Gundam

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Name: Gundam (ガンダム Gandamu)
Abbreviation(s):
Creator: Yoshiyuki Tomino, Sunrise Inc.
Date(s): 1979 – present
Medium: anime TV series, movies, OVAs, manga, novels, model figures
Country of Origin: Japan
External Links: Gundam at Wikipedia
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

This is the article about the multimedia franchise. You may be looking for Gundam (concept), the page about the concept of Gundam within the fiction of the universe.

Gundam is a franchise of mecha anime that focus on giant mech known as "Gundam" after the original RX-78-2 Gundam introduced in Mobile Suit Gundam. Massively popular in Japan, the Gundam franchise has spawned video games, manga, and other media. It ranks among the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, only being topped by juggernauts like Pokemon and Hello Kitty.[1] The entire culture of Gunpla, or Gundam model building, was also created by the Gundam franchise and became so large that the franchise introduced an anime, Gundam Build Fighters, based purely around that aspect of the fandom.

Despite this massive popularity in Japan, however, the Gundam franchise is relatively niche in Western fandom compared to the similarly high-grossing[1] Batman franchise.[2][3] Gundam anime such as Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED that aired on Toonami in the early 2000s have a larger English presence, but in English speaking anime fandom Gundam tends to be a thing people know of but have never seen. The most popular series of the franchise in English-speaking anime fandom is Gundam Wing, possibly owing to wide exposure via Toonami and high slash potential.

History

For ease of reading, this history only covers animated and live action entries into the Gundam franchise. Associated manga, video games, and other related releases are better covered on the specific page for each series. This is in line with what the people behind the Gundam franchise consider to be "official."[4]

Originally conceived as a story about characters fighting aliens and known in production as "Freedom Fighter Gunboy" or simply "Gunboy," it was requested by Clover, a toy company with a stake in the project, that robots be added to the story.[5] Haruka Takachiho, a prominent figure in the Japanese SF fandom, was aware of the powered suits of armor in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers and drew inspiration from that idea to created a power suit of armor for Gunboy that was more human-sized but the production team felt it was too small and unappealling to children so it was swapped for a 18m tall power suit.[5] The iconic Gundam name came from the decision to combine the word "gun" with the last syllable of "freedom," which creator Yoshiyuki Tomino switched to "dam" to signify that Gundams were dams holding enemies back.[5]

Gundam is a hugely influential series in Japan, being one of the longest-running franchises and having run for 40 years almost continuously on Japanese television. The release of Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 is thought to be the start of the "real robot" genre of mecha anime. Unlike previous mecha anime, the Gundam series generally focuses on realism and the idea that the mech itself was neither good or evil, but the people using the tools to further their own agendas could be.[6] In Japan, Gundam has a cultural impact similar to Star Wars or Star Trek in America or Doctor Who in the UK but it's somewhat of a niche fandom to the English speaking portions of fandom thanks to the heavily interconnected timeline that most Gundam properties belong to: Universal Century or UC for short. In 2012, a statue of the original Gundam was erected in Odaiba, Tokyo to protect the Tokyo Bay and was so beloved that it was given a special send-off before it was dismantled in 2017.[7] It was replaced by a new Gundam statue from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn later that year that was taller and could transform from "Unicorn mode" to "destroy mode"[8] which was later reported to be at the center of an embezzlement scheme by Bandai employees.[9]

Universal Century Continuity

Mobile Suit Gundam was the first Gundam series to be released and set the tone for much of the Gundam franchise. Namely, it featured a more realistic take on robots than other shows of the time such as Mazinger Z and a heavy focus on the toll war takes on people. It was also the introduction of the franchise's most popular character: the antagonist Char Aznable, rival of protagonist Amuro Ray.[10] After its initial release, however, Mobile Suit Gundam was largely considered to be a flop due to audiences expecting a less serious show in the vein of the "super robot" genre of mecha anime and was cut short.[11] After the series was cut short, Bandai purchased the rights to make merchandise for the show from Clover and began producing very cheap plastic model kits that would be the precursor to Gunpla[12] The popularity of those kits in combination with three recut and condensed compilation movies finally cemented the popularity of Gundam and, in 1985, the sequel Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was released. It was followed by Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ in 1986, which was the last Gundam series released in the Showa era of Japan. The first half of Gundam ZZ was much more comical and light-hearted in nature than the previous two shows and this drastic change of tone upset many fans.

Standing in shame with the likes of Victory, Seed Destiny, and G Reconguista, It’s regarded as a frustrating frantic insufferable mess even in Yoshiyuki Tomino’s inconsistent body of work. Filled to the brim with new characters that overstay their welcome with their uselessness, not tying up loose ends with Zeta, and disregarding the established tone in favor of one more comedic in the first half in addition to forgetting a major character whose fate was left ambiguous at that point. Its much better second half is often overlooked because of this. Fans were so disappointed at the time of its release in 1986 that they even accused Tomino of purposely sabotaging Gundam.- A Balanced Overview of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ

Many fans, upon watching or rewatching the series when it was finally officially released in English in 2015, however, found that while the first half of the show was, perhaps, goofy and annoying, there was something to be said for the latter half of Gundam ZZ.

