There is probably no better example of the real robot genre than the iconic Gundam. Conceptualized by one of the greatest directors in anime, Yoshiyuki Tomino, the Gundam universe has arguably become the largest mecha franchise of all time. As of last year, the overall revenues of the Gundam universe has already reached billions, and it does not show any signs of slowing down. If there is one thing that is definite however, it is the fact that Gundam will continue to thrive, and it will be here to stay for a long, long time.
The franchise's fame is due to number of anime-defining factors, the most notable of course being the titular Gundams and the awe-inspiring battles they engage in. One thing that some people neglect however, is the fact that behind the spectacular land and space battles that have made Gundam famous, there are men who lie behind the controls of the powerful mobile suits. Gundam pilots are a league of their own, possessing a unique set of capabilities and skills that make them very formidable the moment they step inside their mechas. This article discusses ten of these notable men of Gundam; men whose hands are responsible for each of the poignant scenes in the entire epoch of the franchise.
Thus, here is a list of the top ten pilots across the Gundam universe.
10. Shiro Amada from Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 1996 - July 1999
Shiro Amada is the young ensign who eventually became the captain of the titular 08th MS Team. Sent to Earth to participate in a fierce guerrilla war between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation, he finds himself in a battle that will result in him losing something important regardless of the war's outcome.
What makes Shiro a very notable Gundam pilot is the fact that he is very realistically portrayed.He is a solder through and through, and thus, struggles through each battle in a way that viewers can really relate too. Apart from this, he is also very resourceful, showing that even a simple Ball can effectively be used in combat. Overall, his skills behind the controls, his leadership abilities, and his development as a character make him a very notable Gundam pilot.
9. Loran Cehack from Turn A Gundam
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: April 1999 - April 2000
Loran Cehack is a member of the Moonrace, who sends him in a reconnaissance mission to Earth, in order to determine if the planet is ready to be colonized. While on Earth however, Loran goes native, eventually developing feelings of care and empathy for the people on the surface. After finding out that the Moonrace is actually planning to attack the Earth. he then rises up as the people of the Earth's savior, as the pilot of the titular mecha, the Turn A Gundam.
In a lot of ways, Loran falls under the mold of the traditional Gundam pilot - a young man who is a pacifist by heart yet extremely gifted in battle. His battles on Earth and in space are very notable, as his skills behind the controls of a mobile suit are revealed fully in the series. Though some Gundam fans may say that a huge amount of Loran's feats are due to the fact that the Turn A is an extremely powerful mobile suit, his skills behind the Turn A's controls can never be denied.
8. Garrod Ran from After War Gundam X
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: April 1996 - December 1996
Garrod Ran is a young, somewhat hot-tempered young man who initially was hired to extract a young Newtype girl from the Vulture Ship, Freeden. Upon discovering his employer's true intentions for the gentle Newtype, Tiffa, he decides to defect and become a part of the ship's crew instead. Under the tutelage of Jamil Naete, a veteran of the war whose Newtype abilities have already been exhausted because of the previous war, Garrod becomes one of, if not the best pilot in the entire ship.
Piloting the series' titular mecha, the satellite-cannon-totting Gundam X, Garrod Ran quickly becomes a formidable pilot. Despite his lack of Newtype powers, he nonetheless is able to win poignant fights through sheer will, raw skill, and determination alone. Through the series' progression, Garrod's fighting abilities become better and better, his feats greater and greater. By the end of the series, Garrod was able to prove himself as a pilot worthy of fame comparable to legendary Newtypes in history.
7. Anavel Gato from Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: May 1991 - September 1992
Gundam is famous for creating antiheroes that develop into sympathetic characters. Characters which, despite their initial profile being that of a villain, nonetheless prove themselves endearing enough to viewers to warrant respect and admiration. One such man deserves to be in this list, and who better to place here than an antihero who actually piloted a Gundam through most of the series' run, Gundam 0083's ace from the Principality of Zeon, Anavel Gato.
Despite being the show's main villain fighting against the main character, the character's sheer skill behind the controls of a mobile suit is definitely worthy of admiration. After participating in the brazen theft of of the nuclear-weapon-capable Gundam GP20A Physalis, Gato proves himself the very definition of the ace as the series progresses. In fact, his characterization made him quite an admirable man through and through. His ultimate sacrifice in the end is simply an excellent way to cap off a character that was masterfully developed.
6. Kira Yamato from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: October 2002 - September 2003
Kira Yamato is yet another pilot who falls under the same mold as Loran Cehack from Turn A Gundam. As a person, Kira is a peace-loving, gentle, young man - a man who is happy to just settle down and live a normal, otherwise uneventful life. However, conflicts in his home force him to rise up to the challenge and become the pilot of the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam, a mobile suit in the mold of the iconic RX-78 Gundam, an all-around mobile suit that excels in fighting close, mid, and long-range.
One of the things that make Kira an excellent pilot is the fact that he is a Coordinator, a person who was genetically improved during conception. Though a poignant reveal in the plot, Kira discovers something about himself that enables him to perform nigh-inhuman acts while in his mobile suit. A pacifist until the end though, Kira prefers to incapacitate his enemies over killing them, proving that a man who desires peace can fight in a war while minimizing casualties at the same time. Of course, the fact that his later mobile suits, the ZGMF-X10A Freedom and the ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom, are extremely powerful and equipped with devastating weapons helps his cause a lot.
