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Monday, July 25, 2016

They're (Mostly) Not Anime: The Rest of G-Saviour

When it comes down to it all, G-Saviour will always be an interesting part of the Gundam franchise. Though it's now treated like the black sheep of the entire franchise, which is kind of odd when you consider how many questionable things have come from Gundam, it was given quite a lot of focus & promotion by Sunrise & Bandai at the time. Again, this was produced alongside Turn-A Gundam to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the original Mobile Suit Gundam's debut, so it's not like G-Saviour was made reluctantly. In fact, while international audiences only received the live-action made-for-TV movie, & the PlayStation 2 video game found notoriety simply by being a good game, there was a fair amount of other things produced in relation to G-Saviour. Some of it was in direct relation to the previously mentioned movie & game, while some of it was in fact another notable part of the overall story, & the most recent of them all actually came about in 2013, surprisingly enough.

Therefore, let's do a general overview of what else came about from G-Saviour, and try to figure out just where it truly stands in the canon of Gundam.


The first to bring up is easily the most important of these other products. You see, G-Saviour was conceived as a three-part story, with each told in a different format. The movie was the middle part, detailing the story of how Mark Curran helped stop General Garneaux's mission to keep CONSENT as the ruler of the people. The game was the final part, detailing how Reed Fox helped bring about the end of CONSENT's tyranny by stopping the dangerous Project Raven led by the rebellious Commander Bais. That just leaves the first part of the story, which was told via its own three-part production as a radio drama. Broadcasting on December 28, 2000, the day before the movie debuted on Japanese TV, the G-Saviour radio drama told three stories whose events lead to the plot of the movie. Obviously, this is the only part of G-Saviour that wasn't performed by English actors first, so everyone is voiced by professional seiyuu, though some characters from the movie do make "appearances". Since I can't really experience these radio dramas for myself in any good fashion (mainly because my Japanese is too rough to enjoy it with just audio), I'll be making educated guesses as to what they may explain, based on the basic concept of each story.


Part 1, Be Called Icarus (though the kanji literally translates as The Red Wings of Icarus), stars Andy Sinclair (voiced by Daiki Nakamura), a former CONSENT pilot who went under the name Andria Grashe, as he meets a blind girl named Elicia Erg (Maaya Sakamoto) who lives in an agriculture district called Earth Edbert, which is having trouble with a terrorist group called Club Four. Naturally, Earth Edbert, run by Governor Cliff (Naoya Uchida), is a part of CONSENT, while Club Four, run by the mysterious Cerulean (Kousuke Meguro), acts as a type of freedom force. This story also features movie character Mimi Devere (Yumi Takada) to a small extent, alongside her boss, CONSENT Intelligence Major Shizurene Foster (Yoko Soumi). Also featured are Club Four members Paolo (Takuya Kirimoto), who harbors a grudge against Cliff for the death of his parents, & Ryoya (Takashi Miyamoto). The story here looks to mainly explain how exactly the Earth Federation fell apart & why the planet itself has become so agriculturally worthless, which are both given no explanation in the movie, while also detailing how corrupt the CONSENT government truly is, possibly making it an rough equivalent to the Titans from Zeta Gundam (though nowhere near as maniacal).


Part 2, Before the Mission, stars Abner Saviour (Jurouta Kosugi), another former CONSENT officer who was disciplined for bad conduct. Abner is then picked up by the Illuminati of Side 4, joins the Saviour Project, & becomes a systems engineer & test pilot of the G-Saviour #703, after Barry Adams (Hisayoshi Izaki) died testing out the G-Saviour #702. Joining him are April O'Reilly (Mabuki Ando), manager & operator of the Saviour Team, Joyce Santayana (Sakiko Uran), the "Mood Maker" of the team, Bat (Yuya Uchida), another systems engineer, & Sydney Roland Schwartz (Kiyoyuki Yanada), a third systems engineer who's really a CONSENT spy that's trying to ruin everything. Obviously, this story likely explains how the finalized G-Saviour from the movie came to be, as the Saviour Team is mentioned once or twice in both the movie & game, while also giving the Illuminati some real focus, as the organization was given very little screen time in the movie. I'd imagine that this story ties the creation of the G-Saviour more into the legacy of the Gundams that predated it.


