In our first review of Zeta Gundam, we wrapped up the first 14 episodes with high hopes for the series. So the question becomes, does this series continue to remain strong as it continues? Or does the second act between episodes 15 and 32 bring the series down?
Whereas the first act focused on introducing all of the characters and establishing the world, this second act works to deepen our understanding of them. But while deepening our understanding of them, the world becomes far more complicated. Like the evidence boards you see in detective movies, you have to create a type of spider web in your mind that links characters, plots, and factions.
No longer is there just the crew of the Argama that you need to track, but also the Radish. The AEUG’s leadership has been muddied as a push for Quattro Bajeena’s leadership is being made. On top of that, the executive of Anaheim Electronics, Wong Lee, attempts to put his hands in situations he’s unaware of, and then Lt. Bright works to bring his new crew together as a functional unit.
The Earth Federation is now splintered between regular units, the Titans, and a strange faction being formed by the Federation Newtype soldier, Paptimus Scirocco. This second act has become a series of political powerplays and backstabs as various leadership groups attempt to take power. All three appear to be taking advantage of individuals known as Cyber-Newtypes. (More to come on them)
All of this is further complicated by the rumors of, and the eventual reveal of, the remnants of the Principality of Zeon, known as Axis Zeon. Throughout this second act, there are various discussions about how they would align themselves with this war. The Titans, Sciroccos’ faction, and the AEUG have all, at one point or another, pondered what it would be like to partner with them.
Simply discussing these various factions and interactions may make it appear that this second half is hard to follow and confusing. Yet this has not been my experience. Yes, you do need to keep a kind of mental track of where characters are and when, yet, the way the story progresses, things seem very natural. The added layers are less of a complication to the story and more of another exciting aspect to enrich the world. On top of the excitement, it furthers the realistic look at the messiness of war which Tomino has become skilled at expressing.
Love and War
In the 2005 movie adaptation of this act, the subtext is “Lovers.” This is aptly named as this act does focus a lot on the relationships between characters. Whereas some anime have a very simplistic way of expressing love between characters, this grounds it in this war-torn world. No relationship is easy, even though there are times you’re begging for it to simplify.
With war as a backdrop, you see individuals being drawn together and pulled apart. Enemies become love interests. Love interests seemingly become enemies. Some couples find themselves permanently separated, while others find themselves homesick for each other. Then at times, you see that some of the love stories are actually stories of manipulation in disguise. This complexity of the interrelational aspects of the cast; adds another layer that again expresses the complexities of war.
Zeta Gundam, as a whole, gives us a deeper look at the concept of Newtypes. With each episode, Newtype abilities are explored and expanded upon. That said, the mystery of this new kind of human continues to deepen. What’s tragic to me, however, is the introduction of individuals known as Cyber-Newtypes.
Cyber-Newtypes are nothing more than test subjects to the Federation and the Titans. Seen as toys, they are humans who have gone through some sort of mental, possibly physical alteration to, at the very least, emulate Newtype abilities. The end result is a soldier with psychic abilities that give them a unique edge on the battlefield, especially when paired with mobile suits/armor built with “Psyco Frames.”
Sadly, these individuals are stripped of their memories before becoming Cyber-Newtypes. These memories are then held hostage as an incentive to be cooperative toys for the ruling faction. The final result of this procedure and treatment are minds that are so fractured that these Cyber-Newtypes are mentally ill. I genuinely feel sorrow for these individuals as their stories play out in these episodes.
As stated in our previous article, this series seems to have a factory that pumps out new models of mechs left and right. This second act doubles down on the concept of a transformable mobile suit. So much so that they even provide an attachment called the G-Defensor to the Gundam Mark II to give it some “transformable” qualities. While off-putting at first, these transforming mobile suits have given a new life to mech battles in this second act. Battles are no longer humanoid robots fighting either trench-style or hand-to-combat. Now there’s a new life to the combat with aerial dog-fighting and combining the two styles.
However, I want to point out two specific suits for this review. The first is the series named Zeta Gundam. This is the first time in the franchise that the main protagonist gets a mid-series mobile suit upgrade. The upgrade trope is something we see played out in the following Gundam series. At first, I felt the Zeta was off-putting with his bulky design. In addition, I was concerned about how its animation would play out throughout the series. However, the animators did a great job of making its transformative animation, and many of the fight scenes appear smooth and effortless.
I can’t help but wonder if my initial dislike for the new design was because it seems so different from the designs of the RX78 and the Mark II. But the more I see it in this series, the more it seems to naturally belong to this world and the more practical it appears.
The second mech I want to point out is the Psycho Gundam. The Psycho Gundam is transforming Mobile Armor that stands at just over 9 stories tall when fully transformed. The BEHEMOTH of a machine makes its first appearance in Hong Kong. The animation of its first appearance felt otherworldly. Seeing it come into the city caused me to expect to see Ultraman or some other Tokusatsu hero to appear. But, like the Zeta, the more time it was on screen, the more it felt natural to this world. This machine monstrosity truly felt like something the Titans would have created.
This machine also introduces us to the concept of Psychoframe machines. These are machines built with the sole purpose of resonating with and enhancing the abilities of Cyber-NewTypes (and presumably, at this point, NewTypes) to make them more effective warriors. Unfortunately, however, this technology is yet another tragic mark of the cruelty of the Titans. Normal people can’t hope to control these early models, such as the Psycho Gundam. But the more a Cyber-Newtype uses it, the more trauma and mental damage they suffer.
This second act of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam did a great job of expanding on the world while also causing you to understand the primary cast more deeply. I became more invested in certain characters and genuinely felt sorry for others. I want to get to the end of this journey not because I’m bored with it but because I desire closure for many of the story beats taking place. Therefore, I will give episodes 15 to 32 an 8 out of 10.