For the numerous installments of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, whether they would be Universal Century or an Alternate Universe, a good handful of them not only deliver distinct mech designs, exciting battles, and some catchy soundtracks, there are some that are defined by their heroes. Some are in it for circumstances, and a small number fight by their own free will. The young ones get into the Gundam without any training as soldiers. Others are already seasoned veterans or have expertise with machines. Either way, each hero of each series has a responsibility to fulfill.
For today’s list, we will cover the Top 10 Ultimate Protagonists of the Gundam franchise and what defines them as quality protagonists.
10. Flit Asuno from Mobile Suit Gundam AGE
Though Amuro, Char and some other characters from the original series age between the 1979 series and Char’s Counterattack, as of publication of this list, Flit is the only character to age from being a kid to a grandfather in a single series. Even as a child, he demonstrates that he is both a capable engineer and a pilot, and would later play a great role as a high-ranking officer and engineer as an adult. Due to the death of Yurin, a Vagan girl he befriends as a child, he’s solely driven by his vendetta to wipe out the Vagan, feelings he would hold onto even in his old age and would affect his relationships with son and grandson, Asemu and Kio.
Throughout the series, Flit demonstrates numerous layers to him beyond his obsessed hate for the Vagan. He is a dedicated and respected leader, a distant but yet, strict father, and a caring grandfather. Thanks to Kio and his positive experiences with members of the Vagan, Flit learns that peace and unity should be the solution to the conflict and not total annihilation. But the character also demonstrates that sometimes, events and experiences from one’s youth can shape their worldview into their old age but show that even when they do get old, there is still room for growth and change.
9. Garrod Ran from After War Gundam X
At number 9 is Garrod Ran, the main character from what fans undeniably call one of the most underrated animes of all time, Gundam X. Garrod at the start of the series was just an independent junker and a master thief. However, he finds a kindred spirit in a girl named Tiffa, who serves as his initial motivation to fight. A majority of the story is focused on his growth from a wandering orphan trying to get by to becoming the savior of the Earth and the colonies. Even with his background as a homeless orphan, he still shows an upbeat attitude but at times, was capable of losing his will when he loses to Carris Nautilus.
Thanks to his comrade and mentor, Jamil Neet, he finds his fire to fight again. It doesn't end there when he realizes he needs to fight beyond just wanting to protect (or rather impress) Tiffa. Their relationship grows in a way in which they depend on each other to end the conflict and find time to explore their romance afterward. Due to his prior background of learning how to use machines for his job as a thief for hire, he instantly manages to pilot his Gundam with relative ease.
8. Io Fleming from Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt
If any character has demonstrated to be the cockiest of Gundam protagonists, it would have to be Io Fleming of the Thunderbolt ONA series. Unlike other protagonists, most of his motivations are to kick ass and take names. Even though he demonstrates gutsy abilities by accomplishing a botched mission of reclaiming Side 4 after losing his mobile suit and the rest of his unit, his superiority complex would lead to his downfall. He tends to look down on his rival, Daryl Lorenz of the Living Dead Unit, due to his amputations.
Eventually, Io’s ego and Daryl’s improved capabilities both in terms of skill and mech hardware bring their battle to equal terms and Io is taken, prisoner. Despite Io’s failure, the reason for his listing is not for his piloting skills or his love of jazz, but how his unstable personality leads to his downfall and that not all protagonists can have a happy ending.
7. Heero Yuy from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
From Wing, we have Heero Yuy, a word play on the one and only in Japanese. His namesake comes from a pacifist politician who fought for colonial independence and was assassinated long prior to the series. Upon his introduction, Heero was simply a systematic soldier who would do what was necessary to get the job done, and was a lone wolf who felt that teamwork would get in the way.
Heero comes to learn to not only be a team player, but a leader. Though quiet in nature, whatever he says gets people thinking. While undercover as a high school student, he goes as far as challenging the administration of the United Earth Sphere Government and the accomplishments of space migration in the middle of class to the point it disturbs everyone in class.
In addition, his experiences and interactions throughout the series allow him to come to terms with the flaws of humanity and that change will come when they want it and when they are ready. Last, both the performances of Midorikawa Hikaru and Mark Hildreth in the Japanese and English versions both effectively capture all of Heero’s qualities in ways that are suitable for all audiences.
6. Kamille Bidan from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
From the sequel to the original series, we have Kamille Bidan. His presence shows that when making a sequel, you don't have to rely on the main characters or any cast members from a previous series to tell a new story. Kamille shows some similar base qualities to Amuro (such as his expertise in machines and having parents that are engineers for the Gundam MK-II), but has his own distinctions. His personality is more reactionary and hostile, especially about his name.
One notable example is when Jerrid mocks his name, he takes a cheap shot at him thus starting their rivalry. Out of spite for his parents and the Titans, Kamille joins the AEUG and helps hijack three Gundam MK-II’s. Though Amuro has a rivalry with Char in the first series, Kamille has a close relationship with The Red Comet as his mentor. He teaches him how to be a proper pilot and to fight for what he believes in.
Eventually, Kamille finds his reason to fight after losing his parents and Four Murasame, a Titans pilot that he falls in love with. He is a character who is more emotionally driven, and the series does a great job of exploring the pros and cons of his personality. What also makes Kamille distinct is that he’s also the first character to design his own Gundam. But Kamille in this series fights through so much adversity to the point that his brains were fried in the series ending, but thankfully, manages to recover in by the end of Double Zeta.
5. Mikazuki Augus from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Though roughly 95% of Gundam protagonists happen to be minors, very little do other series’ explore the issue of child soldiers in a realistic approach. Thankfully, the 2015-2016 series, Iron-Blooded Orphans, finally addresses it in a realism that has been long overdue. This is largely portrayed through its main character, who we have at number 5, Mikazuki Augus, or Mika for short.