Finally, Part 3, (The Deep Sea) Prometheus, has the most to do with the plot of the movie itself. It stars Maurice Riva (Takeshi Kusao), a New York University student who's the ace of his Earth representative college baseball team. Maurice, though, is also the son of Dr. Riva (Unshou Ishizuka), whose research into bioluminescence, that could make Earth agriculturally viable again, gets him assassinated by CONSENT officer Boa (Toru Ohkawa), a subordinate of General Garneaux (Hiroshi Ito). Also involved in the story to some extent are Sara (Yukari Nozawa), one of Dr. Riva's assistants, & Akira Inoue (Yukimasa Obi), a member of Maurice's rival Moon Red Box Team. It's easy to see that this final story is the impetus that sets the story of the movie into motion, & Cynthia Graves (Minami Takayama) is also featured here. How this all ties into college baseball is beyond me, though...

This radio drama, which totals over 3.5 hours (each part is over 70 minutes long), would also be released as three "sound cinema" CDs, with Be Called Icarus actually coming out a week before it was broadcast, while the other two came out in January & February of 2001, respectively. Really, what the radio drama showcases is that G-Saviour has a much more extensive plot than most realize, and when all is said & done, we here in North America kind of got the short end of the stick in the first place, seeing as we only received the middle part of the entire plot, let alone it being the shortest of them all. If anything, I think Sunrise could easily try to "redeem" G-Saviour by adapting the entire plot (radio drama, movie, & game) as an OVA series, which would allow people the world over to be able to experience the entire story, which I think would help make the entire project a little more well respected; the opportunity for expansion, especially for the game's story, would be there, as well. And, really, if Sunrise (like Tomino) thinks that the movie's tale isn't good enough, then there's always another version of the story to adapt...


Released in December 2000 through Shueisha's Super Dash Bunko imprint, G-Saviour received a two-volume novel (428 pages total) adaptation that was written by Yoshie Kawahara (Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers novels, scriptwriter for Heavy Metal L-Gaim) & features artwork by visual designer Masahisa Suzuki (Gundam: Char's Counterattack, Metal Armor Dragonar). Though it apparently sticks to the same plot as that of the movie, Kawahara adds in numerous references & call backs to the pre-existing Universal Century timeline, like supposedly explaining that the damage caused by the colony drop that started the One Year War eventually lead to the planet's inability to produce agriculture. I've also seen word that manga artist Takuto did a manga version of the movie, but that may simply be confusing it with Takuto's two-chapter adaptation of the first two stages of the game that appeared in Enterbrain's Famitsu Bros magazine & was never compiled into a book. It included two original characters in the form of Tricia Marmalade & a Raven Project member simply named "Doctor", as well as a G-Saviour prototype called the Proto-G.


Naturally, there were a bunch of other products made in relation to G-Saviour, like an artbook featuring the CG work for the movie, a strategy guide for the PS2 game, telephone cards, & music CDs featuring the OSTs for both the movie & game, as well as singles for the ending themes for both products (as pictured at the very top), but what has kept Gundam going as a franchise for so long, & what some could argue is why new anime keeps getting made, is because of one type of product: Gunpla. A portmanteau of the phrase "Gundam Plastic Model", Gundam model kits have been around ever since the original Mobile Suit Gundam, but they didn't really become the high-quality products that they are now recognized as until the 90s. To this day, whether they're based on new productions or are re-imagined/redesigned takes on older kits, model kits probably make more money on the whole for Bandai & Sunrise than any home video release could ever do. Therefore, it's kind of surprising that the whole G-Saviour sub-series only produced a single, solitary piece of gunpla. What makes it sad is that the model kit isn't even a bad one.


