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That is what Stardust Memory feels like, as it has the highest production values of probably any Gundam property in existence, all the shine and pedigree to make a grand show of itself... and it doesn't feel like it has anything to say about anything that happens over the course of its story, appearing completely devoid of meaning on some inherent level that hasn't occurred before in the franchise.
This is basically how I feel about the vast majority of Gundam spin-offs and alternate timelines. Some spin-offs try harder than others to adhere to Gundam values or to do their own thing. But so much of the franchise is basically just nostalgia for nostalgia's sake, and focused like a laser on only the male, plamo-buying demographic that it is honestly just kinda depressing to contemplate. Even the good spin-offs/side-stories like 08th MS Team or Thunderbolt are still just intensely only concerned with the straight male perspective.

0083 was my very first Gundam, and I loved it because 1) I was a tween adolescent and liked it on mostly superficial levels (Wow, cool robot!), and 2) I only had access to the first couple VHS tapes, and it took almost a decade until I was able to watch the rest of the show. These days I see it as being fairly problematic and devoid of substance, but it sure is a pretty show to look at. But as you say Peklo, it's very much a case of wouldn't it have been nice to have seen these resources go towards making something better?

0083 is an interesting "what if" scenario. Because (if memory serves, someone please correct me if I'm wrong) the show's original director (maybe it was the head writer?) died halfway through the run of the OVA and had to be replaced. And most deep-in-the-weeds fans will point to that directorial shift as where the show became aggressively bad in most aspects. The director that ended up taking over, eventually got fired from Sunrise for showing up to a screening with executives blisteringly drunk.

I get the feeling that G Gundam probably won't be a favorite of yours Peklo, or if it is, it'll be in spite of the gender dynamics. G Gundam is better than some others, but it's still overwhelmingly concerned with being a macho show for macho boys. (It has some good lessons for macho boys to not be so toxic, imo. But it's still probably an alienating experience if you're not up for its brand of machismo.)

MB, have you ever seen Gundam X? It's one of the most forgotten corners of the franchise, but I feel like it's got more going for it than most spin-offs and tries its hardest to embody what Gundam is in its totality versus most spinoffs.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
The director death midway through happened with 08th MS Team, where Takeyuki Kanda passed away during production, whereas the reported drunken incident involved Takashi Imanishi, who directed the latter half of Stardust Memory. Mitsuko Kase was the director for the initial half. The show had different writers per every loose arc or so, and I thought was very consistent in what it was through all of its run, so I didn't really identify any particular drop or highlights overall. It felt like it was executed exactly as intended, which is part of my consternation with it--they wanted to make this?

I'm wary of G because I know its reputation, but it's also directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa who managed to make one of my favourite things in the world in Giant Robo, so I know he has the capability to get me to care about mech content and stuff that doesn't have exemplary representation of women. But that series is an entirely different tonal and creative context from a hot-blooded TV anime so I'm not expecting a repeat of those circumstances, either. I'm committed to it either way.
 

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
(he/him/his)
I consider Stardust Memory to be one of the low points of the franchise, for the reasons you said— the plot is nonsensical and the writing is incredibly sexist. And it's such a shame, because from the outside it's got a lot going for it: great animation, two great openings (which I know you know, but I'm not passing up the chance to link them), and a host of excellent character designs. Though even those aren't problem-free, but it's easy to see those things and have in mind a better show.

The one thing I'll give Stardust Memory credit for— well, aside from Mora and Cima— is one its final scenes: Bask Om announces the formation of the Titans, and we see the Albion crew gleefully suiting up in their new uniforms. Here are your heroes; they are budding fascists. It's a pretty bold image to end on, even if it does conveniently keep the major players (Kou, Keith and Synapse) out of it.

Backing up a bit, I'm heartened that you enjoyed Gundam F91! In my experience, F91 is overlooked and dismissed by most, but it's honestly one of my favourites. Even though it's obviously compressed and truncated, I think it's no worse for wear; the story is still gripping, the themes resonant and even the world and its characters come through. Which is all the more impressive when the movie is a soft reboot of sorts, and doesn't just move away from the Zeon/Char/Newtype stories but establishes a new angle for the franchise and does so very well. (I only wish that the Crossbone Vanguard wasn't so monarchical, which is both odd and a bit been-there-done-that.)

