After I finished G Gundam, my plan was to continue along with the remaining Gundam series that I still had yet to watch and move on to Gundam X. I got about ten episodes in before it made me burn out and switch for watching my anime backlog to my non-anime backlog of stuff like A Song of Ice and Fire and Breaking Bad. Well, I finished those off so I figured that I guess I need to plow through this once and for all. It took some effort.
Once it was time to get back into the show, I Googled it, primarily to remember what I’d started watching a few months ago before the show beat me down. Along with those synopses, I’d seen a fairly general consensus that the show was supposed to get decent about halfway through. Spoiler warning: it doesn’t.
Rarely have a watched an anime that felt so utterly contrived as this one. The characters will arbitrarily decide to go to an arbitrary place. Once they get there, they will meet characters that the plot needs them to meet and have interactions with them that the plot needs them to have. They’ll then perform some actions that the plot needs them to do, and they’ll justify their actions with some kind of meaningless trifle like “Who knows what the future may bring?” or “I need to walk my own path”. This will take about four or five episodes, then they’ll do this again. Literally, out of nowhere characters will say things like “The Captain found out about a Newtype lab, so we’re going to go there next!” No mention of how he found this out, much less showing us how he came across this information. Nor do they ever even try to justify why they’d want to do this. Stuff just happens.
Have you ever seen some of those screencaps of terrible fansubbing, like the Macross 7 one where someone tells Nekki “Get in the car” and motions to a motorcycle? Or the Ideon one where Sheryl says “Look at the monitor to your right?” and they turn left? That’s what a lot of the dialogue felt like in Gundam X. Someone will tell his soldiers something like “Don’t damage the Gundam X!”, and then said soldiers run out and start shooting bazookas at it. This happens over and over. Stuff just happens. My personal favorite example of this is a battle against an enemy pilot early on. During the battle, he starts to have a seizure and the show actually has voiceover narration tell us that the enemy pilot is a cyber-Newtype, and cyber-Newtypes periodically suffer from a psychiatric condition that causes intense physical pain and sometimes even death. Yes, the show was so lazy that they didn’t even try to have characters tell us this.
The show also felt like it was edited with a chainsaw, or perhaps a lawnmower. There are constantly these bizarre temporal jumps between shots. There’s one scene where a bunch of the main characters are ambushed by some soldiers, and one of those aforementioned arbitrary-characters-that-is-only-there-because-the-plot-needs-someone-to-die-to-teach-the-main-characters-a-lesson takes a bullet intended for the main characters. Even though they’re all standing out in the open with a squad of soldiers shooting at them at close range with automatic weapons, the soldiers stop shooting politely enough so that he’s able to speak for minutes giving a banal dying speech. Once the speech is over, they of course promptly begin shooting again, and of course proceed to not hit anyone.
My favorite example however comes later on when a bunch of the main characters are walking around a canyon outside of their ship when an enemy mecha appears from around the side of a cliff (how nobody noticed this robot, either because of the noise it would make or from any of the scanners on the ship, is obviously omitted). The main characters yell to run back to the ship, and then the next shot consists of those characters launching from the ship in their mechas. So in the course of a cut, with an enemy robot targeting them, these characters run a few hundred meters back to the ship, then to the launch bay of the ship where they board their robots, start up the robots, and then take off. This had to have been a few minutes of time that just magically vanished while that enemy robot just sits there twiddling its thumbs rather well, killing everyone.
The other big letdown in this show was the setting. I was really hoping for the show to deliver on its presence as a post-apocalyptic Gundam, since at the very least the show wouldn’t just be yet another warmed-over retread of First Gundam like most alternate universe Gundam series. The first few episodes have a kind of Mad Max vibe to them (the later episodes eventually involve a D.O.M.E., but not a Thunderdome) with scavenging in the harsh wastes, but quickly the whole post-apocalyptic setting falls away. Even though over 99% of the Earth’s population is killed from the colony drops during The One Year War, we come across perfectly functional, undamaged countries with fully-equipped armies complete with modern technology. It makes the whole conflict against the remnants of the Federation which makes up about three-quarters of the show feel totally off. If these countries were all part of the Federation before, why are they fighting now? And if this is only 15 years after such an enormous catastrophe, why would people be so opposed to restoring civilization? Although then again, they already have functional states and governments and aaaaaaaaaaah all these terrible plot holes and half-baked settings are making my brain hurt.
So I’ve been trashing this series for a while now. That’s partially because Gundam X always was able to come up with new ways to amaze me with its incompetence. The other reason is because the payoff of this show is that it challenges the whole concept of Newtypes from the Gundam mythology by presenting them not as the next stage of human evolution that will be the saviors of mankind who will transcend conflict blah blah blah, but simply as non-neurotypical people. That could be a cool theme to center a Gundam series around. The main problem with this is that since I’ve been so thoroughly convinced that the writing in this showing is unreal terrible, I didn’t exactly have any faith that this theme would be explored in an interesting way.
The real problem, it turns out is that this isn’t treated like a theme that runs throughout the work. It’s more like a twist ending. The constant spoiler warnings that I’d seen regarding this felt really weird. Normally, you put a spoiler warning before something like “Rosebud is Marion Davies’ clitoris”, not “Despite his wealth and power, Charles Foster Kane cannot regain his childhood”. But that’s how Gundam X treats this revelation. Literally, we find it out in the last episode, and following a 30 second battle and an epilogue, the series ends. And because we learn this so late in the series, after finding it out my next thought was simply “Okay, and…?” The show almost abruptly ends, leaving almost no time to actually let the revelation sink in and matter.
So to put it another way, Gundam X is probably more like the Macross II of Gundam, rather than how series like ZZ Gundam and Gundam Seed Destiny are closer to the Macross 7s of the Gundam world.
ADDENDUM: Gundam X has the following names on the list: Fixx Bloodman, Kid Salsamille, Roybea Loy, and Techs Farzenbarg. I also noticed after the fact that there is also a character named “Fong Alternative”.