Gunpla are generally categorized into various "grades", with High Grade/HG being the lowest of them all. That's not an insult about their quality, but rather it just means that HG kits are usually done in 1/144 scale, instead of the 1/60 scale of the Master Grade/MG or the sheer amount of production quality seen in the Perfect Grade/PG. Considering how nicely designed Kunio Okawara's entire line of G-Saviour mechs is, it's a little sad that the only model kit to ever be made from all of that is a 1/144 scale HG for G-Saviour in Space Mode. G-Saviour itself, not to mention the G3-Saviour from the game, would be a perfect choice for a MG kit, as that would allow for the option to switch between the different "Modes" it has (Space, Terrain, Terrain Hover, or even the armorless Origin), and the other Mobile Suits would have been cool to see in gunpla form, even if only via HG; I guess one could repaint a GINN gunpla from Gundam Seed & call it a Bugu, though. But that's enough pointless wishing for what will likely never happen, so how good was the G-Saviour -Space Mode- HG kit?

Not a picture of my gunpla, as I never do the lining... I'm lazy.

I bought my G-Saviour gunpla a number of years ago when I used to collect a small amount of model kits, mainly for the novelty of it, but I'd say that I'm a fan of it. Like any HG kit, its a relatively simple build that's easy to put together, & there are only three stickers to fit on (the gold on the chest, plus the eyes in the head); there's only so much detail that can be shown at such a small scale. True to the unit itself, the coloring is very basic, sticking to an overall white body, with a black endoskeleton & some blue for the upper chest & arms, side boosters, back verniers, & the standard V-Crest on the head; the red in the center is a nice touch, too. While the verniers make the gunpla look like it would constantly fall backwards, the boosters actually help keep the balance, making it very easy to stay standing on its own. Finally, in terms of extras, you get the arm-mounted beam shield, a black beam rifle (that can be mounted on either leg), & a clear blue beam saber; it's easy to fit all three on, too, which is great. Overall, the G-Saviour -Space Mode- HG gunpla is a cool little model kit that, at the very least, shows how well designed it was by Okawara. I'm sure that if G-Saviour on the whole was better received we would have seen more gunpla, but I guess a solid HG kit is better than nothing.

Why save this for the end, though? It's because this little 1/144 scale gunpla is the very reason why G-Saviour got a surprise resurgence a few years ago. A microscopic one, mind you, but one still worth mentioning.

video

2013-2014's Gundam Build Fighters was a blatant piece of promotion for Bandai's line of gunpla, but it was one that earned the love of many Gundam fans by being a giant love letter to the product line & doing what every model kit owner has wished was possible: Pitting their very own gunpla against each other. One of the aspects of Build Fighters that kept people watching was the feeling that any real life gunpla could appear in the show, even if it was only for a few scant seconds. It didn't matter if it was a Gerbera Tetra from 0083, a Bawoo from ZZ, the Extreme Gundam from Gundam Extreme Vs., a FLAT from Turn-A, the Ξ/Xi Gundam from Hathaway's Flash, the Blue Destiny, or even an SD Gundam, this series featured seemingly any gunpla that had existed in some form in the real world... And that included the G-Saviour.

At the very beginning of Episode 8 is a scene that introduces the character Nils Nielsen, where he uses his custom Hyaku Shiki to quickly destroy an AI-controlled G-Saviour. While it may seem like nothing more than short cameo that let Sunrise poke fun at G-Saviour, this apparently did result in something interesting. From what I've heard, shortly after this episode aired in Japan, Bandai re-released the HG G-Saviour, giving the black sheep of the Gundam franchise its first real availability to the public in 13 years; sure, the movie was always available online, but this gunpla was re-released in physical stores. Now, to be fair, this wasn't a redone HG kit that used any of the improved materials that modern-day gunpla are made with, but rather this was apparently nothing more than Bandai re-releasing a 13 year old model kit.

