SD Gundam Force Anime Review
SD Gandamu Foosu
SD Gundam Force
US Release By
Gundam Cashes in on an '80s trend
26 25-minute episodes
2004-01-07 - 2004-06-30
Shute (I'm assuming that's how it's spelled) is a kid living in Neotopia, which as it's name implies, is a peaceful utopia with no wars or money where everyone (humans and robots) cooperates. But one day, he sees a police robot being gunned down by some bad guys from the Dark Axis, an interdimensional gang of baddies led by the mysterious Commander. But luckily, a gundam named Captain Gundam shows up and saves him. (Yes, in SD Gundam the gundams aren't piloted, they just walk around and talk like people.) Captain Gundam is ordered not to see Shute anymore, but it turns out that he needs Shute around cheerleading to activate his mega attack, the Soul Drive punch thingy. Later, they are joined by two Gundams from worlds destroyed by the Dark Axis; Zero (the Winged Knight), the chivalrous knight from the medieval European fantasy world of LaCroix, and Bakunetsumaru (the Blazing Samurai, as if his name needed to be any longer), the proud samurai from the feudal Japanese world of Ark.
After all those years growing fat off its bounty, the people over at Sunrise decided to get in on the '80s trend in Japan: super-deformed adaptations of shows people love. Luckily, they had more class than to redo Mobile Suit Gundam in SD, and instead gave us SD Gundam.
So the storyline sounds like an '80s cartoon (American) and the marketing opportunities abound. SD Gundam is a lot of fun to watch, especially if you're a fan of Gundam. I wouldn't exactly call myself that, since I watched it all on Cartoon Network (oh yeah, and my favorites were G Gundam and Gundam Wing), but I do enjoy it when it comes around. But this show is hard to write a review about, because there's nothing more here than what you expect, so it's essentially up to you whether you enjoy it or not.
I'll tell you anyway, though. The characters are nothing more or less than they appear, but the show was ingeniously constructed around giving everyone an equal amount of screen time. If this were a real '80s cartoon, Captain Gundam and Shute would have their ugly mugs onscreen all the time and Zero's and Bakunetsumaru's destroyed homelands would just be an element in the background. Instead, the group spends some time dealing with the leftover pieces of their homelands, such as the freaky triplets from LaCroix with the egg, and the other samurai from Ark who has gone over to the Dark Axis. The characterization is all light, likable, and easily identifiable, except that I thought Captain Gundam didn't really have enough going for him to be a major factor in anything when he wasn't the star of the episode. He was sort of flat, which I know robots are supposed to be (or in some cases should be, like in Kikaider), but since Zero and Bakunetsumaru weren't, you don't expect him to be either.
The little jokes contributed a lot to the show's sense of fun, though sometimes painfully predictable. In the fashion of Austin Powers, the bad guys were the funniest members of the cast, especially the Zaku Minions. If you've seen Mobile Suit Gundam, you'd never expect the fearsome one-eyed green mecha with the huge axe to be funny, but the SD versions certainly are. The good guys have a few running jokes (like Zero constantly using his magic to make a bouquet pop out of Bakunetsumaru's sword), but the only standout joke I really enjoyed was Bakunetsumaru's utterly servile attitude towards the haughty Daishogun of Ark.
I always put the technical aspects last. This is mostly because I consider them the least important part of the show, although maybe I should have mentioned them first this time. This is because SD Gundam is not technically an anime. It's all in computer graphics. You know, Toy Story, Shrek, all those lame mid-'90s shows like Beast Wars and Starship Troopers. However, where those were cartoons put into CG, SD Gundam is anime put into CG. It looks exactly like the game Mega Man Legends, if you've ever played it (old regular Playstation game, 3D action-adventure, if that rings any bells). But much as I dread the day computer graphics replace cel animation, this is a strength, not a weakness. So many action anime have really boring fights. Sometimes this is because the choreographer was a moron, sometimes because the powers aren't keyed to making a great fight, but more often than not it's because there isn't enough money for all those cels. The CG in SD Gundam fixes that, and the fights are great, though not as well choreographed as FLCL. The music is functional, and unmemorable. The dub was very well-done. SD anime needs SD voices, and the voices in SD Gundam are. High-pitched, little-boyish, and good at reciting cheesy speeches, these voices have all the essential ingredients.
This show won't make many friends with the current fan market, who are all infatuated with post-apocalyptic mega battle philosophy class, but it's an excellent kid's show, and parents could conceivably watch it without feeling like they're in reeducation camp watching a propaganda reel about the power of friendship and teamwork (there is a little of that, but a very little). And if you like to see different styles of animation, watch it to check out that CG. Finally, if you're a fangirl who likes Gundam, don't hesitate (I know how fangirls love SD).
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Notes and Trivia
The SD Gundam line actually originated in the late '80s with Mobile Suit SD Gundam Mk I, circa 1989. Several other stories were made during the next couple of years, followed by a ten year gap until this full-length series, SD Gundam Force. As per the usual with Gundam shows, there are at least 2,000,000 other shows, manga, and video games you can seek out if you like it. If you've seen any commercials for the toys, you know that they have the crappiest rap song ever created on them, and also that Bandai decided (for marketing purposes) to pretend the 'SD' in the title stood for 'Superior Defender' and not 'super-deformed.'
US DVD Review
Bandai's DVDs feature English dub-only Dolby surround audio and a rather meager 3 episodes per disc. Also available as an "Anime Legends" box set of the whole series.
I guess if you're a Quaker it would be 7-up. (No Bandai, it ISN'T 13-up!)
Violence: 1 - All the fighters are robots, but one human gets turned to stone. Then he comes back.
Nudity: 0 - Would you like to see a pair of SD breasts?
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Would you like to see SD characters doing it?
Language: 0 - The foul stank that pours from these character's mouths would make a real rapper blush... not.
Available in North America from Bandai on dub-only DVD, in an "Anime Legends" box set of the whole series, and prior to that on 9 individual discs of 3 episodes each (a whole two episodes on the last disc). Also shown on the Cartoon Network Toonami block.