Mecha is such a large market in the anime industry. More often then not you’ll see series after series pop up that involves robots fighting some kind of space war for a belief of some sort and it will end with a grand finish, normally with the heroes triumphant.
That said, all this mecha craze had to start somewhere and Gundam is certainly a series that helped pioneered this love for all things robot related. Madman recently have been acquiring some of the older Gundam including one of the earliest, Mobile Suit Z (Zeta) Gundam available as two collections (50 episodes) on DVD.
Zeta Gundam continues on from the previous series, Mobile Suit Gundam, in the major timeline of the Gundam franchise (Universal Century or UC) set seven years after the original. With the war between the Earth Federation and a space colony called Zeon long over, life has settled into a peaceful one.
Two major new factions appear to take the place of those previous in the form of the Titans, an Earth Federation unit designed to eliminate Zeon remnants, yet in reality are an anti-spacenoid force. As well as the AEUG, a group specifically designed to stop the Titans and their actions.
Kamille Bidan is the main character and like any good old Gundam series somehow more or less falls into his mobile suit, the Gundam Mk.II, at a timely moment after striking a Titans officer after they insulted his name. Almost on cue, an AEUG attack occures shortly after. Kamille joins the AEUG and the rest of the story is told from his perspective as the AEUG and the Titans battle for supremacy.
Although the story starts off slow this all builds up to a very fast-paced finish closing off the series on a rather sudden note, kicking into overdrive in the final ten episodes or so.
The Universal Century timeline has always shown a very harsh side of war, people die frequently and rarely is there ever time for mourning due to the situations people die in. Zeta Gundam really hits the mark with this and ultimately given the series that were released after it more or less placed the foundations along with Mobile Suit Gundam for how UC stories are written.
However, this is also contrasted as there’s always more than enough time for character development, another strong area in the series. The time-frame Zeta Gundam is in episode wise was really used to its maximum potential and it feels like there is no time wasted on filler content or throwaway scenes.
Character design is a little different from anime one would see these days given it’s from the mid eighties. Designs are very simple and easy to look at however given most of the characters are primarily wearing space suits so this isn’t exactly surprising. Faces aren’t nearly as exaggerated as modern anime and the simplistic nature is quite evident.
Mecha design is really the crucial part of any Gundam series and some of the better designs came out of Zeta Gundam. Mobile suit designs are certainly fancier than the original Gundam series, especially with the transformable mobile suits such as the Zeta Gundam itself. Being further down the timeline, technology has naturally progressed and this compliments the suit designs.
Unlike newer Gundam anime series such as Gundam SEED, Zeta Gundam has a very orchestral score. This style of music is used very well and fits the scenario, it certainly serves to add tension and really amplifies the sense that a large scale war is occuring.
Voice Acting is extremely high class on the Japanese audio track and creates a much more engaging experience than the English version. While not terrible, the English version tends to take away from the experience more than give to it.
Ultimately, Zeta Gundam is an older series so expect it to be quite different to anime released recently. That said it is really one of the foundations behind mecha anime as a whole and certainly worth the watch from start to finish. Even non-mecha fans will get something out of this as it’s less about the mobile suits, more about the characters and their developments.
There is a complete lack of special features, but if anything they’d only get in the way of what is a solid series for every moment of it. Admittedly though, can’t help but laugh at the fact that the entire series story arch is triggered because someone was punched in the face.
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