10. Strike Noir Gundam
First Appearance- Gundam Seed: Stargazer
Pilot- Sven Cal Bayang
You can pretty much tell just by looking at it that this customized Strike Gundam is a “bad guy” unit. Indeed, its pilot Sven Cal Bayang used it in service of Phantom Pain- the spec ops. division of the Earth Alliance Forces which answered directly to Blue Cosmos. Blue Cosmos was an organization dedicated to the eradication of all Coordinators- humans who had been genetically-altered or enhanced in the womb. Sven was one of the main characters in the “Stargazer” anime, and despite working for the bad guys, had a sympathetic backstory and evidenced something of a conscience by the end. Still, he ruthlessly eliminated anyone his superiors told him to without question… whether they deserved it or not. Sooo, it kinda makes it hard to root for him at all… but that doesn’t mean his mobile suit wasn’t super-cool!
As stated, the Noir was based on an enhanced Strike Gundam frame with some extra whistles and bells. A “power extender” within the unit allowed this version of the Strike to fight for much longer periods than the original without losing its bulletproof “Phase Shift” armor coating. It carried twin “Shorty” beam pistols- smaller and less-powerful than the standard beam rifle of the basic Strike, but with a faster rate of fire. Its special Noir Striker pack granted it sustained flight capability in Earth’s atmosphere and had a pair of linear rail guns that could swivel and fire in virtually any direction.
The Noir Striker also granted it two Beam Blades that were more lightweight than the traditional Strike’s larger Anti-Ship Sword, allowing them to be dual-wielded and even used as throwing weapons. The Strike Noir’s most memorable equipment, for me at least, were the Rocket Anchors mounted in its hands, feet, and backpack. These grappling lines let the Noir “zip-line” around in low gravity environments and combined with the suit’s own strength, could be used offensively to drag and smash enemy mobile suits into each other.
With its sinister color scheme, menacing silhouette, and stylish combat techniques, you can see why the Strike Noir is on this list. Its only real weakness was a lack of more substantial defensive options like a shield, as the suit had been intended to work in tandem with its sibling Gundams, the Blu Duel and Verde Buster. Still, much like the Banshee… you can scarcely go wrong with a darkly-colored “mirror” of the good guy’s Gundam!
9. Zeta Gundam
First Appearance- Zeta Gundam
Pilot(s)- Kamille Bidan, Roux Louka, others
As the title mobile suit of the second animated Gundam series, the Zeta is one of the trend-setters for the franchise as a whole. Zeta began the tradition of a series protagonist upgrading to a second, more powerful or personalized Gundam later in the show. It began the tradition of Gundams that transformed into some kind of secondary flight or “Waverider” mode. It actually opened up the range of basic design for a Gundam, possessing a more curved and sleeker look than the blocky RX-78 and a very different facial architecture. The Zeta was also the first Gundam to be specifically intended for the main character’s use, rather than the pilot accidentally stumbling into piloting the suit as with Amuro Ray and the original. The technically-minded Kamille Bidan was even the one who designed the Zeta in the first place.
Most of the Zeta’s weapons have multiple uses, with its standard beam rifle also being able to emit a saber for close-range combat, and its larger Hyper Mega Launcher doing the same. The launcher ports on its forearms could either fire grenades or be fitted with a grappling cable attachment. Its beam sabers could function as guns in Waverider mode for dogfights, and in mobile suit mode were the conduit to unleash some of Kamille’s surging Newtype power. With the Zeta’s built-in bio-sensor, Kamille could harness his anger or grief to enhance the sabers’ power and length. As I mentioned before in the Double Zeta’s entry, I don’t know how “BURNING SPIRIT” can fuel a beam saber, but damned if it isn’t effective!
Of course, the Zeta’s main attribute is the Waverider mode, and Kamille’s famous “Waverider Crash” in the final episode of the anime is one of the most satisfying dispatchings of an enemy in the franchise. Channeling the spirits of his dead friends and comrades through the Zeta’s bio-sensor, Kamille ends Paptimus Scirocco’s existence for good… although not without cost. Scirocco reaches out with his own Newtype abilities and shatters Kamille’s mind with his last breath. However, the later movie versions of Zeta remove this scene, and Kamille manages to escape with his sanity intact. Still, no matter which end result you prefer for the story, the movie version’s added new animation definitely made the Zeta Gundam’s transformation and the “spirit channeling” part of the Waverider Crash look a lot more epic.
I’ve got a soft spot for unorthodox-looking Gundams, and Zeta is the ORIGINAL unorthodox Gundam, so it easily secures a space on my favorites list. The suit plays a role in the follow-up series ZZ Gundam as well, where it seemed to be the object of comedy antics for many of the early episodes, with various characters trying to steal it. It even lost its head in one episode and had it replaced with a Zaku’s, thus becoming the “Zeta Zaku”! Thankfully the second half of the series largely drops the goofy stuff surrounding it and places the suit firmly in Roux Louka’s hands. Still… the sight of a Gundam with a Zaku’s head is not something one can easily forget!
