Mobile Suit Z Gundam (the Z is pronounced "Zeta") is a 50-episode Japanese television show which aired every Saturday from 5:30 to 6:00 PM, from March 1985 to February 1986. Z Gundam was the first of many sequels to the phenomenally popular 1979 sci-fi anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, and is considered by many fans of the saga to be the best.

The original Mobile Suit Gundam told the story of the apocalyptic One Year War between the Duchy of Zeon and the Earth Federation, and the eventual victory of the Federation in UC 0079. In UC 0083 a terrorist action by remnants of the Zeon military (detailed in Gundam 0083) spurred the Earth Federation Space Forces (EFSF) to create a special anti-insurgence task force known as the Titans, to which it granted unprecedented powers to preserve the peace. Under the leadership of Jamitov Haiman, the Titans grew into a formidable force, largely independent of the rest of the military. In UC 0085, Titans commander Bosque Ohm ordered his troops to pump G-3 nerve gas into Side 1's 30-bunch colony cylinder in order to quell an anti-government rally being held there. All 30 million inhabitants were killed. Space colonists were outraged by the event, and, in response, joined defecting EFSF officers to form the Anti Earth-Union Group, or AEUG. As the Titans and AEUG geared up for conflict, the majority of the EFSF, nettled by the Titans' usurpation of power and threatened by the AEUG's radical politics, decided to sit back and watch. It is in this political climate that Zeta Gundam begins.

Camille Bidan is a rash, irresponsible young man who lives in Side 7's Green Noah 1 colony. Camille's flash temper and instinctual distrust of authority get him into a scuffle with a Titans officer who mocks his feminine name; things escalate from there, and before you can say "convenient plot device" he's stolen a brand-new Gundam Mark II prototype and joined the crew of an AEUG cruiser, the Ahgama. There, Camille is taken under the wing of a thinly-disguised Char Aznable, and initiated into the war as one of the Ahgama's top Newtype pilots. Despite his entry into the conflict essentially on a whim, Camille will mature rapidly, and grow to understand that he fights not out of hatred for his enemies, but out of love for his friends.

Zeta Gundam's reputation as the best of the Gundam series is richly deserved. It retains the excellent writing and direction of the original series, while raising the production values to a new standard. Admittedly, this is a 1985 standard, and anyone expecting truly modern animation will be dissapointed, but nevertheless it is an improvement over its predecessor. The characters remain compelling, the battle scenes intense, and the mecha fascinating. Zeta continues to explore many of the social, political, and emotional themes of the original, while expanding on the idea of Newtypes and presenting a new perspective on the Universal Century's perpetual civil war. The downside to Zeta is that its appeal depends in large part on the viewer's prior knowledge of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. It's also extremely depressing. I reccommend it to all Gundam fans, and fans of mecha action in general, with the caveat that seeing the first Gundam series (or first 3 movies) will probably be necessary in order to enjoy it to the fullest. Getting into the whole Gundam thing takes something of a committment, but I think it's worth it.

Writer: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Character Design: Yoshikasu Yasuhiko
Mecha Design: Kunio Okawara
Mamoru Nagano
Kazumi Fujita

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