Commentary: Mecha? Story? Or something else?

Fans of the Gundam franchise stand apart from many others in one big way: people really pick and choose what they like within it. For example, it’s common for folks to dislike a particular series, but love the mecha from it. Case and point: there’s a lot of grumbling about Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, it seems, but many of those haters fully admit to loving the mobile suit design in that series. Some of the crappier Zeon machines were all over the original Mobile Suit Gundam, but that story’s a timeless classic to diehards.

I’ve spoken to a few viewers who don’t like the older Gundam series, especially the first few, simply because they dislike the “old” anime look. They vastly prefer modern, digitally enhanced series like Mobile Suit Gundam SEED or Mobile Suit Gundam 00. You’d think you could already hear angry shouts of “Blasphemy!”, but you really don’t, outside of a few zealots. (Common to all fandoms, I’m afraid.) Gundam is really a franchise where people cherry pick what they like, and it’s celebrated, rather than reviled.

This extends to characters, spinoff manga, video games, artbooks…you name it. Canon is mostly irrelevant. It’s especially prevalent in the world of Gunpla (Gundam plastic models). There’s fans in the United States who build tons of Gunpla, yet may not have seen many of the series the mecha hail from, especially since a majority never got a proper US release. (I was guilty of this, myself.)

I find all of this very interesting. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you don’t usually see this behavior in other big science fiction franchises. If someone hates the Star Wars prequels, they’re probably not going to love the podrace as an exception. Those who disparage Star Trek: Voyager probably aren’t in any rush to build a model of the titular starship. The closest thing I can think of is perhaps Warhammer; there are many folks who simply collect and paint the miniatures, with zero interest in playing the game.

So where you do stand? Is it the serialized plots? The Gundams? The other mecha? The memorable characters? Your undying worship of Haro? Or some mix of the above?

Sound off in the comments…

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