There are more than 700 “episodes” of Gundam (broadcast TV, movies, OVAs, shorts — and not counting the manga, video games, or plastic model kits) and the history of Gundam—more formally Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム Kidō Senshi Gandamu)—goes back 35 years
35 frickin’ years
…so when we get news that Sunrise is finally getting serious about making Gundam available to American fans its a Big Freakin’ Deal, Kids. (well, for a certain stripe of anime fan, anyway.)
The sheer size of the franchise though, combined with all the twists and turns and alternate timelines, is daunting (to say the least) for the casual anime viewer. All the information you need is available from Wikipedia and other sources, but once again, the volume of material is a huge barrier to entry. Where do you start?
I still can’t tell you where to start – but I can give you a list:
Odds and ends:
1988 SD Gundam (13 OVAs)
2010 SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors (51eps, 10min shorts)
2010 Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G (3 OVAs)
2013 Gundam Build Fighters (25eps) season 1
2014 Gundam Build Fighters Try – currently airing
2014 Mobile Suit Gundam-san (13 3min shorts)
“After Colony” timeline:
AC0195 Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995) (49eps)
AC0195 Gundam W: Operation Meteor (1996) (4) – compilation OVAs, also known as “Odds and Evens”
AC0196 Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (1997) (3 OVAs) – also edited into a theatrical movie release in 1998
“AD” timeline, presumably our (sci-fi) future:
AD2307 Gundam 00 (2007) (50eps)
AD2314 Gundam 00 the Movie Awakening of the Trailblazer (2010)
“Advanced Generation” timeline:
AG0115 Gundam Age (2011) (49eps) – there are three generational story arcs, each about 25 years apart.
AG0140 Gundam Age: Memory of Eden (2013) (2 OVAs) – re-edit of the 2nd Gundam Age story arc
“After War” timeline:
AW0015 After War Gundam X (1996) (39eps)
“Correct Century” timeline:
CC2435 Turn A Gundam (1999) (50eps) – the 20th Anniversary Gundam, “affirmatively accepting all of the Gundam series“ but still in it’s own alternate timeline.
“Cosmic Era” timeline:
CE0071 Gundam Seed (2002) (50eps)
CE0073 Seed Destiny (2004) (51eps)
CE0073 Gundam Seed C.E. 73 Stargazer (2006) (single OVA)
Gundam SEED MSV: Astray – two 5min shorts, in Japan included on the Stargazer release
[Tokyopop & Del Rey published quite a bit of the Gundam Seed manga adaptation – 17 volumes – starting back in ’04. just mentioning it as an aside]
“Future Century” timeline:
FC0060 Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994) (49eps) – oh boy. see comments below.
“Regild Century” timeline:
RC1014 Gundam Reconguista in G (2014), 25 episodes, currently airing. According to Wikipedia, the Regild Century comes after the UC timeline, below. So I guess it’s in continuity?
“Universal Century” timeline:
This is ‘main line’ Gundam – the 1979 series was set in the Universal Century, and Sunrise didn’t start messing around with alternates until 1994. However (and it pains me to bring this up), some of the material in UC represents a re-edit and re-release of older material (for theatrical releases) which was on occasion also changed so there are “canon” and “non-canon” versions — which I’m not going to go into.(Note, this is UC timeline order, not our-boring-AD-calender order) -
UC0068 Gundam: The Origin, currently scheduled as a 4 episode OVA series for 2015 – though with ‘event screenings’ in theaters (in Japan, anyway).
