SD Gundam Force: Gundam for the Kiddies!

The peaceful land of Neotopia, where humans and robots live in peace, is invaded by the evil, extra-dimensional forces of the Dark Axis. The only hope for this utopia lies in the SDG, the Super Dimensional Guard, led by their champions, the Gundams, as well as the brave young boy who accompanies them.

Superior Defender Gundam Force, or SD Gundam for short, was one of the last Gundam series I saw as a kid, and it was by this point that I was finally getting used to how diverse the franchise was, and how each new series was largely unrelated to any of the others. That said, making the Gundams human-sized robots from various dimensions, including bringing magic into the picture, was certainly unexpected!

I am going to say, straight up, everything about this CGI anime is very much designed and intended for the kiddies. And yet, I find that various aspects such as the characters, the plot, the themes, and even the dialogue are significantly improved and much more tolerable, for all ages, than several other Gundam series I can think of. It is strange how easily I could argue for this show over all the others I just reviewed, though, of course, I will not, because I prefer to simply enjoy it all.

The story begins with Shute, a young boy who tinkers and invents, as his path crosses that of the invading villains and the hero who steps forth to stop them: Captain Gundam. A bond forms as boy and robot help each other, one which triggers a surge of power from Captain’s soul-drive, as it’s called, the use of which is pivotal to victory. Thus, the kid gets to be part of the SDG, and, strange as it is, he becomes the heart of it all, the center that must hold, with all of his youthful hope. Basically, he’s both the weakest and the most essential member of the team, often little more than a cheerleader but clever, defiant, and surprisingly handy to have on one’s side in a pinch. He is the grain of rice that tips the scales. Without him, as much as any of the gundams, all would be lost.

Fortunately, as Shute finds himself in the thick of things, he has his stalwart comrades to protect him. There’s Captain, of course, who wields big guns and advanced technology in a fight, and is learning and growing as a person throughout the series. There’s Zero the Winged Knight, a magical Knight Gundam from the land of Lacroa, on a quest to save his fallen homeland and rescue his beloved princess. And to complete the trio, there is the sword-swinging Bakunetsumaru, the Flaming Samurai from the war torn land of Ark, populated entirely by Musha Gundams. Various others join the cause, but this is the most central group.

Genkimaru was a fun addition that came crashing in.

With such a simple principle as making diverse backgrounds and cultures for each of the gundams, not only does the world come alive in a way that many more intricate – or, rather, more convoluted – ideas fail to accomplish, but it lends a legitimacy to the diverse personalities of the characters, right down to the way they speak. Add in the hilarious minions of the Dark Axis, the Zakos, and SD Gundam already becomes that much more entertaining for the kids and palatable for the adults as well. It’s actually fun to watch them bond both in battle and in more peaceful, everyday circumstances.

On that note, I am going to give a special shout-out to the voice actors. Shute’s voice actor had a difficult job giving enough life to his youthful, one-dimensional determination without becoming annoying, but all of them portrayed their characters brilliantly, at least in the English dub. Captain’s lines were certainly tricky as well, to inject life into a robot’s words, but they did a fantastic and hilarious job at it, and that’s not even going into the animated mannerisms of all the rest of the cast. I could actually believe how these people behaved and reacted, and enjoy the experience, because of their voices. Bravo, I say. Bravo to them, the animators, the composers of the soundtrack, and everyone else behind the scenes. They did a most excellent job at taking something that should have been ridiculous and turning it into something enjoyable and even intriguing.

On another note, I could appreciate the little Easter-egg nods that the show made to previous classics of the franchise, including basing the Knight Gundams on the gundams from Gundam Wing, and their princess, Rele, had her name clearly taken from that show’s foremost female lead, Relena. Meanwhile, a particular quartet of Musha Gundams were obviously designed based on the Four Kings of G Gundam, right down to one that calls himself “the Undefeated!” I love little details like that! Though it also left me almost heartbroken to see three of the Knights I recognized had been betrayed and destroyed by a fourth, my personal favorite, Deathscythe! The horror!

Which actually ties into another way this show is entirely designed for kids: nothing terrible happens.

SD Gundam’s Team Rocket. They done bad, and do bad, but fail at doing bad.

Oh, terrible things have happened, much earlier, elsewhere, and off-screen. But we do not see anything truly terrible, horrible, or horrific on-screen, anywhere, ever. It toys with that, makes for a number of near-misses, but it doesn’t actually happen. It is all very tame and appropriate for all ages.

Especially the fights, though, in that instance, I often found myself going, “Right, we can fast forward a bit through the power-up before they actually attack…” That part is definitely meant to appeal more to kids than anyone else, because, recalling my own childhood, that was the most awesome part, ironically back when I had the attention span of a firefly. Things didn’t need to make much sense then, they just had to be cool.

And yet, this plot is one of the most sensible I have found in the Gundam franchise overall, and, for that matter, most kids’ shows in general. It might be mostly driven by the schemes of the antagonists, as the heroes bravely fight to protect and restore their homelands, but it’s far less simplistic than I expected. Heck, by the time it comes down to the final showdown with a ravenous, godlike entity, that confrontation actually feels a little cheap and simple in the wake of the cunning military plot of the Dark Axis Commander, the quasi-honorable conniving of Kibaomaru, the clever puppeteering of Deathscythe, and the mad, ruthless duplicity of Gerbera. Even the bumbling three-stooges trio of Zako captains and their dunderheaded soldiers are entertaining villains as everything blows up in their faces – literally – and the “Zako Zako hour” at the end of each episode was surprisingly witty and even poked fun at itself.

In short, SD Gundam is a surprising, fun ride, full of hilarity, action, adventure, intrigue, and lots of lovable characters. And all of it, from start to finish, is perfectly suitable for the kids. It even ends on one of those open conclusions, where everything is wrapped up but you know more adventures await our heroes. It’s not bad, not bad at all! 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

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1 Response to SD Gundam Force: Gundam for the Kiddies!

  1. Pingback: #MechaMarch2023 Posts From Other People – Mechanical Anime Reviews

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