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Yûsha ô Gaogaigar (1997)
Rocks faces hard
It's as if some people in Japan finally got sick of these so-called 'real robot' shows trying to be all serious, deep, and angsty and decided to give the anime industry a collective flying heel drop on the form of Gaogaigar. This is not intelligent or thought-provoking, and doesn't have deep themes or character development. Instead, it decides to do away with anything too weighty in favor of doing something many animus have forgotten to do in the quest to become the next Evangelion--entertain the viewer.
Gaogaigar has everything a fan of the true super robot anime could have; screaming attack names, bizarre villains, a cast of funny support characters, and a catchy title song. Gadgets! Transformations! A convoluted plot! Robots beating each other into horrendous piles of worthless scrap! It's ALL in this ONE SHOW.
The best part? You actually get into the show because it appeals on such a base level. You really want the good guys to win. You don't want them to get hurt. You want the bad guys to pay because in Gaogaigar, justice is absolute, heroism is all! It's truly great entertainment.
If you want angst, boring teenage pilots, and an anti-war message, feel free to pick up just about anything else with a robot on the cover.
If you want an injection of pure awesome, pick up Gaogaigar.
Kidô senshi V Gundam (1993)
Heart-Wrenching and Truthful
Gundam animes tend more towards good than bad, but V Gundam is one of the better TV series--and arguably the best of the UC timeline. Although it is slightly confusing in the beginning, as the episodes go on, you get a better idea of what's going on and the characters really start to grow on you. Although there are a few obvious red-shirts, a lot of these characters are killed in a messy and upsetting fashion--just like in real war. There are lots of noble sacrifices, but perhaps even more pointless deaths, failed attempts at making a heroic sacrifice, and most of all, an overarching sense of dread throughout the entire series. This is one of the only Gundam stories where it was really hard to tell who was going to come out on top when the dust had cleared.
A true epic spanning over fifty episodes, V Gundam doesn't necessarily tie up all the loose ends, or explain everything perfectly. But that's part of the point; in a real war, so many people are involved, it's nearly impossible to fully understand what is truly going on. The gamut of characters here is staggering. Some fall into typical anime stereotypes, but most of them are refreshing and interesting in their own rights.
Quite a few of the scenes were shocking, and it isn't for the faint hearted. This is certainly the most downcast of all Gundam series, save perhaps Z Gundam. War crimes are the norm; the body count consistently rises; children, even younger than usual (the main character is 13) are thrown in as cannon fodder; and a general lack of ethics is displayed at pretty much every turn by all sides of the conflict. But this makes the series all the more compelling. It doesn't rely on cheap over-use of gore and violence, but instead real drama.
If you like any Gundam, and have a familiarity with the UC timeline, I highly suggest V Gundam.
Kidô senshi Z Gundam (1985)
Classic Gundam, a must-see
If you are a fan of any facet of the Gundam universe, this series is for you. If you like animation, then this series is for you. If you like good stories, this series is for you. Zeta Gundam is the dark, powerful, emotional, and completely enjoyable follow up to the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam TV series. Like it's predecessor, the show orbits around conflict between space colonies and the earth that bore them, the politics of war, and the struggles of a young man growing up in hazardous times. Unlike it's predecessor, it is a much darker, more violent and serious show.
Zeta is not the most innovative shows around, but it is certainly one of the most powerful. Some of the scenes are heartbreaking, others are uplifting, but the 'good guys' certainly have a dark cloud hanging over them the whole time. The animation is very 80s, not a bad thing, but it is pretty dated. Still, for it's time, many of the mobile suit battles come across as exciting and dynamic (more so than most of the new series), and the characters are all distinct, so there's no mixing them up because they all look so similar as in many other animes. The plot is top-notch, and will keep you interested--but not at the edge of your set--through the entire series. The last six episodes are some of the best in Gundam as a whole.
Recommended to pretty much everyone, but especially Gundam fans; Zeta Gundam may be the series finest installment.