8. Arche Gundam
First Appearance- Gundam 00
Pilot- Ali Al-Saachez
Like I said in the last entry, I’m a fan of unorthodox Gundams, and aside from having the qualifier in its name, the Arche really doesn’t even look like one! It was taller, wider, and lankier than any of the other Gundams in 00, and probably had the least human-like proportions among all mobile suits in the series. Basically, Ali Al-Saachez’s personalized Gundam was a monster, just like the man himself. Al-Saachez wasn’t really the deepest character in 00… he was a ruthless mercenary/terrorist with a fetish for war who would have been fairly forgettable if not for his personal connections with main characters Setsuna F. Seiei and Lockon Stratos. He was a good bad guy… but he started and ended with “bad guy” on his resume when all was said and done. Still, the Arche Gundam appeals to me not only for its odd design, but also for just how well it reflects its pilot’s personality and style.
Built as an upgrade to the “Throne” series of Gundams and specifically the Throne Zwei, the Arche was gifted to Al-Saachez to aid him in serving as main bad guy Ribbons Almark’s enforcer. It kinda looks like the Throne Zwei was cross-bred with Ali’s old custom red Enact, resulting in a suit that is simultaneously bulky and slim at the same time. I really liked the Arche’s head design in particular, especially the four narrow optics on either side of the face. I mean, just look at this thing… one glance and you KNOW it’s friggin’ evil!
The Arche was the perfect vehicle for Ali’s close-combat fighting style of using agile, deceptive moves that overwhelmed enemies quickly. Its elongated limbs gave it great reach and power in combat and it always looked to me like some angry, flailing red dragon while fighting. I guess that’s only appropriate as Ali served in as what TV Tropes would call “The Dragon” role to Ribbons Almark. His main weapon was the hefty GN Buster Sword that mounted under the suit's right arm, which could double as a beam rifle. Ali never used it as a rifle in the anime though, because he was too busy swinging it around and smashing opponents senseless. The Arche could deploy up to ten GN Fangs from its armored hip containers- these remote weapons could swarm enemies and attack from any angle. A pair of beam sabers secreted in the tips of the Arche’s feet rounded out the suit’s arsenal, and combined with the Buster Sword and Fangs, Ali was capable of fending off multiple enemies at once thanks to his superb piloting skills.
The Arche also had a “Core Fighter” escape pod built into its back, which the dastardly Ali used to escape his due comeuppance at least once in the series. A villain as outright monstrous as him should have an actual reason for his Joker-esque “plot armor”, I guess!
7. Master Gundam
First Appearance- G Gundam
Pilot- Master Asia
The Mobile Fighter of one of the chief antagonists of G Gundam, the Master Gundam is the mutated form of Master Asia’s Kowloon/Haow Gundam after it was exposed to DG (Devil/Dark Gundam) Cells. Master Asia is so attuned to it that he didn't even need to wear a Mobile Trace bodysuit to control his Gundam, like every other fighter in the series did. As the legendary “Undefeated of the East”, Master Asia was a martial artist without compare, and considered the most compelling antagonist in the series by myself and many others. His relationship/rivalry with his former pupil and main character of G Gundam- Domon Kasshu, was one of the high points of a great show in general... and the Master Gundam itself is a pretty awesome avatar for Master Asia himself.
On his lonesome, Master Asia was powerful and skilled enough to use mere cloth as a weapon, and he often entered battle armed with nothing but his own fabric belt. The Master Gundam likewise uses an energized beam cloth as its main melee instrument, being able to bind opponents with it or even harden it to use as a striking weapon. The Master Gundam’s forearms could also extend like pistons and even fire off on wires, giving Master Asia’s blows impressive range. While Master Asia was never infected with DG Cells (a fact he seemed quite proud of), the Master Gundam did utilize them in its construction, allowing it to regenerate from even the most crippling damage. Much like Domon’s Gundams, the Master could enter a Hyper Mode, turning gold and expressing its maximum power. Master Asia’s horse Fuunsaiki was even given its own Mobile Fighter and Trace System, allowing the Master Gundam to travel astride it much as Asia would with his faithful steed.
Of course, the Master Gundam could perform several special techniques of Asia’s, chief among them being the Darkness Finger- an evil mirror to Domon’s own Shining Finger. The Master Gundam’s most powerful move was the ultimate technique of the Undefeated of the East- the Sekiha Tenkyoken (“Rock-Crushing Heaven-Quaking Fist”), a devastating wave of energy focused and unleashed from the user’s hands. Perhaps Asia’s most bizarre technique was the Zyuuniou Houpai Daishyahei/Kizan Shyoukouzin (I’m not even gonna try to type what that translates to) combination. With it, the Master Gundam created tiny energized versions of itself that swarmed an opponent. It was an attack that was annoying as hell to deal with in the Gundam Versus series of video games, as the mini-Masters would latch onto your unit and slow you down.
The Master Gundam is a great design that fits its “pilot”, so to speak, perfectly. It looks completely badass whether mimicking Master Asia’s arrogant stances or performing his martial arts techniques. I love how its wings can unfurl and become a metal cloak for the suit as well, enhancing its sinister, yet prideful image. Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed… the Master Gundam’s head is shaped like a somewhat-pointy heart… referencing Master Asia’s former title in the Shuffle Alliance- “The King of Hearts”. Any robot that can have a heart-shaped head and still look as awesome as the Master Gundam does is pretty respectable in my book!
6. Gundam Barbatos Lupus Rex
First Appearance- Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Pilot- Mikazuki Augus
As the last couple entries might indicate, I’m a real fan of Gundams that are intrinsically linked to their pilots, and the final incarnation of the Barbatos is both a figurative and literal example of this. Thanks to the “Alaya-Vijnana” implant in Mikazuki Augus’ body, he can connect to the Barbatos so deeply that the suit literally becomes an extension of himself... or perhaps it was the other way around. The consequences of this link are portrayed with a real permanence to them and much more harshly than other examples of similar circumstances in the Gundam franchise. Instead of an endearing partnership with his Gundam, Mika’s bond with Barbatos seemed more like a Faustian bargain with a demon. The further he pushed Barbatos in combat, the more he had to sacrifice of his own body. On the battlefield, the Barbatos was the spearpoint and foremost avatar of Tekkadan, the organization that Mika dedicated his life to. That notion was never more apparent than in its final version- the Lupus Rex.
The Gundam Barbatos Lupus Rex (basically “Demon Wolf King”) certainly takes the “demon”, “wolf”, and “king” qualifiers in its extra-long name to heart. Its new head crest resembles a king’s crown, reflecting Mikazuki’s desire to make his best friend Orga Itsuka’s dream of being “King of Mars” come true. If the organization of Tekkadan, made up of orphaned child soldiers, was considered to be a "pack of wolves" by many, then Lupus Rex was “king of the wolves” as well. Also, its appearance marked it as both a wild beast and a demon, with its elongated arms, claws on the fingers and feet, and of course… a newly-added bladed tail. The tail was probably the Lupus Rex’s most striking feature… echoing Mika’s own back-wired Alaya-Vijnana connection within the cockpit and moving like it had a life of its own in combat. If Mika had indeed sold his body and soul to a demon through the Alaya-Vijnana, then the tail could be considered its most direct physical manifestation.
The Lupus Rex carried a greatly-enlarged version of its traditional mace weapon, fittingly named the “Ultra-Large” Mace. Few mobile suits or even spaceship hulls could survive a direct hit from it and it possessed sharp pile drivers in its tip and hilt to spear opponents as well. Lupus Rex’s large forearms had 200mm guns in the wrists for longer-range combat, and deployable sub-arms hidden underneath the elbows for surprise attacks or to better latch onto enemies. The Gundam’s most deadly attribute, however, was the level of synchronicity it had with its pilot. As previously stated, the more Mikazuki willed it, the more responsive Barbatos became… and its speed and ferocity reached a peak in the final battle of the series. When Mika surrendered himself completely to the Alaya-Vijnana, the Barbatos’ optics bled jagged trails of red light and the Gundam became the most lethal mobile suit ever seen in the series.
The Barbatos Lupus Rex’s animalistic fighting style and general presence made a big impact on me after its debut in the series, and it is in fact the newest qualifier for this favorites list. It’s almost like a Gundam by way of… Evangelion or something, with a dark or somehow unholy connection to its pilot. Whatever it was, I thought it was a really cool take on the main Gundam of a series, and I actually ended up buying TWO of the same model kits of it. I wanted two copies so I could custom up a battle-scarred, one-armed, bloody-clawed, red-eyed final battle version of it to display on my bookcase.
First Appearance- Gundam Unicorn
Pilot- Marida Cruz
The Kshatriya undeniably looks cool, but I think what initially earned it my favor was that first mobile suit fight scene in Unicorn episode one. Talk about making a great first impression; I knew Unicorn was going to be a really enjoyable and high-quality series from that scene on. A smaller offshoot/upgrade of the giant Queen Mansa mobile suit from ZZ Gundam, the Kshatriya was designed to be more versatile and able to be handled by a single pilot instead of two. Marida Cruz, of the “Ple” series of artificially-created Cyber Newtype clones, piloted the Kshatriya in service of the Sleeves- a remnant force of Neo Zeon that ultimately sided against their commander Full Frontal in the final battles of the Unicorn series.
The first thing that draws one’s eye to the Kshatriya is its distinct silhouette- created by the four wing binders mounted on its shoulders. This appearance gave it the nickname of “Quad-wing” in the series, although personally… they kind of looked like a giant metal palm tree to me when splayed out. In addition to possessing an impressive array of thrusters, which gave the Kshatriya immense maneuverability in space, the wing binders could also generate an I-Field to deflect enemy beam shots. Hidden within the wing binders were sub-arms that could be used to bind enemy mobile suits. They were even dexterous enough to be used as extra limbs to give the Kshatriya a distinct advantage in melee combat.
The Kshatriya was also armed with a series of mega particle cannons all around its body and on its wing binders. They could unleash a scattering hail of beams or be focused into one super-powerful blast. However, the suit’s main long-range offense was undoubtedly its compliment of twenty-four “Funnels” housed in the wing binders. These remote beam weapons that could utterly annihilate any foe caught in a crossfire.