The latter half of Gundam ZZ is where fans of Zeta Gundam can settle in and enjoy the show and it’s where my younger self found the greatest enjoyment.

However, with my increased age I now appreciate more what the goofy start of the series does as part of the overarching story.

You’re meant to find the protagonists brash, silly and annoying. They are the new blood that is there to invigorate the stuffy Argama and its tired AEUG forces. Their initial demeanor is also important in terms of the contrast when they have to adapt as the stakes increase.

Having a troupe of rowdy selfish teenagers learn and grow into responsible adults is what ultimately makes the plot and characters of Gundam ZZ so compelling.- 'Gundam ZZ' Blu-Ray Review: A Misunderstood And Underappreciated Classic

Perhaps the strength of that second half is what led to the first original Gundam movie to be released: Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, which breathed life back into the franchise and is considered to be one of the best Gundam anime.[13] Gundam wasn't considered to be popular enough to gain a television slot during this time period, however, and would release shorts in the form of unrelated parody shorts that developed into their own continuity known as SD Gundam. They also released two OVA, Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket and Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, as well as another theatrical movie, Mobile Suit Gundam F91. This movie was intended to be a full-length series to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the franchise, but was later reconfigured into a movie, making it somewhat incoherent due to the compressed runtime.[14] It was also designed to be a soft reboot of the franchise, in that it's still set within the main timeline but set many years after what's already been shown with brand-new characters, much like the Star Wars sequel movies feature Rey instead of an already established character. Unlike the Star Wars sequels, however, Gundam F91 featured no characters from previous entries into the franchise.

By this point, because of the highly inter-connected nature of the franchise and the somewhat failed attempt to reboot with Gundam F91, Sunrise sought to attract the younger audience that liked the cartoonish nature of the SD Gundam continuity. The result was Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, released in 1993, which was still set in the UC Timeline but attempted to do what Gundam ZZ had already failed at and mix a more light-hearted tone with the core of the Gundam franchise: the horrors and cost of war.

Victory Gundam, as it turned out, seemed to be the nail in UC timeline’s coffin, however. Whether it was due to a shift in consumer desires or simply an inability on the staff’s part to connect with their audience is hard to fully determine at the moment. I suspect that it had more to do with two specific problems that the show never found a way around. The first amounted to the problem of depicting the horrors of war interlaced with a more light-hearted approach to character development, which ended up coming across as schizopherenic and jarring in execution. The second problem was the show’s blatant incongruence between what seemed to be its underlying messages versus the overt dialogues and lectures that interrupted and bogged down the narrative on numerous occasions. These ranged wildly in content, but the two themes that suffered the most regarded the ever-popular environmentalism spiel and the rather controversial and counterintuitive presentation of feminism and matriarchy. It doesn’t help that, due to producer-meddling (which plagued the series throughout its development and broadcasting), the series kicked off with the fourth episode and treated episodes one through three as flashbacks.- Mobile Suit Victory Gundam review on Forced Perspective

It is also widely noted as being quite depressing due to the fact that it was made during a difficult time for Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino. There are wide reports of him being depressed during its production, as well as having difficulties with the fact that Sunrise had been sold to Bandai recently and Bandai wanted Gundam to be a toy commercial rather than a storytelling effort in its own right.[15]

Introduction of Alternate Timelines

Thanks to the many issues plaguing Victory Gundam the next entry in the Gundam franchise, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, did away with the things that were perceived to be the reason for the Gundam franchise's waning popularity. Namely, G Gundam is not of the "real robot" genre of mecha but is instead of the "super robot" genre and is completely disconnected from the "Universal Century" timeline. This was considered somewhat heretical when G Gundam premiered in 1994, especially since it was released for the franchise's 15th anniversary, which is why many Japanese fans wouldn't list G Gundam among their favorite Gundam entries but people from English speaking fandom might.[16]

The 1979 Gundam anime shook writers and animators out of their routine complacency, bringing a new philosophy to the development of anime. G-Gundam has not had a similar seismic effect on anime production. But G-Gundam is, never the less, the catalyst for development within Japan’s anime industry. The G-Gundam television series was the first Gundam anime that was not parody and not part of the long running “UC continuity” storyline. G-Gundam was the first complete re-boot of the Gundam franchise; the first self-contained continuity Gundam anime. G-Gundam established the precedent for later Gundam incarnations Gundam W, Turn A Gundam, Gundam X, Gundam Seed, and Gundam 00. Arguably G-Gundam represents a bigger landmark for the Gundam franchise alone than for the entire anime industry, but I would say that the divestment of the Gundam namesake has contributed to the growth of anime itself.[6]

