This is post number 4 in the Gundam Multiverse, and it will be devoted to exploring in more detail the amazing Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム), which is the original anime from where the whole franchise began. As such, it’s fundamental to understand not only the history, but also the philosophy of the Gundam Multiverse, and its characters. Since so much is known about this famous series, I will write about it in form of entries.
* Plot: A rebellion for independence among the space colonies orbiting around the Earth. The mightiest of them, Site 3/ Principality of Zeon, fights against the Earth Federation. After 1 year of war, the stalemate is broken by the appearance of a secret weapon. Yes, it’s a Gundam.
*Author: Yoshiyuki Tomino
*Episodes: 43 (out of 52 planned)
*Locations: Earth and colonies on LPs (for more see this one)
*Timeline: Year 0079 of the Universal Century
*Earth Federation’s military: A main feature is the White Base that hosts the Gundam, nicknamed “the Trojan Horse” by the enemy. The White Base is commanded by Noah Bright, a secondary character which also appears in a few sequels (and he’s remembered in the fandom not only for his strategic acumen but also for the remarkable *Bright’s Slap* – i.e. behavioural lessons given to the young Gundam pilot Amuro Ray). On board of the White Base there are, among others, two MCs.
One is Amuro Ray, son of the engineer that actually built the mecha prototype Gundam. At the beginning of the series Amuro is only 15, living on the neutral and soon-to-be-destroyed colony Site 7, and he’s a civilian on top of that. Not promising for his battle skills, but he will learn. Quickly.
The other is Sayla Mass, which joins the White Base as ship’s communication officer first and as fighter pilot later on. Incidentally, she’s also the little (estranged) sister of Char, fact she hides to the rest of the crew and that creates her a few problems.
*Enemies: Principality of Zeon, now run by the Zabi Family, a rather obvious bunch of villains. While you might sympathise with Prince Garma, betrayed by Char out of revenge, everybody agrees Gihren Zabi can’t die soon enough… (Since I have a soft spot for intelligent and strong female characters even when they’re nasty, I’m rather fond of their sister Kycilia). And there’s Lieutenant Commander Char, The Red Comet – real star of the Mobil Suit Gundam and of the whole franchise. Also known as Casval Rem Deikun, son of the former ruler of Zeon murdered by the Zabi family. (I’m going to dedicate a post to Char alone, given his importance for the story and the success of the Gundam Multiverse).
*Mechas: One of Tomino’s brilliant innovations, which transformed forever the mecha genre. Defined “a cross between an elaborate space suit and a one-man space ship”, it appears here in its original form. Gundam Model RX-78 was the first ever, and a celebrity in its own right (the Japanese post office has made stamps with it. And now a 1:1 scale model is on display at Diver City in Tokyo, Odaiba. If you go to Japan, it’s well worth a visit). On the enemy’s side, you have the Zaku (MS-06 Zaku II – ザクII, to be precise), one of the most recognisable mechas ever and the basic military unit of the Zeon forces. Generally green – with the exception of Char’s, whose colour is *surprise, surprise* red.
*Best Battle: Fandom is divided on this point – and there are many notable ones. My favourite is A Baoa Qu, for more than one reason.
A few more words about Mobile Suit Gundam in general. Some of its features will become a constant of the whole franchise, setting tone and style for all the following series – and namely: adolescent pilots of Gundam; complex political situations; face-heel turns of various kind; Char-Clone characters (all series will have their own. This one sports the original); and, in a sort of GoT anticipation, an everybody-can-die (and normally does) trope.
I will conclude with an interesting note about the release. While now it’s cult under any aspect, at the beginning Mobile Suit Gundam was nothing of the sort, and Tomino was obliged to cut it short due to poor ratings. What you can find now in DVD on Amazon is a recut from 1981 release, which added some animation, and established the series’ success once for all.
Finally – multimedia.
Listen to Mobile Suit Gundam– Ai Senshi
This song is not just this series’ theme; it became the theme of the entire franchise, also featuring in the 30th anniversary video.
And this is the original trailer of the US Series: