Wataru TakagiGundamKazuya NakaiHiroshi Naka
After War Gundam X
Medium: TV, series
Year: 1996
Director: Shinji Takamatsu
Writer: Hiroyuki Kawasaki
Original creator: Hajime Yatate, Yoshiyuki Tomino
Studio: Sunrise, TV Asahi
Actor: Mika Kanai, Nozomu Sasaki, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Wataru Takagi, Chieko Honda, Daiki Nakamura, Hiroshi Naka, Hiroshi Takemura, Kazuya Nakai, Kenyuu Horiuchi, Kotono Mitsuishi, Motoko Kumai, Takumi Yamazaki, Yuko Mizutani, Yumi Kakazu
Keywords: Gundam, SF, anime, mecha
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 39 episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=1241
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 2 February 2014
It's my first Gundam. I struggled to find things in it to interest me and it sent me to sleep.
So... Gundam. Have you any idea how big Gundam is? It's insane. It's a meta-series of giant robot anime that started in 1979 and so far has seven different timelines and 35 years so far of nearly non-stop TV series, OVAs and movies. By the year 2000, they'd sold five billion dollars' worth of merchandise. It's inspired the founding of an academic institution, the International Gundam Society. The list of Gundam anime and manga is so long that you'll gape.
What differentiates this franchise from other giant robot shows is its political scale. It's not about heroes vs. villains of the week. Gundam's about interplanetary war. Earth's usually fighting against its colonies. (No aliens. It's human vs. human.) There might also be Newtypes, i.e. people with psychic powers. Even though any two random Gundam series will probably be in different continuities, they'll probably have a similar setting and ethos. Anyway, Gundams (aka. Mobile Suits) are war machines, portrayed with more realism than in super robot shows. They can run out of energy or ammo and will need repairs.
As its name suggests, Gundam X is different because it's not set during wartime. Fifteen years, ago, one space colony declared its independence from United Nations Earth. The subsequent 7th Space War flattened Earth and plunged it into a seven-year nuclear winter... and Earth was the winning side. Now, the surviving people and political institutions are struggling along, with occasional wartime weapons and Mobile Suits still popping up from time to time. For quite a while, the show's drifting plotwise, approximately following a bunch of characters. They're doing nothing important. Some aren't even doing anything intelligent. (I'm thinking of Garrod Ran, who's an annoying young hothead who in time will settle down into a responsible hero and romantic lead. At the beginning, though, I was cheering every time he got smacked in the face and so on.)
What I liked in the early episodes was the worldbuilding. It feels real, with history, complexity and so on. It has texture. It's not a direct continuation of other Gundam shows, but it's feeding off them. This is a show that devastates Earth in the first two minutes of episode one, then continues from there. Later we learn interesting backstory, e.g. Nazi-like Newtype experiments.
There are also odd side-steps and digressions. The show's capable of suddenly telling us that one of the regulars has taken extended leave from the ship and gone back to the family we never knew he had, in a different country. We also see various regimes, mostly unpleasant, and the uneven power relationships between them.
The show has a problem, alas, which is that it's too disconnected. The plot has nothing to do with the characters and they weren't very interesting in the first place. Garrod Ran improves from "die please die" to "tolerable but still not too bright". Jamil Neate is a cut-price Harlock. I don't think any of his crew matters in any way. Tifa Adil is unique in having plot importance, being a Newtype, but she also has no personality except "passive soft-spoken girl who'll make you wonder if she's a robot". Meanwhile the show's plot is admirable in its scale and in the way it unfolds gradually, getting ever more international and then interplanetary... but it's basically just Power Bloc A maneuvering against Power Bloc B. Is there any human interest? No. Do we care? Not really. Are any of these countries the good guys? No, they're all hateful.
As I said, this show sent me to sleep. That's not a figure of speech. I'd sit down with Tomoko to watch the next episode and I'd be fighting to keep my eyes open. Unremarkable characters in a storyline where everything that matters has nothing to do with them. There would be occasional good episodes, but that's it.
There were behind-the-scenes problems. The production team jumped straight into this from Gundam Wing, so they were short of time and money. Wing had also been popular with teenage girls because it was full of good-looking male characters, but that wasn't good enough since girls don't buy as much merchandise as boys. Even though Tomoko and her friends had all watched Wing, only Tomoko watched X and she ditched it halfway through. Then, on top of that, there was a management change at TV Asahi and a cooling of their interest in anime. (At the same time, for instance, they also cut Yu-Gi-Oh.) Gundam X got moved from 5pm on Fridays to 6:30am on Saturdays, then its 49-episode allocation got cut to 39 instead. To their credit, though, the production team stepped on the gas and managed to complete their planned storyline even in the reduced episode count. No thanks to the TV station, Gundam X has a proper ending and it's more or less the one originally planned.
Apparently the Gundam X Mobile Suit designs don't look cool. I don't get it, personally. They're giant robots. They're tanks on legs. I see no significant difference between any of them, except perhaps with the one that looks like Batman (Gundam W Deathscythe) and the angel (the feathered Wing Gundam Zero).
This show has a poor reputation among Gundam fans. I agree, but it has things I admire. Every so often, it gets good. Episodes 12 and 13 picked up the pace, for instance, with a proper villain (the Mayor) and a character with genuine emotion (Caris). Unfortunately the show's managing to be both epic and bitty, so before long both characters got left behind and we moved on to new countries and settings. Most interesting perhaps are the sidestep episodes, when we abandon the plot and forget about Gundams and so on, instead seeing the protagonists going back to their ordinary lives. Boyfriends, hopes of marriage, telling lies to your family, etc. Those digressions are a breath of fresh air that could have made a big difference to the series, if only they'd happened more often.
It's the porridge of giant robot anime. It's heavy, a bit stodgy and it doesn't taste of much. The early episodes also have idiot plotting, daft moments and characters being stupid. It has things I like and respect, but I'm sure those are also in better-made Gundam shows (i.e. most of them).