The turn from a highly interconnected universe, however, proved to be popular, even if G Gundam itself wasn't necessarily so, and Bandai seized upon that opportunity to create Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, released in 1995. The series was so popular that the staff was immediately asked to make a sequel, which proceeded because writer Katsuyuki Sumizawa was dissatisfied with the ending to the original series.[17] Before the release of Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz, however, another OVA was released. Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team went back to the original timeline and is considered to be one of the best examples of the "real robot" genre because it contains none of the more fantastical elements of the Gundam franchise, such as Newtypes or ridiculously overpowered weapons.

It's never explicitly stated and more told through show don't tell, so I didn't notice it at first either, but the reason it's considered realistic is because the mobile suits are treated like mundane military hardware instead of miraculous superweapons like in other series. Like you have suits like the Wing Zero that can blast through a colony with a single shot or the Freedom which can take out a bunch of suits at once with its full burst, and then you have the Ground Gundam, which doesn't stand out in any way, but that's part of the charm with it because it's more realistic. It's essentially a tank with legs or the pilot performing regular military operations with different equipment. Oh yea, and they're a pain to perform maintenance on and handle, which makes sense considering how they're way more complex than any tank or plane. Remember the covers they put over the joints during the desert mission and how they had to clean out the filter? How many other series completely gloss over how getting sand in the joints of your super-complex giant robot would be a big issue? And remember how Karen has her Gundam's head replaced with a GM head of all things and how Shiro's Gundam gets completely rebuilt into the Ez8 but it's not treated as anything special like with every other mid-series upgrade? That's because it's much cheaper to just use whatever parts you can find to fix something, so instead of ordering more Ground Gundam parts, they just used whatever was lying around. It's also easier to only fix essentials while leaving anything unnecessary unattended, which is why Topp's squad of Zakus are deployed in the field with damages to the outer armor with weapons that aren't part of the standard Zaku loadout because you have to make use of what you have, right?- Kirby0189 on Can someone tell me why 8th MS Team is considered so grounded or real (by Gundam standards)?

In addition to the 08th MS Team OVA, the series After War Gundam X was also released between Gundam Wing and Endless Waltz. It was not as well-received as Gundam Wing, with ratings dipping so low that the series was cut from the planned full season to just 39 episodes.[18]

Getting everything wrong also occasionally applies to the Gundam franchise. In an attempt to take Gundam in a new direction and attract new viewers, the 1994 G-Gundam TV series was the first Gundam series to be outside of the traditional Gundam time continuity. Even with direction by Yasuhiro Imagawa, who impressed the world with the Giant Robo animation, silly mecha and mecha designs, an awful story eliminating the socio-political sub-text traditional of Gundam, and painfully poor art design and animation turned G-Gundam into one of the biggest mis-steps in anime history. But unfortunately, in 1996 the error was repeated with the Gundam X TV series, the only Gundam series of the 80s and 90s to be canceled due to poor ratings. The biggest flaw of Gundam X was in simply creating a series with absolutely no likeable characters. Every character in the series was simply so self absorbed and ill-tempered that watching the series was simply an exercise in aggravation tolerance that most fans quickly decided to forgo.- Ask John: What’s the Worst Anime Ever Made?

Not all fans found Gundam X to be as bad as the collective opinion. It has been described as "Gundam doing an impression of Evangelion",[19] but general opinion on MyAnimeList seems to move between the show being described as "underrated" or "the worst Gundam ever made."[20] This divisive opinion of Gundam X, however, is nothing new for the Gundam franchise. Even among the most well-loved Gundam shows, opinions tend to be quite mixed and that's the case with Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. First released in 1997 as a three-episode OVA, Endless Waltz was quickly repackaged into a movie the following year and fans consider the movie to be the "official" version, as it adds several scenes that make the transitions between episodes more coherent and is generally better paced.[21] Opinions on it, however, range from "just an excuse to bring back these "pretty boys" and satisfy thousands of fans need for more"[22] to "Endless Waltz concludes the Wing series very well. It’s like having an excellent dessert after your meal."[23]

20th Anniversary Celebration

Endless Waltz was followed by the announcement of the Gundam Big Bang Project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gundam franchise. The centerpiece of the Big Bang Project was the release of Turn A Gundam in 1999. Turn A was the first Gundam series to hire a foreign mech designer and Syd Mead was given free reign to design the mechs, a choice which Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino considers a mistake.[24] It was also a departure from the earlier tone of the Gundam franchise, but that departure has made it beloved among fans and Loran Cehack is considered one of Gundam's most likable protagonists.[25] One reviewer said that Turn A is "closer in tone and approach to the work of Studio Ghibli rather than earlier Gundam series" and "has some of the best characterization in all of Gundam, with many of the protagonists being warm and likable as well as being refreshingly layered with it."[26] It seemed like things were looking up for the Gundam franchise, and perhaps they might have been had the very next entry in the Gundam franchise not been G-Saviour.

