The Japanese anime Mobile Suit Gundam, which premiered over forty years ago, altered the nation’s perception of enormous robots. Gundam created a brand-new subgenre of anime, transformed how Westerners viewed Japanese animation and served as a cultural touchstone for future robotics technology.
As a result, Gundam grew immensely popular worldwide. Twelve TV series, dozens of video games, many films, and direct-to-video releases, and let’s not even begin to talk about how many different manga there are. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Gundam and its six most popular universes.
Gundam: The Origin
Giant robots had a particular meaning in Japanese entertainment in 1979. The “Super Robot” subgenre acquired a distinct sense thanks to shows like Mazinger Z and Battle Fever J, which had just made its Super Sentai debut and featured its enormous mech. Such mecha were fantastical, restricted to children’s shows and comic books, and, as the genre’s name suggests, were viewed as the evolution of superpowers rather than realistically constructed robots for use in military settings.
Mobile Suit Gundam altered that, but not without resistance. Its portrayal of actual military conflict involving mechanized exosuits, the Gundams themselves, and the conflict between two distinct factions of spacefaring humans was utterly novel at the time. In fact, despite glowing reviews, The Gundam universe was initially regarded as wildly unpopular because viewers had anticipated yet another super robot anime only to be met with a startlingly different take on a giant robot.
After 39 episodes, it was almost canceled, but after renegotiating with the sponsors, including the toy company Clover, the run was extended to 43 episodes and ended abruptly. People had no idea, however, that Mobile Suit Gundam would inspire the development of the “Real Robot” genre, which still today dominates how mecha are portrayed in Japan.
The different universes of Gundam
Most of us are now familiar with the multiverse concept, thanks to Marvel. With a radically different future than the one we know, each series of Gundam begin in a very different way, fulfilling its glorious purpose. The only thing that unites these various Gundam series is that each one features a mobile suit based on the Gundam model, usually serving as the show’s hero mech. Unique universes have emerged across these various Gundam series as multiple stories have been told.
Most of these universes are near-future war-torn societies where the problems plaguing our current era have been made worse by humankind’s attempts to colonize the solar system. Some of these universes resemble our world, while others are mythical worlds populated by Chiba mobile suits brought to life.
The multiverse of Gundam comprises different eras. These eras include:
1. Universal Century
This is the original Gundam universe, which was later turned into three highly successful films. Zeta Gundam introduced new characters while bringing back some from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, and Gundam ZZ did the same. This established the model for many series that came after. This era established the franchise’s essential anti-war themes while highlighting the effects of war, including the toll it takes on people of all backgrounds and the harm it causes to the environment.
2. After Colony
Although the franchise spent most of its time in the Universal Century era, things started to change in the 1990s as other eras came into play. The After Colony era, during which the Gundam Wing franchise first appeared, is perhaps one of the most well-known. The main cast of English voice actors in this TV show became celebrities because of the high ratings on Toonami. Although it didn’t receive the same support as the UC era, it still produced more works, including an OVA and a film compilation version.
Its massive push on Cartoon Network contributed to anime being elevated and taken more seriously in the early 2000s.
3. Cosmic Era
Another significant post-UC era is the Cosmic Era, which includes the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED properties. There were two main series during this time and numerous compilation specials that drew different fan bases. Even though the shows have always had likable characters, this one went beyond the norm through the designs. It also benefited from changes to animation that occurred in the early to mid-2000s, when digital was more prevalent and colors were brighter. There was a greater emphasis on character interaction in storytelling.
4. After Colony
In the after-colony era, the oppressed by the Earth government was seen. Each space colony built a Gundam and sent it to Earth to degrade the Earth’s military and enable the colonies to gain independence. The two series in the After-colony era are Gundam Wing and Endless Waltz.
5. Future Century
The events of Mobile Fighter G Gundam and its spin-offs occur in the Future Century timeline. The Universal Century is absent from this alternate timeline.
Rulers of the Earth left for orbiting space colonies, leaving the majority of the lower to middle classes stranded on the planet, and the Future Century was founded. Following a battle for dominance over the colonies and the planet, it was decided that to stop further fighting, the colonies would hold the Gundam Fight. In this competition, the victor would take over as leader for the following four years.
6. Anno Domini
The term Anno Domini, which is used to denote the number of years in the Julian and Gregorian calendars after the birth of Christ, is the basis for the timeline Anno Domini, abbreviated as AD or AD. Gundam 00’s story takes place in the same timeline as today’s society, approximately 300 years in the future.
Without mentioning “Gundam,” you cannot discuss the history of anime. Almost every mecha series since 1979 has been influenced by the original 1979 “Mobile Suit Gundam” TV series. Even after more than four decades, the “Gundam” franchise is still going strong, with spin-offs of the original Universal Century era, a wide variety of alternate universe takes, and far too many model kits to count.