Monday, October 2, 2023

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Gundams (Part 1)

"It's a Gundam!"

As I continue dig back into my blog per the suggestion from my therapist, I find myself leaning towards a post I can been wanting to write for a number of years, and even started at some point, but never got around to posting; a Top Ten list of my favorite Gundams. [Note: Part 2 is Here]

For those of you who may not be aware, Gundam is a metaseries of anime, manga, novels, video games, and tons and tons of plastic model kits that have been a mainstay in Japan since 1979. It’s best to think of it as their answer to Star Trek, a space opera franchise with a variety of different shows, spin-offs, and sequels. While each show has some differences, the basic premise usually centers around giant robots as tools of war (as opposed to superheroes, as they were portrayed in Japan before Gundam), some sort of conflict between the people of Earth and the humans living in space, a specialized giant robot (usually called a “Gundam”) that is significantly more powerful than the standard units, and that war is hell and the realities of it are not heroic but ultimately tragic.

Also it’s a giant commercial to move plastic model kits based on all the robots in the various media. GOTTA SELL THEM TOYS!!!

(Some of) My Gunpla pile of shame

I am a fan of giant robots and Gundam in particular always resonated with me since I was a kid. Like any Gundam fan I have my favorite units across the franchise. When making this list I focused on three aspects:

1)     Functionality: What does the Gundam do, do well, and do better than all other Mobile Suits?

2)     Aesthetics: How interesting or visually appealing is the Gundam?

3)     Cool Factor: A combination of intangibles, personal biases, and the Rule of Cool.

A few guidelines before we start: 

·        To streamline the list, we’re only looking at Gundams, not other mobile suits from various shows. Otherwise machines like the Tallgeese, Qubeley, and The O would dominate the list.

·        I have decided that the Gundams from the Gundam Build side of the franchise will be considered, even though technically they are basically in-universe toys and video games rather than giant robots. For the purposes of this list, they’re close enough.

·        I will NOT be counting anything form the various SD Gundam franchise, as from what I understand those things are proper characters instead of pilotable robots.

Honorable Mention: Barbatos Lupus/Barbatos Lupus Rex. I struggled over this for months (yes, that’s how long I’ve been tinkering with this list). I think the issue is that these two versions of the main Gundam from Iron-Blooded Orphans are just different enough that I feel they don’t count as one suit, but neither one is able to make the list in its own. If I could get a version of this with the look of Lupus and the weaponry and performance of Lupus Rex it would have beaten out #10 or more.

Full list after the jump.

#10 – Gundam Aerial/Gundam Aerial Rebuild

The New Hotness

Primary Pilot: Suletta Mercury

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam – The Witch from Mercury

This is slightly awkward seeing what made honorable mention, but in this case I felt the differences between Aerial and Areial Rebuild weren’t big enough to count them as two separate units for the purposes of this list. There is certainly some recency bias here but Aerial is one of the prettiest and sleekest Gundam designs ever produced, greatly benefiting by both the modern animation techniques used and a better realization of technology in the real world, as this suit takes a lot of aspects of earlier suits in the franchise and realizes them in a much more palatable way. Armed with standard equipment (beam rifle, beam swords), Aerial’s primary weapon is the Escutcheon, essentially a platform of swarm like drones (similar to Bits and Funnels from other series) that have a variety of uses, from building a shield, to making a cannon, to just being pesky drone boys that fly around causing problems; all of which is directly linked dot the pilot’s mind. 

Aerial also uses the GUND Format system which allows a lot of crazy effects, but the problem is that it will hurt, cripple, and eventually kill a pilot trying to use it at a high level...unless your name is Suletta Mercury and you’re piloting this specific suit, in which case you can pretty much use the unit to its full potential with no risk of harm. Meaning that as long as Arial is cooperating, Suletta is fully capable of battling any other Gundam in the franchise. With its insanely cool weapon versatility and absurd power level, it’s not hard to see why Aerial makes the list.

#9 - A- Z Gundam

Brought to you by Amazon
(Not a joke)

Primary “Pilot”: Tatsuya Yuuki

Series: Gundam Build Fighters – Battlogue

Okay. Look. Listen. Sometimes you just have to embrace the commercialized nightmare of these types of franchises (See Also: Transformers). So is the case with the full named " A-Z Gundam". This is a exclusive model kit that made an appearance in a web short spin-off of Gundam Build Fighters for the sole purpose of tricking you into buying the toy. But. BUT. Goddamn do I love this design.

 It is a modified version of the Zeta Gundam with firepower and maneuverability turned up to ludicrous, probably unreasonable degrees. To me it also looks like a leaner meaner version of the Zeta, a machine I’ve never been that fond of, and has a sky blue paint job that feel very calming. This is also my number one most wanted Gunpla and has alluded me for many years at this point. Got it! The only issue with this guy is that he barely appears in fiction, only in one short, but that brief appearance made a big impact on me. If this was the main machine of a series I suspect A-Z would be in my top three.

