Mobile Fighter G Gundam's Great Legacy | An Anime Review
Explore the bold legacy of Mobile Fighter G Gundam, a transformative anime that introduces new timelines, epic battles, and iconic mecha designs!
June 28, 2023
By: Taro Long
Mobile Fighter G Gundam marked an important turning point in the history of the Gundam franchise. Created to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Gundam, G Gundam was the first Gundam series to take place in another timeline. It took the franchise towards a bold new direction, having a notable shift in tone, style, and influences. This decision was not without controversy, but the show’s legacy would also help pave the way for more future Gundam series and introduce a new generation of fans to Gundam.
A New Timeline - Continuum Shift
Previously all Gundam entries had taken place in the Universal Century (UC) timeline. Universal Century featured a more realistic and political tone, with its first entry, Gundam 0079, being notably influenced by the 1959 novel, Starshift Troopers. Subsequent Gundam entries, such as Zeta Gundam, Gundam ZZ, and Gundam 0089 would all take place in this timeline. G Gundam would finally diverge from this, taking place in the Future Century timeline.
G Gundam marked the series first foray into new timelines, paving the way for series like After War Gundam X, Gundam SEED, Gundam 00, Gundam Build Fighters, and the recent Mobile Suit Gundam : The Witch From Mercury. Without G Gundam, there wouldn’t be eleven Gundam timelines. This isn’t even counting video games, such as MS Saga : New Dawn.
A New Director - Yasuhiro Imagawa, A New Challenger
While the original mainline Gundam series that preceded G Gundam were directed by series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, G Gundam saw a new change of director. G Gundam’s director was Yasuhiro Imagawa, who did not have much previous directing experience, but was working on the legendary Giant Robo OVA.
The OVA was based on Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s manga series Giant Robo, but was an overall homage to all of his works as it featured characters from a wide range of his manga and anime. The OVA unfortunately did not end up selling well, but was praised for its character design, animation and soundtrack. I’m a huge fan of it myself and you could see Yasuhiro Imagawa being influenced by his love of international cinema, Hong Kong cinema, and martial arts films in this adaptation. This influence would carry over to the world of G Gundam.
Future Century - Ultimate Showdown
G Gundam’s Future Century timeline takes place in a world where space colonies host “Gundam Fight” competitions every four years in order to resolve political differences. Each Space Colony is based off of a country and sends its own representative to the tournament. These representatives compete with Gundam that represent their own country’s history, martial arts, and culture.
The story follows the story of Neo Japan’s representative, Domon Kasshu. A martial artist and Gundam pilot, Domon is competing in the tournament in order to find his brother Kyoji. His brother had stolen the experimental Devil Gundam from Neo Japan, causing their mother to die and their father to be arrested and frozen in a cryogenic state. During the journey he fights or teams up with representatives from other nations, travels across the globe and experiences a lot of different cultures, and runs into his martial arts teacher, Master Asia - The Undefeated of the East.
If this premise sounds familiar to you and evokes imagery of tournament manga like Baki the Grappler and Kengan Ashura, or video games like Street Fighter and Tekken, then you are not wrong. G Gundam is heavily influenced by the martial arts films that helped shape those respective series, like Bloodsport and Enter The Dragon, as well as a wide array of Chinese wuxia films. Master Asia’s title comes from the name of the protagonist of Swordsman II for example.
Imagawa’s influences also go beyond Hong Kong cinema. Some of his other influences include Alfred Hitchcock, Yilmaz Guney, the bands Genesis and Magma, Monty Python, mythology, and anime like Saint Seiya. G Gundam had showcased its creator’s love of cinema, three years before Metal Gear Solid and Cowboy Bebop did, and 28 years before Chainsaw Man did.
Story Format - Gundam: Global Match
As previously mentioned, G Gundam follows the story of Domon Kasshu. Despite this, G Gundam can be quite episodic in nature. Many episodes follow the format of Domon visiting a country or it’s space colony, interacting with that nation’s Gundam Fight representative, and then eventually fighting them.
For example, Episode 7, “Prepare to Fight! Desperate Fugitive!” has Domon meeting Chico Rodriguez, the representative of Neo-Mexico. In this episode Chico is on the run from local authorities with his dying sister in actual Mexico. If caught, Chico and his sister would have to return to Neo-Mexico,where his sister doesn’t want to be. Domon and Chico have a match where Domon proceeds to “kill” Chico, tricking the authorities into thinking that Chico is dead, causing them to call off the search. Sometimes Domon will help a country’s representative, sometimes he will fight them to the death, and sometimes they will become an ally and a more permanent member of the cast.
This type of format takes up a significant chunk of the show. I would compare it to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 3 : Stardust Crusaders, as both take place in a lot of different countries and showcase a huge variety of opponents for our protagonists to take on. You can tell the G Gundam staff were enthusiastic about portraying locations from a wide range of countries, as the staff location was scouted in a variety of places across the globe. It fit well into the framework of Gundam as well, because the previous Gundam series already featured a very international cast of characters and locations.
The Setting of G Gundam - World Warrior
The earth of G Gundam had been left in ruin after countless conflicts, leaving it in major disarray. Most people had moved or fled to the space colonies in search of a better life. This has left earth with much less in the way of resources, opportunity, and infrastructure. G Gundam simultaneously showcases how a country would both look like in ruin and despair, as well as how it would look like in futuristic campy dystopian over abundance. In this way it retains the international elements of the original Gundam series, which is a series that has taken place in places like New York, Belfast, Australia, South America, and more.
