Why Was 'Gundam X' so Underrated?
I wrote an article on how Gundam Wing became popular despite its faulty script. With the West being fed a constant supply of traditional cartoons, the mindless action of Gundam Wing became a hit. I could say for certain that the series had the same appeal as every 80s action movie or Michael Bay’s Transformers. Wait, I’m taking that back! Bayformers made Gundam Wing look deep.
Anyway, the whole thing is that Gundam Wing was a success and something good in its own right. It became the face of the Gundam franchise to the world. Without it, the franchise would likely be an obscure series. After seeing the delights of the Gundam world, we simply wanted more. We wanted to see more of that pew pew stuff and the girls out there wanted another Heero Yuy. And after some time waiting, Sunrise unleashed another shiny mecha series.
Enter After War Gundam X.
I was pretty excited when I first saw this. It had the same tone as the grim and war-torn world of the Wing series. And to my delight, it strived to be in a class of its own. Despite having the same motif, Gundam X was a different kind of beast. We will get to that later on. Personally, I loved it, but somehow it never became as big as its predecessors. That's too bad because it did everything right that Gundam Wing did wrong. And after doing some late night surfing, it became clear to me why it never made so much noise. And below are the reasons why Gundam X became an underrated series.
But First, Gundam X Is a Great Gundam Series
Just like I said, Gundam X strived to be in a class of its own and not the next Gundam Wing. The plot was different and the lead characters were likable. Speaking of the plot, the story was rather simple, smooth, and straightforward. To be short, it was a solid piece of storytelling without major complications. In fact, as the years go by, I find Gundam X to be better than Wing in terms of story. As for our lead star here, Garrod Ran never reached the popularity of other Gundam pilots, which was too bad because he connects well with the audience. Though he was not the violent emo like Heero, at least he was more human and relatable. And mercifully, he adopted a zero-melodrama personality, a breath of fresh air from the whiny pilots we knew. I just wished that Kira and Shinn acted the same way!
With all the good things coming out from After War, one might wonder how the series never grew among the fan base. As it turns out, we have several misfortunes to blame.
Special Mention: It Was Released at the Wrong Time
This is just my take on this, but the anime world was not ready for Gundam X. Back then, fans were thirsty for more Gundam Wing, while the EVA series made deep and crazy anime the talk of the town. The simple and solid plot of Gundam X never resonated with the fans back then. They wanted complex and mind-wracking stories that Gundam X never had. And the toned-down action of the series barely made any noise in the Gundam world. Thanks mostly to the Wing series, the word Gundam became synonymous with epic set piece battles. We got less of those in the X series and the fans got bored.
But as the years went by, opinions began to change.
Fans are rediscovering this nearly lost series, and they all agree that it should deserve more love.
It Was Never Released in the West
The series suffered from several bad decisions. First, it was rushed. The low ratings made the studio cut the number of episodes. But Sunrise made a huge mistake when they refused to release it in the West.
What the hell were they thinking?
It seemed that they never learned from Gundam Wing. That series only became a moderate hit in Japan, but it was huge in the West. Gundam X shared the same motif as Wing and Western fans would have welcomed it with open arms. They would have surely appreciated the improved plot and characters.
But the Western audience didn't see a release until 2015 (on DVD). Bad move from Sunrise indeed! They lost the momentum set by Wing. The Gundam franchise could have been even bigger now.
The Mechas Failed to Impress
The lead Gundams aren’t exactly that bad. In fact, they are pretty impressive. But after we saw the awesome and exotic suits of Gundam Wing, the mechas of the X series seemed to be pretty generic and lacked originality (with the exception of several suits like the Gundam X/Double X).
Let’s start with the Gundam Airmaster, the airborne unit of the protagonist. The way it was used made me feel like it was a toned-down Valkyrie VF-1. The Gundam Leopard proved to be an imposing unit (with a badass name), but it needed more tweaking so it wouldn't appear as a Heavyarms offshoot. Gundam X also lacked great grunt units it could boast about. Even the weapon like the Satellite Cannon was goofy. You have to wait for the moon to appear for it to work. And as for the rival Gundam Virsago, that is discussed below.
The Gundam Virsago Never Got the Same Treatment as Epyon
I fell in love with the Gundam Virsago when I first saw it. I mean, together with the Master Gundam and the Gundam Epyon, it was the coolest rival suit I had seen. I mean, I love Athrun Zala’s units, but they never had the dark ferocity of these beasts. Going back to Gundam Virsago, this suit is menacing! The demonic features contrasted the light-coloured Gundam X/Double X very well. But as to what I observed in the show, the studio had wasted the potential of this awesome unit.
When Gundam Epyon and the Master Gundam first came out, they had an air of mystery about them. Their entrance in the show was amazing and terrifying at the same time. The Master Gundam introduced itself by popping out of nowhere like a malevolent ghost before unleashing a wave of darkness. On the other hand, the Gundam Epyon was teased at the end of an episode to keep the audience guessing. Excitement built up as Heero Yui first flew the monster to slice its way into an army of suits. To cap it all off was the Zero System that almost drove Heero nuts.
What these shows did right was give rival units a nice entrance. It was a nice way to tell the audience that these monsters are no joke and that they are clear and present threats.
In the case of the Virsago, its first appearance was pretty underwhelming. There was no grand entrance to announce its arrival. It was just presented unceremoniously. Even worse was in one episode where it was easily repelled by the Gundam Leopard and Airmaster in a fire fight.
No Masked Villain
People were actually looking for another Millardo Peacecraft when Gundam X first came out. He did his job as a Char clone really well. The character had flaws, but he often stole the show from Heero Yuy. Between him and Heero, I believe Millardo was the better character.
Shagia Frost isn’t actually a bad villain, but he wasn't the right man for the job either. In his flight suit he looks awesome, but why did Sunrise make him wear a ruffled shirt? This made him look like an Antonio Banderas wannabe. He did give the hero a run for his money, but the scene where he and his brother were easily repelled gave me a headache. For a Gundam villain, he is pretty boring. There is nothing interesting about him as he had no interesting backstory or anything that other Gundam villains had offered. He never had the mystery of Millardo Peacecraft or the shrewd ferocity of Rau Le Creuset. Even his motivation to kill all the Newtypes sounded one-dimensional and shallow.