Gundam X: Hidden Wonder

Double X

Gundam X is a very maligned show. It was cut short by 10 episodes and was a commercial failure. But it achieves something that its direct predecessor Gundam Wing failed at, which is telling a damn good story. Gundam X may not have done well as a Gundam show, but it was a great anime.

Indeed, X was an unlucky project from the very start. It started right after the popular Wing ended, which had ushered in a new era of popularity for Gundam, as well as successfully attracting female fans to the franchise (which did mar my enjoyment of Gundam irreparably). So expectations were high.

Instead of flamboyant and distinctive Gundam designs from Wing, X had rather spartan Gundams and most of the grunts were throwaway designs to boot (I wouldn’t even know their names if not for MAHQ). It made for bad model sales, and I don’t even remember seeing grunt kits from X. The Gundams of X weren’t the broken mechs that the Wing boys toted around. Even the Satellite Cannon had a lot of limitations–it could only be used when the moon was out, and took too long to charge. When I saw both shows as a kid, I concluded that Wing was much better, because it had stronger Gundams, more explosions, and more [pointless] fighting.

Posting [mecha] porn in a worksafe blog.

Posting mecha porn in a worksafe blog.

I did change my mind after getting older. Wing easily had the worst writing out of all Gundams, and I couldn’t even remember most of its plot without resorting to MAHQ summaries. It was really a stupid, empty pew pew show. X, however, was everything Wing was not. There was a sense of cohesion between the story arcs, and the narrative is enjoyably straightforward.

And the ending. It sets apart X from every other Gundam show there is. It ends quietly, not with a bang, and certainly not with a whimper either. It ends with a wish, that somehow Garrod and Tiffa could lead normal lives, putting aside the words “Gundam” and “Newtype” away. And after sitting through the lives of this couple through 39 episodes, I know for a fact that they can make it happen. There were copious amounts of dialogue, but they were all relevant, and actually made sense. It didn’t feel rushed to me.

When you find love in your heart...

When you find love in your heart...

Even a random anon from /m/ said:

My wife delayed telling me that she was in LABOR with our 4th kid so we could watch the end of this thing.

Yes, it is very satisfying.

My mecha-fu, which matured over the years, was also suitably impressed. The Gundams of X turned out to be cooler than the ones in Wing. Leopard really felt like a long-range support unit, always skidding along the ground and needing a separate marine configuration. In contrast, Heavyarms had its acrobatic shenanigans and was even more invincible with the folding knife than at full ammo. Airmaster was a simple design that was pleasing to watch in action. All X incarnations were awesome (Divider most of all), and the Double X manages to be the heroes’ trump card without destroying the sense of challenge for the story. And the enemy Gundams were menacing without looking too freaky (see: Devil Gundam).

Nothing like successfully activating a dormant superweapon to knock some belief in a higher power, eh?

Nothing like successfully activating a dormant superweapon to knock some belief in a higher power.

And Garrod is awesome. He does the job with 80% less whine than other Gundam protagonists, and warms up to the audience fast. His skill at piloting is definitely good (even adapting from land to space combat in one sitting), and doesn’t cheat with silly hax. For those allergic to Gundam romance, I have good news for you: Garrod and Tiffa are at tier of their own, because they work. There’s practically zero melodrama, and they manage to be sweet without overt displays of affection. It’s a silent, real love that anyone would appreciate.

Best liar ever.

Best liar ever.

It’s a tragedy, really. For every Gundam fan who appreciates X, there are probably twenty raving fanboys for Wing/SEED/00. In terms of pure emotional connection, X is my favorite, because its message is both down-to-earth and wholly optimistic. Despite having made mistakes in the past, we all have the capacity to change the future for ourselves, and screw silly premonitions. That is what X tells us.

In the end, Gundam X will remain an underappreciated, underrated, underwatched show. But I’m always trying to get others to watch it. For starters, it’s actually sort of a proto-Eureka Seven–the premise of boy-meets-aloof-girl-with-mysterious-power is there, and is a coming-of-age story at heart.  Plus, as an AU series, it’s closer to UC than its peers. If you complain that the Gundam franchise is mostly the same depressing, senseless fare, I urge you to give Gundam X a try.

...and here is the obligatory GARrod motivator.

...and here is the obligatory GARrod motivator.

Because it starts with dreams, comes to a resolution, and ends with a human touch.

