|Original work Mobile Suit Gundam|
Comics See list
Television series See below
|Novels See list|
Films See below
|Creator Yoshiyuki Tomino Sunrise|
Gundam (Japanese: ガンダム, Hepburn: Gandamu), also referred to as the Gundam Series (ガンダムシリーズ, Gandamu Shirīzu), is a science fiction media franchise created by Sunrise that features giant robots (or "mecha") called "mobile suits", with titular mobile suits that carry the name "Gundam."
- Eras Featured
- Definition of Gundam
- TV series films and video
- Manga and novels
- Video games
- Gundam model
- Other merchandise
- Global debut
The franchise started on April 7, 1979, as an anime TV series called Mobile Suit Gundam, which was revolutionary in that it defined the real robot genre of anime by featuring giant robots in a militaristic war setting. The popularity of the first TV series and the merchandising that followed spawned a franchise that has come to include works released in numerous media. Titles have appeared in the form of multiple television series and OVAs, movies, manga, novels, and video games. The franchise has also led to the creation of one of the biggest toy and hobby franchise in the Japanese toy industry.
As of 2014, the Gundam franchise generates revenues of 80 billion yen a year. The 2014 retail sales of Gundam toy and hobby items totaled 18.4 billion yen. In the 2008 ranking of average sales figures for anime copies sold in Japan (1970–2008 total sales figures averaged by episode) Gundam series were in four of the top five places: Mobile Suit Gundam ranked second, with Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny third, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED fourth, and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam fifth. Also, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing ranked 18th and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ ranked 20th. Gunpla (Gundam Plastic model) holds 90% of the Japanese character plastic model market.
Academics in Japan have also viewed the series as inspiration, with the International Gundam Society being the first academic institution based on an animated TV series.
Mobile Suit Gundam was developed by noted animator Yoshiyuki Tomino, along with a changing group of Sunrise creators who went under the collective pseudonym of "Hajime Yatate".
During its conceptual phase, the series was titled Freedom Fighter Gunboy, or simply Gunboy for the gun the robot was armed with, and the primary target demographic were boys. In the early production stages, there were numerous references to the word "freedom": the White Base was originally "Freedom's Fortress", the Core Fighter was the "Freedom Wing", and the Gunperry was the "Freedom Cruiser". The Yatate team combined the English word "gun" with the last syllable of the word "freedom" to form the portmanteau name Gundom. Tomino then changed it to the current title, suggesting that Gundam signified a powerful unit wielding a gun powerful enough to hold back enemies, like a hydroelectric dam holding back floods. In keeping with this concept, Gundam in all media that followed are often depicted as singularly unique or limited-production, with much higher capabilities than mass-produced units.
Most Gundam are large, bipedal, humanoid-shaped vehicles controlled from cockpits by a human pilot. The majority of these "mobile suits" have a cockpit in the "torso" of the machine, with a camera built into the "head" to transmit images to the cockpit and are non-sentient machines.
Mobile Suit Gundam is said to have pioneered the real robot subgenre of mecha anime.
Unlike its super robot cousins, Mobile Suit Gundam attempted a realism in the robot design and weaponry, by running out of energy and ammunition or breaking and malfunctioning. The technology is practical and is either derived from true science (such as Lagrange points in space and the O'Neill cylinder as a living environment) or at least well-explained, feasible technology, requiring only a few fictional elements to function (such as Minovsky Physics as a means of energy production from helium-3). One difficulty, however, is that the designation for each O'Neill cylinder does not relate to the standard terms for the Lagrange points. For example, both of the first two television series begin in a colony at Lagrange point L3, as part of a group which is called both Side 7, and, in Zeta Gundam, by a sort of geographical name of "Noa".
The necessity of developing humanoid robots is also explained, albeit fictional. The fictional Minovsky particle pervasive in Universal Century is depicted as interfering with radar-guided long-distance cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guns, missiles, and all early warning systems, with weapons systems having to rely on human eyes. In Universal Century, the space-based Principality of Zeon rebels against Earth Federation, requiring a weapons system that could function in zero and normal gravity and be able to open and close air locks, plant demolition charges, and engage with enemy tanks and planes; with a robotic giant being an excellent choice. Once mobile suits have been developed by one side, the opposing force had to develop a similar system, just as British invention of tanks lead to the development of tanks in Germany, and eventually led to tank-to-tank battles.
