My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san), which aired during the Summer 2014 anime season.
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided here for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click and scan through numerous pages of unrelated material.
Check the Notebooks category or the appropriate Index page for additional posts like this one for other series
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode one]
There are shorts, and there are shorts.
Two and a half minutes, thirty of those seconds being the end credits, plus four other sub skits. I assume the opening credits will change over time, since this was very Char heavy and directly a part of the “plot” of this episode, so I count them as a skit for now too.
I know this is based on a four panel gag comic, but that is tight.
This is less of something I feel I will watch to really comment upon analytically, and will instead become more of a “look at this picture!” kind of thing.
I mean, the end credits have everything from Angry Birds, to Haro lighting up like they were The Great Will of the Macrocosm from Excel Saga, to Amuro Ray stripped, ball gagged, and bent over a wooden horse.
Toss in what looks to be some Robot Chicken style toy visuals, except scanned and manipulated from there rather than stop motion, and that sounds about the direction this show wants to go on. And I am fine with that.
But, if one is not prepared for a barrage of quick draw Gundam jokes, heavy on the Universal Century side at that, I can not say this series has much of anything for them.
I think though going forwards there are maybe some definite opportunities for reflecting a bit on my own relationship with Gundam or its characters via whatever the series chooses to their antics in a given week, that sort of thing.
At the very least, I managed to get material when I was trying to comment on Miss Monochrome every week last autumn, and that was only four minutes including the credits, so I’m sure I can come up with something for little ol’ Gundam-san!
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode two]
The hard questions every young Gundam “Why do the Dom units in the Zeon forces have skirts anyway?”
Nevermind the technical answer (they house and armor thermonuclear jet engines, in case you were wondering). This is Amuro Ray being a Newtype and thus bringing with him all kinds of new types of perverted battlefield fantasy. The boy is going through puberty, after all, and Newtypes have, well, a lot of stuff on their super minds.
Like trying to look up Dom skirts.
Zeonic psychological warfare at its most potent then, I suppose.
Incidentally, the whole “Newtype” thing always sort of bugs me in the Universal Century timeline. It is not really a big deal breaker or anything (I have certainly watched more than my fair share of Gundam entries from both UC and otherwise over the years). Their abilities tend to be pretty nebulously defined though. As a result, the trait can essentially plot device folks out of otherwise impossible events, which in certain circumstances can come off as anticlimactic.
Amuro Ray’s super space next level of human evolution mind going full speed bonkers when it comes to his adolescent brain thinking of sex all. The. Time?
It’s alright, for a two minute gag reel.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode three]
“The Melancholy of Haro-Man”
Haro. Long misunderstood as a potentially out of place or annoying bouncing roboball mascot figure to some. But, he has his own story. In this, the trying times of the great space wars of a future century.
A flexible man in body and mind, he is in fact not a robot. He contorts himself into the Haro suit to the best of his ability. Day after day, for months and years. His son, now in fourth grade. His marriage, on the rocks.
Strained times of smoking, tears, and Jojo’s poses.
War constantly ravages the crew of White Base.
Haro-Man must continue on. He must bring up their morale. To be a constantly bouncing force of chipper information delivery. He must juggle the long distance calls from his wife. The cries of his son as their marriage disintegrates.
He must be the Haro-Man.
To tell Amuro things about his brainwave activity, as the mascot’s own family exists now only in ruins.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode four]
The Lalah Sune Episode.
Kind of. Now featuring way more Angry Birds.
…Alright it was mostly the Angry Birds episode. Which works for me, if only because I was really wondering if they were going to do anything with that big Char caricature who looms large in the ending credits, or if that was just going to be the extent of that particular gag.
So we hurl Angry Char Bird into a vending machine, waggling around that avian butt of his to get Lalah’s attention. He is just so irresistible, after all. She was going to get herself some nice red bean soup to warm up with, but no, bird butts win the battle of the day.
Actual Gundam-san Char is, perhaps understandably, less than impressed by the new log cabin roommate. You can not even really say there would be much to fry up on a little feathered friend like this one.
I remain impressed at the ability for this show to not go for the “Char-broiled” line of remarks for things one could do to a bird during the cooking process.
Our Angry Bird Gashapon though, he knows the score. He knows the kinds of overly ambitious to points well past insanity Zeonic plans one could make in this situation.
There can be only one.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode five]
The Lalah Sune Sitcom continues, or Why Can’t Aznable Find This Angry Bird Char-ming.
All things being equal, this is the first episode of the show to really disappoint me in any noticeable capacity. I mean it is just a two minute gag show for a franchise decades old, so while I have not really laughed out loud a whole bunch watching it I do not hold it to a very exacting standard either. If it treads water and comes out around a 5/10 by the end, I would still consider that a success, basically.
