In the cockpit, Amuro sweats bullets, his voice quavering. It’s only by the grace of Gundam and its smart computer that he’s able to survive. The Gundam stores combat case studies in its memory, so even though Amuro, the child soldier, is outmatched by the more experienced Char, he can learn as he goes.
Meanwhile, the masked Char — known as the Red Comet in his custom Zaku — remains enigmatic in his propensity for backstabbing. Char’s storyline is complicated by the arrival of his old friend Garma Zabi, who belongs to Zeon’s ruling family. The elder brother, Gihren, emerges as a Hitlerian dictator, bent on space conquest with the cry “Sieg Zeon!”
Needless to say, Japan’s postwar animators helped make “Mobile Suit Gundam” much more than a Saturday-morning cartoon. Characters regularly die onscreen, burning up on reentry into earth’s atmosphere or going on kamikaze runs, shouting, “Glory to Zeon!” instead of the stereotypical “Banzai!” At times, lines of morality get blurred, like when an enemy patrol craft delivers food to a mother and child, only for Gundam to shoot it down. The woman observes that no matter who wins the war, it will just leave more widows like her.
Early on, Amuro helps lead a ship full of refugees to safety, but instead of giving him a hero’s welcome, the Earth Federation wants to court martial him for misappropriating classified military technology. As in “Space Battleship Yamato,” some of his battles are fought in orbit, but Amuro insists the Gundam is a ground weapon.
The same could be said of “Mobile Suit Gundam.” Despite its premature ending due to cancellation, this remains one of the great anime series, a militarized space robot saga that keeps its giant mech legs planted firmly astride the human cost of war.