Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.
When the first Gundam was introduced decades ago, it adopted the usual super robot frame. Most of the mecha designs back then were boxy, as if the angular armor was meant to make it more mechanical. They also tended to be bulky, though not as vast as the Super Sentai robots. The Gundam designs would eventually inherit the classic super robot look and would stick to it for years to come. And several forms of monstrosities would soon evolve from the basic Granpa Gundam. Later suits became larger, sported strange appendages, and some grew bulkier. I mean, they are meant to be real robots, but these beasts now looked meaner than their super robot counterparts.
And it all changed in the coming years.
In the 90s, suit sizes began to shrink. From the monumental monsters of the UC timeline, we were introduced to the so called Pocket Mobile Suits of Gundam F91. Supposedly, they were improvements as the story suggested. But this might have been an attempt by Bandai to sell kits to people living in smaller rooms. The suits might be tiny but it still retained the muscular look of the traditional Japanese mecha. The years went on, and it wasn't just the size that went down. Though later Gundams retained their bulk, others slimmed down a lot. Gone were the wide frames and boxy armors. We were presented with sleeker, but skinnier classes of suits. One might wonder if skinny Gundams are a good thing and how the fans might react? In my case, just read below for more.
When Gundams Got Thinner
If the Gundams shrunk by the early 90s, they then started to lose weight when Gundam Wing Endless Waltz came out. I’m not sure but this seemed to be the trend back in those days, based on how other mecha anime adopted a leaner look. Again, not all of them stuck to the slim-lined designs, but leaner robots were becoming more common. The mystic mecha of Magic Knight Rayearth were less blocky. And who could forget the ultra-lean monsters of Neon Genesis Evangelion?
Now creators could discard the blocky mecha designs for what the story and the motifs dictated. In the case of the Evangelion series, they aimed for uniqueness and originality. To be honest, the sleek EVA designs would inspire later mecha frames. I’m not saying that the Gundams are jumping into the bandwagon, but they got their own platoons of leaner mobile suits to boast.
The proud suits of Gundam Wing started as normally built mecha, until Endless Waltz hit the theaters. The rest still had their normal builds (some of them), but Wing Zero Custom was leaner. Anyone who built its kit knew that without the impressive wings, the body isn’t that bulky. They did it again years later when we were introduced to the Seed series. It was supposedly a nod to the original UC Gundam timeline, but the titular mobile suit (Strike Gundam) was less bulky than Granpa Gundam. Yes, it was not as anorexic as the Wing Zero Custom, but it was still thinner than the UC suits. Afterwards, the well-loved Gundam 00 came out, and there was no explaining how the suits looked leaner than the rest.
But is it a Bad Thing?
Larger and bulkier mobile suits look cool on the shelf. They look impressive in the show and they are fun to play with. Nevertheless, I see no problem with slimmer suits either.
First there is variety. Fans sometimes want to see a huddle of varying mecha designs flying in the show. For collectors like us, an armada of different shaped kits on the shelf is a nice sight to behold. The creators did a great job of introducing new shapes and sizes to the audience. Traditional Gundams are nice, but what if the fans got tired? It seems that the streamlined suits are a breath of fresh air from the boxy mechas of the UC timeline.
Then there is the motifs. Officially, the Wing Zero custom lost some bulk so it could go faster. Yet a boxy Gundam simply won’t fit into an angelic motif. Graceful curves and a leaner design will give a sense of femininity, not to mention weightlessness to emphasize the angel design.
And leaner suits will make a mecha look agile, as what the Gundam 00 series showed. For me, this series still boasts some of the best battle scenes not just in the Gundam universe, but in the anime world. The action is fast paced and dynamic, further defined by the streamlined suits.
Proportion is the Magic Word
Bandai did a great job in designing their mecha here. They might be overly slim at first glance, but believe me, they are not that flimsy. It seems that the designers prioritize volume and proportion to make up for the lean frame. The great thing about this is that several factors were put into consideration.
- The sizes of the shoulders: A bodybuilding friend told me that in order to look bigger, you must have wide shoulders. Most Japanese mechas are known for their vast shoulder pads and the Gundams are no exception. And with these wide shoulders, the leaners suits never looked puny. A good example is the Wing Zero Custom.
- The large core: One thing I noticed is how the Gundams never discarded the large chest unit. Again, coming from my bodybuilding friend, bulk comes from how large your core is.
- Extra appendages. Let’s just say that the Wing Zero Custom’s large wings added volume to the overall frame of the suit. In fact, the vast wings alone made the Gundam look larger, in addition to the large buster rifle it wields. And how about the 0-Raiser and the Twin Drives of the Gundam 00?
- Good proportions: And lastly the limbs, core, and shoulder of these slimmed-down suits were never out of place from each other. Again, coming from a bodybuilding friend, one could look smaller if something is out of proportion. I mean look at the smaller Wing Zero Custom and the leaner Gundam 00.
How About the Kits?
As I said, I love the feel of these slimmer suits in my hands. They are very solid and posable. The leaner frame seems to permit a wider range of movements.
Here’s the fact that I learned; though they look thinner, the suits of Gundam 00 are actually beefier than the Wing Zero Custom. And again, they mix well with the other kits when displayed in the shelf. Overall, I have no problem with owning leaner Gundams. We might see a lot of them in the future and the only problem I got is that they might break my bank and leave me broke.
Questions & Answers
Question: How do you feel about the gundam frame mechas in Iron Blooded Orphans, since they practically do not have any abdomen?
Answer: It's okay with me! Again it is all about proportion. The waste of the IBO suits are basically hydraulic cylinders, yet they don't make the suits look flimsy. They still have good shoulder widths which in bodybuilding, considered as desirable.
ShinigamiRaptor on December 07, 2019:
Honestly, I think the design is dependent on the mood of the series. Slimmer Gundams work for more sci-fi series, while the bulkier designs fit the more grounded ones