The Gundam franchise is the thing that I get the closest to fanboying over. I loved this series since the first time I’ve laid eyes on it. This was when the original series was airing on Toonami. It was like this strange mystical thing that I couldn’t take my eyes from. Yes, I know that Gundam Wing and G Gundam aired around this time too and I did watch them, but they never captured my imagination like the original Mobile Suit Gundam. You could never imagine how sad I was when 0079 was taken off of the air. Anyway, with the included good and bad, I love the Gundam franchise more than most pieces of media that I’ve watched around from around the world. The best parts of the franchise are some of the best pieces of science fiction that I’ve ever watched.
Gundam is a story of war. The rich and decadent Earth vs. a number of poor space colonies that decided to rise up in rebellion. This may sound like a basic black vs. white plot, but it’s not. This franchise usually has many layers of grey in it. For one, the colonies that raise up in rebellion are usually Space Nazis. This is more focused on the Universal Century, what is considered the main time line of Gundam, when a family formed the rebellion in the name of the politician they framed the Earth for killing. Most series flesh out both sides of the war and treats people like actual people. All controlling huge screwed up families also play large roles in this franchise. This was Game of Thrones way before Game of Thrones ever existed.
There is no possible way to talk about Gundam without mention a certain character archetype. The Char Clone is the most prominent character type in every Gundam show. He’s usually the blond haired masked character who has a vendetta or the blond charismatic guy in a leadership position. The character who started it all, Char Aznable, is a very complex character that became insanely popular as the original Mobile Suit Gundam aired in Japan. He was one of the core components showing the mixed morality of the Universal Century from the original show onward. The characters in Gundam are a solid piece of makes the show what it is, but its science fiction setting.
The setting of Gundam is the Earth sphere of the future. Each series will either have their own type of calendar system, the insert name here century or use a later time of our type Anno Domini period. In most of these stories, large numbers of people live in space in huge cylindrical colonies. These are based on the O’Neill cylinder and entire sets of these colonies are built in Lagrange Points or points where the pull of gravity from the earth and the moon meet so objects can maintain a stable position between both of these bodies. The moon may have a city named Von Braun based on the famous rocket scientist himself. Spaceships may have never gained the capability to fly move faster than light or gravity, but they play a huge role in the series. Many of these ships had a hard time facing the reality of heat shielding when entering the Earth’s atmosphere until later points in the franchise. Until then, ship crews had to use heavily heat shielded pods to get to Earth. Even now, entering the Earth’s atmosphere is a big deal. The most unusual part of this series is the ship members actually wear space suits when in battle. This great increases the survivability of its crew and I always wonder why no other piece of science fiction ever does this. Space is amazing, but it’s mostly the giant robots fans are here for right?
The giant robots in the Gundam series are called mobile suits and there are two different classes of them. The first are the normal, mass produced suits that normal pilots from each side of the fight fly in. These come in a wide variety of units that evolve over time, though they never match the level of the elite units. The elite pilots of this franchise either fly in the name sake Gundams or something that has been designed to fight them. Each of these suits are either many times stronger than the average mass produced unit or have their own special abilities based on what role they would play in a group. The main villains and protagonists also have the highest chance of becoming an evolved form of humanity, which is a small hint of what the show is about.
In the Gundam franchise, the show is about the evolution of mankind. The war in the original series started on the belief that all of mankind may become new types; beings that are able to automatically understand each other through telepathy. Naturally, when new types started appearing, they were actually used in military capacities instead. They are the ultimate weapons of either side and these people either get their powers naturally or are engineered since their conception to have them. The struggle to bring humanity together is what the rest of the Universal Century and most of the alternate universes. This isn’t an easy process, but it’s the driving force of each story. The clashing of ideals is what makes Gundam what it is.
With its complex politics, its setting in space, its great characters, its giant robots, and its clash of ideals, Gundam is one of the greatest things that ever came into being. I get so upset when anime fans just push aside Gundam or even just the mecha genre because it’s something they don’t immediately understand it. So many great stuff, especially the mecha genre because people seem to not like it for some reason, do not look that great from the initial appearance. This is why people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or an anime by its genre. It would be easy to miss something as great as Gundam that way.