UC0079 Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) (43eps) – or as some call it, “OG” (original gangster) Gundam
UC0079 Gundam Movie Trilogy (1981-2) – 1979 series re-cut into 3 movies, each ~2hrs 20min in length
UC0079 The 08th MS Team (1996) (13 OVAs)
UC0079.1 MS IGLOO The Hidden One Year War (2004) (3 OVAs)
UC0079.2 MS IGLOO Apocalypse (2006) (3 OVAs)
UC0079.3 MS IGLOO 2 The Gravity Front (2009) (3 OVAs)
UC0080 War in the Pocket (1989) (6 OVAs)
UC0083 Stardust Memory (1991) (13 OVAs) – re-cut into a movie in 1992, released as Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: The Last Blitz of Zeon
UC0087 Zeta Gundam (1985) (50eps)
UC0087 Zeta Gundam – A New Translation (2005) – similar to the 1981 movie trilogy, a re-cut of Zeta Gundam into 3 films for theatrical release
UC0088 ZZ Gundam (1986) (47eps)
UC0093 Char’s Counterattack, Movie (1988)
UC0096 Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn (2010-2014) (7 OVAs, 60min each)
UC0123 Mobile Suit Gundam F91, Movie (1991)
UC0153 Victory Gundam (1993) (51eps)
- Like many anime fans (at least, mecha and robot anime fans), I am super-aware of Gundam but have seen remarkably little of it. So there’s that; Wikipedia is the better place to go for information on Gundam, but I am quite happy to share with you my impressions of it.
- Outside of any ‘official’ timeline—though technically UC—is the SD (superdeformed) Gundam specials, and the more recent Gundam-san show (based on what is apparently a popular 4-koma). For Gundam fans, these excursions into comedy are likely a lot of fun, but for most of us it would just be confusing. I doubt Sunrise & Rightstuf are bringing these over, though we may see them as extras on some of the box sets.
- 1993 Mobile Fighter G Gundam is of, ah, *special* note: 49 episodes of mecha-as-pro-wrestlers. This got a Cartoon Network broadcast in 2002, so some of you may have fond memories of it. It’s very different from the rest of gundam, though. “This hand of mine is burning red!”
- 2013 Gundam Build Fighters and 2014 Gundam Build Fighters Try – where kids build and fight with model Gundams, could be thought of as Pokémon Gundam if we’re being uncharitable. (the more direct comparison would be 2001’s Angelic Layer or 1983’s Plawres Sanshiro, but yes, they’re all proxy fighters). There were 25 episodes in the first season; the second season is currently airing. I’m pretty sure anyone could pick this up as it really is a stand-alone, but I’m guessing knowing about the mecha makes it more entertaining. (Apparently, there are also lots of easter eggs in this show, too)
- The entry point for folks in North America is probably still Gundam Wing, which was on Cartoon Network in 2000 (Gundam Wing was the first Gundam series to be broadcast on U.S. television) and is available on DVD (sort of; check Ebay and Amazon and budget for ‘collectible’ price points) — Gundam Wing matched the Gundam mecha designs with bishonen pilot character design, with a side dish of politics and a heaping helping of dialog. Gundam Wing exists in its own timeline and is different from the rest (though not so different as G Gundam) but still, for many, this was their first and so colors their perception of the franchise.
- If you’re more interested in action, The 08th MS Team also got a DVD release, it’s much shorter, it’s more military-oriented (as you might have guessed from the name) and while part of mainline UC Gundam, it works pretty well as a stand-alone story. This was my first Gundam (via Netflix rental) ten years ago.
- Easiest entry point? 1979 OG Gundam, probably, as that’s where the whole story started. A close second though may be the other series Sunrise and Rightstuf are leading with: Turn A Gundam. As the 20th Anniversary series and given both the involvement and the comments from Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, it would seem Turn A aspired to be more “Gundam” than the original Gundam. I look forward to watching it. While I will likely buy both (for the sake of the collection and my OCD) I will be purchasing Turn A first.
- Cautionary warning, for those seeking out Gundam DVDs: there are several companies that licensed bits of Gundam over the years, with various dubs produced. Actors aren’t always consistent from release to release and the quality of dubs is more miss (well, middling) than hit. Just sayin’. I don’t mind reading subtitles so it was never an issue for me, but you might find this overview at Otaku Revolution helpful.
I’m sure I missed something; please post any [mild, factual] corrections in the comments.