The animation in old Gundam

I don’t possess anywhere near the amount of animation expertise as some people. I can’t pick out individual animators, nor am I well versed in animation directors. However, I do know art, and I do know what I like, so let’s see if I can say something semi-intelligent about animation.

A couple of nights ago I was looking through my Gundam folder for a picture. This picture was a series of six weird looking frames from the notorious 15th of episode of First Gundam– Cucuruz Doan’s Island. While looking for this picture, I came across a bunch of other great stills from the TV series, and it reminded me of how much I just loved the animation in the original Gundam series.

Let’s be honest– the original Gundam TV series had some pretty clunky looking animation. That said, while the animation was really clunky, and at times downright ugly– the movement of characters and mecha was always filled with personality. Thankfully the movie cuts knock out of most of the ugly, and keep the personality.

What do I mean by personality, though? I mean the animation is filled with life. It isn’t sterilized and cleaned up. It’s raw. When the mecha move, even in the nicer looking episodes of the series, they don’t always conform to their models, nor do they act as real machines would. They bend in weird ways and move in a cartoonish manner. Let me dig out a picture to illustrate my point.

Take a look at this picture. The first thing I want you to notice is the Gundam Hammer– it’s not a perfect circle. In fact, it’s actually very much an oval. This frame is just one in a series of frames drawn to depict the movement of the Hammer hitting the Zaku. But why isn’t the Hammer perfectly round? When the Hammer is stretched out like that, it works as sort of a motion blur– it helps the motion seem faster and stronger. Also, notice how bent up the Zaku is. I doubt metal really bends like that, but when drawn in such a way, that Zaku looks pretty fucked up. I suspect it explodes in the next couple of frames. This is what I love about the animation in Gundam– it’s really kinetic. It sacrifices detail for movement, and as a result things tend to flow in a very visually pleasing way.

One thing I noticed about the original Gundam series is how there’s a lot of western influence. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s designs are very much Japanese, but his contoured, free-flowing lines remind me more of western character designs. The animation itself is also really free flowing and cartoony, free of a lot of obsessive attention to making things move totally realistically. One of my favourite scenes (animation wise) in Gundam isn’t even mecha or character related at all. It’s when the Zeon are landing in Jabro. When they land, you see a snake sleeping on a tree. Once a Zaku or whatever lands right near the snake, the snake’s eyes pop out and I believe its stripes do, too. After that it comes back together and probably falls down. I love this scene.

Sadly, this approach to animation has died in Gundam, and in most Sunrise mecha shows in general. When you watch something like Gundam SEED, Code Geass, or even Gundam 00, the animation is very sterile. There’s no personality in any of the movement, and it’s all very calculated. I understand the mainstream prefers this, but I find it kind of boring.

However, the cartoony, kinetic movement of old Gundam and the like is still alive today. Just look at Gurren Lagann and its various violations of laws of reality. Hell, even look at Clannad. KyoAni, known for their very clean animation that adheres strictly to character sheets gets pretty crazy at times, and by “at times” I mean “whenever Kyou beats the shit out of Sunohara.”

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14 Responses to The animation in old Gundam

  1. Link says:

    Yeah, what happened to the ridiculously creative Gundam action scenes of old? I remember Char fighting Haman and ramming her against a wall in Zeta. You don’t see that in mecha series today, or just about anything really.

    You need to see Turn-A. It has some crazy animation that you’ll love.

  2. moonspeaker says:

    This is why even today I still prefer the cel animated Gundam series. Sure they were clunky, but for whatever reason (probably what you were describing) they were always eye-catching with a lot of focus shift and flowing movements. The only exception I’ve found would be in MS IGLOO. The CG in it, although obviously rigid, is still interesting since the characters and mechs movements themselves are flowing (ex: when the zaku charged the Lt. in IGLOO 2 ep1, at one part they showed a ground view looking up and you could see the legs bounding in an almost cartoon-esk manor).

    And every time KyoAni does any over-exaggerated motion scenes (Kyou, Tomoyo) they tend to look better than the rest of the animation.

  3. Marco says:

    Your Gundam hammer thing remind me of the old Tsubasa Captain anime not the new one with the huge legs, the one with the straw looking legs and wne they kicked the ball it would stretch like a crescent moon and be drawn all sketchy which perfectlyd escribes what you menat to say and personally it looked much better than the fucking 3-D adidas ball in the new series, Also that is why I love Gurren Laggan they fucking bend reality and can use HAHA ITS OUR WILL to shut up any nerd :P

    Also excuse my typos and shit I just woke u from a nap and don’t feel like correcting them.

  4. 3x as random says:

    Bring back the old gundams D:

    And yeah, that snake scene, I loved that scene. I mean, its anime. Nothing needs to be realistic. NOTHING. If I want to see reality I’d go for drama/reality shows.

