Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.
Gundam Design Concepts
I don’t want to be hard on the Turn A Gundam series (or ∀ Gundam). After all, they are no Seed Destiny and it is far better than G Reco. I have to admit that the suits are a bit, well, unique to be fair. Sure, other Gundam timelines had unusual suits to boast. Just look at the unconventional Mechas of Gundam 00. And the mechanical designs of Iron Blooded Orphans don’t look like anything that came before them. Nevertheless, they are still likable. The suits of the Turn A Gundam need some getting used to and fans complain that it’s too ugly to be likable. I kind of agree with them though. The head of the Turn A lead suit looks like an upturned Gundam face. And this is the first time I saw a mustache on a mecha.
But do you know that it could have been worse?
They hired famed Hollywood design and futurist Syd Mead, and his designs made Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomiko insane. If you happen to see his initial designs, you will be shocked and amazed all the same. I got to admit, they are ingenious though. They would be great designs if the show was not Gundam. They just don't fit. Just look below and see for yourself.
Some Mobile Suits That Stayed Ugly
Before these suits got out, they must first undergo some clean-up. Again, Syd Mead was tasked to come up with the designs for this series. To anyone not familiar, Syd Mead is a famed futurist and designer. His works could be seen in science fiction films like Aliens, Blade Runner, and Tron. Though critically acclaimed and a legend, I have a feeling that he was the wrong person for the job. Not that he is not good, but anime is a different beast that requires a more oriental approach. Hence, don’t be surprised if some of the creatures here are as weird as they could get. Now, most of the designs undergo some clean-up. We will get to that later. But even with clean-up, we got these.
Yes, the Walking Dome. We are used to sleek and flashy mobile weapons that we are surprised to see an aborted fetus flying in the show. Then there is the odd Bellona, the ugliest mobile worker in the Gundam universe, and how about the malformed Flat?
Some Really Good Looking Sketches
To be honest, not all suits are bad. We got some nice-looking designs that deserve a place in anyone’s display shelf. Despite having a terrible name, I found the SUMO to be cool. In fact, it is one of the best-looking mobile suits in the series. It receives less recognition than it deserves and I just wished they release its MG version. This one is like a gold-colored Zaku. I’m not being sarcastic here, I mean just check below:
The Cannon Illefuto is not that great looking as the SUMO, but at least it has better design than most of its uglier cousins in the show. Somehow it seems to be the Correct Century version of a GM. It had the GM visor though I felt it must be a mutated version. Now see for yourself and tell us what you think:
And between the System Turn A Gundam and the Turn X, the Turn X is flashier.
Syd Mead’s Original Designs
Now we will see Syd Mead’s original concept for the Turn A suits. The Walking Dome and Flat had been bad enough. In fact, I’m planning to create a list with them as number one. I cannot find what the Walking Dome initially looked like, but this is how Mead sketched the Flat:
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I know it barely changed but if this one came out, the already ugly Flat will look uglier. It is too squat and clumsy looking. When compared side by side with cooler suits like the Graze from the Iron Blooded Orphans, it will surely win the Ugly Awards contest. I don’t want to troll Syd Mead and his designs but those are just a few of his sketches. While searching the net I found this:
I’m not sure what it is supposed to be. It’s like a SUMO, or a ZAKU missed a leg day and got drunk in the process. With deeper research it turns out to be the earlier form of the Bandit; a mobile suit with a nice name but a not so nice appearance.
Syd Mead’s Original "Turn A Gundam"
Not everyone loves the Turn A Gundam. Again like what I said it requires getting used to. For me, it is neither ugly nor good-looking. The design seems neutral to me though I thought that the wings looked good on it. But wait till you see how Syd Mead first designed the titular mobile suit:
Your eyes are not fooling you. For Syd Mead this is a Gundam. Like me you probably thought is that a Gundam? It is missing some key elements like a V fin. What’s more, it looks too chubby to be a lead mobile suit. Okay, I’ll be straight on this one. It looks ugly. Imagine how the fans and future fans will react if this one came out instead of the one we are familiar with today. I could see a potential drop in kit sales and interest will fade. We got to thank Hajime Katoki and the others for correcting the designs and although the final Turn A suit may not be perfect, it is way better than what Syd Mead came up with. And did we saw Kunio Okarawa's recent redesign of this suit? It looks like the Turn A had a major makeover:
I will keep stressing that Syd Mead is not a terrible artist. The man is a legend, but then designing a mecha meant for a non-western animation might be a bit inappropriate for this talent. In the end, we ended up with unique, and often-times ugly suits yet we must give credits to Mead for helping bring this Gundam series to life. Turn A Gundam is not a bad anime after all, and we need to thank the man going by the name Syd Mead for bringing it to the fans.
The Turn A Gundam might not be too pretty, but still a classic mecha series.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Isn't it possible Syd Mead was being sarcastic when he was involved with Gundam?
Answer: Well, I don't see him as being sarcastic. I think he was just unfamiliar with the traditional Gundam design. Nevertheless, those ugly suits just carved itself a name in the Pantheon of Gundam greats.
© 2018 Mamerto Adan
krowlyn on August 06, 2020:
wtf those are so creative and unique
kosmikyu on August 01, 2020:
I wholeheartedly disagree with basically everything in this article. Mead's designs are perfect for a time period thats supposed to be far, far in the future from UC. The WaDom and FLAT look awesome and that Turn-A redesign looks like some forgettable AGE garbage.
Gusion on April 02, 2020:
The thing is, even UC features the weirdest looking mechas. I don't think Syd Mead's creation will look to out of place when you put them side by side with the likes of Acguy, Z'gok, Big Zam (inspiration of WaDom I suppose), or even Asshimar.
When I was a kid I hated Turn-A's moustache with a passion, but as I grow older and learn about different sci-fi visual styles around the world, I grow to appreciate the unique flair of Turn-A and Turn-X. That said, I agree that Mead's original draft for Turn-A is horrendous.
Also I personally dislike the basic Graze design, so plain and forgettable. Equipped with Dainsleif though, now that's an iconic mobile suit!
Cristian Darstar on February 23, 2020:
Though I think your taste in art and mech design is..well, not the best, I will say I enjoyed reading your your article, and I am happy for the research you did. I had no idea about the history of those designs. And I’ll state my bias here, a mobile Flat, was my first ever gunpla kit. I was 13 :)
Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on February 13, 2020:
I'm sorry also dop, for trolls have no place in my comment section.
Turn A is hideous on August 24, 2019:
Syd Mead is useless, his designs are butt ugly. He should have known his limitations and politely bowed out. Peak boomerism.
Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on March 03, 2018:
Okay, if you reach this far just to say how my article offended you, let me say thank you first hahaha!