Turn A Gundam and our attraction to self-destruction

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As of writing, I’ve managed to sit through 28 episodes of Turn A Gundam; satisfied that I’m just over half way there. I won’t lie – it feels like an achievement because I’ve struggled through the series; at one point I literally had to stop an episode half-way and take an energy boosting nap, such was the weary spell it cast upon my tired eyes. I’m only aged 24, supposedly a fully-fit man, not some tired old geezer!

To be honest, I’ve encountered the same struggles with a lot of Tomino-directed Gundam anime. His stories offer some fascinating ideas and exciting situations, his characters are unpredictable and interesting, yet the plot-heavy dialogue and non-stop “stuff happening” leaves little room for reflection and recovery; it’s like I’m constantly playing catch-up with what’s on screen, what’s blowing up, who’s attacking who. Damn it, its hard work.

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Now then, I suppose it sounds like I’m not enjoying Turn A. That’s not the case, and indeed, I’ve never been one to subject myself to something I dislike (in Black Cat’s case, I gave up after the unacceptably generic opening theme of the first episode). As is typical of Gundam, Turn A’s quality lays in strongly defined political agendas and personal morals; people rising and falling, risking their hopelessly small lives for borderline impossible ideals; ambitions that capture the dreams of a nation. It’s not just mecha porn.

I suppose I’m writing this because the last five episodes have featured a number of exciting scenes. Kicked off by Lady Teteth’s bitter demise, things take a further turn for the worse when a foolish battle over newly discovered nuclear warheads ends with an inevitable mushroom cloud; even in animated form, the terrifying power of such a reckless weapon reveals mankind’s ugly thirst for power will stretch beyond even self-destruction. In this sense, Turn A is great for exposing the utter futility of war; the perpetual cycle of an “eye for an eye” that sees thousands killing each other for the sake of some mundane grudge. People fight for honour, loyalty, pride and even revenge; fabricated and arrogant human emotions that see us waging pointless wars for selfish reasons. All of this seems clear through the shining eyes of an innocent like Loran, yet it’s hard to see past the red mist when fighting for a loved one.

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Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

11 thoughts on “Turn A Gundam and our attraction to self-destruction”

  1. i recently just finished gundam wing yesterday, and i started in june or july?? it started off really really good. but when you notice urself skipping and forwarding thru dialogue AND action…. thats not a good sign. now i know why everyone, and i mean every one considers it the worst gundam ever… my god… i would continue to rip the show if it wasnt so good maybe even great in the beginning. reminds me of how pissed, extremely pissed i was after pumpkin scissors. i would rather watch horrible shit than see a show go from greatness to crap. pure crap. jyu oh sei being another PRIME example. the first couple of episodes were mesmerizing, but then after the time skip i was just crushed. Gundam seed i loved with a passion and it made me want to check out other gudams, but wing has done the opposite. i have all of Turn A, but i dont know anymore…

  2. I haven’t seen Gundam Wing yet, but I’m aware it’s a fan-girl favourite; meaning it’s all about bishonen and homoeroticism. Funny thing is that Wing is supposed to be the most popular Gundam anime outside of Japan… How backwards is that?

    Also, I agree with you on Pumpkin Scissors and Jyu-Oh-Sei, with hindsight both were horribly mediocre and formulaic. It’s a shame too, because Randel from Pumpkin Scissors was a total bad-ass character and the landscapes of Jyu-Oh-Sei were incredibly atmospheric, it was set in such a fascinating world and culture… yet they both just fell away after the first couple of episodes.

    Turn A isn’t mediocre, it’s quite good, but the plot is fairly circular and formulaic. Watching it certainly requires a “faith” in the Gundam franchise; in other words, I’m not sure if I’d still be watching if this wasn’t related to Gundam (case in point, I dropped Heroic Age after three or four episodes of predictability).

    I don’t know why I keep getting myself into these 50+ episode epics when I could quickly sit though something like SAC 2nd GIG or even Skull Man. Frustratingly, I probably won’t finish with Turn A until October. Right now I’m also trying to catch up with Bokurano and even start on Mononoke. Busy busy!

  3. It shames me to admit that I STILL haven’t seen any Gundam, which is as outrageous as the fact that I don’t own a games console! Given that I’ve enjoyed parts of the Macross franchise and other ‘serious’ sci-fi such as Crest of the Stars, I can’t even formulate an excuse as to why I haven’t checked any out yet.

    @Kauldron26: I’ve heard good things about Seed so might start on that (although the three movies would be a more logical choice…it depends on finances really).

    @Bateszi: I had the same feeling with Gasaraki – it too is a mature, intriguing and well-written show with a convincing worldview and mecha designs. Even the soundtrack is outstanding! It’s just so straight-faced and heavy-going that I needed a lot of willpower to sit through it all. That doesn’t make it sound very recommendable either but all I can say is that I was glad I’d seen it afterwards.

