Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam first aired on Japanese television from March 2, 1985-February 22, 1986. The series was produced by Sunrise and was directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino. Between 2005 and 2006, the series was reproduced and compiled into a movie trilogy called Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation. The film trilogy was directed by Tomino, but there were changes made to the original storyline. As of this writing, Right Stuf holds the North American license for the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam television anime series.
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is set eight years after the first Mobile Suit Gundam anime series. At this point in the timeline, a rebel group called the Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG) forms to defeat the Titans, an elite task force of the Earth Federation that is tasked with hunting down Zeon remnants. However, the Titans also ruthlessly kill anyone that demands equal rights for space citizens.
A new protagonist named Kamille Bidan is introduced in the series. He’s a teenage amateur mobile suit pilot, and his parents work as engineers for the Earth Federation and the Titans. When Kamille goes to the Green Noa colony to meet his parents, he is insulted by a Titans officer named Jerid Messa, and this leads to a grudge between the two of them that lasts throughout the series. When an AEUG attack led by Quattro Bajeema hits the colony, Kamille steals Jerid’s Gundam Mk-II mobile suit to repel the attack, and Kamille ends up following Quattro and his team to the AEUG’s mothership, the Argama. Kamille joins forces with the AEUG.
Kamille has an overprotective female friend named Fa Yuiry, which reminded me of the relationship between Amuro and Fraw Bow in the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime. Speaking of the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime, most of the main characters from the original make an appearance. While most of them are only seen briefly, others play a more major role. Bright ends up becoming the captain of the Argama, Amuro joins with Karaba (AEUG’s Earthbound ally), Hayato and Kai are involved with Karaba, and Katz (one of the three little kids from the original Mobile Suit Gundam) joins up with the AEUG and becomes a mobile suit pilot. Katz started out decently as a character, but he became whiny and annoying as the series went on. Char is also in the series, although he uses an alias. Later in the series, we also see Mineva Zabi, the last surviving member of the Zabi family, who had been a baby in the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime. Haro also appears, but it’s never entirely certain whether this is the original Haro or one of the Haro toys that became popular after the end of the first Mobile Suit Gundam anime series.
There are also new characters of note introduced in this series as well. Lieutenant Emma Sheen is a former Titans pilot who defects to the AEUG and plays an important role in the series. Ensign Reccoa Londe is a former guerilla fighter from the One Year War that joins the AEUG. Paptimus Scirocco is a Newtype who is affiliated with the Titans who possesses great charisma, especially with women. Four Murasame is an artificially-enhanced cyber-Newtype that Kamille gets to know. Sarah Zabiarov is under Scirocco’s command and is fiercely loyal to him, to the point of an obsession.
When I first started watching Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, I found the pacing to be a little slow during the first two episodes. It didn’t help that Kamille first came off as a delinquent who could get away with things because his father was affiliated with the Titans. Also, there was no indication at that point as to how many years had passed since the first series, and the only character from the first series we see in those first two episodes is Bright. But after episode two, the pacing picks up, and the storyline and the characters all start falling into place.
Overall, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was a decent series, although there were times that it felt like it was trying a little too hard to mimic the first series. This was most obvious with the relationship between Kamille and Fa, and the fact that two young kids come on board and Fa is ultimately the one who takes care of them (like how Fraw Bow became the caretaker of the three young kids on the White Base in the original Mobile Suit Gundam). But it starts getting rather strange during the last few episodes of the series. Oh, and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought that George R.R. Martin was consulted for the final two episodes because of how many of the main characters seem to die at that point. Sheesh!
While Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam is okay for what it is, it’s missing something that the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime had. I can’t really explain what that is, though. Maybe part of the problem is that while the first series had a small core cast between the two sides, Zeta Gundam has a lot more characters it’s focusing on, as well as three entities that come into play instead of two. Fortunately, the third side (the remnants of the Zeon empire) appear later in the series. But once they’re introduced, though, the storyline becomes more complicated. Also, I felt that the ending seemed a bit ambiguous. Hopefully, the follow-up series, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, answers the questions that are left hanging at the end of Zeta Gundam.
And when it comes to the animation, Zeta Gundam suffers from the same issue that the first series had: they both look dated. This series obviously looks like it came out around the mid-1980’s. While the dated look isn’t an issue for me personally, I know that this could be a potential stumbling block for viewers who are more used to the aesthetic and feel of modern anime.
While Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam has its faults, it’s an important part of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, because it’s the first series that continued the franchise after its revival with the three compilation films of the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime.