Plot: In the year 2124, or Universal Century 0079, humans have built and lived in space colonies that are orbiting earth for over half a century. The colonies on the outermost section, called Side 3, united and started calling themselves the Principality of Zeon. In an effort to win their independence from the Earth Federation, Zeon declared war. The war has lasted for eight months, and while both sides have endured heavy casualties, it seems there is a stalemate. However, the war has quickly been turned on its head by the creation of humanoid mechs called Mobile Suits, and the newest model, the Gundam, is the most powerful to date. The problem is, no one has manned it yet.
The engineer’s son, Amuro Ray, hijacks the Gundam in order to help protect his friends in a nearby battle and finds himself the designated pilot of Gundam and a reluctant soldier of one of Earth Federation’s best ships, the White Base. Under the command of Bright Noa, and with a crew of civilian soldiers, Amuro faces off in numerous battles against the Zeon forces, including their fiercest soldier, Char Aznoble.
Breakdown: The first ever Gundam series and the show most people hold as a standard set for all Gundam series to follow, Gundam 0079 is a vast exploration into the many facets of war.
One of the most interesting aspects of this series is the fact that almost all of the people on White Base are not soldiers, nor do they have any formal combat or technical training. In fact, many of them are teenagers and several are children. Almost all of them are reluctant soldiers at that, having been suddenly drafted after an attack on their colony.
You usually only get a civilian point of view from outside of the war, but still experiencing the effects of it. This set up gives a realistic take from both sides of the horrors of war. You see characters struggle to learn, break under the pressure, emotionally cope with their being forced to kill people as well as deal with the losses of their comrades, try to force themselves to grow up in order to protect themselves and their loved ones and even develop a family on board that familiar Trojan Horse (The White Base’s nickname).
Interestingly, a bulk of the time, the Zeon forces also aren’t treated as soulless evil bastards you never care about. Unlike many other similar shows of the time, the Zeon forces are frequently shown in a light that both reflects their status as the enemy but highlights their humanity. They have families, they fall in love, they deeply care for their comrades and they feel the horrors of war like the Earth Federation.
I appreciate this view, but it gets ruined later in the series. While Char and some other Zeon soldiers maintain a fair amount of humanity to continue to relate to them, the Zeons are, as a whole, completely solidified as heartless evil bastards who just want to take over everything instead of winning their independence. If you don’t believe me, many Zeon soldiers are given that stereotypical stupid thug voice, speak like the average violent thug would speak, and some of the higher ups, even Char, commit incredibly deplorable acts both against the Earth Federation and their own people, especially the giant mess that is the Zabi family, leader of the Zeons.
But as a topping on this MUAHAHA cake, we have a conversation between Degwin Zabi, sovereign ruler of Zeon, and his son Giren, a high ranking soldier in the Zeon forces. Degwin compares Giren’s ideals to those of Hitler, and Giren gladly accepts this comparison and even calls the Zeon forces the followers of Hitler. Yup, Zeon is literally Hitler.
The Earth Federation forces have some bad eggs, but for the most part it’s a politically clean and non-corrupt military force. There are some atrocities to be had, but these are mostly always shown as necessities to the war effort instead of furthering some personal or political agenda.
This series is largely battle-based as the main linear story and, outside of the political mess happening in Zeon, is fairly disjointed. I’m not saying the story doesn’t make sense, but it’s more a collection of mini-stories that are built on character development milestones.
Speaking of characters, the collection we have here is interesting and likable, though there are some speedbumps.
Frow Bow is a very kind and gentle mothering character who serves as the pseudo-love interest for Amuro. I say ‘pseudo’ because he treats her poorly for a bulk of the series – despite being childhood friends and one of the only people from his home that he has left beside him. However, a significant chunk of their time on screen is them fighting or him being dismissive and rude to her.
Frow Bow seems to take up more of an older sister with a rebellious younger brother role than she does love interest, and that’s fine. I just wish there had been more in regards to serious bridge mending between them later on in the series. He quite drastically shifts his tone to her out of nowhere, even calling her ‘beloved’.
Bright Noa is a strong leader who is one of the few who doesn’t want to take any of Amuro’s crap, even though he gives into his behavior several times because he needs him as a Gundam pilot. He has a very strong moral compass, and is always striving to do what’s right, even if it means disobeying military orders. Bright’s not without his flaws either, as he definitely struggles with his position sometimes.
Mirai takes to military life surprisingly quickly and basically becomes Bright’s first mate and one of the most effective and useful people onboard the White Base that never pilots a mech. She’s very mature and, if Frow Bow takes the role of older sister, Mirai definitely takes a motherly role. She is extremely loyal and close to Bright, and despite some uninteresting/annoying intrusions of her love life, she is one of my favorite characters.
Kai is voiced by Richard Ian Cox, so I love him yet hate him. Kai is an annoying smart-aleck who is always taking shots at people, particularly Bright and Amuro, but he is a very brave individual who is usually willing to fight to protect his allies on the White Base with the Guncannon. He grows on you a little, especially after his mini-arc where he abandons White Base, but he still grates on the nerves a bit.