Great Character Designs - United By Fate
Despite how the story seems like it just follows the story of Domon Kasshu, G Gundam features a wide range of recurring characters. Master Asia is Domon’s mysterious martial arts master, his design harkening back to the old kung fu masters of Shaw Brothers Kung Fu films like Fist of the White Lotus. Domon also teams up with representatives of four other nations in order to reform the Shuffle Alliance, each member bearing a different card suit to match them. These four characters are Chibodee Crocket (USA), Georges de Sand (France), Tsai T'zu Hsi (China), and Argo Gursky (Russia).
Each of these characters are a bit stereotypical in their design and personality, with Georges de Sand being obsessed with being elegant and having good manners, while Argo Gursky being is a stoic and cold Russian man. Despite having some predictable elements, these characters do get more depth outside of “French guy” or “Russian guy” as the show dedicates a number of episodes to each of them, in a similar manner to what Jojo Part 3 did for each member of the Stardust Crusaders.
Domon also has two implied love interests in the form of Rein Mikamura’s cockpit manager and Allenby Beardsley, representative of Neo-Sweden. Rein is a more “standard” female lead. While she is a highly capable mechanic, pilot, and sharpshooter, she also has elements of “damsel in distress”, being captured later in the series. Allenby is more of a tomboy in comparison to Rein. She is a very skilled Gundam fighter and one of the few female Gundam fighters to make it to the tournament. I personally prefer Allenby, but they are both really cool characters. I also really respect the series for having Domon pick one of them eventually, subverting the open endedness many harem series go for when it comes to romance.
I think the characters are one of the show’s strongest points. They don’t have the deepest writing, but dedicating episodes to them allows watchers to relate to them. Having many of them represent a country allows for them to have unique and contrasting outfits and costumes. This is all complimented by Hiroshi Osaka’s great character design. No two characters look the same and they all have different eye shapes and hair styles.
Mecha Design - Full Metal Madness
A lot of media that feature mecha will often list their mecha designer, as mecha creation is its own art form. You need to make a machine that fits with the mechanics and laws of your world. In the case of G Gundam, Kunio Okawara and Hajime Katoki were the mecha designers. The first thing that makes the mecha of G Gundam unique is the cockpit system. G Gundam’s “Mobile Trace System” forgoes the buttons and levers of traditional cockpits in favor of a gesture recognition and kinetic feedback. So if a pilot performs a kick, their own Gundam will do a kick as well. This system emphasizes the pilot’s martial arts skill as opposed to their firearms and ammunition, contrasting greatly to Gundam series.
Of course now we get to the elephant in the room and what G Gundam is most remembered for. It's ridiculous Gundam designs.
While you could tell that the staff was really passionate about showcasing different cultures, a lot of the Gundam representing these various countries are quite stereotypical, in a Street Fighter or Mike Tyson’s Punchout! type of way. For example, the previously mentioned Mexican representative Chico Rodriguez pilots the “Tequila Gundam”, which features a mustache, sombrero, and cactus forearms. Norway’s Gundam is the “Viking Gundam” which features a viking boat and helmet, and India’s Gundam is the “Cobra Gundam” which is cobra shaped and has a kurta.
While G Gundam has many emotional moments, it is ultimately the mecha design that informs what the show is trying to do. It knows its campy, like many of the martial arts films its inspired by, resulting in the appearance of Gundam that are this ridiculous. I wouldn’t say these designs were made in a mean-spirited way, but more in a lack of knowledge type of way, sort of like how “American” restaurants outside of the USA tend to be Texas themed, as if that is all there is to the USA. If G Gundam had been made today instead, cultures probably would have been portrayed with more accuracy and nuance. Ultimately the mecha design lets you know that if you intend to watch G Gundam, prepare for camp.
Legacy: Maximum Impact
Upon hearing about G Gundam’s divergence of having the Gundam be stereotypical fighting robots instead of machines of war, you would probably conclude that this decision was not well received by Gundam fans. And you would be correct. The series divergence brought with it many critics, with some staff members even voicing concerns to Imagawa. But ultimately G Gundam proved to be a smash hit, earning itself high ratings and high viewership. G Gundam had showed that it could be a potential success outside of Japan and that Gundam could deviate further from its original roots and Universal Century timeline.
This would lead to the debut of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing in 1995, which takes place in the “After Colony” timeline. Gundam Wing would later premiere on Cartoon Network in the states in 2000, marking the Gundam’s first real massive foray into the US market. They most likely went with Gundam Wing instead of G Gundam due to Gundam Wing having a more similar tone to traditional Gundam series. But G Gundam would later follow suit in 2002, having a popular broadcasting debut.
As a kid I remember loving both Gundam Wing and G Gundam. Gundam Wing had cool designs like Heavyarms and cool characters like Duo Maxwell. While G Gundam had a wide array of designs that evoked the martial arts films and fighting games I grew up with. Me and my little brother would pretend fight in a make believe ring all the time and we would pretend to be Gundams fighting each other. G Gundam’s beautiful brass and international soundtrack would also be burned into my memory, as it was one of the anime broadcasting at the time that did not replace its unique soundtrack.
Animage listed it in 2001 in their list of “most impactful and important” ever and the designs from G Gundam designs and characters still appear in crossover games like SD Gundam and Super Robot Wars to this day, as well as being referenced in various media, like Pacific Rim, Mao Mao, Fate Grand Order, and Pokemon.
Final Review: 7/10
G Gundam is an important part of Gundam, mecha, and anime history. Viewing brings you back to a time where a studio decided to experiment and deviate. Complimenting this time capsule is a wide range of memorable characters and mecha designs, accompanied by amazing set pieces and music influenced by a wide breadth of international media. Although G Gundam is flawed with many characters that could be considered flat and one dimensional, overall G Gundam is an entertaining watch and by the time you finish the final episode, you will see why it has a long lasting impact.