At least there’s Chara Soon.
Ok, I keep trying to write this post and I’ve failed a couple times, so this time let me really do this.
WOW. Gundam ZZ. I actually went into this looking forward to it; everyone said it was AWFUL but I often like things that are generally felt horrible, so I was all set to enjoy this. Stupid shows? Stupid shows are the best! I love stupid shows! But, maybe I am losing my touch since between this and Brain Powerd, I’m not running great odds at the moment. Everyone said Brain Powerd was bad, and they were right (although I did, months after I posted it, get an angry troll calling me misspelt names on my final Brain Powerd post, so apparently someone out there did like it, after all). Nearly everyone said Gundam ZZ was bad, and so far it seems they’re right.
The real issue is that even though ZZ has plenty of stupid, it’s also hideously, unforgivably dull. The first ten episodes or so are basically just Mashymere Cello trying to find and destroy the Argama only to be foiled by them meddling kids! And the meddling kids are mostly assholes. Judau Ashta, our lead, is basically what you’d get if you asked a twelve year old to come up with a Gundam pilot – he’s a brash jerk with an awful attitude who is always right and always saves the day. His friends are hardly much better, and his sister is naggy and endlessly adoring of him. That we get stuck watching Judau be nasty and noncompliant (until he finally decides, ugh, well, someone has to save these idiots! but I’m not gonna do it again! each and every time) for so many episodes in a row even as its obvious that he’s going to be the new pilot of the Gundam is enough to make even a strong soul want to drop the thing.
But, I couldn’t. Everyone said it was sooo awful, but people don’t endlessly howl in agony over something merely for boredom! There must be something more!
And, thank the skies and stars, there is:
Chara Soon is great! She ranks right up there with the odder inhabitants of Tomino’s world of anime. I’d love to see her meet up with Cancer Kafka and her crew from Turn A; I can only imagine it’d be beautiful and magnificent. It also helps that, unlike some of Tomino’s other weird female characters (I’m looking at you, Katejina Loos), her characterization is so thoroughly bizarre that it doesn’t come across as sexist, even as it certainly employs some of the hoary old stereotypes. Yeah, she’s got a strange quasi-sexual reaction to piloting, but, hey, Mashymere Cello’s second-in-command forcibly strips a fourteen year old in a cockpit, so not even as if she’s alone in weirdly borderline sexual stuff to do with piloting. There’s also a sense that her characterization is partly Tomino snickering and sneering at the audience, an audience fresh off of the fairly grim Zeta Gundam.
Actually, more generally, there’s a lot of material so far that feels like Tomino’s flipping a bird at the audience. A lot of folks seem to take the goofier and more foolish moments and items of ZZ as indicative of a lack on Tomino’s part as a director, but, again, it feels like a deliberate provocation of the viewership that came out of Zeta (and likely corporate sponsors, too, as ZZ was supposed to draw younger viewers into the Gundam tent for those oh-so-important gunpla sales figures).
Backtracking, the sexism does need to be addressed, but I’ll confess to finding the notion of addressing sexism in a Tomino work a bit tiring and disheartening. Anyone who has seen more than a few of his shows knows that Tomino generally doesn’t give us great portraits of women and girls. ZZ isn’t much different, although Fa Yuiry at least gets to be a little bit badass (before being put on a bus to go stare at her comatose boyfriend instead), and both Roux Louka and Elle Viano are decently competent. Roux is undercut, though, by her extreme and sexist-steeped crappy attitude and actions toward Fa (at one point she chides her for being unfeminine when Fa rightly tells Judau to stop dicking around and help out on the Argama, and threatens to steal her comatose boyfriend since obviously he’d hate to be dating someone “unfeminine”). It’s one of those shows that has a lot of low level sexism permeating it with occasional outbursts that are more egregious. I used to at least cool off my irritation by remembering Turn A and also that that was a later work for Tomino, but Reconguista in G has made that a bit harder to do…
As far as the dullness, the show does seem to turn a corner with episode ten, as it finally gets away from being bound to Shangri-La. The younger portion of the cast still is pretty much horrid, though – two of Judau’s rotten friends keep signaling the enemy ship that is pursuing them because they’ve decided they don’t want to be on-board the Argama anymore and don’t care about the well-being of the people who’ve been feeding them and giving them a place to live. As a sidenote, I’ve decided the only male friend of his who is a good kid is gay. I can’t totally explain why I’ve decided this; its probably since he’s the only teenaged boy in the show who isn’t shitty. Yeah, that’s right – I’m biased against heterosexual teenaged boys! Actually, I just mostly dislike teenagers in general, no matter who they’re dating (or not dating). Its just my anime gaydar, ok?
Is that an underaged teenage boy getting hit? Wow, its like I’m watching Gundam Wing all over again!
Oh dead, you haven’t even seen Moon Moon yet. It gets a little more serious like half way through. However, Haman becomes a pedophile because and wants Judau because Newtypes reasons. We ain’t talking Victory Gundam here, but it could give you flashbacks. ZZ kinda helps Char’s Counterattack make more sense for Char’s motivations, but… yeah, not even necessary.
My problem with the fandom and ZZ isn’t that they don’t like it, just more that they hate it so much that just trying to come up with reasons to say it isn’t canon or doesn’t even exist is a silly thing I see way too often.