Taking Place in one of Gundam’s many Alternative Universes (or the AU era) during the Correct Century, year 2345, Turn A Gundam chronicles the lives of three Moonrace teenagers, the silver haired Loran Cehack and his comrades, Ann Doll and Keith Laijie, sent to Earth to make sure it is suitable for the Moonraces’ return.
Two years after their arrival the invading Moonrace forces of Dianna Counter descend upon our planet seeking land to re-establish their existence on earth. Unfortunately the people of earth are reluctant to give up their territories and it isn’t long until each faction’s inherent distrust of one another escalates into a full-blown war.
In a bid to satisfy my burgeoning Gundam addiction I decided it was about time I sought out one of the more ‘obscure’ entries in the Mobile Suit series. The sheer breadth of Gundam series, offshoots and spin-offs out there is absolutely mind-boggling but on the basis of a few pretty screens and a rather cryptic synopsis I finally settled for Turn A Gundam, one of the more recent and perhaps controversial chapters in the Gundam franchise.
But from where does that controversy stem? Now I don’t pretend to be any kind of Gundam expert, but I can certainly understand why Turn A Gundam (TAG) shook the resolve of many a Gundam fan up and down the globe. This isn’t your average Gundam series; in fact if the words ‘Mobile Suit’ hadn’t cropped up on a regular basis I could have sworn I was watching a completely different show. TAG is a series that’s more along the lines of Orguss 02 and Gonzo’s recent coup de grace, Last Exile.
Gone are the star speckled vistas of space and epic interplanetary warfare and in its place we have bucolic landscapes and beautiful blue skies. The setting is distinctly period – quite which period, I’m unsure but I’m certainly getting a pronounced late 1800s vibe from the various costumes and locales. And whilst this must have come as a bit of a shock to life long Gundam fans I have to admit I’m completely enamoured by the series’ more fantastical leanings and whimsical characters.
In fact I have to say the characters are far and away my favourite part of TAG at the moment. Loran Cehack, the series’ central protagonist is for a mecha pilot at least, a refreshingly optimistic and playful character. He has an endearing naivety that makes him instantly likeable, but also a precocious intelligence and mature outlook that makes him believable hero material.
And of course being of Moon man lineage it makes sense that Loran can pilot the ‘The White Doll’ with such ease. I have a hard time swallowing the ‘instant pilots’ of most mecha shows, but at least in TAG, Loran has operated and at the very least seen a mecha before, and as such it doesn’t require the viewer to take that huge leap in believability that most mecha series demand.
Yet despite all the differences between TAG and just about any other Gundam series that has been released the show still retains what to my mind, makes the franchise so captivating. Like most Gundam series before it, in TAG the line between good and evil is purposely indistinct, each faction has their own goals and motivations, there’s no real right or wrong.
You can despair as well as sympathise with actions of each side. The people of Earth just want to protect themselves from a threat they can neither comprehend nor tolerate and the Moon peoples simply want to return to their home on earth. I suppose the moon-men could be construed as evil, but is it really unreasonable for them to want to return home after millennia of exile?
It’s these kind of provocative ideas, intriguing conflicts and moral ambiguities that really deepen the story’s already ambitious scope, giving the viewer something to chew over long after each episode reaches it denouement.
Thanks to its richly detailed characters and provocative plotting, Turn A Gundam is giddily fantastical series that will enthral fans of Orguss 02 and even Last Exile; followers of the aforementioned shows will no doubt fall in love with the charming visuals and soft tinted whimsy. But beneath that disarmingly cuddly veneer beats the heart of a true Gundam series, complete with revelations, machinations and the requisite smattering of intrigue. It may not be Gundam as we know it, but when it’s this good, who cares?