But what I like best about it is the characters. Instead of being a bunch of strangers thrown together, they already know each other— the colony refugees are all friends, the Space Ark crew are already a unit— which makes for an entirely different dynamic than the series is used to. There's little in the way of friction or tension between them; it's all about understanding, empathy and co-operation. And it's not even just screenwriting elision, because Cecily's entire character arc is about getting cut off from that, becoming listless, and returning to normal once she's got supportive friends again. It's quite uplifting, actually!

Also, I know you don't care much for the robots, but… I do, and F91 has my favourite mech designs this side of Turn A. Love 'em all.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
My favourite mobile suit in the franchise so far is the Gundam Mk-II, entirely for narrative reasons: despite being framed as an upgrade over the already-legendary original model, it's quickly outclassed entirely by new special toys on both sides of the conflict, abandoned by the protagonists as unworthy of their status. But it keeps on keeping on, in the hands of the more compelling background workhorse pilots of its respective two featured series in Emma and Elle, the unsung underdogs handling outdated tech and still managing to hang with the rest through sheer gumption and skill. It's very effective theming and lends meaning to a mech that on its own is really boring and sucks by design, and turns that into the attraction itself.

I would say the other standout is the Qubeley, for its arresting, uncompromisingly pure colour scheme and insectoid silhouette, but I'm not going to pretend that I'd be taking notice of any of that if it wasn't Haman's signature mech--I'd probably rationalize anything associated with her into a favourite should it come to that.
 
I'm wary of G because I know its reputation, but it's also directed by Yasuhiro Imagawa who managed to make one of my favourite things in the world in Giant Robo
G Gundam is a lot of macho he-mans doing macho things and being impressive for the girls. But it's not as bad as you might estimate based on its reputation. I actually think it's probably one of the better Gundams for boys to watch, because I'd say the most consistent and broad theme of the show is mostly about deprogramming toxic masculinity from its characters, and thus the audience. There's still a role for flexing your muscles and being a tough guy, but the context of how to be tough is reexamined. Ignoring your feelings and not talking about them is bad, actually! Trying to front like a tough guy instead of actually addressing your trauma is self-defeating! The best fighters in the show are actually kinda scrawny! Love and opening your vulnerabilities to others is not a weakness! Revenge is self-defeating! Etc, etc. Rain as a protagonist can be a little bit damsely at times, but she's also generally respected by the show and by Domon better than a lot of Gundam heroines, and gets to do fun stuff and help a lot more than your Relena Peacecrafts or Frau Bows. (I still really like the episode where her old boyfriend comes back, and Domon doesn't get jealous or judgmental, he's just like, you gotta do what you gotta do.) Still, wouldn't fault you at all for the show not doing anything for ya, or not wanting to put up with these dudebros while they slowly learn their lessons over 50 episodes. Still love them all. Especially when they're voiced by a collection of incredibly awesome talents.

The one thing I'll give Stardust Memory credit for— well, aside from Mora and Cima— is one its final scenes: Bask Om announces the formation of the Titans, and we see the Albion crew gleefully suiting up in their new uniforms. Here are your heroes; they are budding fascists. It's a pretty bold image to end on, even if it does conveniently keep the major players (Kou, Keith and Synapse) out of it.
I like the idea of Mora a lot, but she never gets to do anything fun, and like Peklo said, she's played more as an oddity/joke character versus anything actually empowering. She's no Steer or Chickara Dual from G-Reco, that's for sure.

And yeah, it's a great moment at the end. Because those guys were always assholes and bad people, so it's very fitting they ended up in the Titans and then presumably wiped off the face of the Earth Sphere.
 

Alixsar

The Shogun of Harlem
(He/him)

Anyway, I dunno, I always liked the Mk-II's simple design. It's basically the classic/iconic RX-78 but with a tiny bit more going on, so visually I dig it. But what you're saying is definitely true too. It also fills the VITAL role of staying relevant by having tiny bits glued on to it, so Bandai can sell more Gunpla because OH SNAP I gotta get the tiny bits!!!!!
 
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