Why not Gundam Zeta?

Normally I don’t pick on the disabled.

But some people seem to really love Gundam Zeta, so I feel compelled to point out something. This show sucks.

Okay, okay. Maybe sucks is too harsh of a word. There are things about Zeta that are interesting. The relationship between Camille Bidan and Jared is one of those things. I’ve always liked shows that have dueling characters and show both characters being right if you look at the world from their point of view.

And I’ll admit the ideas in this show are interesting. I’ve always liked the tension between Earth and the colonies. I really like the fact that because of the war with Zeon, the Earth has become a dictatorship. I like that the world has come full circle. I even like the idea of super-humans who are trying to figure out what it means to be super-human. That’s the thing about Zeta, the actual foundations for an interesting plot are there.

But really that’s the only thing good I can say about the show. Everything else is a roadmap of what not to do in a fifty-some-odd episode anime. Take the pacing for example. For the first half of the series, it seems like a race for how many characters can get killed off in two episodes or less. It starts off as, “Oooo, new artificial Newtype is introduced. Camille meets them. They fight. Artificial Newtype dies. Introduce new artificial Newtype.” In fact the only villain who seems to last any length of time is Jared, and even he gets the shit kicked out of him more times than I can count.

It gets real boring really fast. But like a masochist, I kept on getting beat around by this series. The second half has the exact opposite problem: nothing ever gets resolved. Essentially an entire crew of bad guys gets introduced and NO ONE DIES. It keeps going on until it feels like there’s an entire parade of characters who steal the spotlight from the one or two interesting villains that the show has left. And what makes it worse is that bad guys get resurrected from the dead, just because they realized that they’d chewed through them too quickly in the first half of the show.

On top of all of that, you get super-combining, amazing Gundam stuff, which honestly is a death knell for any “real robot” show. It’s not that I mind improved robots. Because I really do like them in say Code Geass. But here they all feel hokey, and even worse, they feel like they were thrown in so some toy manufacturer somewhere could make an extra buck off of the people buying model kits.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the rest of the cast of thousands. I’ll be honest, I spent most of this show hoping Char would get knocked off. Hell, I spent most of this show hoping most of the cast would get knocked off. The only character who was consistently interesting was Jared. Even Camille got a little stale towards the end.

I won’t pick on the artwork or the soundtrack because the show is old. And the fact that they’re dated doesn’t really mean that much to me. There are plenty of shows with dated soundtracks and animation that are actually good shows.

It’s just that Gundam Zeta isn’t one of those.

6 thoughts on “Why not Gundam Zeta?

  1. I think I agree with you on the pacing. I’ve only watched Zeta through once but from memory I did struggle with the rate of events (or lack of events). Thing is, I really liked the beginning of the show, and I really liked the end, but the middle seemed a little directionless. It lacked the sense of desperation and drive which pervades the original MSG (which is odd since the older show’s pacing was partly determined by its early cancellation, and I’m not saying that MSG is flawless). I found the odd episode genuinely gripping, too (such as when the AEUG hijacked an international conference).

    I can’t agree with you on the ‘super-combining, amazing’ stuff, though; there are very, very few really ‘real’ robot anime and even those lack credibility because piloted bipedal war machines will (almost certainly) never, ever be a practical tool. I think Zeta has very good mechanical design, and my only quibble is that there are a few too many ‘monster of the week’ Mobile Suits.

    Also how dar u go hating on char char is my favorite carachter i hav twentythree char posters andi dont care wat u say char is thebest.

  2. @ animanachronism – I’ve never really been a student of mechanical design, so I’m never sure what qualifies as good or not. And you do have a good point that bipedal machines won’t ever really be a practical tool of war.

    But I do think it’s kind of a question of suspension of disbelief. It’s easier to believe that they could be a practical tool of war if they don’t get shot out power-ups from the nearby space cruiser. But largely, it’s just an element of cheese that I didn’t think the show needed. And I did like the first ten or so episodes, but it kind of started to sink slowly after that.

    And how dar I go hat on char i must be a horrible person and be stun g out by my bal ls for my hearsy

  3. I think Zeta Gundam is a masterpiece of pacing, especially at the episodic level. Each episode, while following a certain formula, is like a little self-contained gem and a model of its genre.

  4. @ iniksbane: I’m no expert on mechanical design either, but I think it boils down to the same things that make other ‘grown-up boys’ toys’ (cars, tanks, planes) great. Perhaps the transformations themselves are incongruous in Zeta because it’s a show which takes itself for the most part very seriously. In my experience, the franchise which is defined by transforming mecha, Macross, rarely takes itself as seriously as most Gundam series do, and perhaps that’s why the transformations ‘fit’ better in Macross than they do in most Gundam universes.

    @ DS: Actually, I hadn’t considered the micropacing (? – presumably there’s a neat TV Theory word for that), pacing on the episode scale. The idea of variations on a formula is a good one (I’m going to be terribly literary and mention the Pindaric Ode in parentheses) and now you mention it I do remember some of Zeta‘s micropacing being rather good. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.

  5. Actually, I like the older art and soundtrack. Its nostalgic and feels like “crafted” animation, if that makes any sense. Though, I do like newer (well, more recent) styles like 1998-2006 Sunrise animation, too. I just enjoy the older look and sound of the 80s anime as well. A heck of a lot more than many of the more lifeless plastic-looking, sterilized-Melodyne-singing anime out there today, loaded with unconvincing CGI and disposable plots because it’s cheap to make animation now.

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