  5. BrendantheJedi says:

    Okay, I like the old cartoony feel too when used correctly. For example, it has it’s place in Super Robot shows like Gurren Lagann, which uses exaggeration effectively.. However I do think while staler action wise, stiff realistic animation better fits real robot shows like Gundam. Gundam, UC Gundam in specific, is intended to be a serious war drama, and as a serious war drama wonky metal reaction and stuff doesn’t exactly fit.

    That said, the exaggerations don’t hamper original too much, and one of my favorite series is the crazy G Gundam, but after reading the original novels, penned by Tomino himself, it’s easy to see that stiff action would have fit the content of story better. Yes, Gundam included crazy shit like the Newtype arc, but aside from that everything in the novels is based around the idea science and logic. In the anime shit breaks down realisitcally, like every 5 minutes. Despite stretching improving the impact has on the viewer, I say the exaggeration is something that really doesn’t belong in a real robot series.

    Anyways, I don’t think that the stiffness and consistancy of animation is why the action can sometimes be lacking in recent Gundam. Heck in both Seed and 00 there have been good fight despite the stiffness. The reason that the crappy fights in either of those series is because of the lack of innovation that goes into fight scenes. For example, fights with Kira in Destiny usually involve Kira beamspaming stationary enemies. The worst fights in 00 were in season 1 in which the grunts would fly in a straight line at the Virtue Gundam’s beam cannon (for Wildarm’s benefit, it’s the fat Gundam piloted by the pretty girl that can shed it’s armor and become a pretty girl too), I mean, jezz, at least try to strafe or something.

  6. Admiral Muffin says:

    I kinda agree with Wildarms with this one. When I first watched 0079, I was expecting some old and dated animation. Okay I did see some old and dated animation, but I was pleasantly surprised with its cartoonish smoothness. I guess it still has the shades of some the old super robot shows. Anyway, like what Link said, you really need to see Turn A, Wildarms.

    Oh and Brendan, I love the Gundam Nadleeh’s designs. I dunno why but I like it. Since we’re on the topic of Gundam. What do you guys think of the 30th anniversary unveiling next year, after 00 is done. Me, I really really really really wish they’re going to animate Unicorn. Please Bandai, animate Mobile Suit Unicorn Gundam. Please!

  7. BrendantheJedi says:

    ^Yeah, we all want them to animate Unicorn, but let’s be honest with ourselves. No Gundam manga has ever made the jump to animation, except maybe Seed Astray’s glorified toy commercials. But maybe for the 30th Sunrise will make an exception to the rule

    Also, I must also support the suggestion of Turn A. It’s really Tomino at his best, and though it may lack constant action, I think it is a better work than Zeta.

  8. Since I have a lot of space I may as well download Turn-A now.

  9. Admiral Muffin says:

    Yeah I know the chances of Unicorn being animated is very slim. I am enjoying 00 and I know UC is been done to death but I think we need a good old fashioned mature Gundam story. I’ve seen a few chapter summaries of Unicorn and the story is like ten times better than 00. Speaking of those five minute Astray commercials, I enjoyed them more than the two main SEED series. But I’m guessing the 30th anniversary thing would be another RX-78 model. *Sigh*

  10. I’d wet my pants if they reanimated the movie trilogy completely frame for frame.

    But I guess there’d be a seiyuu issues considering Sayla and Bright’s seiyuu are both dead.

  11. Admiral Muffin says:

    They could find replacements. They did replace a lot of seiyuus when they did the Zeta movies and some of them are not even dead.

  12. BrendantheJedi says:

    Ok, let’s list possibilities for the anniversery.

    -Gundam Unicorn: Would be awesome, but unlikely.
    -True Remake of 0079: Again, really awesome, unlikely as hell, VA issues aside.
    -True Remake of 0079 headed by Tomino: Even awesomer than the last, but as likely as a sequel to FLCL.
    -Entirely new series with heavy homages to the first: 50/50.
    -Entirely new series helmed by Tomino? 75/25 (very possible, but somewhat unlikely).
    -Entirely new series with almost nothing to do with the original, but with a single episode directed by Tomino: 25/75.
    -Another RX-78 mastergrade: Fuck off, sir, fuck off…shit. Most likely of all.

  13. For most Gundam anniversaries they’ve made a new series or movie. Heck, for the 15th anniversary they made three TV series!

  14. Admiral Muffin says:

    I’m guessing a 00 OVA. If it’s another UC OVA then I hope it will be good like 0080. MS Igloo 2 is bit…iffy. Anyway I’m gonna fap over this and pretend I’m living in a world where they made this anime instead of 00.