One of the advantages to taking public transit to and from work is I get to watch anime while in transit. I’ve been slowly picking my way through Mobile Suit Victory Gundam. Most of the reviews I’ve read have been glowing. I’m here to tell you this is sub-par Gundam at best.
One of the DISadvantages, of course, is I can’t exactly take notes as I watch.
Anyway, that established: Tomino is not my favorite director, and his biggest weakness, to me, is that he has a lot of trouble with beginnings. Things just kinda happen “just because” and are never fleshed out (examples: Dunbine, L-Gaim, Dunbine, and Dunbine). But these shows tend to pick up once the initial situations are… well, if not explained, then just “established.” Victory, unfortunately, never quite seems to reach that point. This might be excusable if either the setting, or characters and their interactions, were at least interesting (examples: Utena, Lain) – well, they aren’t. I’m at the end of the series and find most of the character to be ciphers.
Let’s take Oliver as an example. We have very little clue that he and Marbet have any sort of relationship other than Marbet being annoyed at the Shrike Team’s very existence until they get FUCKING MARRIED, very suddenly. Then, a few episodes later, Oliver kamikaze’s himself and dies. Why? Beats the shit out of me. As near as I can tell he did it because the script said so. I guess we’re supposed to feel sad in the next 2-3 episodes, but I didn’t feel sad at all. Why? Because I knew next to nothing about the character, despite his near-constant on-screen presence throughout 2/3 of the series.
Let’s compare that with, say, Slegger from the original Gundam – Same series, same universe, same director. We knew who Slegger was, we knew his personality, he had established relationships with the other characters (Amuro, Sayla, Mirai, etc), and his death was actually meaningful. Oliver can’t hold Slegger’s jock. It would be too heavy for him.
Was Chronicle Asher supposed to be Uso’s nemesis? He vanishes like halfway through the series and is mostly only mentioned by name. They gave him that dumb facemask, so I guess he was supposed to the the Char-clone du jour. But Char had reasons for wearing his mask – both the reason that was publicly given and his own secret reason. Chronicle is all like “I don’t like Earth dust,” but then proceeds to wear the mask in space anyhow, and sometimes doesn’t bother to wear it on Earth either – so why bother with the mask at all? It certainly can’t cover the fact that Chronicle is not a very interesting character.
Maybe Katejina was supposed to be Uso’s nemesis. No, mostly we just see her tailing Chronicle around, sometimes, and then get in a few scraps midway through the series, only to vanish without further mention until the end, where she completely wigs out. I despise Reccoa from Zeta for being a traitorous cunt, but Katejina was never really on the League’s side. So was she always down with Zanscare and was just waiting for the right moment to join? Was she abused and/or brainwashed? Was she just fucking insane from episode one onwards? Because she sure as well was insane by the end – we’re even shown a completely blinded and broken Katejina in the finale.
Hell, I’m not sure
Nadia Shakti wasn’t Uso’s ultimate nemesis. She’s either the most deceitful character in any Gundam ever or she’s pants-on-head retarded. Sadly, I suspect the former was not the intention. She defects to Zanscare at least three times that I can recall, and every time her lameass excuse is “Oh, they’ll TOTALLY stop the entire war if I tell them to!” Yeah, likely story, bitch. Is that why you crawled your ass straight into the Angel Halo, too? I understand where she might have some conflicted motivations, but COME ON, Uso should have wasted her after the second time.
I will say I liked
Cima Fualla, but she fakes her death maybe a third of the way in and we don’t see here again until near the end… eh. But at least she’s entertainingly crazy at that point, and I at least kinda get it – we know she’s been through a lot. Admittedly, I do like women with pink hair…
I also like the new enhanced Haro. He’s awesome.
And then there’s Odelo – he starts out as highly-obnoxious “comic relief,” but becomes a pilot halfway through. In fact, his death in the finale was the only death that had any effect on me, despite this show’s high body count. I cared, because Odelo actually had an arc. He actually changed and developed as a character. In fact, now that I think about it, I think the only characters who really had any development was Odelo.
And what of our main character, Uso? The only word that comes to my mind is “bland.”
On a larger scale: We know next to nothing about the Zanscare Empire or BESPA, and we only vaguely know their motivations – their origins are just glossed over by a few lines in one episode. Same deal with the League Militaire – where did they come from? How did they form? Who the hell is funding the creation of their units? We knew a lot about the Zeons and Federation in the original, and plenty about AEUG and the Titans in Zeta Gundam, but Victory just doesn’t bother to explain itself, so I don’t really care.
So many missed opportunities: The League Militaire uses child soldiers, including Uso and his little buddies. You’d think a MUCH bigger deal would be made of this in terms of negative PR from Zanscare – you could show the League losing support from the people its trying to protect. But no, other than a few throwaway lines here and there, its hardly mentioned. We do see moments of Uso getting fairly traumatized and hardened, but these are never really followed up on, when they should have been a great way to grow the character.
The Angel Halo was a cool concept – too bad its just dropped in our laps, right out of the blue, ten episodes from the end. By contrast, the existence of Gryps was established in first five minutes of the first episode of Zeta Gundam, though its purpose was not. Victory would have been SO much more interesting if the Angel Halo, along with Tasillo’s revolt, had occurred a full thirty or more episodes sooner. Hell, Tasillo strikes me as far more interesting than Chronicle, and he has only a fraction of the screentime Chronicle has. We could have learned a lot about Zanscare, about what made those characters tick, and in contrast learned more about the League and why they fight… maybe I’ve been spoiled by LoGH, I dunno.
As to the titular Gundam itself, I thought the Victory’s modularity was really stupid at first, and I think that’s because it was both introduced and used poorly in the beginning. But it actually makes a lot of sense, assuming you have a situation where the enemy can’t intercept the parts before they arrive where they’re meant to. The beam rotor concept is pretty cool, and I like the Zolo’s use of them for atmospheric movement in the early episodes.
As to the other mobile suits – the BESPA suits mostly have insect-inspired designs, and as mentioned above I rather liked the Zolo and its helicoptor/MS transformation ability. Most of the other suits reminded me of the Zeon suits/armors in the original Gundam, in a BAD way. The Zeon had some seriously fruity and unrealistic designs, but Gundam can be given a pass given that it was the first show of the entire genre and was made in the 1970s. Victory should know better. The Doggorla might have been the single stupidest thing I’ve seen in any Gundam, and it was used more than once.
Overall, I really can’t recommend this one. Still, I’d rather watch this than Double Zeta…