Almost a year ago I fell into a hole that is Gundam. And while I don’t think I’ll ever be able to dig my way of here, I can scream up at you about the cool stuff I found in here.
Like a few facts about how the original series of Mobile Suit Gundam was amazingly written - not only as a war story or as an action anime, but also as Sci-Fi. I’m gonna talk about them in order of increasing level of how awesome I think they are for a sci-fi story.
1. Realism and Continuity
Kind of a broad and generic category, but up to the introduction of Newtypes most of the technology used in the space war made complete and clear sense, even before IGLOO in details explained how warfare developed over the years.
At first, it seems strange to talk about the realistic and reasonable portrayal of a space battle with close-range fighting while it should be about ships shooting each other from huge distances. I mean, space is huge so why don’t they just launch missiles from thousands of miles at each other? And that’s because the whole setting workes thanks to 1 introduces technology - Minovsky Particles.
Besides Minovsky technology doing a lot of things, like making it possible for bricks like White Base to fly even in the atmosphere, the particles do an incredibly important job - they disrupt wireless communications.
So yeah, you can shoot missiles from thousands of miles, but they won’t be able to lock on to target and enemy will have a lot of time to avoid the attack. So you have to rely on other weaponry with which you need to get closer. You could make some wonder weapon, but it’s cheaper and more efficient not to. In fact, if you can get a powerful enough weapon on a very quick vehicle it would work wonders. Queue Mobile Suits.
If it’s small and fast enough it can avoid huge lumbering artillery and the mobile suit itself doesn’t need to have incredibly powerful weaponry - just powerful enough. Of course, this idea is not completely new - it’s basically what happened with planes being introduced to naval warfare in WW2. But still, Gundam gets bonus points for explaining “why space robots?”. And it only gets better from here.
2. Beam dispersing smoke screen.
How many space operas and sci-fi stories you know where the space battles are handled with some kind of beam weaponry? There’s a lot. Even if it’s not the only weapon, lasers, blasters, phasers are everywhere. Energy weapons are cool, no argument here.
But for all the examples, Gundam was the only one I’ve ever seen that came up with this brilliant idea.
Just fill the space with tiny particles that would obstruct and disperse the energy beam! After all, it’s not a projectile with mass that would punch through the smoke. And you can easily test yourself that beams get disrupted by gas. This is very situational, of course - enemy could just fly away from the cloud, unless you attack an very slow target, like a space fortress in 0079. But still, it’s very clever and I’ve never seen it before.
3. Spacesuits in space.
Space is a cold and deadly void. If the hull of the ship gets breached and you get shut into the vacuum of space while unprotected, you’re going to die almost immediately. So in Gundam, there’s a universal rule that during the space battles or any other dangerous times every single person on board must wear a space suit (a.k.a. Normal Suit).
And that’s a reasonable rule. Sure, it’s not a guarantee of survival, but your chances will be more than zero. But remember all the other popular space operas and sci-fi movies and book and what have you. How many of those have this rule? And how many of them had people die or get injured when sucked into space?
This completely shocked me. This is even more clever and reasonable that the smoke screen. That’s just a situational tactic but not this - this is like racers wearing a seatbelt. There is no good reason not to do it. Maybe you don’t have enough space suits for everyone on board, but at least the people on the bridge piloting the damn ship should get protective gear.
Remember Star Wars? Not event the thing from The Last Jedi, but X-Wing pilots from the New Hope - their masks won’t do a damn thing for them if their glass cracks. Remember hundreds of dead bodies on the cold void of space in Starship Trooper? Yeah, most of them would be alive if they had a space suit on.
And the list goes on and on. But Gundam doesn’t stop there - nah, people writing it actually sat down and thought about this. Puncturing your space suit would be death - so they have patches on their belts. Drifting in space would be bad - so characters that have high chances of being out there, like Mobile Suit pilots get booster packs on their belts. Nothing too powerful - but you don’t need much propulsion in 0 G. And later on basically every normal suit gets a grappling hook.
So these are the examples of clever Sci-Fi writing that made me appreciate this almost 40 years old anime even more. Is there anything you’d like to add or disagree on?