Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Beta's Top Ten Favorite Gundams (Part 2)

It took them 43 years to have a female protagonist in the main series

And we’re back. This is Part II of my Top Ten Favorite Gundam list. Before you take a look at today’s blog I highly suggest that you look at the previous entry. If you’re too lazy for that, here’s some important text:

For the purposes of this list, the primary factors taken into consideration when judging Gundam were 1) Functionality, 2) Aesthetics, and 3) Cool Factor. Only Gundams were considered for this list, but not the SD Gundam part of the franchise. The Gundams from the Gundam Build series will be counted even though they are technically plastic models rather than actual giant robots. 

List so Far:

 #10: Gundam Aerial/Gundam Aerial Rebuild

#9: A-Z Gundam

#8: Gundam Heavyarms

#7 Tequila Gundam Daniel Custom

#6: Gundam

 Okay, we caught up? 

Honorable Mention #2: RX-78-2 Gundam. No Top Ten Gundam list would be complete without the original Gundam. Except this list. It’s not on this list. Look, I appreciate this thing as a classic, but frankly it’s the blueprint that is the basis of all other Gundam, almost all of which could be described as “Gundam + ___ = Cool.” It just feels like even by Zeta Gundam it felt like we had moved on. Sorry if this bugs you.

Part II after the jump.

[WARNING: This page contains unavoidable spoilers for various Gundam anime, in particular Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, so read at your own risk.]

#5 - ν Gundam

I bet you can get great TV reception on that thing!

Primary Pilot: Amuro Ray

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam - Char’s Counteract

 ν Gundam, or the “Nu Gundam” as it’s often written, is the final mobile suit piloted by original series protagonist Amuro Ray. Unsurprisingly, it acts like a more powerful version of the original Gundam. It has the standard weapons you’d expect (beam swords, rifles, etc.) but what set the Nu Gundam apart from its fellows are two specific features.

It’s equipped with Fin Funnels and, when stationed on the Nu Gundam’s back it gives the suit its iconic asymmetrical silhouette. Aside from looking neat they are also one of the most effective weapons in the franchise as they can detach and engage enemies like a swarm of beam firing drones (think a less advanced version of Gundam Aerial). Plus they can also surround the Nu Gundam and generate a beam shield making the offensive and defensive capabilities one of the metaseries best.

It’s also equipped with Psycho-Frame technology. Basically, if the pilot is a Newtype (short version: people with Jedi powers that emerge due to living in space or something) they will be able to utilize the Gundam to its full potential, even being able to move it as if it were their body. It apparently also had an unexpected ability of drastically increasing Amuro’s Newtype powers to excessive degrees.

I like Amuro more than Char
Amuro never made-out with a teenager or try to destroy the Earth

Bottom line is, I like the way the Nu Gundam looks; I LOVE Gundams that are asymmetrical. On top of that it’s also one of the most effective Gundam’s you’ll ever find…so long as your name is Amuro Ray, of course. This might have been higher if it was featured in more than just one movie.

#4 - Wing Gundam Fenice

Wing Gundam, but Italian

Primary “Pilot”: Ricardo Fellini

Series: Gundam Build Fighters

Yet another entry that is technically a toy model and not an actual Gundam, the Wing Gundam Fencie hit many of my soft spots for giant robot designs. First of all it’s asymmetrical, as its wings have been pushed to its side, one of the horns on the crown is missing, and it has a glowing red eye. Regardless of balance issues, these types of design choices always look rad to me. But the big selling point on this bad boy is the result of a question some mad man came up with: “what if the Wing Gundam changed out it’s transforming plane mode for riding a motorcycle.” That’s right; the Wing Gundam Fenice rides around on a damn motorcycle, the Meteor Hopper! This is a Gundam that throws the concepts of “efficiency” and  “pilotability” into the trash can and runs on the RULE OF COOL.

Does this machine run better than the original form Gundam Wing? Probably not, since it must have pretty notable balance issues and the lack of flight mode would really hamper it’s mobility. Is it 10x more interesting than its counterpart? Oh hell yes (I can see an argument for Wing Zero being cooler, I will admit).

The Wing Gundam joins the Sons of Anarchy

In addition to the  Meteor Hopper, the Fenice also has some bits that make it resemble a matador fighter, with its custom beam rapier and beam shield, but unlike the Gundams in G Gundam, the Fenice’s matador theme doesn’t feel like it’s the suits entire personality but rather a cool addition to an already cool robot (admittedly, the Tequila Gundam Daniel Custom’s whole personality is unapologetically its spaghetti western cowboy aesthetic, so it sometimes can work).