Like Turn A, G-Saviour was also intended to be a centerpiece of the 20th anniversary celebration. Unlike Turn A, however, G-Saviour was a live-action Gundam movie produced in Canada that never explicitly mentions the word "Gundam."[27] Many reviews express bafflement at the idea of G-Saviour being a Gundam property at all due to both the lack of common Gundam terminology and, well, Gundams.

The movie is highly enjoyable in the one sense that its live-action/CGI mix makes the Gundam world more realistic. Mecha enthusiasts can now carry the ideal that mobile suits and real people really do go together. On the downside, the story line is extremely confusing. It wasn't until halfway through the movie that I figured out what was going on. In addition, the scenes are so dark that the viewer can hardly see what's going on most of the time. Coupled with the quiet and often blurred voices, I had a hard time discerning the plot. The story line had the workings of a solid science fiction movie, but as far as the Gundam angle went, it fell short. Interjected randomly into the movie, the entire Gundam concept seemed as though the writers were trying too hard to make it a Gundam-oriented film where there was no room for any of it to begin with. There are plot-holes galore and if it weren't for the fact that the main target audience is Gundam fans, the movie probably wouldn't have been able to stay alive.- G-Saviour The Movie DVD
This would have been a great Gundam movie if they had focused less on the romantics and more on what people watch Gundam for, the Mobile Suits. I'm not saying that the different Gundam series don't have plots that are very interesting and bring the audience in, i'm saying that this movie focused too much on the relationship between Mark(Gundam pilot) and the two central women in the story. When the Suits do come out to play it is intense and visually amazing but unfortunately this only occurs 2 times throughout the entire movie!! All-in-all I would consider this to be a good movie that attempted to do much and took away from what could have been an awesome Gundam movie.- joedon66

Overall, however, while some reviews are positive even those reviews don't consider G-Saviour to be a good entry point for the Gundam franchise.[28] Despite all of this, however, the CGI in G-Saviour is impressive for the time period and some people consider the movie worthwhile just for that aspect.[27]

Cosmic Era Continuity

After the 20th anniversary, Gundam slowed down production of new content. Where Gundam had produced a new series every year for almost a decade, it would take almost two years before Mobile Suit Gundam SEED would be released. In that gap, a number of short animations known as Gundam Evolve were packaged with certain model kits or aired at conventions[29] and Gundam Neo Experience 0087: Green Divers was released. Intended to be played in multi-screen theaters such as planetariums,[30] Green Divers is the only entry in the Gundam franchise that has never been released outside of Japan. Many Gundam fans search for a way to watch Green Divers only to be told that the planetarium format means it's never been released to home video.[31][32] It is, however, frequently screened in locations across Japan[33]

After the short hiatus, Gundam SEED was released in 2002 and is immensely popular among the Japanese Gundam fanbase, having sold over 1 million copies on DVD[34] and dominating the top 8 spots in the yearly ranking of DVD sales, a feat not accomplished again until the release of Mr. Osomatsu in 2016.[35] The English language fandom, however, has more mixed opinions on Gundam SEED.

I didn't enjoy this series one bit, and it actually killed the Gundam franchise a little in my opinion that thankfully Gundam 00 restored a little in my eyes. Again, if you like this series, thats for you, but coming from someone that grew up watching all the Gundam series, I felt it was just a very bad and poorly executed attempt to re-tell the original Gundam story for a new generation, which itself really wasn't a bad idea, it was just pulled off very badly. Overall, if you want to see a Gundam series, I would recommended several of older series over Seed anyday.- Islaya on MyAnimeList
I know I haven't seen all of the Gundam series out there, but of those I've seen, this is definitely my favorite. The characters come to life and everything else falls into place behind that. A lot of people cling onto Mobile Suit Gundam as the only good one because it's the original, but though it was a good series that obviously propelled the creation of all subsequent Gundams, for this generation of anime fans, it's sorely outdated. I really feel like Gundam SEED should be the series taking its place for the post-2000 generation of fans. That statement may bode well in Japan, as this series was wildly popular, but I'm disappointed to see that it failed miserably in the States. Chalk that up to other factors though, 'cause this series is damn good.- kiriska on MyAnimeList

Many fans criticize the fact that Gundam SEED is a reboot of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, feeling that it adds nothing of value or that the original was superior. This thinking highlights a major difference between Japanese fandom and English fandom in that Japanese fans had twenty years between the release of Mobile Suit Gundam and Gundam SEED where the English release of these two shows was only four years apart. The Japanese fandom can evaluate Gundam SEED on its own merit, because it was released so far from the series it's rebooting, but English fandom finds the reboot unnecessary.