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53 Responses to Gundam X: Hidden Wonder

  1. ghostlightning says:

    Fuck, I’m watching this.

  2. Turambar says:

    I have to say, you’re spot on with Wing. I came pretty late into the Gundam party and has always wondered why Wing had the popularity it was able to garner. Maybe it’s because Wing Zero is absurdly over powered? Who knows.

    And yes, Divider is awesome. Even if all I know of it is from playing SRW: AG.

  3. Hear, hear. I’m always ready to put in a word for X myself. Garrod is the anti-newtype, and his romance with Tiffa is well-done and satisfying without dominating the story too much (after all, this is still Gundam). X Divider is love. And I like how the whole story can just about bolt onto the original premise of the UC.

    Oh yeah, and Jamil Neate. Like an older, wiser Amuro, with shades of Harlock, doing Bright’s job – while wearing Quattro’s shades. A ‘smorgasbord of manliness’, as Otakuism’s Demian once called him.

  4. schneider says:

    @ ghostlightning

    Yes, please.

    @ Turambar

    Wing was the first Gundam that aired in my country, so most Gundam fans I know (me included) experienced it first. And you gotta see how Divider was made, Kid is a genius.

    @ IKnight

    Jamil deserves a post of his own, if only for that beatdown he gave and its justification.

  5. Ravhin says:

    Have you watched Turn A Gundam ? Reading this it feels to me that you would like it. Personally it’s my favorite gundam show, by far.

  6. schneider says:

    @ Ravhin

    Yeah, I saw Turn A too. It’s a better show than X, objectively speaking, but I just like X for its themes.

  7. Bright introduced the Brightslap, but Jamil formulated Brightslap Theory.

  8. Tachyon says:

    Thank you for your great posts on mecha anime. I’ve enjoyed reading them. I haven’t seen Gundam X but you’ve inspired me to seek it out and give it a try.

  9. Camario says:

    Reminds me once again why I should really get to watching this show, but at least I can already say the fully upgraded X is pretty awesome in SRW @ Gaiden. 😀

    Besides, while I haven’t seen the show, it seems like the story was adapted fairly well, at least for a video game which tries to mix different plots together. Even from that much I can tell Garrod’s certainly more entertaining to watch than the Wing crew.

  10. Turambar says:

    Having finally gotten up to that part, I have to say, I’m very impressed at the transformation into X Divider. Not just in the end result itself, but more so the depiction of the effort the entire mechanics crew. It quite literally forces you to respect the suit a lot more compared to, say, the strike with it’s much simpler equipment swap. (even if the latter is more combat effective)

  11. I like to think that if those mechanics were plamo builders, they would do mindblowingly good kitbashes.

  12. Pingback: Victory Gundam: Standing Up To The Victory « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da!

  13. sadakups says:

    I complete agree with EVERYTHING you said about Gundam X. It’s really sad that such a great AU series (haven’t seen Turn A yet) is so underrated, underappreciated and underwatched as you said even though it’s been more than a decade since it aired. A remake won’t hurt much, if anything. Or at least an OVA to cover the space arc.

    I actually had the same feeling that you considered Wing to be better than X during my younger years, only to realize that X owns every AU Gundam series that I’ve watched (again, not including Turn A). Yeah, I’d probably watch Gundam X tonight.

    And that GARrod Ran motivator = priceless.

    • schneider says:

      My Gundam mentor also helped polarize me into giving X a second chance, too. I’d probably not rewatch it (or actually complete it, as I did lose interest when I watched the show on local TV) if not with his help.

  14. Sh33p says:

    I decided to watch X after reading this article, and it’s definitely the best one I’ve seen. It’s far superior to Seed, Wing and 00. I’m onto the last episode, but I’ve got no idea how they’re going to finish it off in one.

  15. Zyrael says:

    Love your article about X… ^^

    It’s really nice to see people who actually appreciate the show for it being itself and not like the others… Far too many people compare X to Wing and the UCs saying that X is not worth it…

    Anyways, to hell with them… Gundam X RULES!!!

    I always hoped to see a remake of X someday, but for now I’ll just settle with fanfics *lol*

  16. Shiro, Long Tail's says:

    It’s certainly rare to see an article on Gundam X in a positive light. X is one of my favorites in the series, mainly because it’s low powered so to speak. The newtypes aren’t unhittable death dealers and have their own limitations, there are no Seed berserkers or grossly overpowered 00 suits cutting down what could pass for an agromech.

