Series 2 Episode 24: In Defense Of Zeta Gundam

Richard and Drew sit down to chat about one of their favorite series in the Gundam franchise, nay, a favorite TV series of all time – 1985’s Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Zeta has been held highly in the pantheon of Gundam series but went through a long period of harsh criticism.  Unlike a typical review of the series itself, we decided to discuss the series featuring criticisms and critiques of the series and respond to them, which are off-base and which are well reasoned.

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Links to our quotes can be found below.

Zeta has a good story when viewed from a macro level or when following the adults like Char. It’s simultaneously worse and better than Gundam 0079 – worse because it fails in more areas, yet better because its strengths are more engaging than its predecessor was. The writers seem to have forgotten what made Amuro a good protagonist in 0079. “ – Nefarious Anime Reviews

“Art – Medium

I like how Zeta Gundam cements what would become the franchise’s art style for the next two decades, but its age shows, particularly in the animation department. The need for smoother frame transitions becomes apparent in the first scene with Kamille running. Thankfully, mechs flying in space don’t take much work.” – Nefarious Anime Reviews

“Zeta Gundam (Zeta) is considered by many to be superior to the original, Mobile Suit Gundam (MSG) as well as being Tomino’s masterpiece. I decided to watch Zeta right after being disappointed by MSG. In particular, I was interested to see if Zeta would be as dark and realistic as many fans say. Like my previous MSG review I will judge Zeta by today’s [2008] narrative standards as well as ignoring art and sound in the overall grade.

First off let me talk about the technical aspects. Animation wise it is definitely one of the better animated series of the 1980’s. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality for a mid 80’s anime. Music used is more universal than that of MSG as they used many orchestra pieces, thus giving it an “era-less” feel. However, the music is way too over done and in your face. Yes, we know this is supposed to be a sad scene, you don’t have to rub it in my face. With better animation, there should be some nice fast paced mecha action right? Well, they weren’t, many of the battles were very deliberate and slow. This confuses me to no end as to how the fight scenes were as slow and boring as MSG which aired 6 years before.

As for the story, Zeta suffers from the same problems as MSG. The episodes in Zeta are extremely standalone, build up, climax, and resolution all happen in one episode. So don’t expect cliffhangers and expect extremely disjointed episodes. Even in the 2nd to last episode there wasn’t any cliffhanger. The only thing keeping me going was the will to finish. In addition, I disliked how the new antagonists, the Titians, were depicted as too “black” or evil. Unlike, in MSG both sides are given screen time and both sides were extremely sympatric.

Now on to the characters, this is where Zeta loses most of its points. Kamille is what happens with you take all the bad parts of Amuro and amplify it several times over. If you thought that Shin from Gundam SEED Destiny was bad, then be glad you haven’t met Kamille. ” – MAL user review (score of 4)

“Take this as either positive or negative about the show, but I felt that the scale of the conflict had gone down compared to the original gundam. Zeta felt like a small skirmish between two groups as there was no explicit or implied size of both forces leading me to believe that the battle was mostly between a few ships on both sides. It’s true that most of the original gundam was focused on just the white base and crew making the scale also small. However it was for the purpose that they would be a decoy while the earth federation builds up their main forces which gave the sense of scale that payed off in the end. Instead we have an ending that leaves more to be needed as not much closure was done.”  – Another MAL User, scoring 5

The second half spirals into a far deeper and more original conflict, with a host of new characters, surprising military technologies, and criss-crossing allegiances. This dramatic emphasis marks a step toward the slow-burn style of the typical Gundam show today, yet still continues to present a new skirmish every episode until all the battles begin to blur together. We’ve also all but ditched any characters carried over from Gundam 0079, so the result is a rather disjointed second half. Zeta Gundam is still a classic entry in the Gundam pantheon, but focusing the lens on just its second half shows that it wasn’t entirely successful.

The battles look great, but it’s sometimes hard to tell what they’re being fought for. […] I think what Zeta Gundam fans like me forget is that these moments are the highlights, not the norm. This is a show that spirals out of control as it reaches its tragic conclusion, and eventually it falls apart. The few characters that Tomino doesn’t kill have arcs that remain unfinished, and it’s frustrating to think that we might have had time to address them if there had been fewer pointless battles.” – ANN’s Zeta Gundam Part 2 Blu-Ray Review

And finally, our last bit of support –

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