After the Unicorn Gundam utterly trashes the Kshatriya in combat, and Marida’s group join forces with the AWOL crew of the Federation assault ship Nahel Argama, the suit was repaired and supplemented by the Sleeves’ former adversaries. The Kshatriya “Repaired” was sort of a makeshift version of itself, lacking many of its former weapons. Its Funnels’ beam guns were replaced with explosive warheads, thus transforming them into one-time use remote-guided missiles. Two of its wing binders were replaced with giant propellant tanks to make up for its loss of speed and a hyper beam javelin was installed in place of the suit’s missing arm. The most peculiar patch-up was replacing the Kshatriya’s damaged leg with a support strut which had a hidden beam gatling gun inside it!
The Kshatriya looks cool, has a distinct and menacing silhouette, and Marida Cruz was my favorite character in Unicorn, so clearly I love this flying metal palm tree. I also like mecha that look awesome when battle-damaged, or haphazardly restored with limited materials, and the Repaired version definitely fits that criteria. Much like the Neue Ziel, its appearance alone screams “ZEON!”, and its Zaku-like head marks it as the natural enemy of a Gundam. However, since Marida eventually becomes a friend and ally to the main character Banagher Links, their two mobile suits working together was a nice visual representation of natural enemies putting aside their differences.
The Kshatriya is also one of my best units in the Gundam Versus series of video games and it’s super-fun to deploy all its Funnels at once and watch an enemy boost and dodge them like a swarm of angry bees.
4. Gundam Physalis
First Appearance- Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
Pilot- Anavel Gato
While there had been occurrences of antagonists using Gundams in previous series, 0083 was probably responsible for popularizing the “Gundam VS Gundam” setup in regards to the two main rivals in a show. The GP02A, better known as the Physalis, was part of the same lineage as the main character’s Gundam and stolen by the enemy in an episode titled “Gundamjack”. The term “Gundamjack” would henceforth become a descriptor widely used by fans for this kind of thing in the Gundam franchise as it occurred with incredible frequency across various incarnations. Zeon ace Anavel Gato strolled into a Federation base, and with nothing but a stolen uniform and some falsified clout, took the nuke-bearing Physalis right out from under the enemy’s nose. Suddenly… the Zeon had a Gundam of their own!
The Physalis was one of the most bulky Gundams in the Universal Century timeline, perhaps even upstaging the Full Armor ZZ. Despite this, the Physalis was actually quite fast and nimble in combat thanks to its shoulder binders, which housed multiple powerful thrusters. It had your standard low-caliber vulcan guns in its head and a pair of beam sabers- the output of which could be manually adjusted to increase the size and power of the blade. As mentioned, the Physalis also carried a nuclear warhead, to be launched from its Atomic Bazooka. While this highly-specialized weapon was limited to firing only a single shot, that shot WAS a nuke, and Anavel Gato used it to eliminate nearly two-thirds of the Federation’s space fleet. The Physalis’ heavy armor and over-sized shield were specifically designed to protect the suit from the fallout of this monstrously-destructive attack.
The Physalis is also another of my favorite units to use in the Gundam Versus video games, and nailing an opponent with an Atomic Bazooka shot is pretty satisfying. Although, you must be careful not to catch a teammate in the massive radiating explosion caused by a nuke in that game! If you’ve been reading this list to this point, you can probably tell I like a lot of “evil” Gundams, and Physalis is no different. It is imposing as hell, dwarfing its sibling GP01 “Zephyranthes” Gundam in size, and its massive handheld weapons and shield only add to the intimidation factor. Its head design is also somewhat off the beaten path for traditional Gundams, looking appropriately sinister.
I always kind of felt that 0083 had a somewhat weak cast of characters, but Anavel Gato was definitely my favorite in the series. He clearly had great taste in mobile suits too, scoring THREE spots on this favorites list with the Gelgoog, Neue Ziel, and Physalis!
Too bad about his taste in women. BURNNNNN, NINA!!!
3. Gundam Exia
First Appearance- Gundam 00
Pilot- Setsuna F. Seiei
The “starter” Gundam for 00’s main character Setsuna F. Seiei, the Exia has had a healthy life in the spotlight since 00 began. Exia was Celestial Being’s close-combat unit and at the forefront of many of their land-based combat interventions. Its wide range of bladed weapons earned it the codename “Seven Swords” by its developers, and Setsuna wielded Exia’s arsenal with ruthless efficiency. The suit’s highly-articulated frame allowed for fluid, almost human-like movements in battle and thanks to the GN Drive that all Celestial Being’s Gundams possessed, its power source was nearly limitless. There was simply no contest when compared to the slow-moving mobile suits of many of Setsuna’s opponents in the earlier episodes of the series.
The Exia possessed two beam sabers for high-speed combat, two beam daggers to be used as throwing weapons, and Long and Short GN Blades- handheld physical swords infused with GN Particles that enhanced their cutting edges. The Exia also had some rarely-used GN Vulcans in its wrists, but its main weapon was the arm-mounted GN Sword/Rifle. In rifle mode, it was a fairly standard beam gun and Exia’s chief means of long-range combat, but in sword mode, it became Setsuna’s favored instrument of destruction. The entire assembly also had a small shield on its side, so the Exia could defend and/or attack long or close-range using this single versatile weapon.