Regardless of the English fandom's feelings about Gundam SEED, Japan liked it so much that a sequel was immediately put into production. Before Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny could be released, however, Superior Defender Gundam Force was released for the 25th anniversary of the Gundam franchise. A Japanese-American co-production, it was the first Gundam entry to be broadcast in a different country before being broadcast in Japan and the first full-3DCG series to be broadcast on Japanese TV.[36] In a reversal of the opinions about Gundam SEED, SD Gundam Force got relatively high American television ratings but was the least popular Gundam in terms of Japanese television ratings, followed by After War Gundam X.[37] Because of this, the second season of the show was never aired in America. Actual opinion of the show, TV ratings aside, are more in line with the Japanese fandom's opinions:

When someone asks you the question, "What is your favorite Gundam series?" There is a "correct" answer if you want to be viewed as a sophisticated anime critic online and there is your actual opinion, which may not be the same. The correct answer is 8th Mobile Suit Team, because it is SO much more realistic (allegedly). If you want to invite a world of scorn and snarky comments to rain down upon you, join a forum of self-acclaimed elitists on MAL or /a/ and state that you enjoyed Gundam Wing. Now if you REALLY want to piss them off, state you thought G-Gundam was the best Gundam series. However, you won't get a big reaction if you bring up the unholy SD Gundam, because according to all Gundam fans, this series NEVER happened! It is so bad that it is basically unspeakable online. I believe SD Gundam still holds the record on what was the big anime rating site before MAL, (animenewsnetwork) as the worst anime of all time!- literaturenerd on MyAnimeList

There are, however, those who recognize that SD Gundam Force wasn't intended for the same audience as many other Gundam shows. It was, primarily, intended for children and while you can show darkness in a children's show, it will never be the same as the amount of violence and horror you can show in a work intended for a more mature audience.

When I was younger, when it was actually on Cartoon Network (This was when I was maybe 4 or 5) I absolutely LOVED this show. Keeping this in mind, I'm giving all of my scores based on the show as more af a younger audience-geared show, and I certainly am not an anime critic. Sure, maybe the story line is a bit cliche, the art not exactly the greatest, and so on, but for kids, this is probably not necessarily a bad show.
For kids, I would definitely recommend this show, especially if you're a parent and want to get your kids into the anime genre- Neodaemo on MyAnimeList

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was also recut into three compilation movies for the franchise's 25th anniversary. After SD Gundam Force came the release of Gundam SEED Destiny. It was, like its predecessor, wildly successful in Japan with the special edition coming in at #7 behind My Neighbor Totoro and Cars in a list of Japan's best-selling DVDs in 2007[38] and reaching over 1 million copies sold just like Gundam SEED.[39] The English fandom, however, was not so kind to it. A major complaint among the English speaking fandom is that Gundam SEED Destiny brings back the previous cast but focuses on a new protagonist named Shinn Asuka whom many find to be a weak point in the show.

Being friendly and gentle while mingling with an emotionally dark psyche has never worked, no matter how interesting the concept is. It failed to turn him into a hero or an anti-hero. The result was an emo character that no one could connect with. In the end, Shinn Asuka could be the most annoying Gundam pilot there is.- The Hate on Shinn Asuka Explained
The goal of Shinn's character was to create a foil for both Athrun and Kira. Well, it worked. In addition to being nothing like either of them, Shinn is unlikable to boot. The worst part? Shinn doesn't really get any major character development. The only time he seems to have any major growth happened in the Final Plus episode (an extended ending to the final episode).- Dex's Review: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny

Gundam SEED Destiny would be the last Gundam television show until the release of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 three years later in 2007. In-between Gundam SEED Destiny and Gundam 00, the first two parts of Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO were released, as well as a series of ONA for Gundam SEED known as Mobile Suit Gundam SEED C.E. 73: Stargazer.

Anno Domini and the 30th Anniversary

Following the release of MS IGLOO, which returned to the "Universal Century" timeline, Gundam once again went back to alternate timeline with the release of Gundam 00 in 2007. With character designs by Yun Kōga, probably best known for Loveless, Gundam 00 is unusual in that it's the only Gundam series to be set in "our" world rather than an alternative timeline such as Universal Century or Cosmic Era. Gundam 00 experience lower ratings than both Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, but higher ratings than other Gundam shows set in alternate timelines such as Mobile Fighter G Gundam or After War Gundam X.[40] DVD releases for Gundam 00 topped the sales charts several times, so while perhaps not as popular as Gundam SEED in Japan, Gundam 00 was still quite popular.[41][42] Aside from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED, Gundam 00 was one of the first Gundam shows to gain a sizable English fanbase because it aired on SyFy in America.[43] A large part of the reason Gundam 00 became so popular with English fandom (aside from the slash potential) was the fact that it resonated with a post-9/11 audience due to the politics involved.

