After War Gundam X

Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 39
Genre: Science Fiction / Mecha
Vintage: 1996-1997
Date of Review: June 22, 2015

Fifteen years after the Seventh Space War, Earth is beginning to recover from having multiple space colonies dropped onto its surface from orbit. Civilization is getting back on its feet, and scavengers known as Vultures roam the desolation. Garrod Ran makes a living repairing and selling mobile suits, but when he stumbles across a legendary suit from the last war along with a mysterious girl, his life is turned upside down. Garrod joins the Vulture ship Frieden, and he and its crew are soon drawn into a conflict in which the very survival of humanity is at stake. Meanwhile…what is the secret of the Satellite System?

After War Gundam X began airing a week after the finale of New Mobile Report Gundam Wing, but the two series are quite different. Gundam X takes place in a completely new setting, of course — the After War timeline — but is also more of a return to classic tropes. The art style features a more “traditional” anime look that was commonplace in the 1990s. Exaggerated expressions appear where appropriate, and the show even brings back a lot of the comedy that was missing from previous Gundam series. Having said that, Gundam X still has some world-class threats, including the big one towards the end. Most importantly, despite the series not taking place in the Universal Century, Newtypes are central to the plot.

The series has a somewhat smaller cast than some of its contemporaries, but nonetheless features some great characters. Our hero Garrod Ran comes off as a bit of a punk, much like Judau Ashta from Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, but he’s much more likeable from the start. Our female lead, Tiffa Adill, couldn’t be more different from Garrod…but I can’t say much more about her without spoiling things. Just know that her journey with Garrod and the others is a well-developed one. The rest of the Frieden crew just seem like a bunch of personable folks you’d want to be friends with; even their stoic captain Jamil Neate, a man of few words indeed. The bad guys round out the cast well, with your expected grunt pilots and military hardliners, plus a pair of memorable recurring villains that you’ll just love to hate.

Gundam X feels much more like an action-adventure show than previous Gundam iterations, which is to its benefit. The smaller stories within — like Roybea visiting his old flames, Witz taking care of his family, and the Ennil El subplot — are just as interesting as the overarching war theme. Plus, the whole post-apocalyptic setting is a nice touch, even though humanity seems to have recovered from a planetary disaster very quickly.

When it comes to mecha, Gundam X has some really unique enemy mobile suit designs, with many skipping the usual monoeyes in favor of a triple-sensor cluster (tri-eyes?). The Gundams, of course, look great; our “hero suit” the Gundam X is cool right off the bat, and it’s companions the Airmaster and Leopard are truly badass flight and ground units, respectively. I also dig that heavy emphasis was placed on maintaining, repairing, and upgrading the Gundams with scavenged parts rather than fixing them in a state-of-the-art facility or just replacing them with a hot new model. (There’s really only one of the latter, anyhow.) This allows more focus on the skills of their pilots. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Gundam X features not one, but two of the coolest and most powerful weapons in the franchise: the Satellite System and the Flash System. As you might expect, there are many sides fighting over these, and their use becomes a critical plot point.

Great animation, a compelling story, cool characters…what’s not to like? Wrapping up the package is a solid musical score to back up the onscreen drama and action. Honestly, the only downside to Gundam X was that the ending felt incredibly rushed, especially the final two episodes. This may be because the series was apparently cut short due to low ratings.

Gundam X certainly qualifies as a hidden gem. I’ve heard many a Gundam diehard lament that this show wasn’t shown on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block immediately following Wing, as they feel that Gundam X would’ve brought a lot more fans into the franchise than the decision to air the original Mobile Suit Gundam. I can’t help but think that they’re right.

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