    I like X, not for it’s action which to be honest leaves a lot to be desired, but for it’s setting and good character dynamic. Post apocalyptic has always been a favorite setting of mine and a series that gives a fairly realistic view of a successful devastating colony drop reels me in hook line and sinker. I think you hit the nail on the head that Garrod is a pretty likeable guy, and more importantly he and the rest of the cast are realistic which is what sets this series apart.

  17. Pingback: ::Schrödinger’s Blog:: » Gundam X Halfway Review

  18. Palvati says:

    To be honest, I never understood why Gundam X was cut short

    Gundam Wing is by far the worst series in my mind (this includes GSD) as it was monotonic and if they had nothing to do, they decided to go attack another military base.

    It was one of few anime that I had to stop watching….

    I definally enjoyed the Gundams figues from Wing, as it probably had one of the highest Gundam figure sales, but by episode 10 or so.. I still didn’t know what was going on and what all the fanfare about Wing was….

    I finished Watching Gundam V a while ago and… it was disappointed to me. It had pretty good story, but I think one of the flaw as that Usso Ebbing was just too young, and there seemed to be too many limits due to his age factor.

  19. Nitramy says:

    Don’t forget the incredibly manly sideburns Jamil sports. 🙂

    Also, am I the only one who thinks that Tiffa was rendered moe by simplicity rather than intentionally rendered into a moeblob by the writers?

    • schneider says:

      When I was young, I thought sideburns were the epitome of manliness, seeing Lupin III. I still believe. 😛

      Tiffa is pure, natural moe who stands head and shoulders over most moe girls nowadays. She also embodies the “I wanna protect her” aspect of moe best.

      • Zyrael says:

        Tiffa = moe by simplicity

        Most definitely she is… ^_^

        something different:
        =================================
        Btw… does anybody know a really good image of Double X? I’m searching for inspiration on customizing my 1/100 Double X. ^_^

  20. GX_dub_leader says:

    x was truely better. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, 00 was, and I mean, was good from the mech design perspecitve…. (I like to draw them) but X was better with the story and it was a heck of a lot closer to UC than the others. Great series.

  21. Pingback: Reverse Thieves » Ballads of the Earth and the Moon: After War Gundam X, Newtype Dolphin . . . ’nuff said.

  22. teh Evil Mitsune says:

    WHAT IS THIS?! DISSIN MAI HEERO?!

  23. Pingback: My Gundam is better than your Gundam – DKJ’s Top 10 Gundam Moments « We Remember Love

  24. Garrod Fan says:

    you know what gundam X needed?

    NOTHING! f***ing thing was PERFECT!

  25. Pingback: Ballads of the Earth and the Moon: After War Gundam X, Newtype Dolphin . . . ’nuff said. « Reverse Thieves

  26. Lactvoodle says:

    Gundam After war x is different.
    Not only because of the plot (which is about what happens after the end rather then trying to prevent the end) but also because the characters look and act their age as well as behaving like ordinary poeple would in their positions .
    I mean in gundam wing heero looks like he’s in his early twenties and in After war X Garrod looks around fourteen or fifteen yet THEIR BOTH THE SAME AGE(15)!!!
    Garrod is also special (not a newtype in world containing newtypes) or extraordanary in terms of training ( heero yuy) he’s just a kid who’s also a good pilot and had the bad luck of living after most things have died.
    Jamil isn’t a ,warrior code which i ignore on a regular basis, master asia bajeena, nor is he a pacifist warmonger like treize kushrenada ( who would kill as many poeple as it takes to ensure that wars like the ones he starts never happen) but rather a person haunted by the events of his past . Jamil is also one of the few mentors who is not pedophile( for pedophile see CHAR AZNABLE)
    And Tiffa wel tiffa is a girl who both a newtype in a world destroyed by newtypes and a girl traumetised by poeple who wanted her power.
    But tiffa is more than that she a little girl who looks and acts like one would in her sistuation.
    In short After war X is the best of the gundam tv shows because of it’s realism and it’s relateble characters (although the fangirls think otherwise)

    • schneider says:

      I would think that Garrod would’ve done the job in episode 1 without any hangups, were he a perfectly normal person. But him having a moral compass made the show as it is.

      Yeah, I find it impossible to think of Jamil as a pedo.

      I think Tiffa is the best illustration of Tomino’s “Newtypes-as-human-tools” concept, and transcends the role given to her quite nicely.