#3 - Gundam X Divider

It's mostly made out of junk

Primary Pilot: Garrod Ran

Series: After War Gundam X

I have an extremely large soft spot for Gundam X which stems from the fact that it (after Dragon Ball Z, of course) was the first fansub anime bootleg I ever bought (shout out to the Motor City Comic-Con) and helped usher me further into anime fandom when I was a teenager. But the Gundam that always stuck with me the most from that series was the mid-season upgrade of the primary unit GX but before main character Garrod replaced it with the Gundam Double X: the GX-Divider. Now the main gimmick of the original GX was its satellite cannon, a sort of convoluted “f**k you” weapon that was ridiculously powerful but could only be fired when the moon was full. However, during a losing battle the weaponry was damaged beyond repair so instead a bunch of spare parts were used to replace it. While losing its primary weapon (especially one so stupidly powerful) was a blow, what they ended up with was still pretty dope.

Aside from being equipped with an assortment of new and varied weaponry, including a Beam Machine Gun which was actually meant for a spaceship rather than a mobile suit, the new main weapon of the GX is the Divider, and absolute beast of a Swiss army knife weapon. It is a handheld shield with an auxiliary propulsion system (basically it’s a shield with rockets glued to it) but also amazingly is also a range weapon. It is equipped with a multi-barreled beam weapon called the “Harmonica” that can be used in a large variety of ways, from peppering an enemy with death by a thousand cuts to blasting large beam blast capable of heavily damaging large ships. Plus, the Divider can be attached as a backpack to the GX increasing its speed and overall aerial combat capability. While it can’t blow up 100 enemy units in one shot like it could before it instead has more versatility in combat, plus still having a very dangerous high damage output weapon that just so happens to work all the time and not just when the moon is out.

*Sigh* That gun is pretty big, I guess...

Plus, though Garrod wouldn’t be able to use it, it’s still the GX and a Newtype pilot can use it to take control of an army of GX-like drones with their own Satellite Cannons so in the right hands and under the right circumstances it’s still probably the second most dangerous suit on this list after the Turn A. But in the end I like the GX-Divider because a) I think it’s looks cooler than its predecessor and b) without it’s doomsday weapon attached the suit feels more feasible to use. This is the Gundam I’d like to pilot if giant robots existed, since it won’t drive me crazy or otherwise heavily damage my body while still being upper-mid tier dangerous.

Speaking of suits that drive you crazy and/or damage your body…

#2 - Gundam Vidar

God made the Devil just for fun
When He wanted the real thing He made Gundam Vidar

Primary Pilot: Vidar (Gaelio Bauduin)

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam – Iron Blooded Orphans

If you were to ask me to describe the fairly recent cartoon Gundam: IBO in once sentence,  I’d probably say something like “really freaking good until I was crushed by disappointment.” This is also an extremely accurate description of the Gundam Vidar. This guy is AWESOME. Rebuilt from the remains of the Gundam Kimaris, Vidar’s dark color scheme and skeletal, demonic even by IBO standard looks make this guy stand among even the most interesting looking Gundams. Flat out, I consider Vidar to be the best looking mobile suit in the entire Gundam franchise. Its’ stripped down look doesn’t appear to be just for show; it’s offensive capabilities focus on speed and attack barrages and likely would need  end a battle fairly quickly. It feels like it’s probably a glass canon, but we don’t have information to say that with full confidence for reasons I’ll get into.

It’s also a surprisingly versatile mech as far as its weaponry goes. It features two handguns (and we know how much I like giant robots with handguns) as well as a 110mm all-range rifle. One of its main, and coolest, weapons is the Burst Saber which appears to be a high speed rapier that, in a clear nod to Attack on Titan, can have its blade replaced with another one stored in one of its two side armors. 

Hellooooo nurse!

But the true power of the Vidar comes from its custom Alaya-Vijnana Type E. Normally in IBO Gundams and some other mobile suits have the Alaya-Vijnana System installed and it allows a pilot with the right implants to surpass human limits when fighting but at the cost of severe nerve damage if they push it too far. Someone with enough implants in their body could likely fight and defeat top-tier Newtype piloted Gundams from the Universal Century timeline but it would probably cost them high levels of mobility in their bodies afterwards.

The Alaya-Vijnana Type E, however, is based off the brain of deceased AV user Ein Dalton and when activated that program takes control of the Vidar. It allows the pilot to utilize the full potential of the suit the same way a normal AV user would be able to but all of the strain is sent back into the system rather to the pilot, meaning Gaelio could use it to fight at the highest imaginable level all day without risking any damage to himself. This is a far cry from the main Gundam in the show, Barbatos, which did crazy feats but rendered protagonist Mikazuki Augus unable to move most of his body in the end.

The only reason this Gundam isn’t number one is because we actually don’t get to see it all that much. It looms in the background threateningly through most of the second season but it’s only launched two or three times. Instead, once the masked Gaelio reveals his true identity the Vidar is immediately fitted to become the much, much, much, much less interesting Kimaris Vidar, as apparently Vidar’ skeletal look was because its armor and primary weaponry had been removed to conceal its identity as a retrofitted Kimaris. Sadly, the Kimaris Vidar features for the rest of the series and though it still maintains the AV Type E system it loses pretty much every other striking thing about it from it’s badass look to its unique weaponry. It was like they achieved perfection with the Vidar and someone said “no, that's looks too good; we gotta ugly it up as much as possible.”

