Let me introduce this series of upcoming articles regarding the history of Gundam. The AGE to Zeta of Gundam will be recounting the history of the Gundam franchise, from the original Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 all the way towards the recently concluded Gundam Build Fighters.
Director Yoshiyuki Tomino was inspired by shows such as Starship Troopers and Space Battleship Yamato and decided to make his own mecha anime. He collaborated with mecha designer Kunio Okawara as well as Sunrise creators Hajime Yatate with the upcoming project then called Freedom Fighter Gunboy. The Gunboy was the titular mech while most of the mechanics in the show had the name Freedom in it.
They decided to combine the “Gunboy” with the dom in “Freedom” to form the name Gundom which changed to the Gundam. It signified a powerful gun wielding unit strong enough to hold back enemies like a dam. From there, Mobile Suit Gundam was born.
The Principality of Zeon, former Republic of Zeon declared its independence from the Earth Fedaration in Universal Century (UC) 0069 and subsequently on January 3 0079, it launched a war of independence known as the One Year War. Every continent on Earth as well as space colony was affected by this war. While the Zeon forces were smaller, they had the tactical upper hand in the form of a new humanoid weapon called the Mobile Suit. After many months of fighting, both sides are in a stalemate.
On 18th September 0079, a new Federation warship, White Base arrives at a secret research base located at Side 7. At the same time, a Zeon reconnaissance team commanded by Char Aznable surveys Side 7 for any traces of the top secret Federation Project V. One of the recon team members disobeys the mission orders and starts attacking the colony, killing most of the Federation crew and civilians. One citizen, Amuro Ray finds the top secret weapon, the RX-78-2 Gundam by accident and resolves the situation. The Gundam and the hastily made White Base crew and then sent on a mission to turn the tides of the One Year War.
What made MSG stand out?:
The original run of Mobile Suit Gundam was not received well in Japan, and was cut from the final episode count of 52 to 39 by the sponsors, as well as the original toy makers. However, when Bandai got the license and made the very first set of Gunpla, sales shot through the roof due to its immense popularity. The show did better during reruns and even better on the theatrical compilations.
Mobile Suit Gundam also has the honor of being the pioneer of the Real Robot genre. The Real Robot genre is defined by traits that make it similar to a real war setting. Their mecha are usually developed by a military or a huge corporation to be used for warfare. They also do take damage and their technology is usually defined in scope and limitation. The most distinguishing feature is that the mecha in these shows are usually powerful but they require a pilot to serve as a form of brain function to effectively use this well. Many shows were spawned through this genre thanks to the original Gundam. To name a few; Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Patlabor, Full Metal Panic!, Armored Trooper VOTOMS and Code Geass. Spot any of your favourite shows?
It also has a villain that became insanely popular he is regarded as Japan’s Darth Vader, except that the Japanese really embraces him a lot culturally. This person is none other than the Red Comet, Char Aznable. This masked character boasts an amazing amount of charisma that makes him naturally fit for being a leader. He also has a deep hatred for the Zabi family and swears to take them down personally, as well as his famous rivalry with the main character Amuro Ray. Future series follow his archetype to create similar characters with a mask and similar goals, henceforth known as ‘Char Clones’.
Famous mecha from MSG:
Being the titular Gundam show, the most famous design to come from this is surprise, the RX-78-2 Gundam! It is a design that has stood the test of time, thanks to Bandai continuously updating its design bit by bit over the years. It does not have giant wings, newtype weapons or giant guns, the simplicity of this mobile suit is its best feature. It is also the basis for most future Gundam designs to come. Pretty much every future designs share the same basic trait as the Gundam: White/Blue/Red color scheme, humanoid-like design, V-Fin, a signature styled Gundam face and overall performance better than everything else in its current era!
Another popular design that spawned from this is the MS-06 Zaku II! It has that really obvious bad guy feel to it with its signature mono-eye head piece. Countless and countless variants of the Zaku have been made due to its immense popularity and it even has a variation in Gundam SEED Destiny!
Here’s a trivia for you: Did you know that the Zaku’s name came from the word Zako (雑魚)? The word Zako means “small fry” in English. Very apt, don’t you think? Of course, being the small fry, these poor Zakus gets the brunt of the Gundam’s assault.
Being the original series, it is usually the best place to start watching Gundam. Also, seeing that it is also the starting point of the One Year War, it’s the best place to start if you wish to follow the Universal Century.
Certain websites like Gundam.info streams Mobile Suit Gundam from time to time for a limited time for free; keep an eye out for them! You can also choose to purchase the Mobile Suit Gundam Blu-Ray box! While the animation is pretty dated, it is definitely worth watching to see how the Gundam franchise started off.
For those of you that have watched Mobile Suit Gundam, what did you enjoy most from MSG and what is your favorite Mobile Suit? Share in the comment box below!