“Hahaha… die? How could I die, when I, the great Mashymre Cello, has yet to begin fighting!”
Mashymre Cello, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ episode 47
And with the end of my last school term, I’m back! And I promise to spank Bushcown real hard.
Gundam ZZ has been on my mind a long time ever since I finished the original Gundam Zeta over a year ago; I didn’t get around to watching it until recently, however. After watching it, I can finally understand why, in a rare case, fan opinion in ZZ is split into two: total genius and utter bullsh!t.
Gundam ZZ (Double Zeta for the uninformed) is the sequel to Gundam Zeta, set to begin shortly after the disastrous Gryps Conflict that saw the end of the Titans, the near-destruction of the AEUG, and the rise of the first Neo Zeon. Escaping from Haman Karn Zeon forces, the story would begin with Captain Bright Noah and the surviving crew of the Argama and their somewhat interesting interaction with a group of junk collectors, of which Gundam ZZ’s main character, Judau Ashta is a part of, from the colony of Shangri-La. Bright has opted to take shelter at for a while to clean up the battle damage and treat Kamille Bidan, after being left in a comatose state following his defeat of Scirocco.
The pace of Gundam ZZ can be said to be slow; it takes close to a dozen episodes just for the Argama and Juda ‘n Co. to come to terms with each other, with Bright not interested in anything but evading pursuing Zeon forces, who have come knocking at Shangri-La as part of Hamarn’s plan to unify the colonies, and Judau ‘n Co., who are not interested in anything but stealing and selling the Argama’s complement of MSes for some quick cash; in Judau’s case, he wants to send his sister, Leina Ashta, to a good school with that money.
The story finally picks up the pace when Bright convinces Judau and his friends to work for the Argama, and the AEUG’s remaining ship busts out of the Zeon blockade and escapes into space. It is from this point on that you’ll really start to notice the story being radically different from Gundam Zeta as Judau, Bright and Co. spend another dozen episodes flying to random colonies, the lunar city of Granada, and later even to Axis, home of Neo Zeon, as Judau attempts to retrieve his kidnapped sister (well, he fails anyway, but he gets Puru later on).
Despite the seemingly slow pacing of the story, Gundam ZZ manages to make itself represent a telling of an organization’s military campaign even more at this point. Once on Earth, Judau’s forces and the Argama engage in several battles with one-shot characters by using the ole’ “Monster of the Week” formula; instead of detracting the value of the show, it actually enhances the effect. Many Gundam series are usually too focused on the major battles and interactions of the characters, and in the end fail to mention that they are merely one gear in a larger war. Judau ‘n Co.’s journey through the scorching desert of Earth is only one squad’s journey, but it amazingly feels realistic in that sense by documenting each of their battles, eventually culminating in them meeting the Argama again.
Judau’s reason for fighting was initially for money, then to rescue his sister. When Leina (seemingly) bites the dust thanks the to Tomino’s usual style of screwing with the audience, Judau gains a new reason to fight. The story would take a much more serious tone in both telling and animation style, soon introducing Hamarn’s colony drop, the Federation’s plan to bow to Haman’s demands, and the revelation of Puru Two and a new faction within Neo Zeon, headed by one Glemy Toto, a soldier whose rise to fame and power are documented in the show alongside Judau’s adventures. When it begins to wrap up, even side characters from the first dozen episodes on all three sides of the war manage to make an appearance (even if it’s just so that Tomino has people to kill of without touching the Argama crew). Worth mentioning are several characters from the loyalist Neo Zeon who, after being total asshats to Judau and then disappeared for a larger part of the show, reappeared and got their moment of redemption, including Haman Karn.
Gundam Zz’s story has always been regarded as a gamble between “steaming pile of #^@$” and “yet another Tomino-era genius work”. I guess, after watching the entire series, that this is due to the up-down tone of storytelling in Gundam ZZ; most of the episodes early on have many moments that are played for laughs, even seemingly serious ones, and you get the feeling that despite still being at open war with each other, Judau’s early attempts to defend himself and the Argama are filled with impossible moments (the one-thousand punches per second move remains impossible to perform with any other MS and pilot, even up till Turn A, LOL) and you get the feeling that no one’s really trying to kill each other. This trend continues, albeit with decreasing frequency, as the series progresses on, and completely ends when the colony drop takes place. Even Judau’s seemingly unhinged attitude at the fact that his sister is dead doesn’t garner much more from his close friends(who don’t know that she’s actually ALIVE) than a “oh god he’s lost it” reaction, when there could be a bit more ribbing and laffs from it. And of course, at the end of any U.C. Tomino series, there has to be at least one person dying in intervals (in ZZ’s case, from one per episode from 46 onwards to fourteen, if you count manufactured clones). The way in which some of the ZZ death scenes are executed, however, you have to wonder if Tomino just really, really, hates women(granted, the Geymalk had an epic end, but as for the rest…)
Well, it is still part of the franchise; I take the release of the recent ZZ Gundam 1/144 kit that even if Tomino wants to, Bandai has no intention to disown the ZZ series yet. Watch it as a follow up to the original Zeta Gundam or if you want some happy Gundam for once (Victory GTFO), but if you plan on trying to link it to either Zeta: A New Translation or Char’s Counterattack (one is a retcon, the other is a standalone sequel to Amuro’s storyline), then I’ll advise you don’t. ZZ is well enough on it’s own, but it doesn’t fit that well with any of the others.