It was going well until everything was ruined forever

Despite it’s short stint, to me the Vidar is so much cooler than almost any Gundam I’d seen in my years as a fan. Had it stayed for the duration of the series it would have bene my number one without any doubt. But perhaps I’m a sucker for close range Gundams piloted by Masked men, because…

 #1 - Gundam Epyon

There exists no problem that can't be solved by a bigger sword

Primary Pilot: Zechs Merquise

Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

There’s some weird poetry that my first Gundam series produced my favorite Gundam, the “final boss” enemy unit piloted by the show’s rival character; Gundam Epyon. Weird that I think Gundam Wing is a mess but still love so many of their mecha designs. For all the things I love about this robot it shouldn’t be underestimated that its primary pilot, Zechs Merquise, is my absolutely favorite character in the entire Gundam franchise.

Anyway, more so than any other Gundam on this list the Epyon is a product of one person’s philosophy. It was designed by the show’s initial villain Treize Khushrenada, who is absolutely a madman but his madness is more elegant and poetic than you usually see. He took everything he felt was the ideal on the battlefield and poured it into this machine. Long range weapons? That’s for cowards who are afraid to die! Obscenely powerful melee weapons? Now you’re cooking with gas!

Wait, is it wearing a skirt?

The Epyon has no guns (well, they added a small one right at the end of the show) and was instead designed to be a “dueling mobile suit”; it’s function to challenge another warrior to honorable melee combat until one of them dies, because it’s manly and beautiful. (And poetry is the second most manly activity after bloodshed and warfare, according to Treize. Jesus Christ, Treiz rules!). This guy is armed with a beam saber that, unlike all other beam sabers, is directly plugged in to the Gundams’ battery, meaning its output is much higher than the norm. At its most powerful it can destroy giant space stations. Its secondary weapon is the Heat Rod, a versatile weapon that resembles a whip that can do everything from tripping or tying up an enemy to slicing through them. It also has a “Mobile Armor” aerial mode that it can transform into giving the Epyon high speed flight and mobility, and while it’s likely not as elegant or effective as the plane/bird mode of the Wing Gundam or the Wing ZERO it would likely give it what it needs to hang with the most flight capable of Gundams.

But the big feature of the Epyon, the thing that moves it from mobile suit to doomsday weapon, is that it is equipped with the ZERO System (…somehow; not sure where Treize got it from). Put simply, the ZERO System is an onboard AI that nearly instantly factors all variables on any given battlefield and calculates all outcomes, particularly the ways where its pilot can achieve victory. That sounds nice but the problem is that it beams that data directly into the pilot’s brain all at once. Processing that amount of data will cause even a strong willed pilot to at best start hallucinating (including seeing visions of their own death) and at worst go completely apeshit crazy. To make matters worse, the system does not give a shit about collateral damage, the well-being of its own pilot, or the sanctity of human life, so if a pilot who hasn’t mastered it gets caught up in ZERO’s plans in a fit a madness they may well destroy whole cities (or colonies) and even murder friends in order to achieve victory (but they will feel real bad about it later).

"All your friends are laughing behind your back. Kill them"
-ZERO System, probably

Now put the ZERO System into a bulletproof war machine armed with the most power beam saber ever designed and you have a recipe for ruining someone’s buffet.

Thankfully, Zechs has mostly mastered the system (or maybe not, depending on what you think his final plan of “kill all humans on Earth” was motivated by) so in his hands the machine is practically unbeatable and maybe even is able to see the future a little bit. Also, unlike it’s counterpart the Wing ZERO, the Epyon system was modified to be able to control an army of mobile suit drones, the Mobile Dolls. This is similar to the Gundam X, except you don’t need to be a Newtype to make that function work, so in the right scenario a single pilot can fight an entire war by themselves. 

Also, aesthetically the Epyon just looks cool. It’s color scheme gives it a cool demonic look before IBO sort of made that the standard, and it’s silhouette, particularly with the  Heat Rod that makes it asymmetric, looks menacing and altogether different form the other Gundams in the show.

Zechs brought a sword to a gun fight robot war

But really, what makes this my number one pick is that I’m just in love with the idea that a crazy, war loving dandy decided to make a Gundam specifically for sword fighting other dudes who also love war then proceeded to make it as overpowered as he possibly could. Because Treiz is a crazy person. And the Epyon is everything right about that oh-so-wrong brain of his.

Well, that's it for my Top Gundam list. If you have a favorite Gundam that doesn't appear on this list I'd love to hear about in the comments.

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