For starters, even though he demonstrates a high understanding of complex machinery, he has no literate ability since he never taught until he meets Kudelia. Because of his background as a child soldier, the series masterfully demonstrates how it affects his behavior socially. His way of talking feels robotic and may make others assume (who may have no understanding of his background) that he could be developmentally disabled. His seiyuu, Kawanishi Kengo, perfectly portrays those qualities along with his apathetic facial expressions. Another possible result of his upbringing, his way of fighting is to go for the kill to the point that it even frightens some of his comrades.
In the climax of the series, he is challenged to a duel and is given 30 minutes to make a decision. Mikazuki figures screw 30 minutes, let's do it now. Finally, what also makes him and his ragtag group of child soldiers unique is that they are not fighting for what they believe is right, they are fighting to make a living.
4. Banagher Links from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
Though the circumstances of what leads Banagher to his Gundam are no different from his predecessors, the series (through Captain Bright) acknowledges its own repeating archetypes but gives its own unique spin. The series gives Banagher his own distinct journey of self-discovery along with the consequential legacy of his ancestors. While Amuro in the first Gundam series always sticks with the Federation and Camille is with the AEUG rebellion, Banagher does not officially side with anybody.
He fights and befriends people from both sides of the conflict. They contribute to his development and he contributes to theirs and sees both sides of the war and what they are fighting for. He’s not fighting for what’s right for one side, he’s fighting for what’s right for everybody.
3. Amuro Ray from Mobile Suit Gundam
In third place, we have the original Gundam protagonist himself, Amuro Ray. Amuro was just a regular kid who had a talent for the sciences, and when the very fate of his friends was at stake, he took hesitantly assumed the responsibilities of becoming the pilot of the Gundam even though he shows that he doesn't want the responsibilities in some points of the series. Amuro wasn't a soldier and the series does a great job of showing why.
Upon his first battle, he makes some grave mistakes by blowing up an enemy Zaku causing further damage to his home colony of Side 7. His lack of training and experience also made him over-rely on the Gundam’s heavy firepower, and his rivals such as Char and Ranba Ral would use their skills and experiences to their advantage despite their mechs being inferior in terms of firepower and armor. Upon reuniting with his mother and opening fire on Zeon soldiers with the intentions of protecting a shelter, it shows how his experiences change him from a boy to a man.
Amuro’s numerous trials and witnessing the loss of his friends and even his own rivals such as Ranba Ral would all serve as his motivation to become a better pilot. Though Amuro would have numerous voice actors in the English versions of the Gundam movie trilogy, TV series, and Zeta Gundam, he is most remembered by hardcore fans through his Japanese seiyuu, the legendary Furuya Tooru, also famous as Tuxedo Mask in the 1990s Sailor Moon animated series.
2. Shiro Amada from Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
At number 2, we have to acknowledge Shiro Amada. The reason why he makes number 2 on this list is that he is an excellent representation of the every man. He is not a Newtype nor does he use any advanced operating systems in his mechs to artificially enhance his abilities. Though the other experienced members of his unit refer to him as a noob, he is a man who is always willing to take the initiative and refuses to give into superstitions.
He’s a fighter who is willing to bank on that 0.01% chance of victory. To him, 0.01% is better than none and is willing to do it. His repeated accomplishments of coming back from missions he is likely to die from gain him the trust and loyalty of his unit. He shows care for his subordinates by treating them as equals, and always having their backs. Some of his noted accomplishments are going out to save Sanders armed only with a ball mech unit and taking on a Zaku (without a mech) armed only with a bazooka.
Even though the Zeeks gassed his home colony, he comes to fall in love with a high-ranking Zeon officer, Aina Sahalin, the sister of the series’ main antagonist, Ginias. Last, Shiro’s performances in English (played by Steve Cannon) and Japanese (Hiyama Nobuyuki) equally portray his youth and optimism.
1. Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin
At number one on this list, we have The Red Comet himself, Char Aznable. Though he ironically serves as the antagonist in the first series, but for this listing, it will concentrate on his role as the protagonist in the prequel series, Origin. The series effectively demonstrates his role as a protagonist by showing the backstory of his motives from the original series by wanting revenge against the Zabi family, who he holds responsible for the assassination of his father, Zeon Zum Daikun, and uses his death for political gain.
The series also expands how his father’s views for spacenoid independence and his assassination impacts him. The series demonstrates him as a pilot with no fear by showing even as a child, he is willing to take the offense by firing the cannons of a Guntank while escaping from would-be assassins. The series portrays that he is a man of action, whether it would be in a strategy room meeting, or on the front lines of the battlefield. Char shows how he cares deeply about his family (most notably Sayla), but also emotes how far he is willing to sacrifice to get his revenge by faking his own death.
Last, episode 3 also surprises audiences that Char is capable of making unexpected mistakes and Ikeda Shuuichi (the voice of Shanks in One Piece and Hiko Seijuro in Rurouni Kenshin) has provided the voice of Char himself. His performance still shines to this very day as if he never departed from the role. Speaking of One Piece, the child Char in the first episode is played by Tanaka Mayumi, the voice of Luffy (and also the voices of Krillin and Yajirobe in Dragon Ball Z).
We are hoping that our list can satisfy fans based on our criteria on what makes a quality protagonist. Though the Gundams’ base designs in all of its installments are universal and similar with the color scheme and the grilled plated face, a good number of pilots have diverse backgrounds and experiences that contribute to how they develop in their own stories.
This list is based on not who they are as pilots (which can be its own list. Please look forward to our Top 10 Gundam Aces in the near future), but who they are as human beings. So who is in your top 10? Feel free to share in the comments.