After Celestial Being’s enemies began to catch up in the mobile suit arms race and gained access to GN Particles, Exia and the rest no longer seemed so invincible. However, a parting gift from Celestial Being’s murdered founder Aeolia Schenberg unlocked the Trans-Am System hidden with the Gundams’ GN Drives. With Trans-Am, a Gundam could temporarily triple its particle output and thus overall performance, giving them the edge over their foes once more. In Trans-Am, the Exia glowed bright red and could run literal rings around even other GN-powered mobile suits.
After the final battle of 00’s first season, Exia was severely damaged and in the following years, Setsuna had to patch it up himself, being separated from the rest of Celestial Being. I’ve said it before, but for me, the mark of a good mecha design is how cool it looks when it is battle-scarred, and the makeshift Exia “Repair” definitely surpasses my expectations by that measurement! Missing half its face, its missing left arm covered by a badass cloak, and relying solely on its broken GN Sword/Rifle for combat, this version of the Exia left a sizable impression on me and many fans.
The elegant simplicity of the Exia clearly lends itself to reinterpretation, and of course it has received many other variations over the years. The completely-refurbished Exia Repair “II” made its surprise debut in the final episode of Gundam 00, giving Setsuna the means to finally defeat his nemesis Ribbons Almark after his newer 00-Raiser was wrecked. The “Avalanche” Exia was a special mission loadout that added more armor and boosters, only appearing in a special Gundam 00 side-story. In a different universe during the series Gundam Build Fighters, Gunpla battler Tatsuya Yuuki (known by his title of “Mejin Kawaguchi”) utilized the Amazing Exia, which was later altered into the corrupted Exia Dark Matter. Basically, however you change the Exia, it pretty much looks cool no matter what!
Aside from looking cool, Setsuna’s own personal connection with the original Exia was quite endearing, as he literally wanted to BECOME a Gundam. He saw Exia as a physical representation of his ideals and the eradication of war. One of Setsuna’s rare smiles in the series comes when his teammate Lockon Stratos called him a “hopeless Gundam nut”. To Setsuna- being compared to the Exia is the best compliment he could receive. The aforementioned unexpected appearance of the Exia Repair II in 00’s last episode is such a great moment because much like Setsuna… the viewer feels like they’re seeing the return of an old friend.
2. Destiny Gundam
First Appearance- Gundam Seed Destiny
Pilot- Shinn Asuka
I know what you’re thinking; how can this Gundam be so high on my favorites list? Not only is Gundam Seed Destiny considered to be one of the most disappointing iterations of the franchise by a sizable amount of the fandom, but the Destiny Gundam itself isn’t without its fair share of detractors. The Destiny Gundam design was actually a discarded idea from the original Seed series- the concept of the Strike Gundam’s three Striker Packs being combined into a single suit. Once it was developed for Seed Destiny, a handful of elements taken from Gundams in other previous iterations of the franchise were added to the design, which often makes people see this suit as nothing more than the combination of unoriginal ideas. However, the fact of the matter is that Seed Destiny as a whole went a little “homage-crazy” and that is reflected in the title suit of the series. Some ideas may be unoriginal, but that doesn’t mean they are bad, and the Destiny actually ticks a lot of boxes for stuff I think is cool in Gundam designs and mecha in general.
As the second and final mobile suit of series “protagonist” (although at times, it seemed not) Shinn Asuka, the Destiny was of course loaded with weapons and boasted high performance. The Destiny’s chief assets were its Wings of Light- a pair of beam-generated wings that, using the “Voiture Lumiere” propulsion system, granted it incredible speed and agility in flight. A “Mirage Colloid” system was also incorporated into them, which created holographic afterimages of the Destiny when it flew with the wings deployed. The beam wings were no doubt an homage to the Victory 2 Gundam, while the trailing afterimages drew inspiration from the Gundam F91. Using the Wings of Light, the Destiny could effortlessly evade entire barrages of heavy beam fire and close the gap with an opponent almost instantly. These tactics were especially effective against the giant lumbering Destroy Gundams pitted against Shinn and his comrades in the latter half of the series.
The Destiny was armed with your standard beam rifle, a pair of beam boomerangs, a high-energy long-range beam cannon that unfolded from the backpack, and a massive beam sword called the “Arondight”. Shinn Asuka’s previous Impulse Gundam wielded a blade known as the “Excalibur”, after King Arthur’s legendary weapon, but Arondight is Sir Lancelot’s sword. It is undoubtedly a reference to Sir Lancelot’s eventual fall from grace… a path that Shinn Asuka also unfortunately travels. Also, perhaps it is a knowing nod to Shinn’s slip to “second banana” status behind the previous series’ protagonist Kira Yamato in the latter half of the series.
Another homage to Victory Gundam was in the form of Destiny’s knuckle-mounted beam shields which, like the Victory, projected an energy barrier for the suit’s defense. Perhaps my favorite weapon the Destiny possessed was yet another homage to a previous Gundam series- the “Palma Fiocina” beam cannons. These lower-powered guns in the suit’s palms allowed the Destiny to perform its own sort of “Shining Finger” attack from G Gundam at extremely close range.