Gundam-san is just a passing novelty for me, I never went into this with expectations for classic comedy to hold up against the ages.
What got me this episode though is this was the first thing things ever felt “more of the same,” as it were.
We did the Angry Bird versus Char while Lalah scolds thing last week, and at that I thought it was reasonably sharp in the time provided. Char insulted the bird, and the bird built a way-too-complex Mouse Trap machine to knock him out in the style of a flying Angry Bird (on the end of a log). And that is fine, I am quite alright leaving the story at that. Or indeed were we to come back to it, perhaps after some episodes to see how things have changed in the time since.
But this was “just” the continuing adventures of Tom and Jerry, as opposed to doing any more character cylicing. Which, when one has such a large cast to work with and pull gag material from, seems off the mark. At the very least, had this episode come much later in the series, I think it would have been broken up a bit better. It just seemed a little repetitive, given where it happened to deploy after last week.
I do rather like the screencap I took though.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode six]
The Sayla Mass Episode. Or, depending on ones perspective, the Artesia Som Deikun Episode.
She is the same person either way, of course. I imagine it would more depend on how heavily one is considering her past and her relationship to her brother and father. Which in either direction could be deemed pretty irrelevant to a series as pressed for time as this, given that the show chooses to establish her her immediately via hyper exaggerated crotch and breast shots.
I mean, I guess that is one way to place her on screen and attempt to determine her “essential” characteristics for the narrative. But I can’t say the wiggle-wiggle bounce-bounce, noises and all, does anything for me. If I wanted a fanservice show, I do not think a low budget gag animation would be at the top of my list.
Genitalia jokes are a dime a dozen out there in the world, but what about the Gundam references?
To the credit of the episode, they attempt to couch all of this via a Dr. Sayla’s Consultation Room style medical consultation with Bright Noa.
It is actually such a small bit of info, that Sayla was actually a medical student in the original series prior to the One Year War breaking out, that the show itself (not just some Translator’s Note, mind you) sees fit to bring it up as a bit of additional on-screen info. Complete with a “It’s True!” remark. Which they have not had to do much of at all so far, so that does make me wonder if this sort of additional memory jogging data is going to be more prominent going forwards, or if it was just deemed necessary for this gag to work in the here and now.
Bright Noa’s issue, as it happens, is that he punched out a subordinate (Amuro Ray, in one of his most memorable of styles) and wants counseling. The hitting feels good, you see, and this concerns him. That he is enjoying it. Which, to bring things back around, transitions us into Sayla thinking of her own time smacking the face of Kai Shiden around and how much she liked that, leading to… ecstasy exclamations, to put it one way.
This is the kind of episode where I can see everything it wanted to do, it has an internal circular logic in the path it wants to take to bring us back around again. Even the gag with the autonomy screen being effectively useless because we and Sayla all know who the individual involved is anyway, that I see how it is supposed to operate. I just did not really laugh at all, and it seems pretty low effort for a franchise with so much material to pull from to just go for sex jokes for a whole episode this early on.
I sure am glad I was wearing headphones for the benefit of others at the time of watching it though, given the noises Sayla makes by the end, as I can definitely say I did not expect Gundam-san to go in such a direction.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode seven]
I wondered last week if the show, after pointing out Sayla’s medical student history as a special trivia / narrative headnod to Mobile Suit Gundam was going to continue on, as the show had not been making moves like that as explicitly prior. Here, it seems as though I have received my answer, as it has Lalah pointing out highlights and bulleted points of who Garma Zabi is, right down to his most famous phrase and in which episode he died in within the original television series.
It is such a strange move, when a show itself feels the need to point out to me what the most famous phrase of a particular character in such a famed franchise is.
I would understand in full were they to use variations of it to comedic effect (and they do), but pointing out what the original phrase was explicitly to the audience via another character telling us that information seems like the sort of thing I should be doing to build a word count!
Otherwise, much like how last week was a simple enough if kind of underwhelming sex gag, this week we turn to Char timing his good friend’s bathroom behavior and trying to get a urinal side measurement of those most particular of Zabi family jewels.
Does the front loaded character sheet data dump kind of expedite this process? Well… I suppose? It establishes things like Garma’s “Char! You decided me, Char!” line upfront, and them just rambles off some word replacements. But it seems less amusing than were they to just run with the scenario.
As Garma Zabi’s death is the elaborate funeral affair for which his brother Gihren gives the famous “Sieg Zeon” speech, I do wonder if that affair could be one taken to the Gundam-san script targeting computer.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode eight]
Unlike the last couple of episodes, this one does not feel a need to try and explain any character circumstances or other trivia to the viewer at home. Which I feel is a good move, as it probably should only be the sort of thing used selectively, rather than becoming an all the time feature.
