Breaking the Narrative Episode 117: Breaking a Review of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam!


On April 7th, 1979, the first episode of the original Mobile Suit Gundam aired in Japan to very mixed reviews, pulling a Star Trek in becoming a cult classic in syndication after the initial airing. This is thanks to the creation of toys and model kits during the early 1980’s to grow the popularity of the initial anime. It was created by Yoshiyuki Tomino with support of the pseudonymous showrunner Hajime Yayate. What would grow to be the partnership between Sunrise Studio and Namco Bandai started in 1986; the sequel series Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam.

It’s a favorite among a large amount of Gundam fans, due to solidifying many mainstays of the series and providing a large amount of world building that would determine every event after this series, even if the series in question was placed earlier in the timeline, from the effects of Zeon to the determination of distrust over the Earth Federation’s government and military brass. It even solidified the standard of non-soldiers being able to outpace trained masters, even if the enemy is extremely overpowered. So today we are giving a full review of the series I’ve been tackling all year. Let’s Hammer This In!

As I stated before, we are following the trials and tribulations of the Anti-Earth Union Government. By naming, one would initially think these are Antifa-minded individuals, but considering everything within this series I’d actually consider the TITANS as the Antifa types here due to their claim of existing to squash a defunct political ideology that only has a small handful of fringe adherents. They are not really able to effect the Earth Sphere at the beginning of the series, but more into those politics later in this review. For now let’s go to Green Noa.

Located in Side 7, Green Noa is Kamille Bidan’s home colony. Bidan lives there primarily with his mother, while his father goes back and forth between Jaburo (Earth Federal Forces Command) and to work on mobile suit development. Their latest project is the RX-178 project known as the Gundam Mark II project. For this, he took the classic design and reworked it for the next generation of front-line mobile suits. Unbeknownst to the bulk of the populace, the major mobile suit developments were actually pioneered 4 years earlier in the events of Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory but they were sealed and hidden away due to the event that enacted the founding of the TITANS special forces branch.

The Gundam Mk. II is the first public display of several developments experimented with secretly by the TITANS. Little did many know, the AEUG was also working with Anaheim Electronics to develop some of this technology, and due to the nature of the Gundam as a symbol, the AEUG decided they needed the new units for sake of legitimacy. As such, Lieutenant Quattro Bajeena and his team went in to ‘appropriate’ the black and navy colored units that all but refused the traditional parade color scheme for the suit class.

It’s from here that we lead into the first battles of Kamille, as part of AEUG, when he defected to the resistance group after TITANS test pilots wrecked part of his colony while testing the 3 new Gundam units, showing understandable disdain for their disregard towards civilians. Kamille then proceeds to show an immediate comprehension for his machine and space combat, likely due to his martial arts training combined with knowledge he inherited from his parents’ having worked on the Mk. II he then pilots. His in-depth knowledge comes from having stolen the data from his father’s computer.

As we go forward to the Argama and the initial battles, we get an idea of the world that has formed after the One Year War of the original series. The Earth Federation has become a very authoritarian state when it comes to its treatment of the space colonies. Treating them as vassal states of the Earth Federation with little to no regard of their own sovereignty.

This is stemming from acts put into place to prevent the rise of another autonomous country, such as the Principality of Zeon. Granted, the things done by the Principality and the Zabi family were atrocious in every sense of the word, from the gassing of an entire colony to subsequently dropping said colony onto the Earth. Even if their intended target was a military installation in the form of Jaburo, they hit Sydney, Australia. A, an act that killed millions of innocent civilians that knew nothing of the conflicts within the orbits of the planet.

Even though they claim to exist specifically to fight off remnants of Zeon’s armies, the only perceived use of the TITANS within Zeta Gundam would be to persecute and attack dissidents to the prevailing government, one that was sorely ignorant of the atrocities being performed by said TITANS in upholding the status quo – including the use of a variant of the gas previously used by Zeon to execute an entire colony. This was all to become the dominant power even over the Earth Federal Government. The TITANS sought to become a military dictatorship led by their commander Jamitov Hymen. No I don’t think Tomino realized what he was naming the man back in 1985 when he was working on the scripts or the irony in him being an Earth-supremacist cowardly pussy.