The general narratives of Gundam shows classify as war drama. They revolve around the mobile suits and their pilots fighting in a war, in which destruction and dehumanization are inherent, through multiple sides; each faction has their own heroes and villains, all of which have their own unique motives, failings, and virtues. Gundam features political battles and debates on important philosophical issues and political ideals on the nature and meaning of war, the ideal of pacifism, and the continuing evolution—natural or engineered—of humanity and its consequences. These are often framed in the series as a debate between the protagonist and antagonist over the course of a duel, as they try to convince each other of the righteousness of their causes. Most of the stories are structured as "coming-of-age" dramas, where the main cast's personalities, points of view, allegiances, goals, and actions may or may not change dramatically as events unfold. This makes the plot seem more realistic than earlier super robot animated series where the hero and cast usually act in the same predictable manner, with little connection between the episodes. The best example of this is how the personalities of longtime rivals, Amuro Ray and Char Aznable, are influenced by their experiences in the Gundam saga.
The majority of Gundam animation, including the earliest series, occur in what is known as the Universal Century (UC) calendar era, with later series set in alternate calendars or timelines. Universal Century makes up the dominating majority of the entire franchise. While many new Gundam stories are told in their own parallel universe with independent timelines, giving them a greater degree of creative freedom, the original U.C. storyline continues to be extremely popular for a variety of reasons. It established the series and delivered many of its best moments, as well as setting the standard for realistic hard science fiction in anime; the original Gundam marked the maturing of the Giant Robot genre. Also, nostalgia for the oldest of the Gundam shows (and Gundam's resulting status as a pop-culture icon in Japan) is still a major factor in its continuing success.
The creation of the separate timelines were originally stand-alone works that did not require prior knowledge of the Universal Century timeline to understand or appreciate the story's background. These timelines define Gundam differently and portray conflicts in entirely different settings and circumstances to other entries, including the definition of Gundam. For example, the original Gundam was considered a military general-purpose prototype mobile suit and a "Gundam" from G Gundam is considered a name for a mobile fighter whose purpose is to compete against other Gundams.
Definition of Gundam
Within the Gundam franchise, the titular term "Gundam" generally refers to a specific category of mobile suits that tend to feature design cues from Kunio Okawara's original Gundam design. Nonetheless, producer Masahiko Asano wrote in his notes on the production of Gundam Sentinel that everyone seemed to have their own idea of Gundam and, in the meeting, they were trying to find the asymptotic view for those there. The variations in naming and identification impacts the definition of the term throughout the Gundam timelines:
Over the years, other types of narratives and settings have been developed as the franchise grew and diversified. SD Gundam, a sub-franchise of Gundam that started in the mid-1980s, features Gundam mecha and characters expressed in super deformed and anthropomorphic style while placing them in historical, fantastical or science fiction settings, with greater emphasis on comedy and adventure. In addition, a recent development in Gundam animated works is to feature a more contemporary setting and use Gunpla as a central plot element, as seen in shows like Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G and Gundam Build Fighters.
TV series, films, and video
Except for Mobile Suit Gundam 00 which follows the current calendar era, all mainstream Gundam series are set into their own fictional era which begins after some drastic event or chain of events (sometimes left unexplained) occur in history. Another common feature is that the scenario changes constantly as the story progresses between Earth, outer space, space colonies and in some cases, even the Moon and some terraformed planets as well.
Manga and novels
Manga adaptations of Gundam series have been published in English in North America by a variety of companies, such as Viz Media, Del Rey Manga, and TOKYOPOP, among others, and in Singapore by Chuang Yi.
Following the popularity of Gundam, various video games have been created. Some of these video games feature original characters not found in other Gundam media. Over 80 different Gundam games have been created for arcade, computer and console platforms. Some of the video games would go on to have spinoff novels and manga. Most Gundam video games can only be found in Japan with little release to the world market (The Dynasty Warriors: Gundam series is an exception).
Models of the Gundam robots are a major reason for the franchise's enduring success. Hundreds of models, primarily plastic but sometimes featuring resin, metal and other types of detail parts, have been released. These range in quality from children's toy kits, to hobbyist and museum-grade models. Most models are of 1:35, 1:48, 1:60, 1:100 or 1:144 scale. Special promotional models of 1:6 or 1:12 scale are targeted to retailers and are not commercially available. One 1:1 full size Real-G model was also constructed and displayed in Tokyo's Odaiba, and was temporary in Shizuoka.