Like I said, all these elements that the Destiny takes from other previous Gundams… I actually like, and I think the design combined them all in a fairly stylish way. I also like the Destiny’s head and facial design, complete with some little gashes under the eyes that I assume are supposed be evocative of Shinn’s tears (cuz he’s a whiny little emo kid, I guess?) It is just too bad that Seed Destiny took the path it did, and Shinn became an antagonist to the previous series’ characters, instead of the more respectable anti-hero he initially started off as. The Destiny Gundam itself is now probably more remembered for being a failure, much like its pilot, which is a real shame considering how much I like its messianic, yet menacing design altogether.
The Destiny Gundam walking through an inferno surrounded by the wreckage of other Seed characters’ mobile suits? That’s a pretty good metaphor for the series itself, isn’t it?
First Appearance- Mobile Suit Gundam
Pilot(s)- Ramba Ral, Norris Packard, others
While Char’s custom red Zaku was the first instance in the Gundam franchise of a specialized enemy ace mobile suit, I’ve always felt that the Gouf defined the role. A mobile suit that was nearly equal in power to the Gundam, and had an experienced pilot with enough skill to be a serious threat to our hero. While the Gouf appears to be nothing more than just a blue Zaku, trust me… do I even have to say it?
Ramba Ral was the pilot of the original Gouf, or at least the first one we ever see in the series. Possessing greater armor and strength than a Zaku, the Gouf was specifically-intended for close-quarters combat with another mobile suit. Its signature weapon was the heat rod- an armored cable that extended from under its right arm and could be superheated enough to slice through enemy armor. It could also ensnare and electrocute any opponent that was tangled in it. The Gouf also carried a heat saber and its left hand doubled as a five-barreled machine gun. Ramba Ral used the Gouf to great effect in several engagements with Amuro Ray’s RX-78 Gundam before the young pilot managed to destroy it.
Ramba Ral is undoubtedly the most famous pilot of the Gouf, and in the Gundam Build Fighters universe where the original series is a work of fiction, there exists a “Mr. Ral” who looks and behaves like the fictional character. No one really knows how this works, but Mr. Ral still utilizes a Gouf model in Gunpla battles. The Gouf “R35” is a souped-up version of the original, and the “R35” references Ramba Ral’s stated age, which is played for some laughs in both Build Fighters and its follow-up series Build Fighters Try. The official background material for the original series puts Ral’s age at thirty-five years old, even though he looks and behaves like he’s much older. This becomes even more ridiculous when he still insists he is thirty-five during Try, which takes place seven years after the first Build Fighters series!
While Ramba Ral was first, and is definitely one of my favorite Gundam characters across all iterations of the franchise period, my favorite version of the Gouf was piloted by Norris Packard in the series Gundam: The 08th MS Team. The Gouf “Custom” took the “real robot” aesthetic that Gundam is known for and enhanced it to a greater degree. Its weapons were more refined than the original Gouf, with the heat rod being changed to a much thinner wire with a grappling attachment at the end. It could still electrify opponents it latched onto, but the Custom’s heat rod was more of a utility instrument than a melee weapon. The Gouf Custom also wielded a large drum-fed gatling gun that was fixed over its shield in addition to another three-barreled machine gun fitted over its left hand. This gave it much greater firepower than a normal Gouf and certainly made it look that much more intimidating.
Just like with the original Gouf, what made the Gouf Custom especially dangerous was its ace Zeon pilot, and Norris Packard provided what was and still is probably my favorite fight scene in a Gundam anime to date. Fighting the 08th MS Team in an abandoned city, Packard managed to outmaneuver them all and pick off the supporting Guntanks they were protecting one-by-one. While it cost him his life in the end, it was still an incredibly impressive showing, and the visceral way he dispatched one of the Guntanks always stuck with me.
The Gouf was reinterpreted in Gundam Seed Destiny as the GOUF “Ignited”. This homage to the original Universal Century design was armed with heat rods and multi-barreled beam machine guns on both arms, also carrying a dual-sided beam sword. Appropriately, my favorite Seed-verse character Yzak Joule flew a custom white and blue-colored GOUF Ignited towards the end of Seed Destiny. Even his initial mobile suit in the series- the Slash ZAKU Phantom, possessed a custom Gouf-like color scheme.
With several of my favorite characters across the franchise piloting Goufs, the generally-appealing Zeon aesthetic, and the non-inconsiderable fact that my favorite color is blue… you can probably see why the Gouf is my favorite mech in the Gundam franchise. It is truly… no Zaku. Oops, I went and said it.
Okay, that was my top twenty-five favorites… now for my top five LEAST favorite mecha designs in the Gundam franchise!
First Appearance- Zeta Gundam
Pilot- Buran Blutarch
Zeta Gundam had a lot of odd designs, especially on the Titans’ side of things. I like odd or unconventional designs for the most part, but sometimes they just don’t work because they are evocative of something else in my head, and that’s the case here with the Asshimar.
First off, its mobile suit mode kind of looks like a Dom wearing some dumb hoodie or something, or a short raincoat. The Dom-like head just doesn’t really seem to match with the color scheme of the suit either. Secondly, and more damning in my eyes… its flying mobile armor mode looks like a friggin’ flat hamburger thanks to that color scheme. It reminds me of those transforming Happy Meal toys from various McDonald’s promotions over the years.
