Moeagare Gundamu!

First of all, concerning my review on Orphanage… when I sat down to write the review, I discovered my memory of the book wasn’t fresh enough to write anything meaningful. I’m going to have to reread it… so expect the review in about a week or so.

I recently learned that Nyoron Fansubs was subbing the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Yoshiyuki Tomino’s 1979 military sci-fi series that was responsible for establishing the Real Robot genre (which Macross/Robotech later expanded upon). Since I’m a huge fan of the original Gundam universe, I decided to watch it. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

For such an old series, the animation in Gundam is surprisingly good. It does look a little dated, but it is far superior to the American animation being produced at that time, and is even better than some later Japanese series (1982’s Macross or the first season of Sailor Moon in 1992). Despite being dated, the giant robot designs are still just as impressive as they were thirty years ago… especially Zeon’s mainstay unit, the MS-05 Zaku II.

The Zaku is my favorite mobile suit from the original series. It’s design embodies the concept of the Real Robot genre… the idea that the giant robot should be treated as a realistic machine; something that runs out of ammo and breaks down. The Real Robot is manufactured and used by military forces, and is not unique or ultra-powerful like the Super Robots that came before Gundam (such as Gigantor or Mazinger Z). Gundam is the first series that brought realism to the Giant Robot genre.

Gundam is also known as being extraordinarily scientifically accurate… to the point of being the most scientifically accurate Gundam series to date. Of course, there is some degree of inherent scientific inaccuracy concerning giant robots fighting in space… but virtually everything in Gundam has a plausible (if somewhat technobabble-filled) explanations for everything from how giant robots maneuver in space to how energy weapons work. In order to explain much of its technology, Gundam uses a theoretical particle called the ‘Minosvsky particle’. Unlike other ‘magic technologies’ (i.e. Star Wars‘ hypermatter, Star Trek’s dilithium or Stargate’s naquadah), the Minovsky particle actually has a well-thought-out scientific explation behind it. I won’t go into details here, but you can read all about it on Wikipedia’s article on Minovsky Physics. The various Gundam series tend to accuratly follow the laws of Minovsky physics.

This reflects an interesting way of writing science fiction. Although it is neccesarry to include unrealistic and scientifically impossible elements in almost every science fiction story, an author should carefully define a set of physics that fits his narrative needs, then follow those physics precisely. This will help to reinforce the reader’s suspension of disbelief. To what degree the author explains his physics in the story is up to the individual author; athough providing a more detailed explanation leads to a greater sense of authenticity, it is inevitable that someone will spot a scientific flaw in your work if its too detailed. Overall, I think Gundam finds a good solution to this problem… Minovsky physics are explained in just enough detail to drive the narrative in the show itself, and more detailed information on it is available in enthusiast material such as the MS Encyclopedia.

Well, that more or less ends my thoughts on the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Nyoron is promising to release new episodes of it soon (they’re up to episode 10), and they’ll be releasing the new ones with a textless opening. If what I wrote about it intriques you, check it out!


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June 2008
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