5. Setsuna F. Seiei from Mobile Suit Gundam 00
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: October 2007 - March 2009
Setsuna F. Seiei is one of the most unique pilots in the Gundam franchise. Created as a character who the creators wanted to be a social critique of Japanese apathy to the conflict in the Middle East, Setsuna is a child soldier who committed grave crimes after being brainwashed as a child. He is eventually picked up and trained further by Celestial Being, where he becomes the pilot of a close-range specialist mobile suit, the agile, deadly, Gundam Exia.
Setsuna's piloting skills are very noteworthy, mostly because of the fact that he is a normal human being who has a natural talent in fighting that was honed and trained. Despite the supernatural elements featured in the movie, Awakening of the Trailblazer, Setsuna really is just a masterful pilot through skills and training alone, no genetics or supernatural gifts involved. His battles, especially those with his former mentor as a child soldier in the Middle East, are very notable an iconic, showcasing his prowess behind the controls of of of Gundam's most unique mobile suits.
4. Domon Kasshu from Mobile Fighter G Gundam
- Episodes: 49
- Aired: April 1994 - March 1995
From arguably the most unique entry in the entire franchise comes one of Gundam's most powerful pilots, the mobile fighter from Neo Japan, the testosterone-spewing, hot-headed, martial artist, Domon Kasshu. Sent to Earth both to win the Gundam Fight Tournament and to discover the reality behind his brother' defection to Earth in the sinister Devil Gundam, Domon must battle his way from country to country as he attempts to uncover the mysteries that have engulfed his family.
Despite the fact that the universe in G Gundam features a number of supernatural and fantastical elements that enable its characters to perform nonhuman acts such as catching bullets with bare hands and creating a full-blown tornado by quickly spinning on one spot, Domon nonetheless shows a significant amount of talent and skills behind the controls of his mobile suit. Performing acts that defy reality through determination and sheer force of will, Domon ranks relatively high on this list.
3. Heero Yuy from New Mobile Report Gundam Wing
- Episodes: 49
- Aired: April 1995 - March 1996
Though it may not be his real name, the pilot of the powerful XXXG-01W Wing Gundam, Heero Yuy, is one of the five Gundam pilots who were assigned to take part in Operation Meteor, an operation that serves as the colonies' first step in fighting back against the Earth. Midway through the series, Heero receives the XXXG-00WD Wing Gundam Zero, a mobile suit that is equipped with the notorious ZERO System, a battle program that is taxing on the pilots's mind and psyche.
Heero is a trained soldier from the time he was very young, participating in missions that involve great danger and strategy. As a pilot, Heero is ruthless, being able to dish out a lot of damage to multiple enemies at once. When he gets the Wing Gundam Zero though, he becomes twice as deadly, mastering the ZERO System and being one of the deadliest forces to be reckoned with in the entire franchise.
2. Uso Ewin from Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: April 1993 - March 1994
Uso Ewin is the protagonist of Victory Gundam, one of the series in the franchise that follow the original canon. One of the things that set him apart from the other pilots in the Gundam universe is his age. Being only 13 years old, Usso became a Gundam pilot at a very young age, and through the progression of the series' plot, the effects of war and the scars it makes Usso bear and carry are revealed, creating a narrative that is both striking and dynamic.
Uso's talent as a mobile suit pilot go beyond his innate abilities and skills. Performing actions in battle that show not only talent but resourcefulness as well, Usso develops into a pilot that is most formidable. His battle tactics are noteworthy, especially is ability to utilize his mobile suit beyond regular piloting tactics. Apart from masterfully manipulating the Victory Gundam as a whole, is he also able to use the core tops and bottoms effectively in battle. For a 13-year old pilot, that is really something.
1. Amuro Ray from Mobile Suit Gundam
- Episodes: 43
- Aired: April 1979 - January 1980
Being the man behind the controls of the iconic RX-78 Gundam, Amuro Ray is undoubtedly the Gundam pilot of all Gundam pilots. He was the one who set the mold for pilots in years and entries into the series that are to come. As a man, Amuro is the one that created the template for most Gundam pilots today - the young, naturally talented man in battle that unwillingly gets thrown in the middle of a conflict that he does not really want to take part in.
Apart from his superb piloting skills, Amurois also an extremely powerful Newtype, a type of person who stands a step beyond the normal man in evolution. With his Newtype abilities, Amuro becomes an extremely formidable fighter that can raise fear in the battlefield. He is also a character that constantly outperforms his mobile suit, showing that the talent beyond the controls is something far greater than the powerful machines that he pilots. Truly, Amuro Ray is and will always be the Gundam pilot, possibly forever.
Notable mentions in this list are Judau Ashta from Gundam ZZ, who creator Tomino himself states is possibly the most powerful Newtype in the franchise. Flit Asuno from Gundam AGE is also very notable, proving himself formidable in a first generation suit long after it becomes somewhat obsolete. Athrun Zala from Gundam SEED as well, boasts of being undefeated, provided that he is in SEED mode. Antiheroes that are great pilots are notable as well, such as Zechs Merquise from Gundam Wing, who mastered a mobile suit that literally can kill its pilot, and Master Asia, from G Gundam, whose moniker The Undefeated of the East is not without proof.
Overall, the Gundam universe is so massive that the pilots who prove themselves awe-inspiring in battles are many. The ten in this list are just the tip of the iceberg, so if there's anyone else in your mind, please do state them in the comments section!
Let's bring these guys out to the spotlight, everyone!