Hayato is another childhood friend of both Frow and Amuro, though he’s more strongly connected with Frow than Amuro. He’s very short and gives off more of a vibe of being a kid than anyone else on the White Base, despite being the same age as Frow, Amuro and Kai. Because of this, he kinda sees Amuro as a measuring stick of his own successes. Even in the end, he seems to feel like he can’t match up to Amuro given his increasingly impressive abilities with the Gundam and his status as a Newtype.
No matter what, however, Hayato gives it his all in everything he does on the Trojan Horse, particularly in piloting the Guntank. He deeply cares about his friends and always wants to keep fighting to protect them, even when wounded. Hayato was another of my favorite characters.
Sayla was mostly just kinda there to me for a good chunk of the series until she’s finally given more development and backstory midway into the show. Until then, she’s mostly just another pair of hands on the White Base. After she steals the Gundam in order to find out more about her family, she is rightfully reprimanded (because those few episodes were stupid, to be honest), but, in light of her piloting skills, she is designated as the pilot of the Core Booster, being Amuro’s main support in battle. She eventually becomes more ingrained into the story as a whole, but I won’t spoil that.
We’re now at the first ever Gundam protagonist and Gundam pilot, Amuro Ray. And, I gotta say, it took me an insanely long time to warm up to Amuro.
Amuro, at least in the beginning, is hard to root for. I know he’s 16, but he’s incredibly impulsive, abrasive, immature and just has a bad attitude. I get that he’s a teenager thrown into war, but he basically threw himself into the war by stealing the mobile suit. Then he feels entitled to being the pilot of the Gundam despite breaking numerous military rules and laws, not being technically a military officer and the fact that he, ya know, stole the damn thing to begin with.
At the very least, he gets he gets a serious reality check when he returns. I can at least be thankful that those at White Base don’t welcome him back with open arms when he does decide to come back after his little tantrum in stealing Gundam after hearing he might be replaced as pilot. They throw him in jail the instant he returns and claim that they only want Gundam back and not him.
This is a good start at that reality check because now Amuro is basically going nuts with egotism claiming he’s the best pilot and only logical choice for Gundam. He even claims he has a perfectly reasonable explanation in leaving which is complete BS.
Dude, you left because you were sad they were going to take your robot away so you selfishly and immaturely stole the thing and ran off into the desert, leaving White Base very vulnerable to attack. You may have done a couple of good things in your absence that benefit the federation, but that doesn’t change the fact that what you did was done under selfishness and immaturity not because you had White Base’s or the federation’s best interest in mind. In no scenario would taking their best line of defense and refusing to return when requested would be beneficial to anyone but you.
Amuro did grow on me slowly but surely, but even at the end I wasn’t sure how much I really liked him as a character.
Speaking of characters, there was another issue that annoyed me throughout the series. Gundam 0079 has a nasty habit of introducing characters from nowhere, leaving them around for a few episodes, then killing them and having their death be extremely impacting for one character or another. They do this so frequently, especially in the second half of the series, that it seriously gets annoying. Half of these characters seem so superfluous or weren’t fleshed out nearly enough that I honestly can’t remember most of their names. Sleggar and Matilda come to mind, and there were countless Zeon higher ups that suffered from this.
The fact that Lalah became so focal in the end was also unwelcome. They act like she and Amuro had known each other very deeply and spent a lot of time together when they spend, collectively, a few hours together and had a psychic back and forth a few times.
The introduction of Newtypes was a little on the out-of-nowhere side, but I’m glad that everyone, to some degree got Newtype-ish powers instead of having everything cool go the hero again. Though it is odd that Char is only recognized as a Newtype when someone suspects he’s a Newtype. He doesn’t really display any Newtype abilities before then, outside of just being really good at piloting mechs.
If I had one more big complaint about Gundam 0079, it’d be the ending. The series just kinda ends out of nowhere. I mean, there is a little buildup when a sudden major death happens, but other than episode number, you really don’t expect the series to end on those last few episodes. And while the climax is pretty good, I was expecting more bang for my buck.
Plus, the dub completely ruins it. In their ED’s background scenes, they play the very last scene of the show full out without really any editing. Why? Why? Why? What is the goddamn point of doing that?
Art and Animation: Very dated, very noticeable reused footage, craggy in several respects, but for the time it’s not that bad. The art is classic and has many great designs. They don’t go too fancy with the mobile suits, but that’s alright.
Music: Also dated, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. I sing along to the OP whenever it comes on and the ED is a great way to come down after an episode, particularly emotional ones.
Voice Acting: English – This dub is pretty dated, but stands up fairly well. Everyone’s voices fit well, and there’s a decent amount of emotion in each performance. Char’s VA in particular really helped bring this character to life.
Bottomline: Gundam 0079 was a fantastic first run of a much-loved franchise. I wouldn’t say it’s phenomenal, but I never disliked watching it, even during episodes where I was angry at some of the characters. Even during those times, at least I was being invested and feeling strong emotions for what was happening. It may be a bit too dated for many anime fans today, but any fan of Gundam or mech as a whole, or space operas, should watch this. You won’t regret it.
Additional Information and Notes: Gundam 0079 was directed and written by Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of Gundam as a whole and director and writer of many, many Gundam titles. It was produced by Sunrise and is currently licensed in North America by Sunrise as well.
Recommended Audience: There are some mildly sexually suggestive themes-ish, but not really. People die by the droves, but there’s nothing horribly graphic. The tones and subject matter may be a bit heavy for younger viewers out the gate. 13+