The Asshimar piloted by Titans officer Buran Blutarch once got taken out by Amuro Ray crashing a simple transport plane into it and then bailing out. While part of that happening is just the fact that Amuro is THE MAN, another not-inconsiderable part of it is probably also that the Asshimar is LAAAAAME!!!
4. Mack Knife
First Appearance- Gundam Reconguista in G
Pilot- “Mask”/Luin Lee, Barara Peor, others
This Medabots-looking… thing was the second main mobile suit of the “Char” of Reconguista in G, the man who would become known rather bluntly as “Mask”. You’d expect that the Char-guy of the series would have something extraordinarily nimble… but it also kind of has to be tough and threatening too, right? That’s not the Mack Knife, really… it’s so thin and slight and friggin’ fragile! The main character Bellri Zenam was able to totally manhandle (suithandle?) Mask’s Mack Knife in its first outing, kicking it in the balls and TAKING ITS WALLET.
Mask managed to improve his skills with it eventually and make use of its inherent speed and array of beam weapons. This odd shark did have some teeth, but its most pearly weapons were by far the Photon Bombs- missiles with AI-assisted optics in the tips, which could almost unerringly seek out targets. Sounds cool and effective, right? Yeah… they fire out of the Mack Knife’s crotch. This suit literally shot its BALLS at you.
The Mack Knife is ditched by Mask when he procures an actually-intimidating mobile suit in the Kabakali towards the end of the series. However, I could never take this thing (or Mask himself, really) all that seriously.
3. Strike Freedom Gundam
First Appearance- Gundam Seed Destiny
Pilot- Kira Yamato
The successor unit to Kira’s original Freedom Gundam, the Strike Freedom is fairly emblematic of what sabotaged the Seed Destiny anime in its latter half. Before I get into why I hate what it represents though, I should actually mention what I dislike about the suit’s design itself. First off… the gold bits visible on its joints, hands, and peeking out from various other places on its frame annoy the crap out of me. This extra “bling” on Strike Freedom just looks off-putting and gaudy, and doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. The Akatsuki Gundam from the same series is completely coated in gold, but that was explained as purposeful, as the coating is necessary for absorbing and deflecting beam fire. The Strike Freedom’s gold parts are just there to look… shiny? I think some model kit manual later tried to explain them away as some kind of heat sinks or something, but c’mon now…
Another part of the design I don’t care for are the “Super DRAGOON” remote weapons mounted on the Strike Freedom’s wings. Wireless remote weapons were initially pretty rare in Seed, with only the main villain Rau Le Creuset’s Providence Gundam possessing them in the final battle. The only reason he could use them was that he was a classic “Newtype” and had superhuman spatial awareness. The whole underlying concept behind Rau and his “brother” Mu La Flaga in Seed was that they were supposed to be the last Newtypes in the world. People who possessed the senses-enhancing “SEED” factor were the main “special” humans in the series, but Rau and Mu stood apart from them as Universal Century-style Newtypes. Suddenly, with Kira Yamato’s acquisition of the Strike Freedom… HE could use these remote weapons and what’s more- when he deployed them there was a Newtype “flash” in the animation!
So in addition to Kira Yamato possessing the SEED factor, and being the “Ultimate”, most perfect genetically-engineered Coordinator (as revealed in Seed), he was now a Newtype as well! That’s really the root of the whole problem here with the Strike Freedom and Kira Yamato in general- he became a victim of his own popularity. Kira was the best at everything and his power was to have all the powers like some bad fanfic character. I’m probably getting more into Kira as a character than I should at this point, and that maybe isn’t completely on-topic, but I feel it is relevant to the Strike Freedom. Many fans feel that Kira stole Shinn Asuka’s spotlight in the latter half of Seed Destiny, and it was totally reflected in the Strike Freedom as well, which becomes the main Gundam showcased in the title credits during the last two opening sequences of the show.
When the Strike Freedom deploys its Super DRAGOONs, its wings look kind of skeletal and it removes a lot of the suit’s presence. The showrunners and/or mecha designers must have realized this… because in following episodes after this Gundam’s debut, there was a minor change to its animations. Remember the Destiny Gundam’s “Wings of Light”- probably the most significant visual distinction that Shinn Asuka’s “title” suit possessed? Whelp, Kira can’t look dumb and has got to have all the powers, so the Strike Freedom eventually got them too! This became standardized in the later Special Edition movies and Remastered releases whenever the Strike Freedom launched its DRAGOONs.
Add all this to the fact that the Strike Freedom never takes ANY damage in the entirety of Seed Destiny, and that Kira himself is completely stagnant as a character by the end, and you get a textbook example of why some people think Superman is boring. Now, I personally don’t think Superman is inherently boring, but I do think Kira is as of Seed Destiny. Hell, just like with the Strike Freedom, many newly-drawn scenes in the Special Editions and Remastered versions were attempts to “pretty” Kira up or at least make him look like he’s invested in what’s happening on-screen.
