The Robot Roundtable
March 16, 2005
Welcome to MAHQ's Robot Roundtable. For this panel discussion about Gundam, we've enlisted the help of several guests who are all webmasters of Gundam sites. Our guests are Mark Simmons of Gundam Project/GundamOfficial, David Lohmeyer of Gundam Plus and Brian Shea of Gundam Encyclopedia. The discussion includes our own questions as well as fan submissions.
Question 1: What was your first exposure to Gundam, and what led you to create a Gundam site?
Chris: I've been an anime fan for about 10 years, and I'd seen plenty
of Gundam model kits in comic stores, but I didn't have any idea what
the series was about. In early 1999, a friend of mine bought the MSG
trilogy VHS tapes which had been released under Bandai's now-defunct Anime Village label. I borrowed the tapes and was instantly hooked. I
visited Anime Village's website which featured a "Gundam area by Mark
Simmons." I also visited Gundam.com, and soon after I was buying 0080
on tape. As far as making a Gundam site, in 1998 I opened a website
on Geocities called "Rand's Fantasy & Animation Homepage." My desire
then was to create the ultimate anime website with absolutely zero
design skills. On this short-lived website I featured reviews for the MSG trilogy. That website closed in Fall 1999, but the Gundam section
returned when the Fantasy & Animation HQ opened in Spring 2000.
Brian: I was first introduced to Gundam in June of 2000. Flipping through
the channels late one night I came across episode 14 of Gundam Wing on the Midnight Run. The politics of the show interested me intensely. Although I wasn't even an anime fan at the time (the only anime I'd seen was a few heavily edited movies on the Sci-Fi Channel like Galaxy Express 999) I was immediately hooked. Gundam Wing is not only responsible for me being a Gundam fan, if I hadn't come across it I might not be an anime fan, period.
My interest in Gundam Wing resulted in me making a Gundam Wing section for my friend's site (the now deceased Ground Zero Network). Although that site would pass away a few years later I held on to all the content; the character and mecha bios eventually became the first entries for the Gundam Encyclopedia, which would open in 2003. As my interest in Gundam increased with the original, the OVAs, CCA and G, I decided to expand upon it to feature all Gundam series.
Mark: Okay, here's my pocket origin story. Let's set things up with one of
those Wayne's World flashback sound effects (doodle-ooh, doodle-ooh,
I first stumbled across the whole wacky anime thing back in the early
'80s, thanks to Star Blazers. Although I think I'd seen the Mobile Suit
Gundam movie trilogy beforehand, it didn't make much of an impression at
the time, and it was Zeta Gundam that really piqued my interest. Picture
me back in 1985, leafing through an MJ magazine special issue showcasing the mobile suits from the show's first cours. "Gee," says young Mark, "these look as cool as the robots from L.Gaim! And the black Gundam on the cover looks mean!"
Where there are curious young fans, of course, there are always mentors
to guide and corrupt them. In my case I ended up hanging around with the
staff of Animag magazine and learning from such first-generation Gundam
gurus as James Teal and Toshi Yoshida. As the clammy tentacles of fandom extended into the world of online services and the Internet, I began
corresponding with other Gundamaniacs there as well, and when Keith Rhee started up the Gundam Project Web site in 1995 I pitched in with story synopses and background material. When Keith "retired" from Gundam fandom the following year I took over the site, which chugged along until I finally turned the lights out in January 2002.
Now, of course, the classic Gundam Project team has been reunited for
Bandai's GundamOfficial. So much for Keith's retirement from fandom! :-)
David: Being the young one in the crowd, I have a more typical approach to becoming a Gundam fan. I found out about Gundam Wing back 2000 when it was first showing here in the US, and I happened to only be in middle school. I was of course enthralled by Gundam Wing, as are many teen boys who like seeing things explode and fly. Plus there were robots, and whoever can resist huge robots isn't one of my friends. I somehow had a sense that this would become popular, and I was right.
Since I was developing my web wizardry skills at the time, I was curious to find information on the show online. It was probably my poor searching
ability, but I hadn't even come across Gundam Project, so I decided to
gather some information together and create a site of my own. I was only 13 at the time.
Knowing some buddies online who knew someone running an online business, they offered to host my site when it became popular. I was excited, this being my first big break and all. It was a sweet deal, too; free hosting as long as I sold Gundam merchandise through my host's store, and I got a cut of the sales as well. Being motivated by this money treat and love for Gundam, I began expanding the site to include more and more things. I've never hired a full time staffer besides myself, mainly because I haven't found anyone to really trust with the way I run things. Nowadays I host myself, but I also pay for it. My enthusiasm has waned somewhat due to school work and other obligations, but I still love Gundam and everything it has been to me. It has been a life changing experience for me, doing all of this by myself through my younger years... one that I am not likely to forget.
This next question is a submission from Tyler Marcoz. With ZAKU Warrior/Phantom and GOUF Ignited from SEED DESTINY, and many influences of other older UC suits in new DESTINY mecha, what suits do you think would be interesting to see remade?
Chris: I have to say I'm personally not too hot about the depiction of
the Zaku and Gouf in DESTINY. The ZAKU Warrior/Phantom is a decent
enough generic design, but the GOUF Ignited is just a Gouf with wings.
Visually, the ZAKU and GOUF look like a step backwards from the GINN
and GuAIZ. I would have preferred designs that look like a natural
evolution of the mecha from SEED. The way it is now though, the GINN
looks like a descendant of the ZAKU rather than its predecessor.
Brian: I personally haven't seen any of SEED DESTINY so I can't comment on those particular suits, but I can comment on one infamous Gundam mecha that I wouldn't mind seeing remade in a newer Gundam show - the hideous Zakrello. There's actually some Gundam book out there (sorry, can't think of the name off the top of my head) that has a refined version of it that removes much of its goofiness and it came out looking pretty good. It certainly came out horrific back in 1979, but today I think they could give us a good looking version of it.
David: I agree with the fact that SEED suits need to stay as SEED suits.
Having maybe one redesign in the whole series might not be a bad touch to keep it interesting, but it should really be up-to-date with the looks of
SEED. By that I mean if they were to remake an older design, they should make it look like it belongs in the Cosmic Era. To me it just seems like a ploy to get older fans more interested in the show, and a poor one at that.
Mark: As Chris notes, the drawback of the SEED DESTINY incarnations of the ZAKU and GOUF is that they're relatively simple compared to the ZAFT machines from the earlier series. The best solution, I think, would be
for the DESTINY designers to revamp mobile suits that were already
pretty fancy, and thus closer to the previously established Cosmic Era
In other words, I say it's time for the GYAN Sinister! In addition to ornate carvings and a giant spike antenna, it could have Mirage Colloid for enhanced sneakiness, making it a ninja mobile suit in the tradition of the Blitz Gundam.