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This could be your Gundam, even though it’s not technically a Gundam.

Writer Bradford Walker concurs with yesterday’s post on the need for a Western answer to the moribund Japanese mecha franchises and adds his own rallying cry.

Left unsaid is this: fixing the issues is on us. We have to step up to fix the problem, and that means “culturally appropriating” the HELL out of this genre. Just as we’ve now got #StarWarsNotStarWars going on, it’s time for #GundamNotGundam (or whatever your show of choice is) and that means it’s on the indie world to write the stories (with proper pacing and other elements noted as too-often lacking) that blown up good and hard into the next revival wave (something not seen for over a decade).

As astute readers will note, Gundam is definitely my show of choice. And while I find the hashtag #AGundamForUs preferable to #GundamNotGundam–since it captures the spirit of #StarWarsNotStarWars without stepping on Nick and Jason’s toes while being more aspirational and pointing out a way forward–public opinion has the final say.

While it’s not all wrack and ruin, it’s clearly not as good as things once were and the institution lacks the ability to renew itself at this time due to entirely external influences holding down any good will from more than a few established franchises. The same tells of an ailing culture are in play here, most importantly being the persistence of retrenchant dominant franchises and other established IP while original works are more miss than hit.

Many of you reading this will remember when Cartoon Network found themselves with a respectable hit on their hands when Gundam Wing aired back in the late 90s. It was the breakout the Gundam franchise needed to finally establish a foothold in the American market.

Bandai, Sunrise, and Cartoon Network share the blame for the comedy of errors that ensued. Instead of releasing Wing’s natural successor Gundam X–which also would have made a nice segue into the main Universal Century timeline–they followed up with China Beach Emo Love Triangle and Mecha Pokemon. I’m given to understand that this total cluster resulted from the fact that Gundam’s most profitable market segment is its model kits, Bandai wouldn’t release Gundam X models stateside for some reason, and Sunrise was therefore hesitant to give CN the goods.

Combine that kind of brand mismanagement with TV executives’ compulsion to play it safe, and you get the current mecha anime malaise.

The new shows feel a lot like the anime versions of a Fantasy Heartbreaker tabletop RPG. They have a gimmick, but otherwise build around a feel from one of the dominant franchises, so you’re looking at “Like Gundam, but (x).” and that sometimes isn’t enough. (The Super Robot era of the 70s had this problem something bad, which is why the original Mobile Suit Gundam was such a welcome change.)

The current situation reminds me of the upheaval in role-playing video games a while back. Japanese developers dominated the market for years, got lazy, and their output dwindled from a torrent to a trickle. Which gave resurgent Western RPGs the opening they needed to swoop in and fill the JRPG-shaped void.

But we don’t need to wait for Japan to unfuck itself. We can do this ourselves now, starting with the writing and publishing of the novels a lot of anime (of all genres) use as source material.

If I read Bradford’s post correctly, he’s not just armchair quarterbacking. We can all look forward to his own foray into the wide world of mechs. And you all know I’m not one to tell others to do what I’m not willing to do myself. My #GundamNotGundam novel series is coming along quite nicely. Something else I’m not prone to is wild hyperbole, and I can tell you right now that what’s coming has the strong potential to make the Dragon Award-winning Soul Cycle look like a small press poetry anthology.

You should totally check out the Soul Cycle, though–if only to serve as a benchmark for how brain-meltingly awesome my next series is gonna be. #AGundamForUs will once again make you believe that a Gyan can fry.

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