Personally, my guess as to why G-Saviour was given the cameo was simply a case of selling excess stock. Considering how unpopular G-Saviour was as a sub-series back in 2000 & 2001, I'd imagine that Bandai had boxes of unsold G-Saviour -Space Mode- HG kits in its warehouses, but with no real way to sell them. What Build Fighters did was create the opportunity to re-release older kits after they've been showcased in the series, since fans may be enticed to buy them after seeing them on TV. I'm guessing that Bandai requested that Sunrise add the G-Saviour to the show, no matter how small of an inclusion, so that the company would have an excuse to put that excess stock back on shelves. Really, it was a Win-Win situation for both companies, as Sunrise could toss in a silly jab at G-Saviour, while Bandai could use the cameo to help sell an old kit that didn't sell back in the day, this time hoping that fans would buy it as a curiosity. Still, this ~30 second cameo required Sunrise's staff to storyboard & animate a Mobile Suit (a Gundam, no less) that hadn't been seen in over a decade. They didn't half-ass it, either, because they honestly made the G-Saviour look nice via animation; this required actual effort to make. Not even Gaia Gear got that kind of treatment, and that was a story created by Yoshiyuki Tomino himself. Granted, I don't believe Gaia Gear ever received any gunpla, but I think the point still stands.

That now leaves us with this question, made all the more pertinent with the Build Fighters cameo: Where exactly is G-Saviour when it comes to the Gundam franchise?

Aw, it's SD G3-Saviour, G-Saviour, & J-Saviour...

Going back to Gaia Gear one last time, when that was originally serialized in Newtype Magazine, from 1987-1991, it was deemed a look at what the Universal Century's future was like, taking place in UC 0203. It received a 26-episode audio drama adaptation in 1992, even, but as time went on it's story about a "memory clone" of Char Aznable leading a revolution against the corrupt Earth Federation by relying on the "Man-Machine" Gaia Gear α was deemed too much of a change from what Gundam was like for the UC timeline. That's probably one reason why G-Saviour was made in the first place, as it was a way to tell a future UC story that wasn't such a radical departure from what came before, & in the process deem Gaia Gear to be an alternate universe story. Of course, G-Saviour wasn't as successful of a project as Gaia Gear likely was for its time, yet it's not like Sunrise was in a rush to officially put the newer story into the same non-canon status as what it replaced.

Many think that Sunrise has also deemed G-Saviour to be an alternate universe, though there is no definitive proof of that. In fact, translator Mark Simmons (who has worked on numerous Gundam titles) says that Sunrise simply ignores it, hoping that everyone will just forget it ever happened. Not just that, but nothing that Sunrise had since produced involving the UC timeline (The Origin, Unicorn, Thunderbolt, etc.) has done anything to really contradict whatever story G-Saviour told. Part of that is because none of these new productions tell stories that take place anywhere near UC 0223 (hell, none of them even go beyond 0096), which I'm sure is because of the strong nostalgia that the fans have for the Zeon Era stories, but if Sunrise really wanted to make this black sheep of the franchise non-canon, all the studio has to do is tell a story that contradicts any bit of story that G-Saviour told. Hell, even Tomino's own second return to Gundam, the infamous Reconguista in G from 2014, seemingly does nothing to contradict G-Saviour, & that takes place in Regild Century, the timeline that officially succeeds Universal Century! Essentially, by making such a self-contained story within the UC timeline in the first place (even Gaia Gear at least had Affranchi Char to tie it to the original stories), Sunrise has made something that it would love to act like never happened (in reality) & never will happen (in timeline), yet will likely never actually make any effort to effectuate that status. Hell, acknowledging its existence in the first place via Gundam Build Fighters, even if it was done with a jab, only strengthens its canonicity.

Essentially, Sunrise can act treat G-Saviour like it's the black sheep of the Gundam franchise all it wants, but until it actually decides to do something about it then the fact remains as it has for the past 16 years... The last story of the Universal Century isn't about Banagher Links & the Laplace's Box, or Seabook Arno & the Crossbone Vanguard, or even Üso Ewin's battle against the Zanscare Empire, but instead it's about CONSENT & the people who go against their tyranny, culminating with Reed Fox's battle against the AI-controlled Mobile Weapons of the Gremly Sheep.

I know that might annoy some Gundam fans, but until Sunrise finally decides to tell a story that outright negates what I just said, G-Saviour is the end of the UC timeline's relevance until the origin of the Regild Century. Of course, Sunrise could also just do what I mentioned earlier, & make an anime adaptation of the entire G-Saviour storyline, this time doing it "right". It would certainly be interesting to see happen, & there's more than enough content to make it work.

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