gundam phenom at the dawn of the 21st century. Is it perfect? No. But plenty long with twists, turns, amnesia, split personality disorder, mental breakdowns, and oh such fun!

If G Gundam is full-blown shonen, Gundam Wing is inches away from shojo anime, complete with five pretty-boy pilots (and the girls who just can't get enough of 'em). It hasn't aged well, but Gundan Wing creates its own universe with political agendas, military clashes, and the scars of war. And the additional 3-episode OAV Endless Waltz creates a tidy addendum without opening up too many worm-filled cans.

#1 - Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

Every other Gundam series focuses on super-skilled (and super-powered) pilots. What separates 08th MS Team from the rest is its in-depth study of the "everyman." Near the end of the One Year War, Federation Lieutenant Shiro Amada gets plopped into a unit commander role for an infantry mobile suit team. If that's not stressful enough, he's also got the hots for Aina Sahalin, who happens to be royal family on the enemy Zeon side and test pilot for a new secret weapon. (Love sucks.)

Like War in the Pocket, 08th MS Team also takes place in the "Universal Century" universe of the first series, and it too features some stunning and savage mecha battle sequences. Check out this clip, which takes place right after the Gundam team parachutes through a fleet of Zeon airships.

Added to solid animation and a riveting soundtrack is one of the most complete casts in any anime show, including all the 08th Team's pilots and members. From main characters to supporting troops to even smaller roles that most shows "throw away," 08th MS Team keeps them all three-dimensional. (You don't even need those special glasses.)

And can true love really end a war? Maybe . . . or maybe not.

Ah, Gundam. You make war so gosh darn difficult.