Whew, finally made it through Turn A Gundam. Unlike Gundam X, this wasn’t because I could barely force myself through it, but simply because I mean c’mon, 50 episodes is a lot to watch!
Now, I really like the Gundam franchise, but one of the things that always amused me was how fans of Gundam are somehow able to compartmentalize their viewing experience so that Gundam can be scene as GRIMDARK EPIC WAR EVERYONE DIES ACTION, despite being full of well, really really dumb crap. And I don’t mean stuff like how series like Wing or Seed Destiny are really poor productions, or the really silly stuff in G. I mean stuff like this. Or this. Or Sayla’s Talisman in the novel. And while it’s not Gundam, this is still him. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who seriously, genuinely tried to make that whole Garzey’s Wing universe happen. By the way, if you haven’t watched the English dub of Garzey’s Wing, you’re in for a treat if you “like” Manos-level horrible movies.
Turn A Gundam is probably the strangest, Tomino indulgence-y Gundam of all. This time, however it works. It works for the simple reason that the show never for a moment gives any pretenses that it’s going to be GRIMDARK EPIC WAR EVERYONE DIES ACTION. So if there are hippie Gundam pilots, that’s fine. Or steampunk aristocrats riding around in old jalopies. Or a bad guy with a genital-esque arrow on the crotch of his uniform. Or a morbidly obese lieutenant that sits on his subordinates for fun. OR A FREAKING GUNDAM WITH A GIGANTIC HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE. And so on. It also doesn’t give any pretenses of being about GRIMDARK EPIC WAR EVERYONE DIES ACTION because the plot never goes in that direction. It’s instead about occupation and counter-insurgency, and I mean that in the duller sense of the concept. Everyone needs to first try for negotiations and make sure not to use inordinate force in order to maintain a sense of legitimacy, both to their own people and to the opposite side. Rather than say, shooting babies’ heads off.
Turn A Gundam also feels really strange because of the non-standard contributors. Syd Mead provides some of the mechanical designs, which provides a lot of contrast next to all of the old unearthed Zakus and Z’Goks and whatnot. Yoko Kanno provides the music, and unlike her work in the Macross universe her music here greatly contrasts with the sort of music typical in Gundam works. While militaristic marches and bubbly pop songs are part and parcel of Macross music, pastoral jigs or rhythmic industrial (not industrial like Trent Reznor industrial, but industrial like factories) music aren’t exactly what pop up regularly in Gundam series.
One last thing: I’m always interested in looking at the coloring and visuals in anime that came out in the late 90s during that transition from cel animation to digital animation. I’ve always wished that Ben at Anipages would do a post on this period. (And while this doesn’t apply to Turn A Gundam, there’s a LOT of yashigani anime from this period, which I believe arose from industrial factors involved with learning how to handle both the new digital tools and the outsourcing of inbetweening.) For example, one thing that really stuck out in Turn A Gundam were how there would be characters with really flat coloring and little to no shading in front of a detailed painted background. Or in front of a very detailed robot.
Finally, I’d like to mention that the reason that I’d put off Turn A Gundam for so long was because I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get it. You see, from what I’d read I had thought that Turn A Gundam was going to be like Crisis on Infinite Gundams or something where if I didn’t understand every bit of arcane Gundam lore, there’d be an episode centering around trying to reconcile Brave Cod, Def Stallion, Maria Pure Amonia, and what would happen if the Big Zam were mass-produced and I’d just sit there scratching my head. Fortunately, instead we just see random bits and pieces of the “ancient history” of the other Gundam series.
And of course, your favorite part of every Gundam post: the names.
(and ones that missed my last list):
Guin Sard Lineford