Note: This is part of my attempt to review every Gundam show that I’ve seen, which is almost all of them. This is a spoiler-free review, though I do describe the show’s premise and villains.
After War: Gundam X was the third Gundam series set in its own timeline, and it suffered for it. G found a core audience but was generally reviled by hard-line fans for being too cheesy. Wing was hated for being too melodramatic (and its pilots for being “too pretty”). After that, a lot of Gundam fans just stopped caring. So X suffers it ignominy of being the only Gundam show (besides the first) to be canceled partway through its run.
It didn’t deserve that fate. While X is a lighter show than, say, Zeta or Wing, it’s a solidly constructed series that runs a wide range of emotions and themes.
Its timeline is actually closest of all alternate timelines to that of original Gundam (“Universal Century”); in fact, X can be seen as an alternate history version of U.C., asking what would have happened if Amuro had never appeared, and Newtype psychic development continued its rapidly escalating arms race.
In After War Gundam X, 15 years have passed since this universe’s version of the apocalyptic One Year War. That conflict grew increasingly devastating, until Earth’s biosphere partially collapsed, wrapping the planet in a decade-long cloud of choking dust. While humans and most species survived, the world is now a post-apocalyptic wilderness of fierce bandits and abandoned technology amidst struggling pockets of civilization.
And struggling as much as anyone is Garrod Ran, the show’s 15-year-old protagonist. He’s a standard mecha shonen hero: courage and spirit to spare, but not a lot of brains. Not to spoil anything, but in the first episode he stumbles on a Gundam, and proceeds to pilot it (big shock there), with the help of a very quiet (and, it’s hinted, previously abused) girl named Tifa, who can activate an insanely destructive weapon in Garrod’s Gundam. The two quickly develop feelings for each other: Garrod wants to protect the delicate and sensitive Tifa, while Tifa appreciates the first person who’s ever cared for her safety.
Garrod and Tifa soon join the crew of a large hovering battleship, the Frieden, and with a few other mecha pilots, they wander around helping people and running from the enigmatic and delightfully evil Frost brothers.
So, it’s basically an action/adventure show. It’s a bit less episodic than most super robot shows (or G Gundam), though; the Frieden’s crew soon investigates the Frost brothers’ political machinations, and seek to forestall potential conflicts and wars. Characters from previous episodes re-appear as larger foes emerge.
If this sounds simple, it is. And that’s part of the charm of X. It avoids the over-the-top energy of G which puts off many fans, while following a straightforward, easily-comprehensible story. The characters are easy to root for. The Gundams are presented as powerful war machines. Secrets are revealed and the stakes build. The animation’s clean, and the music’s appropriately operatic.
It’s a fun ride.