Going along with that though, we may have thrown the baby out with the literal bath water. This episode revolving around, well, Amuro Ray’s attempts to sneak into the White Base shower and bathing units while folks like Sayla are in there getting their scrub a dub dub on. I can give you three guesses as to what his particular goals are and what he wants to see, and even if you were a nameless and faceless generic action show combatant with the accuracy rate to match you should still be able to hit the mark.
This is padding, really, and I use that turn of phrase very much on purpose.
And it is sort of bewildering, in a sense. I mean the series started with simple but effective nods to Gundam history and delivering on pretty easy gags which have been made for ages (Char’s fascination with red, etc). And that is, itself, a kind of fanservice, really. The “I get the reference they are making!” kind of moments. Fanservice in the ample skin and copious bouncing breasts department though? It seems like too much of a bridge for a low budget show like this to reach for.
There are so many better animated productions that specialize in that very kind of market and demographics. So aiming to go head to head with them time and again seems pretty unwise. Writing, meanwhile, does not take animation time and holds up better. Really, there are wittier Gundam gags floating around on the likes of Reddit and such than within this show most of the time, which is slowly becoming more of a drag for me at this stage. Even if it only is two and a half minutes.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode nine]
We leave the oddball sexually charged escapades of the last few episodes to return to the waters of Char “Tom” Aznable and His Angry “Jerry” Bird Doppelganger.
It is kind of a strange welcoming act in some respects. This is around the point where, after we had two of these murderous misadventures back to back before, I had kind of hopped the second of them had been pushed further back down the line. After the last few episodes have been less than optimal in my eyes by comparison, we are then not only at that further point now but these shenanigans are at least ones that come off as more within the capable tonal range of what this kind of series can actually accomplish. No swings for the ladies showers or bouncing breasts here.
Just Char and Lalah’s wooden cabin and the Red Comet’s attempts to put a bullet in a bird.
In that respect, everything this episode goes exactly according to those similar Tom and Jerry style fundamentals. Threats of violence from one party, reaction faces, dodges, and the situation coming to a screeching halt at the worst possible time for the bigger of the two. In that respect, it was not an ambitious more Gundam-comedy episode by any means. This episode really could have been done with any characters from any franchise, and it would flow the same.
But, I do not think that is too terribly big of a deal to mark against it. It keeps the series stable at any rate, and stability is arguably better than veering into areas it just can not manage. I would much rather the show engage in this sort of activity, which it can accomplish on its smaller budget and time, than the ones trying to deal more in sexual humor and related fanservice comedy. Even so, on the overall I do feel we have lost steam since where the series was in the first episode. There is no stated end date at this time, so while the show must be fairly affordable to create, it can certainly be doing better than just trying to tread water.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode ten]
We continue where we left off last week, which is always sort of an odd thing in this series.
Actually, this instances of continuity only truly occur within the episodes dealing in Char and the small Angry Bird which antagonizes his sensibilities. Even further, this episode ends on a “To Be Continued” note, so we will have at least a three parter here! Which, for a two minute or so gag comedy, seems like another odd decision in which one could take as a general series of strange choices. It meant about twenty seconds of this episode went to recapping the events of last time, for instance, before transitioning into Lahla profoundly kicking Char in what is now surely his reddest of comets and sufficiently stomping him into the floorboards.
Which is alright by me, I figure, by the school of Tom and Jerry level cartoon violence reciprocation. Lahla has not gotten to actually do too terribly much in this show outside of some bit lines or calling out Char on behaviour he has not made sufficient changes to. There has been indicators that she should not be trifled with to far, and here is the delivery on that after several episodes of these homestead affairs over the course of the show.
Mechanically, having her detonate on Char here but while retaining a smile on her face nearly all the while to sell the dissonance to the observing bird, that works.
The rest of the episode dealing in the Sayla Mass style avian lookalike sister bird conversing to the one Char has been fighting with, it was a little cute to see.
Having them act out their “Why won’t you return?” and general family separation issues between them while also being on two sides of a larger conflict, in their obvious roles relating to the famous human counterparts? Having Char see that and react is kinda neat, since at this point in the Gundam-san narrative he would be unaware of his own actual relationship to the Gundam-san Sayla.
But, since this is all “To Be Continued,” it all all set up to be executed on next time. Hopefully that allows the production team to go more all out next time, as the imagined scenario of Char and Sayla being in the same room as the two birds could be quite funny should the series choose to be attempting the long game. Though, it could also perhaps call into greater question why this is not more of a five minute show over a two minute one in duration.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode eleven]
The implication of a continuing story from last week much have meant it will be picking up the larger Angry Bird storyline again later, as this episode certainly has nothing to do with either of the previous escapades.