If Gundam Wing were an attempt to update Gundam for the then-modern teen demographic, then Gundam 00 (judging from its opening episode) is an attempt to update Gundam Wing for the current era. The similarities are there, in the main character and the basic plot, while its political flavor—with the opening religious purge—is distinctly post-9/11.- The Fall 2007 Anime Season Guide on Anime News Network

While Gundam 00 was airing, the third part of MS IGLOO was released. This was followed by the release of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OVA in 2010, which was initially reported to be six episodes long but ended up being 7 episodes long.[44] While many people enjoyed the return to the Universal Century timeline, Unicorn was widely criticized for being unforgiving when it came to canon knowledge.

[Richard Eisenbeis]

Other than getting constantly lost in the details if you're not a diehard fan, it does have some weaknesses in the character department. The main character, Banagher Links, is about as deep as a flat plain—and the main female lead, Audrey, is hardly any better. They might as well be called "anti-war male audience proxy" and "anti-war female audience proxy." They are both quite passive and just kind of go where the winds of the story blow them.[45]

[Toshi Nakamura]

While I didn't mind the flatness of the main characters that much, I definitely agree with you about the prerequisite fandom. I found Gundam Unicorn to be quite unforgiving with several details that are never answered within the series itself and require outside research to make sense of. It's great if you're "in the club," but for the unprepared, you're probably going to find yourself asking questions after everything is over.[45]

The release of Gundam Unicorn was followed by the release of SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors and Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie: A Wakening of the Trailblazer. Unlike the recut movie versions the Gundam franchise tends toward, A Wakening of the Trailblazer followed in the footsteps of Endless Waltz and provided an all-new story that neatly concludes the story of Gundam 00. Reaction from fans about the movie's plot, however, is mixed.

The story just doesn't belong in Gundam. Gundam is typically relatively hard sci-fi, with one or two minor exceptions per series to make the mechs cool and functionable within an otherwise realistic world. But this series has, almost out of nowhere, aliens. I'll give them credit, the aliens are kind of cool, but they don't do a whole lot with them, other than try to give a poetic conclusion to the Anno Domini timeline and Celestial Being.- asuraicHermit, Rant: Why does A Wakening of the Trailblazer exist?
Well as alien movies are concerned. I've been having a 00 fever since the MG dynames was announced so i decided to properly finish the damn series lol. So anyways, the movie itself played the extraterestial genre pretty well. So I dont know why some of you people generalize the movie as being bad for having aliens in it. I see it as kind of an improvement from the ol gundam formula that takes an actual step forward since the warfare theme will and has been burned out as seen in UC.- DailyHijinks, I dunno about you guys but but Awakening of the Trailblazer was a great movie

For the 30th anniversary of the Gundam franchise, Sunrise released Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G, which was essentially a commercial for the Gunpla aspect of the Gundam franchise. Despite this, Gunpla Builders was generally well-recieved among fans.[46]

Build Fighters Era

Mobile Suit Gundam AGE was the first Gundam project released after the 30th anniversary of the Gundam franchise. Sunrise contacted Level-5, a game studio most known for their work on blockbuster hits such as the Professor Layton series and Yokai Watch. Akihiro Hino's enthusiasm for Gundam, however, led to the creation of an entire anime series based on the proposed idea for the game.[47] This choice proved to make for a confusing show, with some Gundam fans being simply turned off by the cartoonish art style that Level-5 is known for while others found the juxtaposition of the art style and the actual content of the show, which was in the vein of other Gundam projects, to be jarring.

In the case of Gundam AGE, you have this tonally warm approach that is applicable to younger audiences but with the body count and trauma from a typical Gundam show. So that means from the start you already have this jarring mix of elements, something the first arc of the story suffers from the most as Flit and his compatriots are very young.

The issues only get worse because instead of moving away from the tropes of older Gundam series and leveraging the newer generational narrative, Gundam AGE doubles down on referencing aspects from earlier works in the franchise to mistakenly try and ground it within the saga.