Add to this that he is succeeded by Paptimus Scirocco, who we discussed earlier, and the parallels to contemporary feminism become quite apparent, especially considering that the tactics used by the group heavily resemble those of Antifa, even down to the typical black and red color of their uniforms. The Principality of Zeon was a monarchist fascist state under the rule of Duke Degwin Sodo Zabi, with his family taking up all key governmental and military positions. There was never any hint of a parliamentary or congressional system nor any check on the power of the Zabi family. Nor were there any real checks upon the power of the TITANS, officially, much like there is mostly no check on Antifa or their tactics.

Therefore the citizens of the colonies had to defend themselves against the frankly oppressive nature of the TITANS by forming the AEUG from former Zeon pilots and Earth Federation Space Force dissenters… ones who didn’t appreciate the overbearing nature of the TITANS and saw all too well the similarities between them and what they claimed to hate,, again, like Antifa. As time goes on in the series and we see how they are the same way on Earth as they are in Space, it’s obvious how a rebellious faction based around protecting human freedom and rights could form. It’s also obvious how the membership of the TITANS are primarily of those from the old guard and previous establishment. Then the last of the resemblance to contemporary American politics falls into place.

Whether he realizes it or not, Yoshiyuki Tomino is a political genius with his world building. In my humble opinion George R. R. Martin could learn a thing or two from Tomino. Sometimes, I wonder if he looks at how politics have evolved in the United States and laughs at us, considering how much of what is in this series matches up with what we’ve been dealing with in the Men’s Rights Movement and those who find ourselves as reluctant soldiers of the Culture War… practitioners of guerrilla meme warfare.

Notice, I haven’t given many new details of this 50 episode series. That’s not only because I’ve went in-depth on these acts in other articles, but also because I do believe it’s imperative to watch this series in it entirety, especially after watching the original Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy. That trilogy is an abridged version of the original 1979 series that’s easier to pick up for neophytes to this fandom and the aforementioned Stardust Memory. Still, you could pick up Zeta without any prior knowledge, and dive in just as easily. The original series and later-made intermediary series only flesh out the connections between the two more readily. It’s not the best series in the world, sure. I wouldn’t even consider it the best work in the metaseries. However, I do view Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam as required viewing if you are at all interested in how one can make a proper political drama.

Sure, most works do not need politics shoved in. However, political commentary and expression are woven into the DNA of Gundam as a franchise. This is why I’m not too afraid of how the Mobile Suit Gundam live action script is being penned by Brian K. Vaughn. Because of how Gundam has been formed over the past 40 years, it is much more resilient to changes than something that’s more monolithic such as Star Wars or Star Trek, each of which has a very distinct canon. Even the prior canon Universal Century work G-Saviour has been all but wiped from canon.

Even though it is meant to be a serious dramatic series with only sprinkles of comedy throughout, to those who have been dealing with this for a half decade or much much longer it is a complete comedy, because of the realization that it’s actually happening, in a way. In addition, there are several positive expressions of masculinity throughout. It can give a sense of hope even while it ends tragically, because it is followed by the sequel Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam, which proves as a restoration of hope and a victory against despair. By the end of Zeta one is fully into the “black pill” due to the “Kill ’em All” nature of many of Tomino’s works.

However, as the metaseries evolves, it becomes a silver pill, teaching the lesson that if you give it your all, if you push for what’s right even if it costs you your life – a better world is around the corner. I realize I’m an optimist, that sometimes I can come off as naive. That matters not. I’ve been through homelessness, through losing everything, and I still came out on top. I’ve failed in my life, but that wasn’t the end because I didn’t let it be. I have friends who have been through prison for doing the right thing, like one who fought to protect another and then made sure he didn’t actually kill who they fought. He is now a proud and happy father living comfortably with his wife.

That’s the lesson I have always learned from Gundam. Even if you lose it all, if your body is destroyed and everything is torn asunder, as long as you are still willing to stand up and fight, victory is possible. Things look dire with overwhelming censorship, and abject disdain for the ‘common’ folk is apparent in most world governments. People are being unpersoned, livelihoods shredded, and everything seeming lost. That just means we need to fight harder to not only keep what’s ours but reclaim what we rightfully earn… to reclaim freedom lost, and show who the real bigots and cretins are. So Badger on, friends, and Please Remember To Game Freely!

Alex Tinsley
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About the author

Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.

By Alex Tinsley

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