Gundam Month 2018: Gundam Doesn't Look Like Voltron.
Today, while my beautiful wife and daughter are staying in Texas with her family, she texted me the most disappointing cacaphony of nonsense I've ever heard in my life. Assuming she was skipping through Netflix options like the Sunday newspaper--as we all do--she texted me something along the lines of, "I still think Voltron: Legendary Defender looks like a Gundam!"
A few things were brought to my attention at that moment. Firstly, I'm at Starbucks. Being that it's Starbucks, I'm only black guy here--I quickly skim the area to confirm this theory--check. So I can't spaz out. It's getting late and they're closing soon--I check the time on the corner of my Windows 10 OS--check. So I shouldn't spaz out. I think to myself, is she talking about the old Voltron, or the new Voltron? There's no way neither look like a Gundam--I quickly do a self-affirming Google image search on both Voltrons--checkmate. I deserve to spaz out. I love my wife, and I would take a twin buster rifle to the face before I ever let any harm ever come to her. She's a lover of Angel Beats and Sailor Moon. A total Serenity fanatic. My type of nerd.
But, truth be told, the lady just don't know giant robots like her garbage husband does.
April 7th, 1979. What an annoying time to be an mecha-obsessed otaku, I could only imagine.
Gaiking. Getter Robo. Mazinger Z. Steel Jeeg. Groizer X. Kaleidoscopic, super-unrealistic giant robots saving the world from monsters, aliens, and all forms of gargantuan evil. The 70's were chock-full of shows of the Super Robot genre of anime. Granted, Gundam, debuting right on the end of the decade, very much could have--and by all means should have--ended up as just another Super Robot show. Instead, it became a serious space-opera war-drama that saw giant robots not as skyscraper-sized superheroic saviors, but as manned weapons of war in the future. Humans were still killing humans. The earth was overpopulated. Teenagers were on the frontlines.
Sounds stupid, right? It's nothing like what the first nine years of the 70's provided in terms of giant robot anime. Where's the monster of the week? Where's the evil scientist who wants to take over the world? Where are the aliens? No, none of that! Gundam just had intriguing human beings, their riveting backstories, and the "mobile suits" they piloted. Sounds so freakin' lame. No wonder it had ratings so poor its first run that it had to cut its originally-planned 50+ episode run down to 43 episodes. What a trash show!
Creator Yoshiyuki Tomino didn't wave, though. Though he did go on to work on a new giant robot show the following year by the name of Ideon (a precursor to the wildly popular 1990's anime Evangelion), Tomino and his team, codenamed "Hajime Yadate", came back to Gundam and compiled the 43-episode television series into a trilogy of two-hour-long films. The films further removed some of the more silly, unrealistic elements of the series but barely deviated from the core plot and the incredible storytelling. Audiences began to pay attention, now. The television series enjoyed absurd popularity during reruns. While the Super Robot genre was still quite active and necessary, the Real Robot genre had its genesis deeply felt by the audience of Japan. Multiple subsequent animes quickly followed this route set out before it by Gundam.
Macross. Dragonar. Evangelion. Big O. Aquarion. Code Geass. All of these entertaining giant robot anime all have a little Gundam in them.
But don't you dare tell me any of those titular machines looks like a Gundam.
Maybe it's because I've been steadily obsessing over eighteen years. Otherwise, I mean, what would differentiate a MegaZord from a Mega Deuce, let alone a Gundam mobile suit?
"Gundams" are mobile suits unique to high power and shared physical characteristics. A Gundam is generally white, particularly its limbs, and has a specially designed humanoid headpiece with two eyes that act as cameras for the cockpit, often stored either in the suit's chest or right underneath it. A Gundam's mouthpiece is generally designed with two open strokes across it; an often-red "chin"; and Vulcan cannons installed in its head. Above its eyes is usually an emblem spouting a long V-shaped symmetrical fin. That and its mouthpiece are likely a Gundam's most distinctive features. The original RX-78-2 Gundam debuted with all of these features and in the series' 39 years, there have been many popular variants of the design that stand out but never stray too far from it's 70's source material, but rather tribute and honor it.
The original Gundam's brother units, the Guntank and the Guncannon, are respectively designed and equipped for long-quarters and mid-quarters combat. The Gundam itself is a mobile suit optimized for close-quarters combat. It's core registry of weaponry consists only of it short-range vulcans on its head, and a pair of beam sabers placed onto its thruster pack on its back. The way the sabers' handles stick out of the backpack mimic the way a ninja carries his swords on his back (think Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). That may or may not be a total coincidence, but many subsequent Gundams return to this distinctive design, including the Gundam Mark II, the Double Zeta Gundam, and the Gundam X Divider, the latter two of which utilize hyper beam sabers--sabers that have much higher power reserves, require much larger hilts, and form much larger blades.
Its most popular weapon, however, is its immense powerful beam rifle. Unlike the crude automatic weapons using real shells in real time that other mobile suits used, the Gundam's optional mid-range rifle is pure beam energy, and can--with one precise shot--pierce through cold, thick armor and completely destroy another mobile suit. In the series, the Gundam earned the nickname "White Devil" by its enemies.
The most popular Gundam mobile suits that have deviated from its original design in some way are the Zeta Gundam, the Gundam G-Self, the Gundam Barbatos, and most famously, the Turn A Gundam.
I love me some Voltron, so don't get it twisted. But that kaleidoscopic superhero machine is no devil.
Come at me, bro.