It was SO easy to get off-track here, but my final word is that I dislike the Strike Freedom mostly because of what it represented for Seed Destiny and for what a shining symbol it was for the series’ many problems. And honestly… I think it’s fairly tacky in a technical sense too, which is a shame because the original Freedom Gundam was a fairly decent design. The Strike Freedom is just… over-designed, over-sold, and over-exposed.
2. Baund Doc
First Appearance- Zeta Gundam
Pilot(s)- Rosamia Badam, Jerid Messa
The Baund Doc has got to have the ugliest “robot” mode of any mobile suit I’ve ever seen in a Gundam series. Yet another wacky Zeta design like the Asshimar, but at least the Asshimar has proper humanoid proportions. The Baund Doc’s asymmetrical upper torso design, weird “hoop skirt”, and long “ears” on a slender head all contribute to making a pretty chaotic mash of aesthetics. I feel like if you black out all detail on it and leave just the silhouette, more people would guess it was either a Pokemon or some overweight, deformed kangaroo than a robot.
Its flying mobile armor mode isn’t much better, looking like a loudly-colored mining helmet with claws or legs. It’s pretty fugly from underneath too, as the entire upper half of the robot torso is just chilling under its skirt. With such a wild, inhuman design, one would think that its weapons would be all built-in, but no… the Baund Doc actually hand-carries a rifle and beam saber as its main armaments. It does also have a powerful scattering beam gun mounted on its body, but a thing like this that seems designed to take advantage of a more monstrous physical structure shouldn’t really need hand-held weapons, should it? That seems almost counter-intuitive to me, especially with those giant awkward hands it has.
The Titans pilots who chiefly used the Baund Doc over the course of Zeta don’t really win it any points with me either. The first was Rosamia Badam, an unstable Cyber Newtype girl who eventually befriended main character Kamille Bidan and the crew of the Argama. She largely had a childlike mindset and would refer to Kamille as her big brother in-between bouts of hysteria and trying to kill everyone when her aggressive mental programming kicked in. Her whole plotline was basically a watered-down repeat of Four Murasame’s, another Cyber Newtype girl who Kamille actually had a romantic relationship with earlier in the series. Kamille eventually had to put Rosamia down when she threatens to blow up the Argama in her new Psyco Gundam Mk-II. Rosamia was a sympathetic character, but ultimately kind of annoying and redundant, which is probably why she was mostly excised from the retelling of Zeta in movie form. But thanks to that, at least she never had to pilot the Baund Doc and humiliate herself further in the movies!
The other major character who piloted a Baund Doc was Jerid Messa- one of Kamille’s chief rivals. Jerid was basically Flash Thompson from Spider-Man, except with virtually zero redeeming qualities, and an inability to learn from his mistakes. It seemed like he and Kamille had an ongoing competition throughout the series to see who could kill more of the other’s friends and comrades. Jerid gets a Baund Doc to try and kill Kamille one last time in the second-to-final episode of Zeta. While the Baund Doc was supposedly a powerful unit, it was intended to be used by pilots with Newtype ability, which Jerid really didn’t have. He was unable to put up much of a fight in it against even a distracted Kamille and dies a fairly quick and ignominious death. I thought it was only fitting that a punk like Jerid went out flying a hideous thing like the Baund Doc!
Looks like Jerid is blasting off again!
INTO HIS GRAVE.
First Appearance- Mobile Suit Gundam
Y’know, there are some designs in the Gundam franchise that are so off-the-wall wacky that they circle around to being kind of neat, like a good chunk of G Gundam’s mecha. And then there’s the Zakrello, which is just… WTF, right? You look at it, and you’re instantly like “what IS this, what even IS this??”
As a Zeon mobile armor created to fight the RX-78 Gundam, the Zakrello kind of falls into a category of criticism for the original series- the “Monster of the Week” trope. In between episodes that actually advance the plot of the series, the creators also had to just do installments where Amuro Ray and co. just fight some new scary toy. The Zakrello wasn’t so much a “Monster of the Week”, as a “Monster of two minutes of one episode”. It seriously only has about two minutes of screen-time at best, and Amuro takes it out fairly easily at the beginning of episode # 32. Also, it was apparently piloted by Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.
During its limited deployment in the anime, it failed to destroy the Guntank… while the Guntank was just SLOWLY DRIFTING IN SPACE. The Guntank isn’t even MEANT to be deployed in the vacuum of space, yet the Zakrello couldn’t get the better of it. Also, Hayato Kobayashi was piloting the treaded Federation unit at the time, and Hayato kind of sucks at piloting stuff. I mean, he’s a good guy and he’s always going on about how he knows judo and junk, but that doesn’t really mean squat in mobile suit battles. I think the fact that the Zakrello is just awful is what probably let Hayato live long enough for Amuro to arrive and save his short bacon. Heck, even after Amuro destroys the mobile armor, he’s all like “...what the flying f**k was up with that??”
As goofy-ass as the Zakrello is, it is super-annoying to fight in the Gundam Versus video games as a boss unit. It jets around the arena, barrages you with missiles, and relentlessly tries to spear you with its arms and then blast you point-blank with the particle cannon in its “mouth”. I’m ashamed to admit it took me some time to figure out how to effectively and consistently defeat it. I guess I shouldn’t give Hayato that much grief...