  4. if u guys decide to get into gundam only watch gundam seed, dont watch destiny or any other movie. gundam seed by itself is awesome, ranked #10 on animenfo top 200. its really good. the only redeeming thing about wing is the amazing development and strength of the female character relena. shes powerful to the core and exhudes confidence and conviction without being exploited for fanservice at all.

    off topic: but any time i see pics of yoko from gurren lagann, and i see them everywhere i am sometimes upset that revy did not get this same amount of attention. not only was revy cooler and sexier but her character developments and multiple layers were truly great. why is yoko getting mor exposure?? is it because gurren lagann is much popular?

  5. @Martin: I haven’t seen Gasaraki yet but I’ve always wanted to, it looks cool in a Patlabor kind of way. Politics and mecha is always good! As for not seeing any Gundam, I must admit you’re probably not missing much. Though I can say if you like Star Wars, you’ll probably like the UC Gundam series too. They both have light sabres for a start! ;)

    @kauldron26: I love Black Lagoon, but right now I’d probably have to say Gurren Lagann is the most exciting anime I’ve seen for a while. Lagoon had some brilliant moments but was fairly inconsistent (i.e. the Nazi arc) while Lagann has been sustained brilliance. The thing with Yoko (and even Nia) is that they are almost knowing parodies of the “fan service” females, Yoko is strong, brash and out-going. She dresses in a way that reflects her “in your face” attitude. Compare this with Kanon, in which the moe female characters border on mental illness, such is their sickening weakness of personality.

  6. u didnt like the nazi arc?? i thought that was phenomenal social commentary on the continuing existence of hatred and racism. the most amazing part for me was when the chief nazi says that if only dutch was black he would have hired him and then when dutch hangs up the phone revy tells dutch they should make a bet to see who the nazi would try and shoot if he had a chance: the asian chick or the black guy, and he ofcourse choses the black guy and dutch wins the bet! i was rolling LMAO. even in his time of death dude was still racist as hell… i could write a whole essay on that scene alone. i guess thats y i love black lagoon so much. i could write a piece or an essay on all the issues focused on in every episode. just like bebop. issues rangin from poverty, violence, drug trade, commercialism, religion, organized crime, depression i could go on and on…

  7. @kauldron26: It’s not that I didn’t like the Nazi arc, it’s just I found it probably the most predictable and generic part of the series, and I wouldn’t class it as “phenomenal” social commentary either; after all, it’s not exactly a massive surprise that some blokes dressed up in Nazi uniforms are a bunch of racist bigots. In terms of Neo-nazis, American History X is a better social commentary on the racial problems in America; I guess you’ve already seen it? Now that’s a movie worth writing an essay about! ;)

    Though I hated all of the disturbing fanboy hype surrounding the “killer loli” arc of the Second Barrage, pound for pound it was the best story in Black Lagoon; in particular, the last episode of that saga was especially shocking, violent, bad-ass and unpredictable, even iconic (Balalaika looking at the kid, almost sympathizing, as the sniper picks him off). The Terminator-maid and the Yakuza stories were fantastic too.

  8. finally finished turn a gundam. it did not live up to my expectations, but i really liked the characters. they were very human. the epilogue i loved most of all. it was pretty great. and the highlight of the entire show was that yoko kanno song: MOON.
    i’d give the show 7/10. bateszi did u ever finishe chrno crusade? skullman?

  9. Nope to Chrno Crusade, I never really got into it, in fact I think I managed around ten to twelve episodes before I decided to give up. It’s not that I hated Chrono Crusade, but I found it simply mediocre in that special GONZO style where there was nothing especially fascinating happening with the characters. Actually, the same thing happened with Turn A too, I managed around 26 episodes but just lost interest and after a few weeks of nothing I ended up quiting. Ditto with Big O too.

    And I haven’t seen Skullman yet, but it’s definitely something I’ll be following up on sooner or later. In fact, I just created a file called “The List” on my desktop just to keep a handy reminder of all this anime I still need to watch.

  10. Sorry to hear that you didn’t get to the end of Turn A, Paul. I must admit, the middle of the series is largely uneventful. I often speak out for the series on the animeuknews.net forums and I think it would be safe to say that my infatuation is based mainly on the first 20 and last 15 episodes, as well as a healthy dose of ‘factor X’ that just made me care for the characters and what was happening to them enough to sail past the rather procrastinating mid-section… a series where mileage certainly varies from person to person, but for a busy blogger like yourself, it was always likely that it wouldn’t entirely hold your interest…

  11. Now you’re making me feel guilty for bailing out right before it picked up steam again (along with not having seen “Only Yesterday” – your description of the main character as being at the “‘not really anywhere’ age of 27” instantly caught my attention.). I was (and still am) really interested in seeing how the story plays out, Loran and Dianna were really fascinating too (especially how they’d react to tragedy, given their unusual amounts of optimism), so this might just be the extra little push I needed to have another go at finishing it.

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