      The character I probably relate to most in the show is Kid, the mechanic, who is a total mechasexual.

  27. Odin Stern says:

    Nice article it’s very rare to see an article about gundam x. Anyway I agree with what you say about this series, as most gundam series i watched the plot of x is the best among any gundam show I watched (not including turn a). the mechs are the best in terms of concept, they are just machines but in the hands of a skilled pilot it can be turned into something awesome unlike the mechs on SEED, GSD, OO. Yes, I’ll be happy to see a remake of this series, and bandai has released the HG line of gundam X , the GX divider, and hoping to see the double x made it soon.

    • schneider says:

      I quite like the Double X, it isn’t particularly pretty or anything, but it looks unique for a Gundam. Maybe it’s the X-shaped face. Here’s to hoping for the model kit!

  28. aptkane says:

    What can I say? After reading this I WHOLE HEARTILY AGREE! But then again, I’m biased because X has always been my favorite series outside of UC. The 1/144th Gundam Leopard was the first Gunpla kit I ever built, and since then it’s always been a favorite of mine.

    My only issue with X was the D.O.M.E ending…not the actual ending but the whole D.O.M.E part was obviously rushed, which is unfortunate.

    Still, it’s such a great series and gets such a bum rap sometimes…but seems the Double X is showing up in games more and more, I think that’s a good sign of a possible revival.

    Awesome article, thanks for this!

    • schneider says:

      Thank you for the kind words. D.O.M.E. ending was rushed, but it was admirably better than a lot of Gundam ends that just threw lots of fighting and explosions in your face. It respects the show’s internal logic and didn’t pull anything out of its ass.

      The Double X appearing in more games lately is a godsend. Perhaps we can get more Gundam X model kits sooner or later!

  29. aptkane says:

    Oh, I hope so Schneider – I modified my 1/100 Double X Kit with MG parts, but I would love to see the X/X Divider get some MG treatment, as well as the Leopard and Airmaster.

  30. Adrian says:

    Totally agree with this review.

    It’s one of my favorite Gundam shows (behind Turn A), and wing and seed are shit lol, this one totally blows them away in story, characters and mecha design. Strike Freedom is just an F91 gundam ripoff, at least Double X is original (and super awesome). Garrod also kicks more ass than alot of the other Gundam pilots and he isn’t some SEED fag or innovator or newtype, He’s just plain awesome. After War X ❤

  31. Pingback: Gundam X cross Madoka Magica | Nekketsu Nikki

  32. feddie/zeke-knight1993 says:

    Screw UC, X RULES!

    Screw the UC fanboys/girls: while I appreciate an ocassional, Shakespeare-wannabe work, I’m also not some emo masochist who likes to watch EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN WOMAN IN THE SERIES KILLED. I actually appreciate that the females in this show were actually great characters (even the bridge bunnies) and not annoying (Quess Paraya or Stella Loussier) or tragic expendable girls who were mishandled by their mysoginistic writer (Elpeo Ple, Ple Two, Marida Cruz [ ;_; ], Anew Returner, etc., among an infinite number of others).

    Like the author says: this series is about hope, the triumph of will (not trying to sound Nazi) and that when one has enough determination, YOU GET TO DO AWESOME STUFF THAT EVENTUALYL PAYS OFF.

    So like I said before: F**K UC! F**K UNICORN and its crappy, mysoginistic melodrama! F**K Banagher and his retarded crap! F**K pedo-char and his God-Complex!

    Flame me as you will: I have taken worse; and you know I’m right.

    (I’m really, really, REALLY, sorry for the language, tsuzukusekai. It won’t happen again)

    • schneider says:

      Come to think of it, X doesn’t mistreat its women by making them totally suck at things and dying, but it does put Tiffa in the role of damsel in distress quite often. It’s not as bad as it sounds, because Tiffa doesn’t whine.

      I wouldn’t say Marida was mistreated by Gundam Unicorn’s writer, at least from my point of view. Hers is a PTSD story done right, and those horrible things that had happened to her were thankfully not animated. And she’s handled herself better than one might think.

      Thanks for reading.

