REVIEW: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam – Eps 1-5 (1985)

A TV show in the Gundam franchise by Sunrise

One of the first times I blew a ton of money on a specialty DVD set, was an over-priced release of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam that contained the entire show (47 episodes) and a box of random pencil sharpeners in the shape of all of the prominent mobile suits in the show. I honestly don’t recall how much it was, but it was somewhere around $200 USD which felt like a LOT more in 2004 money. Aside from watching the compilation films, it has almost been eighteen years since I’ve popped any of the disks into my DVD player, so some of my memories have become a bit hazy. Continuing my venture into watching a bunch of Gundam continues as I have decided to do a re-watch!

Taking place in Universal Century 0087, eight years after the original Gundam, we find the Earth has undergone some immense changes. The Earth Federation has enlisted a former private mercenary group, The Titans, as a way to seek out Zeon sympathizers and “bring them to justice”. Unfortunately, the Titans are more of a fascist military junta than any sort of group actually working within the Earth Federation, and actively are doing everything in their power to silence ANY dissention, even spilling innocent blood that dare try to hold them accountable for their actions. Many people are scared, seeing the same sort of atrocities being created by people that should be “the good guys” and a general distrust for the Federation government has sprung up. Many are flocking to groups that vow to fight the fascism firsthand, including the Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG).

Episodes:

  • Episode 1 – The Black Gundam – AEUG member Quattro Bajeena infiltrates the colony where civilian Kamille Bidan lives, searching for the Earth Federation’s new Gundam. Kamille gets into trouble with Jerid Messa of the Titans while on his way to take a look at Bright Noa’s current ship.
  • Episode 2 – Departure – The Titans believe that Quattro is the Red Comet. Kamille steals one of the three new Gundams and escapes with him. Bright challenges Bask Om about running military tests in civilian colonies but the Titan Kacricon Cacooler doesn’t have respect for Bright.
  • Episode 3 – Inside The Capsule – Commander Jamaicon kidnaps Kamille’s parents to use as hostages for an exchange with the stolen Gundams. Titan Emma Sheen delivers a ransom letter to the AEUG ship while Jerid is given a mission to shoot a capsule containing a bomb if any rescue attempt is made.
  • Episode 4 – Emma’s Decision – Jerid and Kamille fight in their Mobile Suits while Emma attempts to stop the battle. Bask tasks Emma with stealing the AEUG’s new mobile suits, but she frees Kamille’s father and takes the Gundams back to the AEUG instead.
  • Episode 5 – Father and Son – Bask returns to the commandeered colony and turns over the Titan’s operation to Jamaican. Kamille’s father steals the AEUG’s Mobile Suit in an attempt to give it to the Titans. Quattro chases after him while AEUG Commander Henken uses the Argama to help in the battle. Henken believes that Quattro is Char Aznable.

“The story of Zeta Gundam is told through the viewpoint of Kamille Bidan, a civilian teenager and amateur mobile suit pilot whose parents are engineers working for the Earth Federation and the Titans. While traveling to the Green Noa colony to meet his parents, Kamille is insulted by and strikes a Titans officer named Jerid Messa. Following an AEUG attack led by Quattro Bajeena on the colony to capture a trio of Gundam Mk-II mobile suits undergoing field tests, Kamille takes the opportunity to steal Messa’s Mk-II to repel the attack and follows Quattro back to the AEUG mothership Argama. The Titans, under the order of Bask Om, take Kamille’s parents in an attempt to force the return of the stolen Gundam Mk-II’s. Jerid, unaware of the hostage plot, mistakenly kills Kamille’s mother. Because of this, and many other reasons, Kamille eventually joins the AEUG.”

