R1 Publisher: Bandai Entertainment
Producers: Bandai Visual
Original Release: 4/7/1979
US Release: 8/7/2001
What Is It?
Mobile Suit Gundam is a mecha series by Sunrise. The series was created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, and features character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
The show is set in Universal Century year 0079. Man has taken to the stars, and begun to colonize the cosmos. The Principality of Zeon declared war on the Earth Federation. To secure their freedom, Zeon launched a war for independence, which has wreaked havoc across the Earth and its nearby colonies. Zeon, despite their smaller size, have the upper hand through the initial conflict due to their use of Mobile Suits: humanoid tanks that can move quickly and lay waste to Earth’s larger, clumsier vessels with ease.
The battle rages for some time, until the war claims half of humanity. A bitter stalemate is reached, which lasts all of eight months. During this period, the White Base, the Earth Federation’s newest warship, ventures to retrieve the Federation’s ace-in-the-hole. A trailing Zeon soldier attacks the colony holding the weapon, and kills most of its residents. Amuro Ray, one of the colony’s citizens, stumbles across the RX-78 Gundam, a mobile suit designed for the Earth Federation. With the Gundam at his disposal, Amuro must lead the remaining Earth Federation members on the White Base to defeat Zeon’s forces once and for all.
Why is it Important?
Mobile Suit Gundam was, and still is a major influence on mecha anime. In particular, it was the first “real robot” type anime. Real Robot shows feature robots powered by conventional means that could feasibly be explained using actual science. The mecha typically use ranged weapons that require ammunition and even require regular maintenance lest they break down.
In addition, the series was vital in sci-fi anime’s shift from superheros and super robots to the space operas of the ’80s. The show blurred the lines between black and white, right and wrong and painted the universe in a series of grays, which led to a world with no true heroes or villains – only motivated individuals seeking their own goals.
With this in mind, titles like Gasaraki, Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Macross, and Patlabor simply wouldn’t exist in this day and age without Mobile Suit Gundam.
Any Interesting Stories?
During planning, Gundam was originally titled Freedom Fighter Gunboy, after the gun that the robot was armed with. The show was a shonen series, with numerous references to the word “Freedom.” For example, White Base was originally called Freedom’s Fortress, and the Gunperry was referred to as the Freedom Cruiser. The word Gundam actually came from a portmaneau of Gunboy and Freedom.
Up until its release in September 2011, Gundam was unavailable in America in its original Japanese audio. Due to licensing issues with Bandai Visual, Bandai Entertainment was unable to acquire the license to the show’s Japanese audio, and one episode in the series.