The overly kiddy approach also initially put off lots of fans of Gundam and Gundam AGE suffered quite heavily because of this in terms of its popularity in Japan. With the mainstay of the Gundam business model being model kits of the mobile suits, Gundam AGE was shockingly unpopular in this regard.[47]

Like many Gundam shows, reviews for Gundam AGE are mixed with some liking the show and others heavily disliking the show but very little middle ground.[48] Gundam AGE was followed by Gundam Build Fighters, which represented a new direction for the franchise. While the "main" entries to the Gundam franchise would continue to be about war, Build Fighters followed in the footsteps of Gunpla Builders and focused on the merchandise aspect of the franchise. Unlike Gundame AGE, Build Fighters is a show genuinely aimed towards children. Despite this, however, many Gundam fans loved it because of the many references to other Gundam shows that Build Fighters made and the fact that it's centered on a subculture that they themselves were a part of.[49] After the release of Build Fighters, the popular parody 4-koma Mobile Suit Gundam-san was adapted into an anime. It did quite well in DVD sales[50] but fan reaction is mixed on whether or not it's worthwhile.[51]

The next installment in the main Gundam franchise was Gundam Reconguista in G, released in 2014, which was the first series to be directed by gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino since Turn A Gundam, a fact which initially excited many fans. When the show was actually released, however, fans were left with mixed feelings. While the show was widely praised for its art direction and animation, many fans were confused by the plot of the show. People who watched the show as it aired had trouble remembering the things that the show wanted you to remember and this made following the plot difficult leading to a show that didn't feel up to Tomino's usual standfard of work.[52]

I watched it when it was first airing, and while I didn't like it much, I understood at least the first half, but around episode 18-20 ish I started to get lost with what was going on, and then from episode 20 to the end (25 or 26 or whatever) I had no idea what happened, and the ending didn't seem to make sense to me. Could someone ELI5 the story for me?- NaotsuguGuardian on ELI5 Gundam Reconguista in G
[citizend13]

Can somebody explain Gundam Reconguista in G to me
Never could get why they were killing each other near the end.[53]

[ToaChronix]

nope lol[53]

G-Reco was followed by the second season of Build Fighters, known as Gundam Build Fighters Try. While many enjoyed the second season of Build Fighters, the staff changed between seasons and that aspect disappointed many fans.[54] As the second season of Build Fighters was airing, the animated adaption of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin was released. A prequel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, The Origin focused on the backstory of Char Aznable and fan reaction was generally positive although some fans felt it wasn't a good addition to the Universal Century timeline.[55]

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans was the next entry into the main Gundam franchise. While IBO generally received positive reviews for its depiction of the cost of war on child soldiers[56] and the way its storytelling effectively built to the show's inevitable conclusion,[57] one reviewer even calling it a "grim masterpiece,"[58] concerns were raised about the show's content in Japan, given that IBO featured no warning about the content of the show.[59] While IBO was airing, Sunrise also released the Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt ONA and while many fans enjoyed it, some found Thunderbolt's use of jazz as a leitmotif confusing.[60]

The second season of IBO began airing in 2016, after which Sunrise released an ONA for Build Fighters called Gundam Build Fighters: GM's Counterattack and the Mobile Suit Gundam: Twilight AXIS ONA in 2017. Nobody liked Twilight AXIS.[61]

40th Anniversary Beyond

Released in 2018, Gundam Build Divers was a spiritual sucessor to Build Fighters. Like Build Fighters, it focused on the Gunpla aspect of the Gundam franchise but unlike Build Fighters the focus was shifted toward a virtual reality MMORPG where users scan and upload their Gunpla and compete to see who is the best Gunpla Diver. While some fans enjoyed Build Divers or found it to be ok, if not the best thing ever, many fans were disappointed that the series bears no connection to Build Fighters and little connection to the hobby of building Gunpla, focusing instead on selling them.[62]

The show that was about fans playing with and building gundam models, now is about just your average teenager and his group of 4 wacky and one dimensional and very forgettable friends, watch them as they build their own gunpla team to battle and get to top of the rankings, oh and btw one of the characters of this amazing team barely knows how to build or even play the game, and is literally there to be cute and do cute things, but by god they will still beat almost every famous and top team/player they go against for no real reason other than because that's how the story goes, and when they lose it's also because of the story, and if all fails just UNLEASH YOUR SUPER MOVE......for your Gundam...sigh....I can't wait for the invention of the time machine.- a Mecha fan review/rant regarding Gundam Build Divers

Build Divers was followed by Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative, the first standalone film since A Wakening of the Trailblazer. While a sequel of sorts to Gundam Unicorn, fan reaction to Gundam Narrative was mixed.[63] The focus on Newtypes was always going to be a tricky subject, however, given the fact that some fans feel that such aspects of the Gundam franchise detract from the "real robot" aspects of Gundam, stretching the believability of Gundam being grounded in reality, while others find them to be in-line with other science fiction franchises. It was also thought to be quite lore-dense, making it more for hardcore Universal Century fans than the casual Gundam fan.

Whereas Unicorn tried to at least be workable for those who hadn’t seen the three series and a movie that came before it, NT runs on the idea that you’ve seen all of those combined before you sit down for this. It’s very much aimed at the veteran Gundam fans but then where it goes from there may make it contentious with that very audience.

