Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession but a writer by night. He's interested in science, history, and martial arts.
Reconsidering '90s Gundam
Some Gundam purists I know often consider '90s Gundam as inferior, almost campy. And remembering the goofy Gundam G and the flawed Gundam Wing, they have a point. But those “inferior” Gundam series achieved something that the U.C. fandom should be thankful for.
Gundam G is an important series in that it introduced an alternate universe to the Gundam world. Suddenly, the franchise wasn’t limited to the U.C. era, hence ensuring longevity.
Gundam G Introduced Alternate Universes
A Gundam timeline set in an alternate universe became the trend in later series. And that’s exactly what gave birth to Gundam Wing. Despite the flawed story, it captured the hearts of the western audience, and it singlehandedly popularized the Gundam franchise. Later series like Gundam X were considered underrated, and fans felt it deserved more love.
'90s kids will fondly remember those Gundam series. Together with other anime like the Dragonball series and the Evangelion franchise, wildly designed robots, angelic mecha, overpowered guns, flamboyant wings and gimmicky mobile suits became a part of their childhood. And the cool villain Gundams.
Villains Looked Cool
Whenever a new Gundam series came out back then, the lead Gundam wasn’t the only suit I was watching for. I liked to see what the bad guys were wearing. Because for me, some 90s Gundam had the best villain suit designs.
The evil demonic features, the shades of red and black, and the sharp armor build make for a perfect foil to the light-colored lead Gundams. And seeing the villainous red Gundams dueling with the titular mobile suits were amazing sights to behold.
'90s Villain Gundams
Again, the villainous Gundams were as fondly remembered by the fans as much as the lead Gundams. Their overall outside aesthetic served as a foil to the titular suits, as well as conveying a menacing aura to the audience. By looks alone, these Gundams are clear and present danger.
During the 90s, there were Gundams that followed a common design. They came from the series G Gundam, Wing and X. They are the Master Gundam (G Gundam), Gundam Epyon (Gundam Wing) and the Virsago/Virsago Chest Break Gundam (Gundam X).
When Master Gundam came out in Gundam G, my jaw dropped. I loved the epic entrance, and how it almost devastated Domon’s Shining Gundam. We all know that Master Gundam was the suit of Master Asia. And throughout the series it gave the titular character a nice workout until Domon finally put it down for good.
Then there is Gundam Epyon.
It had the same epic entrance in Gundam Wing when Heero tried it for a test run. Even without a ranged weapon, it dispatched several grunt units singlehandedly. He then traded suits with Zechs, and the two engaged in a duel before Epyon lost an arm.
Gundam Virsago never had a theatrical entrance, unlike the other two red Gundams. At some point, Garrod’s buddies managed to repel them. Things got serious when an upgraded version “Chest Breaker” came out though.
Like the series itself, Virsago was underappreciated. It was never given special treatment, unlike Master and Epyon. Probably because some newer fans saw it as an Epyon rip-off, though Virsago is great in its own rights. It was just mismanaged in the show. And we need its MG release!
What fans noticed is that these three villainous Gundam share a common aesthetic, starting with the main color. Red. The red color scheme is a carryover from the U.C. era, the period when Char Aznable crossed sabers with Amuro.
Red Color Scheme
We all know his signature red color, inspired by the favored shade of a World War I German Ace Manfred von Richthofen. In Japanese culture, red is the color of heroism. And when the alternate universes came out, the red motif was adopted by the Char figures, as a nod to the U.C. timeline anti-hero. But this time, the red mobile suits received added twists.
The suits of Char Aznable were mostly red. But the three villainous Gundams also sported other dark colors, like black. This made the motif even darker and evil. In the case of the Gundam Epyon, maroon was used instead of the usual red. Gundam suits were also used instead on non-Gundam mecha. But, these Gundams were known for their somewhat demonic appearances.
We will dig deeper into why Master Asia received the gothic Gundam, and indeed these Gundam were red creatures of the night. Master Gundam had bat-like features, while Epyon and Virsago possessed spiked armor. They also had extra-large ear-like appendages which resemble bat ears, or devil’s horns.
Plus, the three Gundam had wings. Master Gundam possessed wings that folded into a cape. Gundam Epyon sported spiky dragon wings. Virsago had plain black wings, but Chest Break had three tentacle-like wings. Their weapons were also nothing standard, like a beam scarf, blasters from the torso, and a whip.
All in all, the monstrous appearance of these suits contrasted with the brightly colored titular Gundams. A perfect foil indeed.
One might wonder how these red Gundams ended up with their current aesthetics. There are unconfirmed words that Gundam Virsago/Virsago Chest Breaker’s outside design was based on Gundam Epyon, from the color schemes to the spiky armor.
G Gundam Highly Influential
The rest, like the extending arms came from other suits, like the Altron Gundam. G Gundam influenced Gundam Wing, and some fans reckoned that Master Gundam was the basis behind Gundam Epyon’s appearance. Again, that’s just fan speculation, and if this is true, then Master Gundam was the godfather of the red Gundams.
But the design of the suits in the G Gundam universe bear their country's culture, and there is nothing Chinese about Master Gundam. In fact, it looks more gothic and western.
Master Gundam Based on Wuxia Character
Master Gundam’s aesthetic was based on a wuxia novel character. In Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber (1961), there are four Guardian Kings of Ming Cult. One of them is Wei YiXiao, nicknamed the Green Winged Bat King. He had a vampire-like tendency to suck blood, to keep the icy venom in his body under control.
Eventually, Master Asia’s Gundam adopted the bat theme, and mixed with the traditional Char Aznable color. And we ended up with the recognizable dark themed Master Gundam.
We Need More Red Gundam
My friends reckoned that the villainous red Gundam was exclusively a '90s thing, because we saw less of them after that. Loran Cehack fought no Red Gundam, and Athrun Zala’s red colored Gundams lacked the dark ferocity of their predecessors.
Gundam 00 released their own version, but they lacked the appeal of the '90s red Gundams. In Iron-Blooded Orphans, we saw the awesome Gundam Astaroth Origin, but it was limited to a side story manga.
Overall, the red Gundams of the 90s are irreplaceable, but I'm still hoping to see more red Gundams in the future.