SD Gundam Force Is Hated, But Has the Most Potential In the Franchise – CBR – Comic Book Resources

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SD Gundam Force wasn’t exactly beloved, but a new yet similar anime could work as an entry point that pitches the franchise to kids and newcomers.
The Mobile Suit Gundam series has defined mecha anime for decades by this point, especially in terms of the "Real Robot" subgenre. Viewers still flock to the franchise for its often deep themes of war, division and space opera storytelling. There's one notable exception to that, however, and while it's mostly hated, it could be the key to the franchise finding new fans.
SD Gundam features chibified, super deformed versions of the franchise's famous mobile suits, with the kid-friendly SD Gundam Force being the biggest anime adaptation of the concept. It seems like a stretch to take the franchise in such a saccharine, sanitized direction, but super deformed Gundams in any media are an easy entry point for those who've yet to try any of the shows out for themselves.
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The idea of SD Gundam came about from a fan illustration from a Bandai (the company that produces Gundam merchandise) magazine in the '80s. Bandai took it and ran with it, producing super deformed variants of classic Gundam mecha in the form of pencil erasers, trinkets and eventually, collectible model kits. Even if these silly little mini mechs flew in the face of the franchise's push for realism and gritty storytelling, consumers couldn't get enough of them. This saw super deformed Gundam figures outsell their regularly proportioned counterparts for a while.
Anime adaptions were mainly of a one-off nature, although this finally changed with the 2003 series SD Gundam Force. In the case of this American/Japanese CGI collaboration, the "SD" actually stood for "Superior Defender," with the plot and designs taking from various SD Gundam toylines over the years. Quite kiddy and silly, the show wasn't even half as dark or serious as most Gundam shows. This saw it receive horrendous viewings in Japan, which was arguably better than its run in America. There, the show only aired half of its episode, and given that it was the sole Gundam series at the time, it can be partially blamed for the franchise not taking off as much with a generation of Western kids.
SD Gundam Force has rarely if ever been referenced since its ending, with even those who enjoy the SD Gundam models disliking it. While its execution may have left a lot to be desired, it does lay a potentially successful template for the Gundam franchise as a whole to reach a wider and more youthful audience.
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Even if SD Gundam Force wasn't great, it had its heroic heart in the right place. Its goal was to appeal to children and others who might not usually go for a Gundam series, be it due to its tone or the history behind the franchise. For some, the serious space opera storytelling is simply too heady for their tastes, with something silly or subversive being more up their alley. Likewise, even for those who want to see what all the fuss is about with Gundam, the decades of shows, many of which are in the same continuity, can make doing so intimidating. An anime featuring super deformed robots instead of giant mecha suits is obviously more standalone, making it an easier sell. A show with zany, crazy robot antics could also be analogous to the somewhat similar Mobile Fighter G Gundam, which was easily one of the most over-the-top entries in Gundam.
Another thing to note is that the huge popularity of SD Gundam collectibles and model kits in the 1980s was driven by kids. Using easy-to-build models and an accompanying anime series to hook children into the franchise should be easy to emulate in the modern era. Plus, if the spinoff nature of a tentative successor to SD Gundam Force is made clear, longtime fans would be more accepting of it. That's definitely the case in the West, where fans might bemoan that it's not a "real" Gundam show. With how rare mecha anime is nowadays, supplementing a show such as Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury with a more kid-friendly series would only help Bandai in securing more fans and buyers. All it requires is making something much cooler and less annoying than the original SD Gundam Force.
Timothy Blake Donohoo is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing. A professional freelance writer and marketing expert, he’s written marketing copy and retail listings for companies such as Viatek. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing video games, watching documentaries and catching up on the latest Vaporwave and Electro-Swing musical releases.
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