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Future Century: where colonies, each representing a different country, have been formed in space. Domon Kasshu a brash yet good hearted young Gundam Fighter from the colony of Neo-Japan is out to find the whereabouts of his brother while also trying to get into the Gundam Fight tournament in order to clear his father’s name. He’ll travel the world fighting each colony’s Gundam Fighter, discover more information on his journey, and make friends along the way.
The Mobile Suit Gundam franchise is one of the most iconic mecha anime series out there. While it did not invent giant robots, it certainly became one of the most recognizable series to come from the land of the rising sun. It is a series I have a lot of respect for, but it is incredibly hard to get into the series if you are not familiar with the Gundam universe. The big question all newbies to Gundam ask is, “Where do I start?” and that is a harder question to answer because the Gundam franchise has spanned decades of multiple iterations and multiverses, not to mention spin offs that have nothing to do with either the original or even the alternate universe series and you have a recipe for a headache. For some, they might recommend the first Gundam that was ever broadcast to a wide audience in the West, that being Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. While it has been a good while since I have last seen it, it is certainly not something I would recommend to newbies. I feel like Wing hasn’t aged as well and succeeding Gundams that came after it were done much better. As for others, they’d recommend some of the newer Gundam shows or the OVAs which either continue and expand the story of the Universal Century (UC) timeline, such as Gundam Thunderbolt or Gundam The Origin. While the ease of access to the newer Gundams compared to some of the older series is a fact we cannot ignore, I would argue those are made for existing Gundam fans as they continue the story of the UC series or act as retellings of a story fans are familiar with. Those might be hard for new viewers to fully comprehend. So where should you begin? Well, I think the best place to start for Gundam beginners would be two things. One would be the Alternate Universe Gundam series where these are more their own thing and don’t directly take place within the Gundam Universal Century timeline such as Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans or Gundam Seed. Another would be the only one set in its timeline and the one I’d recommend as a jumping off point: the Future Century show Mobile Fighter G Gundam.
Mobile Fighter G Gundam came into existence to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Gundam franchise. By that point, the entire Gundam franchise was part of the UC timeline, interconnected to the original Mobile Suit Gundam series from 1979. However, G Gundam would be a bit of departure from it all. Instead of having it take place in the UC continuity, the staff behind G Gundam decided to have it set in Gundam’s first alternate universe, the “Future Century”, devoid of nearly any acknowledgement of the original UC timeline (barring some small background cameos). The director behind G Gundam, Yasuhiro Imagawa, was well-versed with mecha anime prior to G Gundam, having worked on storyboards for shows like Dougram, Aura Battler Dunbine, and Zeta Gundam, and was in the middle of directing the 90’s OVA series Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still when he was tapped for G Gundam. Alongside him, handling series composition, was Fuyunori Gobu, who had worked on shows like the original Astro Boy, several mecha series in the 80’s including Armored Trooper VOTOMS, and would later script eight episodes of King of the Braves: GaoGaiGar Final. The question is: what did they make? In short, a mecha shonen.
Prior to G Gundam, the franchise was always seen as a space opera; it had a lot of political talk and plenty of drama, but at the end of the day, this was still a franchise aimed at kids to sell toys and model kits to. I can only imagine how far the core idea of Gundam in the 80’s and early 90’s could have piqued the interest of Japanese youth. However, Mobile Fighter G Gundam feels more like a Shonen Jump anime more than any other Gundam show that came before or even after it. For one, it is really action heavy. Gundam did have its fair share of action but it was mainly a lot of down time talking with various characters and focusing on the political drama of the world. Not the case with G Gundam, largely because the main plot buildup beyond the battle with the Dark Gundam was the tournament battle that makes up the second half of the series. There are a good number of episodes where it’s just exploring the characters we have seen throughout the series (Domon, secondary leads like Neo-America’s Chibodee, Neo-China’s Sai Saici, etc.) and giving them more depth than just generic stereotypes of characters’ backgrounds, but it’s more focused on action. Another reason is because the show tends to be very cheesy and leans heavily on themes of friendship. The beginning of every episode starts with an announcer coming in and announcing what our heroes will be facing and it is done in a very charming way that both entertains and works as a small recap of the last episode. What also adds to the cheesiness is the English dub. The dub is quite charming. It is mostly faithful to the original Japanese scripts, but they changed some dialogue and names for the American market, but this never feels out of place or poorly written. For example, the Burning Gundam, Domon’s upgraded Gundam for use in the tournament arc, is known in the Japanese version as God Gundam. Personally, I think Burning Gundam is a much better name, sounding cooler and more of a