One of Gundam’s Best Anime Series Hardly Has Any Mechs

When you ask someone to think about Gundam, the first thing that will pop into their head is the massive robots that populate the series. The titular 'bots are what the series is known for, and even people who have no interest in anime will likely be able to recognize the franchise's iconic RX-78-2 Gundam. However, one of the best Gundam anime features surprisingly few mechs.

Beginning in 2001, the Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin manga was serialized in Gundam Ace magazine. Then, in 2015, Sunrise adapted the manga into an OVA, which eventually stretched over six episodes with the final one, Rise of the Red Comet, landing in 2018. The series is a prequel to the original Gundam series, explaining how the Universal Century became dominated by war and chaos.

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The manga follows the crew of the ship White Base. This ship is tasked with delivering the experimental RX-78-02 Gundam to the Federation's base at Jaburo. As the series progresses, readers get to see the origins of many of the franchise's most famous heroes and villains and learn just what threw them into the war that makes up the bulk of the original series.

Gundam The Origin

However, the OVA is very different. Rather than White Base, the series focuses on the life and origin story of Char Aznable, the infamous Red Comet who acts as the antagonist in a large amount of Gundam media. The series starts with his early childhood, showing him and his sister stowing aboard a ship after their father, Zeon Zum Deikun, suddenly dies and throws the colonies into anarchy. The episodes then follow Char through his life, showing the conflicts and tragedy that shaped him into the man he became.

However, the series plays out closer to a political drama than a mech battle series, and while this may seem odd for a franchise known for its giant robots, it actually works perfectly. Gundam has always been a political drama at its core, and it has always featured strong and interesting characters. Putting them center stage, at the expense of mechs, takes nothing away from the series; in fact, it adds to it.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin succeeds where a lot of sci-fi fails. It manages to make its world feel relatable and human despite it being removed from the world of today. The characters have understandable reactions to events, and everything develops in a way that can be empathized with and understood.

Gundam The Origin

Char's story is also an excellent character study, looking in detail at how someone could reach the levels of coldheartedness that Char displays throughout the original series. The series perfectly walks the line of understanding what drives Char to become what he becomes without glorifying it. It allows the viewer to empathize with Char's issues without ever trying to shy away from the horrible person he is becoming, making it a harrowing tale of how easily someone can fall into a spiral that leads to violence and destruction.

It also avoids the issue that a lot of prequel content has. Nothing in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin feels forced for the sake of aligning this show with the material that comes later in the franchise's timeline. While it does change some details, every character's origin feels natural and well thought out, almost as if this was all planned out before the original Gundam series was ever created.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is a must-watch for fans of the franchise. It shines a spotlight on why Gundam is so successful as even if you take away the flashy fights and the hulking mechs, you find a very well-thought-out and very human story that resonates with audiences as much today as it did when it first came out.

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