The History of Gundam: Evolution from TV Series to Iconic Model Kits

Mobile Suit Gundam first aired in 1979 and quickly became a landmark in the anime industry. It introduced viewers to a gripping science fiction world filled with giant robots called mecha. These mecha were not just fantastical machines but were treated as realistic military technology, setting Gundam apart from earlier shows. This unique approach captured the imagination of audiences and established the “real robot” genre.

To further engage fans, Gundam creators launched the first Gunpla model kits in 1980, sparking a new hobby for enthusiasts. These kits allowed fans to build and customize their favorite mobile suits from the series, providing a tangible way to connect with the Gundam universe. The detailed craftsmanship and endless customization options made Gunpla an instant success.

The combination of a compelling anime series and the hands-on experience of model building transformed Gundam from just a TV show into a cultural phenomenon. The series not only influenced the mecha genre but also inspired a dedicated fan base that spans generations.

Photo: Yoshiyuki Tomino 

Origins and Evolution of Gundam

The Gundam series began with a vision by Yoshiyuki Tomino and evolved into a vast universe with diverse stories, timelines, and iconic model kits. It has left a lasting impact on the mecha genre.

The Birth of Gundam and Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Vision

Yoshiyuki Tomino created the original Mobile Suit Gundam series in 1979. His goal was to portray a realistic space war with complex characters and deep themes. Unlike previous robot shows for children, this series targeted older audiences.

Tomino’s work introduced the RX-78-2 Gundam, a giant robot piloted by the young Amuro Ray. The series combined military conflict with personal struggles, making it unique. Although not an instant hit, it gained popularity through re-runs and model kits. “Mobile Suit Gundam” eventually became a cornerstone in anime history.

From ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ to a Diverse Universe

Gundam Museum

After the success of Mobile Suit Gundam, the series expanded into various timelines and stories. The original timeline, known as the Universal Century (UC), dealt with the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon.

Notable series in the UC timeline include Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. These series built on the foundation laid by Tomino by exploring social and political issues. As time progressed, new universes like After Colony (Gundam Wing) and Correct Century (Turn A Gundam) were introduced, each bringing fresh perspectives and designs.

Key Milestones in Gundam History

Key milestones in Gundam’s history include the release of Zeta Gundam in 1985, which added darker, more mature themes. Another milestone is the launch of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, a re-telling and expansion of the original series, providing deeper insights into characters and events.

The model kits, known as Gunpla, started in 1980 and became a worldwide phenomenon. These kits allowed fans to engage with the series creatively. Significant anniversaries, like the 40th anniversary in 2019, have also highlighted Gundam’s lasting legacy.

Key Milestones Table:

Year Event
1979 Mobile Suit Gundam premiere
1985 Zeta Gundam release
2021 Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin launch
1980 onward Gunpla model kits become popular

The Gundam Anime Phenomenon

Gundam plays a pivotal role in shaping the mecha genre, establishing key character archetypes, and influencing science fiction storytelling. Its impact is evident in both TV series and home video releases, expanding its reach and depth.

Defining the Mecha Genre

Mobile Suit Gundam began in 1979 and redefined giant robot anime. Unlike its predecessors, it introduced the “real robot” genre. The mecha featured in Gundam, known as Mobile Suits, functioned more like military vehicles rather than fantastical super robots. This provided a grounded reality to the series.

The conflict-driven narrative, combined with detailed mechanical designs, made Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and other series stand out. The emphasis on political intrigue and the economic aspects of war offered a unique blend of storytelling.

Character Archetypes and Developments

The Gundam series is known for its deep and complex characters. From the conflicted protagonist Amuro Ray to the enigmatic antagonist Char Aznable, these characters quickly became iconic.

Each series often introduces a young, inexperienced pilot who grows through conflict. Secondary characters are equally important, showcasing ideals of loyalty, betrayal, and personal growth. These archetypes have influenced countless other anime and stories in the genre.

Influence on Science Fiction Storytelling

Gundam’s intricate plots and futuristic settings have left a mark on science fiction. The series explores themes like the societal implications of war, the evolution of humanity, and the ethical implications of technology.

The focus on human struggles in a war-ravaged future has inspired other media to adopt similar themes. Gundam’s blend of personal drama with large-scale conflicts has set a precedent for storytelling in science fiction.

Expansion into Films and OVAs

Beyond TV series, Gundam has a rich history in films and Original Video Animations (OVAs). These formats allowed creators to explore side stories, alternate timelines, and deeper character backstories. Popular films, such as Char’s Counterattack, continue the storylines established in the TV series.

OVAs, like Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, provide detailed insights into specific battles and character dynamics. These extensions have helped maintain and expand the franchise’s popularity over the decades.