substantial upgrade from Shining Gundam. Although the dub did remove a lot of swearing, this was almost certainly done for broadcast purposes since this show aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami and likely other kid-focused channels inside and out of North America. Overall, this isn’t a big deal and the dub is still really good. All the performances are super hammy but it is incredibly charming to listen to. The characters are all memorable and well written. Domon Kasshu is a great lead who does come off very stubborn in the beginning and is really kind of a jerk, but by the end, you are rooting for him to win and defeat the Dark Gundam. You can sympathize with his frustrations over his missing brother and continue to sympathize with him when Master Asia, Domon’s mentor and martial arts teacher, turns to the power of the Dark Gundam and betrays him. Add to this the death of Domon’s mother and his father being held in custody and it is clear the world has given him a raw deal and it’s understandable why he’s cold at first. Sai Saici was another character that really grew by the end. He starts out as a kid whose goal is simply to save the temple he represents and it’s pretty clear that while he does want that, he still wants to be a kid and everything thrown at him feels like a big responsibility for someone his age. He ends up being very likable since the show fleshes his character out. During the middle half of the series, he finds himself with a crush on a girl who ends up being related to the pilot of the Mermaid Gundam, who he is slated to fight against. During that episode, it comes to a point where he realizes who her brother is, and he almost doesn’t show up for the match. That really showed how much he is still a kid at heart and how much responsibility rests on his shoulders, ending up being one of the strongest episodes of the entire series. One minor problem with the show is the way it leans into negative stereotypes but personally it doesn’t make the show bad. G Gundam doesn’t take itself seriously and the over-the-top acting brings out an innocent fun to it all, so it never comes off as horribly offensive. However, that should be kept in mind just in case.
In terms of if you need to watch every episode in order, for the most part, no. The series is incredibly self-contained; there are some callbacks to previous episodes and only by the second half the show moves more towards a serialized story, which you’d expect from an elimination tournament. The show, as a whole, is very “monster of the week”. The G Gundam fighters end up traveling to a set location when a problem comes up and they have to solve it. There are only a select amount of episodes that are required to fully understand the entire show. Otherwise you can watch a random episode and get the general idea and not feel lost.
While the show itself is good, the Blu-rays, on the other hand, are mixed. For the video quality, it’s great. Mobile Fighter G Gundam was completely remastered from the original film elements and it looks really good in HD. Thankfully, the aspect ratio is still at 4:3 and everything looks really crisp in 1080p; nothing is washed out either so overall, the video quality is top notch. It does include the English dub and the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. The subs aren’t hard subtitles so if you want to watch it without subtitles you can. However, the extras on the Blu-rays are really underwhelming. All we get are textless opening and closing songs and Japanese commercials for Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Considering the original release of G Gundam had an English broadcast on Toonami, it would have been nice to see promos from there. Of course, Williams Street no longer has access to those old promos and bumps, but they did get Gundam Wing Toonami promos from Toonami fans. It would have been great to see this on the G Gundam sets since Gundam has had a long history with Toonami. It certainly isn’t a deal breaker though, but I do wonder if there were any Bandai Entertainment commercials for Mobile Fighter G Gundam? If there were, it would have been nice to throw them in the extras as part of the DVD commercials. The menus are also really bland. There is not a lot of charm to them, as they’re just a static image of promo art from the show and just the various menu options with music playing in the background. Nothing really exciting going for it. It functions and is far from bad, but it would’ve been nice to see more done with the menus. Less is more I suppose but it’s just a bit disappointing they didn’t go the extra mile with the special features past the Japanese trailers and opening and ending songs.
As for the Blu-ray packaging themselves, they’re good. The cases feel very sturdy and premium, and the disc art is excellent. The inside hinges that hold four discs are also well put together. They don’t feel loose and it doesn’t feel like the contents inside will fall out. There is a reversible cover but personally, there’s not much use for it since the standard case art is good enough.
Despite the minor issues with the extras, Mobile Fighter G Gundam is a great show and is well worth picking up. It is a classic anime and was well received back in the day and still great now. If you are a newbie to the Gundam franchise this is a great place to start and a wonderful introduction to the Gundam series.
You can buy Mobile Fighter G Gundam through Rightstuf
About Mobile Fighter G Gundam Collection 1 Blu-rayMobile Fighter G Gundam Collection 1 contains episodes 1-24 of the anime directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa.It is time for the “Gundam Fight” tournament! Each country sends a Gundam to Earth for this prestigious tournament in the hopes of winning power and glory for their homeland!