#8 - Gundam Heavyarms


Primary Pilot: Trowa Barton

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

And now for something a little more on the beaten path. Being in my late thirties (at time of writing) it may not surprise you to hear that Mobile Suit Gundam Wing was my first Gundam series, so while it is not my favorite entry of the franchise, I still feel a lot of loyalty to the brand (as you’ll see). Heavyarms stands out for me due to the simplicity of it’s concept: let’s put all the guns into one robot. This guy has so many projectile weapons he would make War Machine blush. Bullet hell? Check. Missile launchers? Check. It even has a little knife to cut up fools when it runs out of bullets.

Which brings me to the only real downside Heavyarms; it runs out of ammo ludicrously quickly. Anytime it showed up in the show it usually ran out of bullets before it does anything too cool compared to he likes of the Deathscythe or the Wing Gundam/Wing Zero. If you’re piloting this thing and you run out of ammo when there’s still a lot of dudes left on the battlefield then you’re pretty much dead. But if you want to make sure every single sucker in front of you blows up and you think you can do it in five minutes, it’s Hevayarms all the way.

#7 - Tequila Gundam Daniel Custom

"This cylindrical space colony ain't big enough for the both of us!"
Primary “Pilot”: Daniel (…just “Daniel”, I guess?)

Series: Gundam Build Divers

G Gundam is infamous for the number of Gundams it features that are probably racist. Like, I know some people argue that it’s not but…I mean, they have a “Gundams of the World” gimmick and most of them are designed to be crazy stereotypes. One of the more notable examples is the Tequila Gundam, the Gundam from Neo Mexico that has a goddamn sombrero on it and everyone in the production agreed that this was okay. The ridiculousness of this machine is such that I tend to think of G Gundam as nothing more than an unfunny joke.

"This is fine," said the Japanese people circa 1994

Then, decades later, this beautiful boy came into my life.

The very easy to say and not at call cumbersome “Tequila Gundam Daniel Custom” rights all the wrongs of its predecessor by removing most of the obviously stereotypic aspects and replacing them with homages to a couple of classic western movies, changing it from being unintentionally funny (but not funny “HaHa”) to legitimately hilarious. The Daniel Custom has a Stetson and a bandana, two revolvers that are actually beam sabers, a banjo (because it’s a singing cowboy, you understand) that is also a beam rifle, and it DRAGS AROUND A FUCKING COFFIN THAT IS ACTUALLY A MISSLE LAUNCHER WHAT THE FUCK THAT’S AWESOME!!!

The only reason that this robot cowboy of my dreams isn’t #1 on this list is because, in defiance of God and all that is good, the Daniel Custom only shows up once in the whole show and I can’t in good conscious rank a Gundam with so little screen time higher than this. Know this, Bandai; if you release a Tequila Gundam Daniel Custom plastic model kit I will do many questionably moral and legal acts to get my hands on it and I will feel no remorse for doing them. Like, so many acts.

#6- Gundam

I feel like this chap could use a pith helmet

Primary Pilot: Loran Cehack

Series: Gundam

I think the thing on its head is a mustache and not just any mustache, but greatest moustache of all time. That alone would put the Turn A Gundam on this list but let’s talk a little more about it.

The Gundam/Turn A Gundam, or the “White Doll,” is possibly the most technologically advanced Gundam conceived the entire metaseries as not only is it powered by an artificial black hole (!) but it utilizes nanotechnology in a variety of ways both offensively and defensively. Ignoring that fancier stuff for a minute, at its core it’s like a souped-up version of the RX-78-2 Gundam from the original 1979 series. That would make sense as this show was made in honor of the 20th Anniversary of Gundam, and the creators likely wanted to make something that was both new and familiar. In end result is that the White Doll has a lot of the same weaponry that the normal Gundam had but significantly more powerful or versatile. It had dual beam sabers, a beam riffle, and a spiked ball and chain, plus a lot of customization possibilities for other weapon layouts in its chest and abdomen.

But, going back to the fancier stuff, the real notable feature of the Turn A is the Moonlight Butterfly. Basically, the White Doll can release its nanotech in a way that turns matter into dust and has a range that stretches out through half the solar system. The Gundam can pretty much destroy the Earth if the piloted was so inclined. When your giant robot has a extinction level doomsday device as part of its system you have officially entered the chat in God Mode.

Welp, I hope you like living in the stone age

To tell you the truth, the primary reason I love this guy is because of how much I enjoyed playing it in the Dynasty Warriors Gundam series. That’s not the best way to discover a new Gundam show, but it’s how I did it and I fell in love with the White Doll hard. HOWEVER the reason it’s so low on the list is because, to my great shame, I have not been able to actually watch all that much of the Turn A Gundam show, despite many years of trying. Because of that, it felt dishonest to up tit any higher than #6.  Maybe one day I will finally have a combination of disposal income and time (but probably not; I have a toddler now) and be able to buy and watch the damn show. Maybe then it will claim its rightful spot. For now, this is the best I can do with a clear conscience. 

This has gotten long, so let’s stop here for today. Next time we’ll look at the top five.

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