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Gundam is a franchise of anime, manga, video games, and novels involving large robotic war machines of humanoid shape known as mecha. Gundam is set in several timelines, all mutually exclusionary, with various series set in each timeline.
Universal Century timeline
- Mobile Suit Gundam
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
- Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
- Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ
- Mobile Suit Gundam F91
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
- Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
After War timeline
After Colony timeline
Correct Century timeline
Future Century timeline
Cosmic Era timeline
SD Gundams (no timeline)
- Did you know that most of the early fans of Mobile Suit Gundam, the very first in the series, were girls?
―That’s very surprising for a franchise such as Gundam, where you would expect most fans to be male.
- Yoshiyuki Tomino, “Interview with Yoshiyuki Tomino, the Creator of Gundam”, (Oct. 30, 2015).
- To create cinema you have to rely on the structure of each scene. Normally within each shot you tend to need two points (allies and enemies) to focus on to make it work. Such as you and I for example. However, if you are going to make a story based around a war in space, how can you frame a scene like that? As the setting itself is so vast in terms of the distances involved.
So you have things like radar, which can detect an enemy's position, but that means you won't be able to get these objects into the scene. This means if things don't get closer to one another, they won't be able to fit into one shot and it would be impossible to depict the drama.
To solve this problem, my team and I came up with the idea of the Minovsky particle. When this was distributed across large areas, you couldn't rely on radar or detect where the enemy might be. This meant the forces had to come closer to one another in order to fight.
By inventing this particular setup, we were able to create something equivalent to the depiction of a cinematic (and theatrical) drama within this space war scenario. That meant within the next 30 minutes of the story, due to the Minovsky particles the forces had to fight in close proximity to one another. This wasn't done because I necessarily wanted to make a story based around a space war itself but was invented purely for cinematic purposes.
Although this was a space war, it was possible to communicate over large distances. In terms of cinematic technique, it was possible. However, the depiction would have been too ideological or too difficult to have theatrical empathy. This meant unless the distances between the characters were closer together, it would have been difficult to express human relationships. If I hadn't been conscious of theatrical expression, then Mobile Suit Gundam would have been the same as any other type of story about war. The Minovsky particle then forced the characters to meet one another, either in joy or vengeance. It created a sense of tension, and established a dramatic atmosphere.
- While I was working on Mobile Suit Gundam over the course of 10 years I began to think about how human beings might improve and evolve. Unfortunately, I was unable to properly get this idea into the original Mobile Suit Gundam. In that, I was unable to present an adequate form of a more evolved human. Speaking in modern terms, the first cognitive revolution occurred when Homo sapiens crossed the ocean, and I wanted to depict the second cognitive revolution by going into space.
In terms of describing this idea in subsequent Gundam series, I wasn’t able to do that either. In terms of the later Gundam stories I worked on, trying to show how a human might evolve into something better, it would be usually described as something like a god but that's not something I intended. Newtypes are just evolved beings and not gods. I don't think that the later Gundam series were able to adequately show what that might be.
That said, about 25 years ago I tried to get at the core of this Newtype idea and it resulted in a type of human that could comprehend someone else without any misunderstanding. However, I couldn't really make a compelling story out of it. In short, it didn't become a story.
- Yoshiyuki Tomino in “Yoshiyuki Tomino On 'Gundam', Newtypes And The Perilous Future Facing Humanity” by Ollie Barder. Forbes, (Mar 13, 2017).
- In 1979, giant robots had a specific connotation in Japanese entertainment. The likes of Mazinger Z and the then-recent début of the first ever Super Sentai show, Battle Fever J with their own giant mech, gave the "Super Robot" genre a very specific connotation. Such mecha were fanciful, confined to children's shows and comic books fighting aliens and monsters, and as the name of the genre implied, were seen as evolutions of super powers rather than realistically designed robots to be used in military environments.
Mobile Suit Gundam would change that, but not without opposition. Its depiction of not just warfare between two different factions of spacefaring humans, but its use of mechanized exosuits, the Gundams itself, as realistic tools of military warfare was completely unheard of at the time. In fact, despite critical approval, Mobile Suit Gundam was actually seen as wildly unpopular when it first aired, as audiences expected another super robot anime only to be confronted with a shockingly different approach to giant robots. It was almost canceled after 39 episodes, but after renegotiating with their sponsors, including toy manufacturer Clover, the series was extended to a run of 43 episodes and ended unceremoniously.
Little did people realize, however, that Mobile Suit Gundam would spark the creation of what is now known as the "Real Robot" genre, one that dominates the portrayal of mecha in Japan even today. But before that, it had to be saved from cancellation and falling into obscurity after it ended.
Surprisingly enough, it was saved by toys.
- Gundam's firm entrenchment in popular culture across the world and particularly in Japan has also been capitalized on to promote interest in engineering and future robotics technology. Not only has the term Gundam become synonymous with mecha the world over, the series has been used to inspire research and development in creating exosuits for military purpose. in 2007, the Japanese Self-Defense Force unveiled Codename: Gundam, its own plans for a mechanized power suit that would grant protection from gunfire and increased strength and mobility for individual soldiers, and last year the Japanese ministry for defense allocated $7.5 million of its 2015 budget into the research and development of Mobile Suit technology for the SDF, once again drawing comparisons between the real world and the anime franchise.
- James Whitbrook. “A History Of Gundam, The Anime That Defined The Giant Robot Revolution“. Io9.gizmodo.com, (3/09/15)