However, we do instead get back to some actual mobile suit comedy, which we have not really seen all that much of outside of the very first episode oddly enough. Here then we have the traditional series Gundam as Amuro Ray piloted, and a random Guncannon unit who claims to be named 10Q. And I say “claims” in this case as the two of them can actually talk to one another! Which makes for some unique situations, as the units undergo maintenance, get taken apart, and so on.
The Gundam unit portrayed as a more gruff celebrity type figure, while 10Q is oriented more as a frothing at the mouth joyous fan of its history of work and so pleased to be in the same general unit as their military idol.
Honestly, this is to me probably the most genuinely amusing the series has been in weeks.
The giant robots have been very underused by this show, and while characters are what make Gundam work as a franchise the iconic machines are tools through which their wills are often expressed. It is a simple episode, but having these interactions between the two mecha while having Amuro trying to understand their language as a Newtype who should have a greater capacity for such a thing?
That worked for me for the duration a program like it goes on. It was enjoyable, and is thus far likely a key highlight of a program which has often felt like it has not been doing as much with its potentially rich vein of comedy targets as it otherwise could be.
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode twelve]
Another episode leaning more on the actual Gundam canonical nods again, which is often a good sign!
Strangely, unlike our now seemingly one time use of Lalah popping in to explain a reference and establish a character as she did for the Garma Zabi episode for the less well versed Gundam fans in the audience, this episode just plays out without any such establishing. It is odd, because unless the viewer already knows who Degwin Zabi (head of the Principality of Zeon, father to Garma) and Kycilia Zabi (daughter to Degwin, sister to Garma) are in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, seeing them as ten year younger comedy versions where Kycilia is fourteen and her dad lounging about in his underwear probably is not going to do too much for one’s comedy buttons. There is a consistency problem in this series, as while I did question the use of having Lalah show up to give an aside during the Garma episode, I’d rather at least see it used more often if they wanted to go that route.
If it was seen as called for in the Garma episode, that sort of “Here is who they are and why what we are about do is funny” preemptive activity is the exact kind of thing this episode would benefit from.
If one does not know who Degwin and Kycilia are, what does this episode boil down to?
Essentially just watching some big guy in his underwear extravagantly farting, and his barely-a-teenager daughter telling him to stop and how much she hates it. Repeatedly.
I am not saying the episode is necessarily much funnier even if one does actually get who the cast is here. But it at least provides a little more establishing information whereby one can see this entry as a Gundam-san trying to pull some morning cartoon sitcom antics via turning back the clock on two characters who are far more serious in the original work. A move for a silly little “What about when she was a younger girl and her dad was maybe more of a slob” romp.
I still do not really find the abundance of fart antics really amusing, but this series has a really confusing idea of what it thinks it must explain and what it does not. Especially as Degwin and Kycilia have not really shown up in the series prior to now, and with one episode to go I doubt they will again (outside of running out the full cast for the finale, perhaps).
Mobile Suit Gundam-san (Kidou Senshi Gundam-san) [Episode thirteen]
In a sense, we return to where we started: Lalah and Char, in space together while one makes jokes at the others expense.
Before, it was Char being silly about things such as the red paint on his mobile suit, and Lalah making some snide remarks about him. Now that the roles are reversed, we have… Char mocking Lalah for the bindi she wears. If she can shoot lasers from her forehead, he goes and places one via light fixtures to her Elmeth mobile armor, having conversations with Dr. Flanagan if he is suuure she can not shoot lasers from her head, and so on.
To her credit, I suppose, Lalah chooses to mess with Char’s mind after a while and pretend she actually can shoot laser beams from her forehead.
And then proceeds to kick the ever loving stuffing out of him with her fists and feet.
Which, I can not say I blame her for.
For what is ostensibly a comedy and parody series, I did not find too many of the jokes over the course of its entire run all that amusing. I do not particularly feel a series that can tap the whole of the original Mobile Suit Gundam with an all access pass to use the characters however it wants needs to rely on the more sexiality toned fanservice episodes or the humor this episode tries to punch for. It makes the entire operation seem all the cheaper, as if it is either afraid of using Gundam jokes more extravagantly out of fear of making established fans mad or it genuinely thinks this is the best possible material it could be pulling out of the source comic. Most of these sequences throughout the show, the Angry Bird scenes and all, would generally working with entirely different and interchangeable kinds of material with relatively minor alterations.
Gundam-san has wrapped up its television series run, and is said to be coming via Gundam Channel. As an advertising vehicle for either the continuing adventures, or the original comic, I do not think it works unless one is already reading Gundam-san.
There were a few nicer episodes, like the Haro-man one, and the Char vs his avian look alike were at least classically relatable in a Tom and Jerry way. Plus, the episodes only last as long as two and a half minutes including the credits.
But a lot of the series seemed like it was not for me and my sense of humor, given its tonal and subject matter choices. And I enjoy Gundam.