40 years ago, Mobile Suit Gundam premiered and changed the way we think of giant robot anime forever. With cool designs, interesting characters, and really crazy names, the many series have become a permanent part of the anime landscape. And now, it seems, we'll be getting a live-action adaptation via Netflix.
But why do we love Gundam so much? Funnily enough, it almost died out during its original run. But thanks to its second chance at popularity, we get to discover what's great about it over and over again with each new season.
These are a few of the things Gundam has done that make it stand out in the anime world.
An Alternative to Super Robots
Don't get us wrong, we love super robots. There's nothing like seeing a giant mecha punch an entire planet in half. But the premiere of Mobile Suit Gundam brought with it what would become the standard for Real Robots. These mecha are generally smaller, more logical in design, and equipped with weapons that are tactical rather than flashy.
Of course, Super and Real Robots have butted heads in the world of the series (see G Gundam, for example). And not all Gundams are plain and simple. But the original series offered a surprising alternative to rocket punches and chest-mounted flamethrowers.
A New Spin on Mecha Anime Stories
For a long time, giant robot heroes were just that: heroes. They leaped out of windows onto motorcycles and shouted at each other from the tops of buildings. The hot-blooded mecha pilot is a trope for that very reason.
But Mobile Suit Gundam starred Amuro Ray... who was absolutely not that type at all. This was a kid with talents that could save the world. But rather than embracing the life of a hero, he attempted to reject it over and over. Amuro becomes a hero, obviously. But he started somewhere that's a little more relatable for the rest of us normal humans.
Toys and Models
Remember that thing before, about how Gundam wasn't all that popular when it first aired? There was a chance that the franchise would die on the vine. But one thing turned the show's fortunes around: model kits.
Gunpla literally changed everything. Plastic model kit makers learned about the series via the cool new robot models, and those sales helped keep the show alive. Nowadays, Gunpla are such an important part of Gundam fandom that we have series like Gundam Build Fighters paying tribute to them.
A Universal Century
One of the most fun things about digging into a long-running show is learning more about its wider world. And while Gundam has shows set in separate worlds and timelines, you'll often see them come back to the "Universal Century": the show's main timeline, with tons of recurring characters and unfolding history.
Starting with the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the UC kicks off with the completion of humanity's first space colony. Stories set in the UC extend forward and backward along the timeline, both following our heroes into space and reaching back into their pasts to see why they became who they became.
Good or bad, hero or antihero, we love a good anime rivalry. And it's even better when the rivals evolve alongside each other and respect each other. In the Gundam franchise, you'll see lots of head-to-head fights between duos like these.
The most famous, of course, is the rivalry between Char Aznable and the aforementioned Amuro Ray. The duo meet again and again... and Char just seems to keep coming back. Even when he's not around in person, you can bet one of many "Char clones" (literal and otherwise) will be on hand to challenge our hero.
The Gundam franchise is still rolling, bringing us new stories, new robots, and new rivals every season.