Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The Levithan of Character Development

My Custom Haro is preparing for battle. You would be wise to be terrified.

So after a protracted “discussion” with Owen S from Cruel Angel’s Theses he practically instructed me to write this post, so I am!

The most common criticism I hear leveled against Gundam 00 is the supposed lack of character development. Now, first, I checked Wikipedia for what is most likely intended by the phrase “character development” and, lo and behold, I was looking at it slightly funny. Character development, of course, is the procees of a character changing in some significant way over the course of a work of fiction. Which I already knew. However, I had somehow folded characterization into the definition of character development, as it makes more linguistic sense to me. If you are “developing” the characters, wouldn’t it track both a deepening of the personality and a change over the work?

Thinking about it, it’s probably somewhat accurate to state that Gundam 00 did not have “character development” in the sense of the actual definition. What happens to the characters, especially the Meisters, isn’t a gradual change in their personalities, but rather a deepening of the viewer’s understanding of their static character–the process of characterization. I posit two things: one, that it is most likely outside the scope of Mizushima’s intent with Gundam 00 to “develop” the characters as one might expect; and two, what we have at the moment is only half of the entirety of Gundam 00. We have no idea what’s going to happen in season 2, so it’s possible that all the change was saved up for then. And as for the first, as SDS points out, Gundam 00 is more like the original Mobile Suit Gundam than any of the other AU series, in the sense that it portrays how war affects people. Technically they should change, but what we have in season one is a 25-episode study in how war affects the human consciousness. Mizushima accomplishes this more through portraying the character’s emotional reactions to events in the series. A character having a strong emotional reaction to some kind of external event that they can’t control is valid characterization, as it shows you what they find upsetting; you may not like it, which is perfectly acceptable, but it isn’t invalid.

In conclusion, I guess, the main difference between fans of Gundam 00 and not-fans of Gundam 00 is a difference in how they wish to see characters portrayed in their anime. Characterization has a certain kind of style to it, and if you don’t like the style of a certain series’ charateriation, then you’re going to like that series less. It’s like how I’m ambivalent (or, really, downwright bipolar) towards Kaiba: objectively, it’s good; subjectively, it fails to grab me in any significant way that makes me appreciate it the way Yuasa intendts me to appreciate it. DIfferent strokes and all that.

I also notice that a lot of the criticism of Gundam 00 of this nature comes from those with limited exposure to the Gundam franchise, and so therefore they’re bringing a different perspective to the matter. Most people with more exposure to the Gundam franchise I’ve seen do one of two things: enjoy Gundam 00 wholeheartedly, sometimes with reservations; or watch two episodes of it and declare it Gundam Wing Part the Second and dismiss it out of hand. That’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s to say that there’s two ways of looking at the series: as an anime that started in Fall 2007, and as a part of the Gundam franchise. SInce I subscribe to the latter, the former is a mystery to me.

3 Responses to “Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The Levithan of Character Development”

  1. 1 Kaioshin Sama 27 April 2008 at 4:13 pm

    That’s just it, a lot of people who bashed Gundam 00 seemed to compare it to seed as the standard to be reached out of a lack of experience or just a necessity to compare and contrast elements. As a long standing Gundam fan I appreciated the unique take on the concept of Gundam that 00 offered. It’s not easy to come up with a Gundam universe from scratch. 00 had to focus on developing the setting for the first 13 or so episodes before character development could even think of beginning, whereas a lot of other series that are coming out these days are either sequels, adaptations or ones with a narrow focus where such a thing is not necessary.

    So most people who don’t remember having to see Turn A Gundam build up it’s setting, or even the original series do the same, just don’t seem used to the type of development that Gundam 00 was trying to accomplish. If people think Gundam Seed for eaxmple had a lot of character development early on then they need to try and go back to a time mentally when they were first watching it and they would recall that most of the character development was cast on Kira, while other characters often fell by the wayside. Gundam 00 by comparsion is a lot like Zeta wehre each of it’s characters get’s a chance to shine a little and a portion of the spotlight when the time is appropriate. Also Seed never really tried to explore the nature of it’s political bodies and civilian populations reaction to the events of the EA/ZAFT conflict in any significant detail.

    So Gundam 00 took a different approach then the majority of series out there, and those who were willing to get used to it seemed to enjoy it, while those who immediately dismissed it out of hand when it came across as unfamiliar seemed to just bash it.

  2. 2 Llyke 28 April 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Gundam 00 does have character development. People who say it doesn’t either do not understand the series very well or they just don’t understand what character development is.

  3. 3 lelangir 3 May 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Well I mean, I could definitely see a great deal of solidarity materialize between the CB crew…

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I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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April 2008

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