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I Believe In The Sign Of Zeta.... Now


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So, I recently rewatched the dubbed version of Zeta Gundam. This was my first revisit to the entire franchise since buying the full series many many years ago. In total I can say that I have rewatched Zeta maybe 3 times (if we’re including New Translation). I feel like its important to highlight my earlier experiences with the series to illuminate the point I’m trying to make.

When I first watched Zeta, I was fresh of the high of watching the MSG compilation movies. I had started a journey to “watch” all the UC material since by that point in my life I had watched a lot of the AU series; but neglected the original shows. I erroneously went into Zeta Gundam with high hopes.

Prior to watching the consensus, I was told, was that Zeta was “one of the best Gundam shows out there”. Now that claim can be rather vague on its’ own. What is it that makes a Gundam show great? The Mecha? The fights? The character development? The story overall? It’s important to note that I had been spoiled to a degree with the animation exhibited in modern shows (at the time), a prime example being Gundam Seed. Gundam Seed has a good mixture of all elements that make it exciting, there were genuine moments in that show that “got” to me. Zeta by contrast is a completely different animal.

I can safely say that I went into Zeta hoping for high animation action with thoughtfully placed together story. But Zeta suffers from a few problems that even by modern standards can’t be overlooked. The plot can be a little whimsical at times, blink and you might miss a key point that won’t be highlighted again. When I first watched it, I didn’t understand a lot of what the characters were doing or why. Maybe its because the narration never repeated the key points before each episode consistently? Whose to say why it can be hard to follow? At times the show runs almost oblivious to itself which makes it that much harder to watch.

When I finally got to watch the compilation movies, I was actually able to piece the story together a lot better. I understood more the greater politics and motivations regarding each faction. I think it was the quicker pace of the movies which helped with this since something would happen and then be consequential in the same sitting.

On the topic of the movies, I understand that they are much different. But I think they do a fine job telling a story as it is. To keep it brief, I don’t think they hinder the series in any way. I’d argue that they help in bringing in impatient fans who want to see what all the old stuff is about without investing 50 episodes and that’s more than fine in my opinion. But for those who invest themselves in the 50 episodes there is a whole lot more one could derive from the series.

So was the third time the charm? For me I feel that it was. It dawned on me this third time around that Zeta is about subtle themes and changes. Maybe it’s because I knew not to expect the Zeta Gundam popping out of the sky killing 50 enemies like the freedom? No, while Zeta isn’t that type of dramatic its clever in the story it tells about Kamille.

Zeta does a great job telling the story of growing up from teenage adolescents into a young man. It highlights the tumultuous emotions one can feel at that age, and how one can feel helpless at times because of their youth. While Kamille is told to be a great pilot; that’s not the cause for his character to be motivated into action (I’m looking at you Kira). In a sense, its his emotional motivations that make him a much more believable pilot. He struggles against enemies and doesn’t always win. I would argue that its not until his final battles (against Haman, Yazan, and Scirocco) that you begin to see him actually get “scary” with his abilities.

Char on the other hand is also an interesting character to see in the series too. They could have easily decided on using Amuro from the very beginning but instead chose his rival. As the series progress you see him struggle with his identity. Prior his motivation was largely revenge. But in this new post war environment what is it exactly? You see him clearly opposed to tyranny in the form of the Titans while he himself refusing the easy temptation of declaring his legitimacy of being Zeon’s heir. There are two moments to me that clearly define his transformation in this show. The first being his speech at Dakar where he finally admits to being who he actually is, and in a way, begins to shift into that persona of having to take responsibility himself. The second is the stage scene with himself, Haman, and Scirocco. He clearly states how his hopes lay with the newer generation and the developing newtypes. This is an eerie foreshadowing as to how Kamille’s fate impacts him after the war.

Overall Zeta is not without its flaws. There are a few things I would clean up if I was given the opportunity (I for one, would have loved to see Jerrid keep a MKII throughout the entire show). The “monster of the week” vibe was a bit much IMO with the enemy suits. Despite any misgivings I do think it’s a fabulous show, easily worth the time invested in watching it. Just understand that it’s a show much more centered around emotions and how those can impact what a person does. This makes it a more “personal” experience for the viewer in my opinion. 

In short, my opinion of this series has changed. I can see how I was wrong in my earlier assessment of this show, and it easily has climbed the ladder of my personal rankings. I hope maybe I can convince some of you to watch (or rewatch) this show as well!

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