Comments on Raymond H's F91 and the Problem with Gundam Pacifism

Gundam F91 has all of the franchise's flaws and none of its strengths

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Arthur B at 12:26 on 2018-07-08
So first off, for those of you who have never heard of Gundam or who know the name but don't know the details, the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam is basically what happens when your producers want to make a super duper robot action show while your writers want to make a serious, gripping war drama.

Once upon a time the Picturehouse Cinema in Oxford did a sci-fi all-nighter. This was built around a special preview showing of 28 Days Later, which managed to be extra-scary when nobody in the cinema was expecting zombies, and included (among other things) a screening of Evangelion: Death and Rebirth - which was exactly as hilarious as you'd expect it to be when you're just plunged into it with no prior context.

The person introducing that discussed how they considered Evangelion to be pioneering because of the way it adopted this questioning approach to whether it's even moral to expect teenagers to pilot giant mecha, or whether that's nothing more than a SFnal update of the old kamikaze idea and unworthy of a nation and a world which has made such errors in the past.

The reason I tell this anecdote is that, after watching the movie condensation of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, I realised that this was bunk. Evangelion is fun because it's trippy bullshit; as far as the pacifism goes, Gundam did it decades earlier, and better.
https://arilou-skiff.livejournal.com/ at 16:50 on 2018-07-08
I haven't actually seen F91, but I *have* seen other Gundam stuff, and I can already tell that F91 seems to be not only very Gundam but very, very Tomino.

Now, I think, to be fair, the "Adults are corrupt" is a position that makes much more sense in Tomino's position: He was born in 1941. He grew up in the aftermath of a world seemingly destroyed by the senseless actions of adults, just like there was a reaction in Germany against the parental generation for the atrocities they committed and the refusal to take responsibility, there was something similar (though less comperehensive) happening in Japan at the time. (combine this with Cold War apathy and the general political culture in the 70's and you can easily see where Tomino is coming from) And it's not just him either, there are other stuff of the same generation that reads kind of similar, there being a real tension between the new generation, who grew up in peace and prosperity trying to figure out why the hell their parental generation seemingly went bananas, and then tried to convince them everything was normal.

"What did you do in the war?" has a very different tone when asking it to your german or japanese grandparent than your american one.

The "Run headfirst into things and seemingly not explain stuff" is actually another of Tomino's signature moves: He tends to show rather than tell (or tell you in oblique terms) like in Zeta trying to figure out what the heck is going on (especially without any previous guide sor having only watched the origianl series) is a huge challenge. Plenty his series don't even get basic stuff (like "Who the heck are the guys fighting?") until halfway into the show. I think the most interesting case of this is probably his last series: G-reco. Which very clearly and deliberately explains basically nothing. (I'm not sure it's a *good* show but it is an interesting one, and has some great bits of incidental animation)

So it's not just about pacifism, although that's a part of it, but it is also a rejection of the last generation enmeshing their children in the web of loyalties, conflicts, etc, that they were a part of. I honestly think the "War is bad" part isn't *that* central (as mentioned, it's a war show, and the kids do eventually fight) so much as it is the kids eventually engaging with the war on their terms, and not on that of the adults. (successfully or not)

But Tomino at his most Tomino is still probably Victory Gundam. That show manages to mix everything (an even more kid pilot than usual, a frantic, bizzarre setting with little explanation, lots of weird imagery (robots that are basically giant wheels! Space guillotines!) psychics! Weird gender politics! Character developments that are kind of hinted at but never explored! Etc. etc. It's in many ways bad, but I can't hate it because it's such a distillation of the Tomino-ness of Gundam. (and it has some pretty good visuals at times)
Raymond H at 10:15 on 2018-07-09
@Arthur
You went to Oxford? Somehow I can see that...

The person introducing that discussed how they considered Evangelion to be pioneering because of the way it adopted this questioning approach to whether it's even moral to expect teenagers to pilot giant mecha, or whether that's nothing more than a SFnal update of the old kamikaze idea and unworthy of a nation and a world which has made such errors in the past.

Yeeeah, I...Evangelion is about a lot of things, but I never thought it was about kamikaze ideas or anything like that. I always thought it was more an examination of depression and the human desire for control and happiness in the vast and uncaring void that is our universe. So, y'know, if Lovecraft did a mecha series. But yeah, when Gundam is great, it's AMAZING.


@arilou-skiff
That's an interesting way of looking at it. Not to sound like a reactionary old fart, but that attitude you described is probably one of the reasons the wave finally died. Sure, it's fine to say something is wrong, but again, what alternative do you propose? As you say, sometimes the Gundam protagonists find such alternatives, but other times they simply come across as immature and childish.

As for Victory Gundam, I honestly think that's the only UC thing I haven't seen yet (except for...you know...). Might I ask if you've seen After War X and if so, if it's any good?
https://arilou-skiff.livejournal.com/ at 09:47 on 2018-07-10
@Raymond H

I have indeed seen Gundam X. (the ones I haven't seen, and that's "started but never finished" is Iron Blooded Orphans, AGE, Turn A and Wing, and I started all of those at some point before dropping them for various reasons)

Gundam X is good. It's not the best of Gundam, and in some ways it feels a lot less gritty war drama and a lot more somewhat less ostentatious super robot show, there is a MacGuffin Princess whose relationship with the main character is actually pretty sweet. There's psychic space dolphins. The "early villains inevitably getting hit by character development" is pretty decent. Etc.

It's not my favourite Gundam (though I know some people who love it to bits) but it's pretty good.
Raymond H at 10:50 on 2018-07-10
Okay, thank you. I've been thinking of watching it for a while now for all the good things you just listed (except the dolphins, I didn't know about that), but never had the chance.

Oh god, Iron Blooded Orphans. I was there! I was there IN JAPAN for its premiere! And my host father, who was a teenager when the very first MSG came out, and who is the single biggest Gundam fan I've ever met, we were both glued to the television when it first premiered, and after it was over, we both just sort of exchanged awkward glances and went "Nnneh? Maybe...it'll get better in the next episode?" By Episode 3 we were cursing all the time we'd lost watching it. Also for his birthday I got Otou-san a DVD set of G-Reco, and he accepted it in that awkward way you do when you hate the gift but love the giver, and I was so surprised by this reaction that I went online to read the series' reviews, and then smacked myself upside the head for not having done that before the gift-buying. Ah, good times. :)
https://arilou-skiff.livejournal.com/ at 13:06 on 2018-07-13
The thing is, I've mostly heard good things about IBO, and that it does some decently interesting things with the "broken child soldiers" premise. I was mostly just turned off by the artstyle.

G-reco is a weird, weird show. But like most other Tomino stuff there is a lot of stuff to like there, the animation is really lively for instance, and there's lot of incidental stuff (one example is that in one scene the main character enters the room wearing a spacesuit and bumps his head on the doorframe while the other people are talking, it's not a joke really, or noted by the other characters, it's just something that goes on in the background, and there's a ton of stuff like that)

Raymond H at 06:53 on 2018-07-15
Yeah, they're broken child soldiers, but they're broken in the same sense a lot of superheroes from the 90's were, i.e. "Crawling in my skin, these wounds, they will not heal. Come, bask in the glow of my smoldering, generic rage." Like, they're only broken in the sense that women may swoon and men may secretly wish to be just as broken as them, and even if people die, war is shown as this manly thing, where manly men prove their manliness as they man up in the face of mantastic odds. But yes, the otaku-pandering moe art style is another deeply annoying factor.

Yeah, the main complaint I heard about the show was simply that too much happened at too fast a pace to really understand what was going on. Apart from that it looked interesting, albeit, as you said, very, very weird.
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