Waring this review may contain spoilers.
Frist impreions, so my first impression was that this is going to be a continuation of one of the most important anime of the 1970s and also considering i have gundam in my username name so why wouldn't i watch it and review it.
7 years after the one year and stardust happened an elite military group known as the Titans have come to power who job is to hunt down the remaining Zeon forces, but soon after the organisation devolves into a tyrannical group that opposes the local space colonies and becomes even worse than the very Zeon forces that they where fighting, but hope is not lost as a ragtag group known as the AEUG have come to challenge this tyranny and hopefully restore freedom. Our story begins with main character Kamille who to make a long story short in a temper tantrum steels a prototype Gundam unit and joins the AEUG. so basically zeta Gundam did attack on titan years before attack on titan even did it, but jokes aside lets get into the real meat of this review.
So when compared to the original gundam series, zeta gundam is a lot more focused and polished. When it comes to the of the idea of war is bad and what's happenens during war, like the pure destruction of city's, forests and other locations or the lost of human or wildlife during this confits. Like for example There are entire scenes where its dead humans and animals in the backdrops of destroyed cities and jungles on fire. while at the same time talking about political and ecological themes like for example humanity should leave mother earth behind and take to the stars, before war and contamination destroys the planet and most importantly the human race with it, or the political theme of how the space colonies should have the right of self-govern and not have to bow down to the whims of a super-government.
Those kind of messages I feel are quite relevant today considering the grave predictions from ecologists or how member states of the EU are leaving because of various reasons.
But for the negative and there are quite a few problems with this series,
Like the main conflict which is about as black and white as you can get as the Titans are portrayed in a way that makes you not care about them while making the aeug out as the good guys. Which goes against what other series or Gundam shows have done by showing the negative and positive aspects of both sides But no such things happen in zeta. because let's be honest about 99% of the Titans themselves are more are less a band of stick up the ass knight templar grade psychopaths who give zero fucks about civilian deaths, commit wholesale war crimes and most importantly disregards and even undermines the authority of the government.
Which makes the aeug completely justified in almost any act they do, even though they could have made it a bit more morally ambiguous.
The next nail to stick out is while zeta Gundam focus on the horrors of war it also has a big focus on the human element which is both this series of the high and low point. On the one hand, the drama is stort of justified because they are in a middle of a war. but on the other hand, its used for over the top mellow drama that overstays it's welcome and I am not joking when I say that almost every episode either has someone getting the shit beat out of them or the emotions running at an all-time high which leads to more drama. Which in retrospect derails a lot of the series stronger points.
Another one of Zeta Gundam problems story-wise is that the pacing is very slow and there are quite a few moments where I am like oh my god get to the fucking point already and there are episodes that feel like filler like the one episode where this woman thinks Kamille is her older brother and I found this episode along with a few others completely unnecessary and episodes like that don't really contribute anything to the overall narrative or themes. But While we are on the topic of themes I do want to mention that while I feel that some of the presentations of these themes are kinda dated when compared to other series that talks about similar ideas, but I would say it does a lot more with the content when it comes to more recent series.
So main character Kamille oh where to i start with this dude.
Well Kamille is probably one of my lest favourite gundam protagonists, more and less for the reason he is exactly like eren yanger from attck on titen.
At the start he is this reckless and arrogant teenager that's full of angst and while I like to appreciate what he brings to the series. Becuase that pure blind anger fits pretty well in a war setting and his reactions feel a lot more organic than compared to Amuro's reactions that felt at times a little robotic. Now i will say that he goses though i little bit of character development as he become more motivated to bring an end to the war not just for himself but also the people around him. Which is better than i going to kill every last titen and gargle on there blood motivation he had which he still hasn't dropped completely.
When it comes to the side cast of characters, there are quite a lot of new characters with also some old favourite added in like amuro ray and Char Aznable.
When it comes to the cast as a whole they all have sort of personality and quite a few of them go though some nice character development and fleashing out
Like for example, Amuro development is basically him getting over the past and moving forward or Emma who was once a member of the Titans but joined the aeug when she realizes that things aren't as black and white as she first thought as let's be completely honest the Titans aren't exactly the most honest or kindest bunch.
But the elephant in the room character wise is that zeta gundam has some of the worse character handling i have seen in a gundam show so far not counting gundam seed. There are just tons of death and betrayal left and right.
for one example the character Reccoa who about 3/4 into the series, she betrays the AEUG to the Titans with reason being that men are mean and she wants a strong man in her life, so bottom line it was feminism and toxic masculinity to blame. But jokes aside that's just one example in quite a few I can name where characters just go off the fucking rails because reasons that make no sense in the grand scheme of things or situations that are being blown way out of proportion, Which also results with more slaps to the face or at worse another beating. Like the human drama almost drags the characters down to the abyss as character motivations become extimety hard to follow as character will continuety switch sides
But one thing that kinda saves it are the character interactions and relateships.
One of my favourite being Amuro and Char interactions because where pretty interesting considering their history together or how char and Amuro are in this mentor figure role for Kamille which is also pretty cool as well.
But the rest of the character interactions feels very disjointed because almost every episode someone is beating slapped and the shit beaten out of them out of there comrades, and this problematic because for a military group like the AEUG there is no sense of comradery or any cohesiveness what so ever.
Its like they took a bunch of assholes, put them in a room together and sied hay you guys are now a team, go fight titans and good luck.
for the time it came out Zeta gundam had very good art and animation because sunrise knew how to do a good bugget, and considering how clanky and stale some series from the 80s looks visual wise. Zeta gundam has aged pretty well considering and I would say the dated aspects of its visuals adds some grittiness to the whole series, which helps the show portray war in a more honest way.
On the negative side though the backgrounds are slighty above average and the mech battles are kinda meh. When it comes to character design its more a less an updated version of what we got for and I have nothing negative or positive to say about them, but when it comes to mech design I actually really love it because I am quite the big fan of mecha and Zeta Gundam just takes the 70s design, updates them to feel more real and adds some new designs which also look cool.
First oping song is pretty great and so is the second opimg song,but I prefer the first oping becuase i feel its fits the series more. When it comes to ending songs there also decent and worth a listen even if I don't really like them that much.
When it comes to ost its has a wide range of moods and atmosphere it wants to protry and I really dig that part about it, but the problem is that this is probably one of more weeker ost wise when compared to something like gundam seed ost, Which gave this grand feeling and also added so much emotions into the scenes.
The ost was done by Shigeaki Saegusa who done the ost for series such as astro boy.
Sub and dub are pretty decent, but I would say that the dub feels a bit more chessey when compared to the sub which is a bit more dry.
When it comes to enjoyment, I really like the ideas that Zeta Gundam brings up.
Becuase I really like it when series take ideas like politics and ecological issues because it showcases that anime isn't just for kids just because it's animated or is all about fan service. It shows cases that even anime can provide an intriguing thought peace. But really hammered my enjoyment is that war and conflict is piss poor and as the series goes on it de-evolves into the most derivative space opera I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through.
In conclusion Zeta Gundam is probably one of the more thematically rich Gundam series so far because not only does it develop and flesh out its own ideas, but the ideas it brings up are still relevant today and that in itself gives it a value that can help it transcend the generational barrier and makes it a true anime classic.
But if you're watching it for its war and human drama aspects I feel you are goi g to be very disappointed as the conflict is about as black and white as it can get and the human drama so over bloated that not even the war backdrop can fully justify.
My advice is don't take the war or character drama seriously and view Zeta Gundam as more of thought piece you will see where its true quality shine.