My but this seems to have been a theraputic thread.
But since Destiny_Gundam has asked us old-timers why we think living the sign of Zeta is the best thing... Well, I can say why, anyway. I suppose as a fan, Zeta Gundam
was the first complete Gundam series I ever watched beginning to end. (I had already seen the Gundam movie trilogy, but they were obviously a highlight reel.) It took some doing, too, in the early days of fandom. And by "early" kids, your Uncle Zeo means "before fansubs". As a fan of all things with giant robot, mecha suits, and such stuff, I knew that the second series was high in the ranks of "must see anime", but getting the headliner TV shows in the Midwest took some doing. I finally got to watch the whole thing end to end in '91 when our anime club traded another anime club a box of tapes for stuff copied off LD. Good times...
It was awesome, since before then I had only about the first half of the series in 3rd/3rd-and-a-half TV copies. (When you watch an episode where Camille, Fa, and Emma all have the same hair color, you become aware of the need to upgrade.) Then I & some like-minded friends burned through the entire series in one long summer week, with the episode synopses courtesy of a certain Mark Simmons as a guideline. At the end of several days I was emotionally traumatized, stunned, and in Gundam love forever. So yeah, I liked it.
Now as to why
it had such a positive effect on me, is a little difficult to express just in text here. Some things require the full live experience to convey the whole meaning. But rather than summon Destiny-kun to La Casa Zeonista for an episode-by-episode testimony to the awesomeness, I will follow the example of Inigo Montoya and "sum up".
1. Excellent Sequel
Zeta was a great sequel, It expanded its original universe, allowed for its story to build on previous events, introduced new characters while giving the originals their due, and served up tons of mecha upgrade. Plus, Sunrise was positive enough to give Tomino the budget he always deserved, so it looked consistently first-rate in a way the corner-cutting original series never could match. (That btw is why Double Zeta suffered in the eyes of many fans; it was an inferior sequel to begin with, and spent its run trying to catch up.)
2. Gundam heroes can grow up
Camille Vidan actually turned into a real Gundam hero before my eyes. And by real I mean someone who was ready to give a darn about what he was fighting for, not just because his little butt was in the pilot's seat. For all those of you who ever wanted the emo, perpetually uncertain bishie hero du jour
to get over his bum hand in life and get on with it, Camille is your guy to cheer for. He starts out as a (justifiably) rebel-without-a-cause jerk with a quick mouth and a quicker punch. He joins AEUG, gets the adult-level treatment he thought he wanted, gets punished for being a punk when he should be a man, wises up, and accepts his role as a key member of the Argama
team. Sure, he still wears his heart on his sleeve, but he's sixteen, not a world-weary thirty-nine like Uncle Zeo.
He wants AEUG to live up to its ideals and goals, and he rightfully calls BS when his leaders play political games before going for victory first. He falls in love, gets his heart broken, then moves on knowing that crying in his room won't solve anything; it' s not all about him. Compare the Camille of episodes 1 & 37 and marvel. Then, alas, he has to face down his nemesis, a self-serving bastard who is his polar opposite in every way. Which leads to...
3. No Guarantees
Few people like this aspect of the show, and its subsequent effect on Gundam stories and other ainime. But, Kill-'Em-All Tomino actually got my respect for his lack of compassion in Zeta Gundam
. Standing up to a bunch of reactionary thugs who have a literal license to kill is a daunting task, not for the faint of heart. Victory has a cost, and its cost is frequently in the lives of people the heroes-and the audience-have come to like. AEUG feels there are lines they will not cross when it comes to fighting, lest they become like the Zeons or Titans themselves. The Titans of course have no such moral boundaries, and so the bodies pile up on both sides. Tomino doesn't play favorites, but he knows that in both fact and fiction, the greater the risk, the greater the reward...if it succeeds.
Also, Tomino's notorious lack of plot armor for his cast works here; actions have consequences, and characters who behave in a thoughtless manner or don't pay attention to events pay the price for their lack of vision. Or maybe they just meet up with the Enemy Ace on the wrong day, sucks to be them, ne? No one
in Zeta Gundam
is too cute, too cool, too popular, or too smooth to escape The Reaper (or at least a free trip to med bay) if they screw up, and backup is not at hand. After watching the past decade or so of anime frequently grasp at straws to avoid dropping the hammer on a character who had definitely pushed their luck, I can look back at Zeta and its grim-minded UC brethren, and acknowledge that it's sometimes better to go for blood and give the Gundam hero a painful lesson in the sad truths of this sinful world. It also makes for an attentive audience; knowing that even Camille wasn't immune from potential harm kept me glued to the screen!
4. Bieng a Hero of the Uprising is hard work!
This is a plain and simple truth that Tomino uses to advantage in the story. AEUG is in the right, but merely staking out the moral high ground isn't enough. They have agreed not to play by the conventions of Gihren Zabi or Jamitov Hyma, and more power to them, but it means they have to say "no" even as the other side says "oh yes". And well, acting on their own means they have to construct a high-tech fighting force, man it, equip it, and send it in to the field as best they can. "Amateurs study tactics, but professionals study logistics", and the story proves the old saw in spades. AEUG can gain local victories, but the Titans have all the advantages in a lengthy contest, and then the arrival of Axis makes the lack of a decisive victory painfully evident. Camille resents the heck out of watching Quattro play footsie with Haman, but AEUG has no choice. Tomino makes his heroic leaders make the tough calls, and they end up getting thumped for selling out, anyway. Because Paptimus Scirocco isn't going to let them get a breather if he can help it...
5. Bring on the Bad Guys
One of the reasons AEUG really does get into their hard-luck situation is the quality of the opposition. Zeta Gundam
has an opposing lineup that still outranks the other shows for power and the bloody-minded will to use it. Jerid's callous attitude towards Camille in the early episodes is fair warning to him-and the audience- about the operational standards of the bad guys. "Sorry about wasting your mom, kid, nothing personal right" Wrong, it's personal, all personal. Bask Om, Paptimus Scirocco, Yazan Gable, and good ol' back-for-more Jerid Mesa really grind AEUG down. Blackmail, extortion through threatened or actual use of WMD, clever schemes, or just plain no-holds-barred mecha combat take Camille and friends to the mat time after time. And then Paptimus cheerfully backstabs the Ttans leadership, screws up all the chances to avoid disaster, and declares himself King of the World for the finale, from inside his solid gold brick
of a personal MS. What does the O in "The O" stand for? "O
h my God that thing is tough!!"
And he even screws up Camille's expected Big Win too, what a completely glorious effing bastard of a villain! The Man from Jupiter is still my measuring stick for villainous perfidy in anime; he is rarely equaled, and even more rarely outdone.
"I am fire. I am death. I am Hashmal."
"Discontent is the first step in the progress for a man or a nation." - Oscar Wilde