Bandai, the primary licensee of the Gundam trademark, produces a variety of products based on the brand. Other companies produce unofficial merchandise such as toys, models, and T-shirts. Categories of products include the "Mobile Suit In Action" ("MSiA") action figures, and Gundam Model Kits in several scales and design complexity. Generally, each series listed above will have its own set of products, although the MSiA and models lines, such as Master Grade and High Grade Universal Century, may extend across series. The most popular line of action figure in recent years; however, is the "Gundam Fix" series. This line of figures includes the mecha shown in the animated series/manga/novels, but also includes new accessories to create a more updated version. In addition to Master Grade and High Grade Gundams, Bandai released yet another series of Gundam models in 2010 for the 30th anniversary of Gundam. The release of the real grade Gundam series led to a revolutionary way to build Gundam kits; real grade Gundam series combined the detailed inner structures of master grade versions and added an additional colour separation making the tiny 1/144 scaled real grade series complex in design and compact in size. After the introduction of the RG Gundam series, Bandai released the Metal Build series in March 2011 beginning with the 00 (double 0) Gundam. The Metal Build Gundam is more than an expensive action figure capable of multiple poses made available through the fixed joints, "it's a game changer" according to Bandai. Each Metal Build release features the best that Bandai has to offer in toy engineering, design, sculpt, posability, durability, and what many Gundam enthusiasts have desired, more significant diecast content. Gundam model kits and action figures coexist with the Gundam animated series, Perfect grade Gundams and 1/64 series are also continuous products of Bandai's production line.
Bandai maintains a number of sites to promote various Gundam projects. Most prominent amongst these is "Gundam Perfect Web", the official Japanese site. Its English language counterpart is the US maintained "Gundam Official". For a brief trial period in 2005, the site hosted the "Gundam Official User Forum". These forums were based on the existing fan forum, "Gundam Watch", and made use of many of its staff. When the project was retired, Gundam Watch was reborn, before passing the torch onto "Gundam Evolution", which maintained many of the same traditions and staff.
A number of series specific websites have been produced. These are often available for a limited time, usually to promote a DVD release. Common content includes character and mecha listings, lists of related merchandise and pay-for-download content. "Special" pages are also frequent, often presenting downloadable wallpaper or a small game. The Superior Defender Gundam Force site, for example, offers a game where players take the role of the villain Commander Sazabi, attempting to blast his subordinate with his weapons. After completion, users are rewarded with a papercraft of the Ark fans featured frequently in the show's second half.
Since 1980, Gundam has been seen all over the world, having debuted in the following countries:
Gundam is a popular cultural icon of Japan; it is a 50 billion yen business of Bandai Namco (projected 50 billion yen income of the company and reached a highest number of 54.5 billion yen in 2006). Not only were stamps published, an employee of the Agriculture Ministry was reprimanded for contribution to Japanese Wikipedia Gundam related pages, the Japanese Self Defense Forces code-named its developing advance personal combat system as Gundam, and the Fire department used Gundam to promote the future of fire fighting developments. A tram station stood a monument of the original Gundam and used the main theme of the first Gundam anime as its departure melody and other businesses like Mitsubishi not only created a test-type simulator for concept cars with a version of Gundam cockpit, it also held recruitment seminars using "How to make a Gundam" as a demo of what their development process is and based their Lancer Evolution design on Gundam. Isuzu also used a Gundam to model the VX2. A conference as a preparation for the "International Gundam Society" (国際ガンダム学会) was held on the August 24 in Hiroshima, using Gundam as the main topic to discuss about the relationship of the science and technology in science fiction anime and the real world. The Gundam metaverse makes regular appearances in the Super Robot Wars series by Banpresto.
Gundam's realistic scientific setting has gained a reputation in the field itself as well. On July 18, 2007, MIT's Astronautics Department's Professor (now Deputy Administrator of NASA) Dava Newman displayed a Bio-Suit, the headline "Mobile Suit Gundam's Normal Suit is now real" by various news agencies. On February 14, 2008, when NASA proposed research into nuclear thermal rockets, Technobahn, a scientific journal in Japan, referred to the usage of nuclear thermal rocket engines on mobile suits in the Gundam universe.
On June 30, 2015 a special report about the capabilities of the Japanese military was aired by China Central Television Channel 4. The Japan Self-Defense Forces were shown to have several functioning Gundams-like mechas, causing widespread fear among Chinese viewers. The clip shown was actually from a Japanese commercial for Nissin Cup Noodles.