I recently acquired a handful of Newtype magazine issues from the 1999-2000 era, primarily for Turn A Gundam research purposes. It’s my first time really diving into Newtype magazines in detail, and they’re very interesting—almost nostalgic—as if I’ve uncovered a time capsule of sorts. Lots of promotional material, roundups, overviews, interviews, Q&As, etc. for anime, manga, and video games; Turn A Gundam, Cardcaptor Sakura, Cowboy Bebop, Utena, You’re Under Arrest, Nadesico, The Five Star Stories, to name a few off the top of my head. From what I’ve parsed through, there’s little new Turn A content, but I still plan to do an overview and maybe publish interview translations later on.
What I find most intriguing about these magazines are the raw data they provide: TV station ratings & monthly reader rankings for a plethora of categories. This type of information tends to be difficult to find online, in both English and Japanese databases, so it’s nice to have hard data on-hand. I’ve compiled and assessed Turn A Gundam‘s TV ratings & popularity rankings, so I figured I’d write a little blog post about it.
It’s no secret that Turn A Gundam was not a hit in Japan when it aired. Syd Mead’s designs received a lot of criticism and people demanded more typical “Gundam“-esque war-like scenarios. It didn’t catch on with audiences and had poorer TV ratings than expected. This was a letdown for a 20th anniversary celebratory project looking to revitalize the franchise. Tomino did his best to ignore the poor ratings and drown out criticism from magazine columns, the internet, etc., but it was still difficult for him to stomach. Thankfully, as sponsor demands were minimal, he did not let the negative criticism influence the actual direction of the show.
Turn A Gundam aired on Fuji TV and according to many sources (1, 2), it averaged a TV rating of 2.99%. This is higher than Gundam X‘s average after the timeslot change (1.21%), but lower than Victory Gundam (3.89%), G Gundam (4.11%), and Gundam Wing‘s (4.25%) averages. I’ve compiled data from 22 episodes and the average of this subset is 2.96%, which falls right in line.
Yet despite low TV ratings, Turn A Gundam appears to have been healthily popular with Newtype readers. It was no Cowboy Bebop or Cardcaptor Sakura, but for the majority of its run it maintained a spot in the top 3 of anime popularity rankings. Given the magazine’s history and tenure, perhaps much of its reader-base could appreciate it more than an average anime watcher. Tomino himself had noted that older fans were more receptive to Turn A Gundam. Much of the show was also applauded by industry people, and younger staff members even called it a “cultured” anime.
The main character Loran Cehack was very popular with Newtype readers. He maintained a spot in the top 5 of male character rankings for the majority of the show’s run. He entered the top 10 charts soon after Turn A Gundam began airing and his popularity peaked at #1 in August & September 1999, which corresponds to the episodes in the late teens and early-mid twenties. It’s no surprise that the main character of a Gundam title would be popular, and Loran’s unique character design and chivalrous personality must have garnered him attention from both male and female fans.
The female lead Dianna Soreil also enjoyed some popularity. Unlike Loran, she didn’t enter the top 10 of female character rankings until September 1999—the early-mid twenties—but she maintained a spot in the top 5 for the remainder of the show’s run. Her popularity peaked at #3 in December 1999, which corresponds to the episodes in the mid-late thirties. I’d always known via other sources that Dianna was the most popular female character in the show, but having actual data that confirms it is a little vindicating to me. Honestly it’d be a bit of a colossal failure if she wasn’t, given how she’s the main focus of the plot.
Unfortunately Loran and Dianna were the only characters to make it on the character popularity charts.
That about sums it up! I find this all a little interesting in retrospect, because if we fast-forward to the modern day Turn A Gundam has had a bit of a renaissance. Yes, it’s still a cult classic (relative to the Gundam sphere), but these days it’s a critics’ choice series and has received a lot of recognition. I think the rumblings of this may have been brewing even when it aired; that despite the criticism and low TV ratings, fandom still regarded it highly.