NT focuses on explaining the idea of Newtypes in a way that no animated Gundam story ever has before. Previous works have always seen fit to treat them with a mix of mystery and tragedy, a metaphor for the juxtaposition of human potential and human failure. Here though we dive heavily into the answer (or at least, Harutoshi Fukui’s answer) to what Newtypes specifically are and much like midichlorians or the planet Zeist before them it’s an unsatisfying peek behind the curtain that removes too much of the enigmatic mystery. I wouldn’t call it the most unsatisfactory reveal/retcon ever but right now I’m not really taken with it. The waters are muddied further by Fukui’s admission that he presented this answer partly as a nod to a long standing fan theory that most if not all of Tomino’s works are in continuity with one another, with Gundam simply being the largest chunk.-Review: “Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative (NT)”: Fails To Lead

2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the Gundam franchise and ahead of this celebration the concept for the 40th anniversary event, Beyond, was announced as well as five new projects.[64] The first of these projects to be released was a 13 episode anime adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin called Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin - Advent of the Red Comet. Then, another entry into the SD Gundam continuity: theSD Gundam World Sangoku Soketsuden ONA followed by the first Gundam anime to be released in the Reiwa period, Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise. A sequel to Build Drivers, the early reviews of the show appear to be positive compared to Gundam fandom's distate for the original.[65]

The remaining two projects announced for the 40th anniversary are a 5-part movie version of Gundam Reconguista in G and a movie adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway's Flash.[64]

Differences Between Japanese and English Fandom

Like many fandoms for a source material that was in a different language, the English-speaking Gundam fandom differs heavily from the Japanese-speaking Gundam fandom. Mostly these differences are in which Gundam are the best, something that's subjective anyway. Mobile Fighter G Gundam is routinely among the least-liked Gundam shows for Japanese fans, for example, since they feel it's jarring and not in line with the core ideals of the Gundam franchise. By the time G Gundam was released to a Japanese audience, Gundam already had an established canon and lore that G Gundam completely did away with, but since the English fandom was primarily introduced to Gundam through the already alternate timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, they had a much easier time transitioning between the idea of the interconnected Gundam universe and the alternate timelines.[16] There's also a difference in opinon with regard to Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, since it's a retelling of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Japanese fans loved Gundam Seed, but English's fandom's opinion is more mixed with many expressing disappointment that it's a retelling and feeling it doesn't bring anything new to the table but others loving it.[66]

An example meme featuring Char clones.

"Char Clones"

The biggest difference between English Gundam fandom and Japanese Gundam fandom is their feelings toward the character Char Aznable. While both would agree that Char is an iconic character in anime,[10] the Japanese Gundam fandom loves Char[67] and has heavily merchandised Char, making Char-branded everything from credit cards[68] to Nike shoes.[69] On the other hand, while English fandom considers him to be iconic, they also have an inexplicable hatred of "Char clones," or characters that vaguely resemble Char. While some fans use the term Char clone almost affectionately,[70] it is generally used as a derogatory term to demean characters from other parts of the franchise for being too much like Char.[71] This term only appears in the English fandom, despite the fact that one of the spin-off novels features a literal clone of Char. Where the disconnect regarding the character comes from, primarily, is the misunderstanding of Char's place in history. While English fandom sees Char as the archetype, Japanese fandom is aware of the history that led to the creation of Char and sees him as an iteration of an archetype.

To be honest, this type of character certainly wasn't invented by Gundam, not even in the context of mecha anime as a genre since there are several historical precedents, but it was executed in an interesting manner and thus became iconic even if the individual parts of his character weren't necessarily original.- JCG

Therefore, the "Char clones" that bother the English fandom so much aren't thought of that was by the Japanese fandom. The things that make up a Char clone to the English fandom are things that are much more common in Japanese culture than Western culture. Char clones are marked by "skilled fighting, unique custom mobile suits, and of course, masks."[67] Skilled fighting is a term that could apply to most Gundam characters, given that the protagonists are usually somehow "special" or "elite," and masks are a common character feature in anime and manga. Masks are a trademark of a phantom thief, as well as being a prominent feature of kabuki, so the fact that a character has a mask isn't as odd as it seems. That leaves the unique custom mobile suit aspect, which is his defining feature as Japanese fandom uses シャア専用 or "Char custom"[note 1] to refer to both Gundams that were exclusively made for Char and Gunpla kits or merchandise that has either been branded or re-branded as being a "Char custom."[72] This, however, is also a trait of the Red Baron, whom Char is partially based on and who famously flew custom-painted red aircraft.

External Links

Meta

Primers

Podcasts

Other Fanworks

Notes and References

Notes

  1. シャア専用 can be more literally translated as "exclusively for [use by] Char," but it's commonly translated into English as "Char custom" when シャア専用 Gunpla kits are released to Western consumers.

References

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