Gundam is a popular Japanese media franchise based on military fiction. The franchise was developed by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise (formerly known as Bandai Namco Filmworks) and centers around enormous robots called Gundams. It all started on April 7, 1979, when the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam aired on TV.
The show, which featured huge robots called mobile suits (including the original title mecha) in a military context, would go on to define the “real robot” mecha anime genre. Because of its widespread appeal, the series has spawned a vast merchandising empire that includes fifty television shows, films, original video animations (OVAs), manga, novels, and video games, and an entire industry of plastic model kits known as Gunpla, which account for ninety percent of the Japanese character plastic-model market.
Japanese academics have looked to the show for ideas; in 2008, they announced plans to create the first virtual school based on an animated TV series, Gundam Academy.
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Bandai Namco Holdings, through its wholly owned subsidiaries Sotsu and Sunrise, now owns the franchise in its entirety as of March 2020. By the year 2000, the Gundam franchise had made over $5 billion in sales. The Gundam franchise’s retail sales of toys and hobby products totaled 101.7 billion in 2022.
Animator Yoshiyuki Tomino collaborated with an ever-rotating staff of Sunrise staffers working under the alias Hajime Yatate to produce Mobile Suit Gundam. Taking its name from the robot protagonist’s rifle, the initial title for the show was aimed squarely at the show’s major demographic: teenage boys. Many of the early manufacturing names, such as “Freedom’s Fortress” for the White Base, “Freedom Wing” for the Core Fighter, and “Freedom Cruiser” for the Gunperry, all had to do with freedom in some way.
The Yatate group came up with the portmanteau Gundam by combining the English word “gun” with the last syllable of the word “freedom.” Tomino renamed it to “Gundam,” implying a unit with a gun powerful enough to hold back adversaries like a hydroelectric dam holds back water. Gundams are depicted as limited-edition prototypes with superior abilities over standard mass-produced models, which is in keeping with the concept.
Suletta might be the runner up for the most dorkiest Gundam protagonist as of yet pic.twitter.com/P3OJnnoSxa
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The majority of Gundams are huge, bipedal, humanoid vehicles piloted by a human from an enclosed cockpit. The body houses the cockpit, while the head operates as a camera sending data back to the control center. The protagonists of the show are primarily Newtypes, who are humans with enhanced genetics and spacesuits. Thanks to their heightened psychic powers, Newtypes are able to detect each other from afar and communicate through customized mobile suits.
Some claim that Mobile Suit Gundam was the first in the real robot genre of mecha anime. Unlike its super robot contemporaries, Mobile Suit Gundam made an effort toward realism by having its robots and weapons wear out of power or malfunction. Its gadgets are either based on proven scientific principles (such as Lagrange points and the O’Neill cylinder in space, or the usage of Helium-3 as an energy source) or are technically possible with the addition of a few fictitious components.
Although several of the later Gundam series take place in different timelines or calendars, the vast majority of the franchise’s canon—including the oldest series—is set in the era known as the Universal Century (UC). The original UC plotline is still quite popular, despite the fact that many subsequent Gundam stories take place in a parallel universe with distinct timelines (allowing them more creative license).
The original Gundam represented the coming of age of the huge robot genre and set the bar for the rest of the series. Part of Gundam’s enduring popularity can be attributed to fans’ fondness for classic episodes, especially given the franchise’s iconic position in Japan.
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