The Gundam franchise spans over 40 years' worth of content. With its constant themes of war and human drama, this space opera mecha juggernaut has never lost its cool factor, continuing to produce some of the most exciting stories in all of anime history.
But with so many anime series within Gundam's history, which among them are the most awe-inspiring or the ones that continue to make fans cringe? Well, grab your Char mask and hold onto your favorite colored Haro, and let's discover 5 of the Best Series (& The 5 Worst) in the Gundam Franchise!
10 The Worst: Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ
After the heart-wrenching devastation on display in Zeta, Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino decided to make a sequel (Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, aka Double Zeta) that was a bit more lighthearted. Now the bleak color palettes and shadows of death that surrounded the prior series were replaced with bright pastel shades, happier misfit heroes, and Captain Bright Noa becoming the Gundam-style sitcom dad no one ever guessed he would become.
So what lands this series in the worst category? The messiness of it all. From protagonists that come off as vessels for emotion rather than organic individuals, to entire plot points being scrapped last minute because of other projects getting developed, this is easily one of Tomino's least polished installments in the Universal Century saga.
9 The Best: Gundam Wing
Though some would debate this should end up with the worst label next to it, Gundam Wing deserves to be recognized as one of the best within the franchise. Why? Because unlike many of the other installments, it made the most significant international impact on the franchise as a whole.
Sure, its a series plagued with some one-note characters and bizarre plot arcs that easily evokes a good head scratch. But at its center, Gundam Wing contained the most considerable element that any anime could achieve - accessibility. It combined all of the successful ingredients of 90's anime into a package that would gain success within the West - spawning a whole new generation of both anime and Gundam fans alike.
8 The Worst: Gundam SEED Destiny
Gundam SEED Destiny is one of those things that either you really love, or you equally hate. It features very pleasing character designs and music (much like its predecessor) while serving as a re-imagining (like SEED was of the original Gundam 0079) to Zeta.
But when comparing Destiny to SEED, it is a show that has one foot in the pond of blood war-torn style storytelling, while the other is in the camp of wanting to make a massive fan service profit. And while the same criticism can be said about a number of different shows, Destiny does so in a way that is so egregious, it at sometimes comes off like the used car salesmen of mecha anime - appearing more sloppy and manipulative than most sequel series do.
7 The Best: Gundam 00
Take the pilot "boy band" approach that made Wing so successful, trim out the aspects that don't jell as well with a post-90's audience, and give it a fresh coat of high definition anime paint. The result? Gundam 00.
Though some will comment on its flaws with ease, what makes Gundam 00 stand out is its cast of pilots and its expert pacing when in comparison to other Gundam stories. Setsuna and crew aren't precisely likeable, but their motivations and tensions are hard to not be drawn into. Coupled with still relevant real-world conflicts, this is a series that pays as much tribute to Gundam's past as it does to inspire its future.
6 The Worst: Gundam AGE
There's nothing wrong with having a target demographic for your show. But when you advertise it in a way that is meant for another kind of audience, the reception towards the final product might not be the best. That's the case with the much more kiddo-appearing Gundam AGE - a series that has an interesting concept but awkward execution.
Telling the story of three generations of Gundam pilots, Gundam AGE was initially going to be a videogame designed by company Level 5. Eventually, Sunrise gave the go-ahead for it to become an anime series, which results in some of the most drawn-out storytelling in Gundam history. Pair that with clunky mecha designs next to whimsical looking characters, this is a show that has no clue who its audience really should be.
5 The Best: Gundam 08th MS Team
If you like your anime with some 90's Cowboy Bebop flair, plus some Vietnam War imagery, then 08th MS Team is for you. It's got everything from a doomed romance, some great laughs, along with all the trimmings of great mecha combat that not even the best of Gundam often offers.
It's always refreshing to take a different look at a conflict (The One Year War) you thought you knew all too well. But when placing the majority of the story on the ground as opposed to space, 08th MS Team ends up becoming a story that is much more focused on intimate character moments than prior Gundam installments. Sure, the show has its narrative flaws as all do, but there's something about this mature, little side story that tugs on the nerdy heartstrings.
4 The Worst: Gundam - Reconguista In G
With absolutely delightful animation, elegant character designs (by Eureka Seven's Kenichi Yoshida), and the return of Tomino in the directing chair, Reconguista in G sounded like it would be a perfectly watchable show, right?
The answer to such a question has continued to be a big debate amongst fans. Some believed it was a show that went nowhere, with character motivations thrown in various directions, while other fans thought it was a piece of art with a much bigger message than people were crediting it. Regardless, it was a show that seemed to do the franchise more harm than good.
3 The Best: Mobile Suit Gundam 0079
You can't make a list about Gundam without discussing the one that started it all. For if we never met the likes of Amuro Ray, his Earth Federation buddies, and his arch-rival, the Red Comet, aka Char Anazable, we would never have received the other fantastic Mobile Suit tales we have today.
Sure, you could say it isn't a perfect series by any means - since it moves at a tortuous pace in the narrative department, and features some clunky exposition towards the beginning. But this iconic tale of war and the effects it has on the youth continues to inspire anime fans young and young at heart because of its boldness in both visuals and its character arcs.
2 The Worst: Superior Defender Gundam Force
Perhaps you're the sort of person who likes watching bad anime like one does The Room - then maybe, with that in mind, SD Gundam Force is for you. Because even with the acknowledgment that this show was aimed at kids and to push a series of toys, this is a bizarre stinker that has no real charm to it.
Knowing that this was part of Gundam's 25th Anniversary, you'd think the team at Sunrise would try to come up with a project that pleases all of the franchise's fanbase. But instead, SD only caters to the youngest of demographics, while simultaneously talking down to them. It also displays some of the worst and lifeless CGi animation of the era.
1 The Best: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
Though some will call this the best Gundam series ever to exist, it requires watching its predecessor - which, as exciting as it is, can be a chore. But there is no denying that Zeta is one heck of a mecha filled ride.
Featuring the most angst-filled pilot in Gundam history aka Kamille, along with the best rendition of the Red Comet himself, Zeta lands a spot on this list because of its ruthless drive to tell a good story - no matter what the costs. Zeta is the show that gained Tomino his title as the "Kill 'Em All" guy, and no character, how much you adore them, escapes his narrative grasp from being altered by the ways of war.
NEXT: 10 Best Mecha Anime Ever