Ah, Zeta Gundam. Widely considered by fans and critics to be one of the best-if not the best of all the classic Gundam shows. I personally think the original series wins that title, but Zeta is still pretty awesome in its own right. Now, the original Gundam movies are probably the best compilation movies ever made for any anime. While they’re long (I’m talking Lord of the Rings long), they’re fantastically done and tell the story in a much more condensed fashion with all of the stupid filler cut out (White Base needs salt, anyone?) with some great little scenes and redone animation for a few bits.
The Zeta movies, however, were kind of a mixed bag. They were made to commemorate the 20th birthday of the show, though they’d been in the making for quite a few years. The plan was the same as the original movies-a condensed compilation of the series. However, these didn’t seem to do it as well as the original series movies did.
The movies even got a new title: Instead of just calling them “Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam *number* *subtitle*”, they went a bit overboard: The full title for the series of films is “Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation”, plus the movie number and subtitle. Man. I think that was pushing it…
For starters, the original Gundam movies were almost two and a half hours long, but these come out to 90 minutes each. Now let’s think about that-the original series was 43 episodes and got 3 140-minute movies, and Zeta was 50 episodes long and got three 90 minute movies! A similar problem happened with Turn A Gundam, too-50 episodes with two 140 minute-long movies. It seems like they only got it right once…
Now, this doesn’t hurt the overall plot TOO badly… for movies one and three, at least. They manage to be pretty good condensations of the first and final arcs of the show, with the third movie having its slightly changed ending. The second movie, however, is a total mess. I honestly can’t give a single reason why. For one, I can hardly even stay awake during it. It just covers way too much of the series for it to even make sense. Not only that, but the death of one of the main characters is completely cut out! Yeah, just like the Gundam 0083 movie with South Burning-Roberto completely disappears in the second movie because the events of that episode were cut out.
Some other events got changed, too, like the order of the colony drops on the moon, and how Reccoa joined up with Scirocco. Reccoa joins Scirocco in the most clichéd manner possible in a Gundam story: Newtype hax. If you don’t know what that means, well, why are you reading this page?
Some new scenes were added, too, like the infamous “butt touch” scene, but the only really notable one was at the end of the second movie, where Haman makes her introduction in her custom Gaza-C inspecting all of the AEUG’s mobile suits. It’s a pretty neat scene and ends the movie really well.
The biggest change of all has to be Four Murasame’s death, however. In the TV series it happened towards the end of the story, at the Kilimanjaro assault. Well, for time constraints, the whole Kilimanjaro arc had to be cut out for time restraints (also nerfing quite a bit of Amuro’s screentime). It works for what it is, but the Kilimanjaro arc is one of my favorite parts of the whole series and seeing it removed was a huge disappointment.
The end of the third movie was changed, too, but it wasn’t as drastic of a change as we’d all hoped for. Instead of getting a happy ending where more characters survive, we see… pretty much the same characters die again. The only differences are what happens to Camille and how Haman executes her plans. It’s a big disappointment, mostly because a lot of us were hoping for a new series of movies to follow.
The soundtrack for the movie is pretty cool, I have to say. You get new versions of the classic Zeta background music, which is always welcome. But what sets this apart is the set of songs by Gackt. I gotta say, I am NOT a J-Rock fan at all, but the songs he picked are pretty good, for the most part (though I’m not a fan of Dyubukk, personally). All in all, the music is pretty good.
Of course, the big elephant in the room with these movies is the animation. I’m a huge fan of that old, hand-drawn animation. I much prefer it to all of the computer-generated stuff these days. It just looks so nice, even though there are some moments that haven’t aged well. Now, instead of animating the new scenes in the old styled, it was all computer-generated. Don’t get me wrong-the new animation is awesome, and the entire movie should’ve been done like that. WHICH IS WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES. The two animation styles do NOT match up and grate against each sandpaper.
I wonder if the original plan was to do the movies in all new animation, which I personally would’ve preferred. Honestly, if we got the three movies in all new animation (like the Evangelion movies) at 90 minutes, or three movies at 140 minutes with classic animation, I think it would’ve been better. But nope, in the end, we just got a somewhat incoherent mess of animation.
I know it sounds like I hate them but I really don’t. I was just expecting a lot more from them. Really, they’re great to watch if you’ve already seen Zeta and want a quick rewatch without seeing all 50 episodes over again. But personally, I feel a compilation movie should be a retelling for people who don’t want to watch the whole series and instead want a shorter version. I think if you’re going to watch Zeta Gundam for the first time, you should watch the series instead. But for those of us that have seen the show before, give the movies a watch if you don’t feel like rewatching the whole series again. And hey-we’ve got it, and it isn’t a bad deal!