The Titans are an incredibly despicable group in Gundam lore. They appear to be hot-shot small town bully types that get their kicks lording power over everyone else. We see them resort to extortion, coercion, and even kidnaping to get their way in a number of situations, something that as Bright Noa put’s it, “is fueling AEUG recruitment in itself.” One of the biggest flaws of the Earth Federation since 0079 and on is that they REALLY like their top secret, compartmentalized, wholly separate-from-each-other, usually becoming the villains, military operations. We’ve seen this in everything from Zeta, Thunderbolt, 8th MS Team, Unicorn, and likely more that I’m forgetting. In the same way that the United States scooped up many Nazi scientists and equipment after WWII, it appears The “Feddies” have done a similar thing with The Titans.

If I had one problem with Zeta Gundam, at least at the beginning, it’s that many of the characters enlisted in the ranks of The Titans are less than compelling. It seems that they are far too overtly “THE BAD GUYS” and “mustache twirl” so much that I’m amazed it took an interruption of a conference in Dakar to show people how bad they were. If there’s one thing I prefer in Gundam, it’s when both sides have understandable motivations, and while Tomino may have intended for The Zeons to be like this in 1979, he may have accidentally given them far more depth than intended. With a government as rotten to the core as The Earth Federation, it’s hard to sit there and say “we’re the good guys!” especially when things like mass killings are happening to quell political descent.

Kamille Bidan is a interesting main character in this show. Initially he is much more volatile than Amuro Ray from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Amuro has his moments of whininess for sure, I mean he even defects to the desert for a while while having a tantrum, but Kamille risks being a pure ball of emotions before he finally straightens up. Then again, he also had his own mother executed right in front of him, as she was ordered to be placed in a capsule and killed as punishment for Kamille’s defection to AEUG, I’m sure that would mess somebody up pretty bad. Kamille never veers into insufferable territory like Gundam SEED Destiny’s Shinn Asuka, so it is genuinely great to see him grow throughout the show.

On the flipside, Jerid Messa is somewhere in my top ten of characters I hope succumb to a violent sticky death at some point in the show. His stupid actions of bullying a kid, while wearing a military uniform, for “having a girl’s name” is literally the cause for the entire show basically. Had Jerid just been an adult for a second, all of the crazy misfortunes at the hands of Kamille would not have happened. Just think – A misplaced insult to a teenager literally crippled the Titan’s war effort. All because Jerid was a moron.

In my opinion, pretty much any character is better than Jerid (at least at the beginning). Jerid thinks of himself as the good guy throughout the show, and is completely tone-deaf to all of his stupid actions. All the bad things that happen are someone else’s fault, and he is never to blame. He has the quintessential standard bully mindset. I think the point where he is pretty much irredeemable, in my eyes, is when he kills Kamille’s mother by accident, only to mock him for it. at that point my heart burned with a hatred unmatched. It’s been too long for me to remember if he actually grows a lot as a character, but I do recall his dying words blaming Kamille for all his misfortunes, so screw that guy. Stay tuned to see if I change my mind.

It’s easy to see why Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is so well regarded amongst fans of the franchise. It’s brutal, politically charged, and far more mature than the 5-8 year old demographic that Yoshiyuki Tomino was allegedly going for. It takes what was interesting about the original show and really runs with the concepts of the horrors of warfare, xenophobia, and even environmentalism that were a mere hint in the previous show. Watching this again has brought back waves of nostalgia, and I can’t wait to keep going. Perhaps when I’m done, I will get around to picking up the Zeta Gundam films that were made a while back, thus retiring a shoddy bootleg that I made for myself using my brand new DVD-R burner at the height of 2005 technology. Keep an eye out for more episode reviews/recaps.

2 comments

  1. Great review. I remember hating Jerid when I first watched Zeta Gundam but upon rewatching a few years ago I realized Tomino intended him to be the foil or perhaps mirror to Kamille. While we see Kamille mature greatly both as a person and in skill we always see Jerid chasing his coattails, even his Newtype awakening is delayed considerably. Perhaps Tomino was intending to show that Jerid who had chosen a darker path and for the most seemed incapable of introspection or shame for 90% of the show really stunted his growth and it’s why he could never surpass Kamille.

    Could also be over thinking it too haha. Zeta Gundam is a favorite of mine, looking forward to more reviews!

    Like

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