Turn A Gundam is my favorite Gundam show of all, but this is my first time recommending it to other fans. Because until now, the only way to get it in English was to pirate it.
Late last week, that major sticking point finally was remedied when Right Stuf put episodes 1-25 up for pre-order, to be shipped this June. It’s the first time it’s actually been available for purchase in North America.
I theorize that Turn A Gundam never made it to America because, despite being written by the same director of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Yoshiyuki Tomino, it has a number of differences from a typical Gundam show, all of which make it great. Here are some of the reasons I love this show and think you’d like it, too.
It’s the dieselpunk show of the Gundam universe
By dieselpunk, I’m referring to the aesthetic that takes its influence from diesel-fueled technology during World War I up to the post World War II era. Turn A Gundam features airships, wooden airplanes, and early 19th century clothing styles. It’s a novel era to set a science fiction saga, and the show pulls it off beautifully.
The mecha are unique
The Turn A Gundam itself physically puts the “turn” in Turn A. Where most titular mobile suits feature a V shaped antenna on the forehead, Turn A’s antenna is at the bottom of its face, mimicking a mustache. It’s a striking touch of whimsy in a fleet of otherwise streamlined, minimalist models that get back to the very heart of Gundam. Thank Syd Mead, the concept artist behind Blade Runner, Aliens and Tron for this refreshing direction.
Loran is one of Gundam’s most likeable protagonists
Of all the pilots I could almost share a name with, I’m glad it’s Loran. Curious, capable, and upbeat, he’s the polar opposite of the typical angsty pilot with a chip on his shoulder. He may be anti-war, but that doesn’t keep him from remembering there are people he needs to protect. Still, don’t let his earnestness fool you—halfway through the series, he makes a moral decision that not only reveals his true depth of character, but sets the stage for a nailbiting conclusion. And on top of all that, he looks fantastic in drag.
The women are amazing
It was only a few decades ago that Frau Bow chided Amuro, “I’d pilot it if I could!” in Mobile Suit Gundam, a show that never considered the possibility of female pilots. Between then and Turn A, how far the women of Gundam have come! They’re tough soldiers, cunning politicians, and everything in between. They have their own strengths and imperfections—Queen Dianna isn’t a perfect leader for all her intelligence, and Sochie has a decidedly short fuse for somebody so loyal—making them neither fully good nor evil, but decidedly human. Even women in more traditional roles, like grandmother and homemaker Anise Bell, are portrayed as immensely brave.
It’s got a compelling “masked antagonist” character
It’s practically a trope for Gundam shows to feature a man in a mask whose life goal seems to be to defeat the protagonist. I can’t keep my eyes off of Turn A Gundam’s edition, the ridiculous Harry Ord. His fashion victim status—see these casual clothes, bumblebee formal wear, and star print pajamas—juxtapose with his cool, rational demeanor to bizarre effect. What’s more, he’s not hell-bent on crushing Loran at all costs like the typical masked ace would be. He’s as caught up in the confusing circumstances of Turn A as anyone else.
The music is incredible
Yoko Kanno is one of the most famous composers working in anime, and for good reason. While many fans recognize her work on Cowboy Bebop and Kids on the Slope, her unusual compositions for Turn A Gundam often go forgotten. In its twin settings of an Earth that has regressed to the early 20th century and the Moon, Turn A Gundam is a show about the promise of the unexplored frontier, and Kanno’s work reflects that with notes of country and blues. It’s incredibly different from her other work, but no less worth a listen.
It has a very clever time frame
Gundam shows take place in a number of timelines, including Universal Century (Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam), After Colony (Gundam Wing), and Future Century (G Gundam). Turn A Gundam is the only one to take place in Correct Century, but it’s fully aware of the rest of the Gundam of the body of work it is a part of, and it’s full of Easter Eggs for fans who are also in the know. Any more would be giving it away, but let’s just say that it pulls mecha design from other timelines for a reason.
Stay tuned for a full, reasoned out review of Turn A Gundam after I get my new copy and re-watch this awesome show. Until then, I’m giving the parts I love best their due.