      • feddie/zeke-knight1993 says:

        I wasn’t complaining for her past: I was complaining of her inevitable death that I’m sure will happen in OVA 5 just to give Riddhe the effing Banshee. Now THAT sucks: I mean, who wants to watch an a**hole like him piloting a Gundam like that?
        That and that she’ll also be killed to give Banagher a “motivation” and “development”. Also the fact that the Japanese view her as “damaged goods” (whatever that means) doesn’t help her case. So it sucks. So eff Unicorn and all mainstream UC series.

        Sieg to the UC miniseries (Like 08th MS Teamwho, in one way or another, gave their characters hope or at least respect), and hail the best AU, Gundam X.

        And while Tiffa may have been a “damsel in distress”, she wasn’t annoying, and she had a great role at the end with D.O.M.E.: and if my memory is right, she even pilots some mobile suit and helps Garrod fend off the Frost Brothers’ allies! Now THAT’S true character development!

        • aptkane says:

          Yikes…you guys need to cool out. All of the series have their ups and downs. There are people who will even argue that Turn A Gundam is the best series, which to me is laughable.

          Just to clear the record though, Tifa does not pilot the Bits. She activates D.O.M.E. which controls the bit MS.

  33. feddie/zeke-knight1993 says:

    This is for aptkane:

    I bet you havent even WATCHED Turn A: sure, its mechanical designs are jarring, but overall it is much better than, say, Wing, or GSD. And I’m sure you’re just saying that because it has a “happy ending”, and Gundam is supposed to not have happy endings.

    And I know the difference between the DOME Bits and the other mobile suits: but in that case, it means I just confused Tiffa with some other girl during the final battle.

    I still make my stand: X is better than UC mainstream series. And eff the overrated Unicorn series.

    • aptkane says:

      Wow, you’re awfully emotionally charged with your responses. I have seen Turn A Gundam and I’m about as neutral about it as possible. I don’t feel strongly either way.

      I would suggest however, that you relax a bit about this and stop trying to start a 1998 flame war over someone’s blog posting.

      • schneider says:

        LOL I’m one of those guys who thinks Turn A is the best (well, a tie with 0080), but we’re all cool.

      • feddie/zeke-knight1993 says:

        Don’t worry, I’m not mad at ANY of you: I’m just expressing my bitterness over UC’s antiquated form of portraying women: either mindless drones (Four Murasame, Rosamia Badam, etc.), creepy Lolis that are sexploited only to be discarded without any second thought (the poor Ples) or rape/abuse victims (Reccoa Retardatus,Precious Lady Marida Cruz). Those that DON’T suffer these ordeals (Precious Emma Sheen), or are simply over said ordeals (Marida Cruz, like schneider says, handles it excellently without any angst) are killed off in the most insulting ways (Marida is killed by Riddhe: WTF?!)

        Sorry for the rant again :/

  34. Jonn says:

    I love Gundam X, Gundam Wing, Gundam SEED, Universal Century Gundam series, Turn A, AGE, Build Fighters, G Gundam, and everything else. I love Gundam as a whole, even though bad writing plagued some, or some are underrated, or some series’ mobile suits were labelled ‘overpowered’, or some got ridiculous fighting systems— But, hey, they still have good points no matter how murky the waters for them are, and are definitely entertaining in their own ways. 😀

    • haykalGUNDAMN says:

      yeah, i agree with you. all of Gundam series have some goods and bads. it’s just a matter of perspective you watch and think about all the plot, mecha design, character, etc. in my opinion, i truly love all the Gundam series that into war/post-apocalyptic era, truly according to Yoshiyuki Tomino’s portrayal about Gundam as weapons for war and the irony within it. it’s just not my genre for Gundam series like GB or GBF…

      but hey, it’s just matter to one’s own personal perspective whether he/she likes the to particular series 😀

  35. I kinda get the feeling that Eureka Seven was inspired by this. A lot. Specially the mecha-romance angle. Except Garrod might be a way better character than Renton in comparison. However, I guarantee that the song ‘Human Touch’ really brings that Eureka Seven vibes to it. Hell, some of the romance-moe vibes reminds me of a cheesy but ok anime called Elemental Gelade.

  36. Misty Mayhem says:

    “as well as successfully attracting female fans to the franchise (which did mar my enjoyment of Gundam irreparably)”

    Wow, I thought your extreme hipster view of Gundam Wing was bad enough. But it turns out you’re also an ignorant sexist jackass.

    But if we ignore your stupidity and stick to just Gundam Wing, have you only seen the dub? It’s much better in Japanese and truer to the original plot. This is true for most of the Gundam series really.

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