Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム, Kidō Senshi Gandamu, also known as First Gundam or Gundam 0079) is a televised anime series, produced by Sunrise. Created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, it premiered in Japan on Nagoya Broadcasting Network and it was aired between 7 April 1979 to 26 January 1980, spanning 43 episodes. It was the first Gundam series and has subsequently been adapted in numerous sequels and spin-off.
The series won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize in 1979 and the first half of 1980. By the end of 2007, each episode of the original TV series averaged a sales figure of 80,928 copies, including all the different formats it was published in (VHS, LD, DVD, etc.).1 The first DVD box set sold over 100,000 copies in the first month of release, from 21 December 2007 to 21 January 2008.2
The series was later re-edited for theatrical release and split into three movies in 1981. Tomino also wrote a novel trilogy that told the story based on his original concept for the series.
Main article: Mobile Suit Gundam episodes
In the Universal Century year 0079, the Principality of Zeon has declared independence from the Earth Federation, and subsequently launched a war of independence. The conflict has directly affected every continent on earth, also nearly every space colony and lunar settlement. Zeon, though smaller, has the tactical upper hand through their use of a new type of humanoid weapons called mobile suits. After half of all humanity perish in the conflict, the war settled into a bitter stalemate lasting over eight months.
The story begins with a newly deployed Federation warship, the White Base, arriving at the secret research base located at the Side 7 colony to pick up the Federation’s newest weapon. However, they are closely followed by Zeon forces. A Zeon reconnaissance team member disobeys mission orders and attacks the colony, killing most of the Federation crew and civilian in the process. Out of desperation, a civilian boy Amuro Ray accidentally finds the Federation’s new arsenal—the RX-78 Gundam, and neutralized the situation. Scrambling everything they can, the White Base sets out with her newly formed crew of civilian recruits and refugees in her journey to survive, and unknowingly, change the course of the war.
Tomino’s original concept for the series was considerably much more grim, with Amuro dying halfway through the series. The crew of the White Base has to ally with Char, who is given a red Gundam, but finally having to battle him after he takes control of the Principality of Zeon. The original concept found expression in a series of novels written by Tomino soon after the show’s conclusion, and elements of the storyline weaved themselves into Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Char’s Counterattack.
The episode “Kukurus Doan’s Island” was removed from the English-Language version of the series at the request of Yoshiyuki Tomino himself. Doan appears in the game SD Gundam G Generation Advance. You can also fight Doan in his Zaku II in the video game Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs. Zeon.
The final episodes encompassing the battles of Solomon and A Baoa Qu were originally planned to be more elaborate, with exotic Zeon mecha defending the fortresses. Budget cuts scrapped the episodes and the designs, although at least two mecha, Dwadge and Galbaldy appeared in Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ.
The series was first aired in Japan on Nagoya Broadcasting Network between 7 April 1979 to 26 January 1980. It was intended to run a total of 52 episodes. However, it was cut to 39 episodes by the show’s sponsors due to low ratings. The staff managed to negotiate for a one-month extension to complete the series with 43 episodes.
In February 1980, the series was first broadcasted outside of Japan in Italy. It was later aired by Animax across Japan, and subsequently on its international networks, including Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, South Asia and other regions.
Following the success of New Mobile Report Gundam Wing, Bandai Entertainment released an edited English-dubbed version of Mobile Suit Gundam in the United States on Toonami on 23 July 2001. Although the series was not as well received as Wing, the ratings were good enough for the whole series to be aired. However, after the September 11th attacks, Cartoon Network pulled war-themed content and violent programming, leading to the cancellation of the series. This was verified by a Toonami producer in an interview with Anime News Network on 4 March 2002.3 The series finale was aired on 31 December 2001 as part of Toonami’s “New Year’s Eve-il” special.
Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim aired the series starting from 8 June 2002, but the series was pulled due to low ratings.
On 30 May 2006, Bandai Entertainment re-released the English dub of the TV series in a 10 volume DVD set. There was no Japanese audio track included, apparently because Yoshiyuki Tomino felt that the original mono mix was in too poor in quality.4 However, in 2007 the original series was released on DVD in Japan, which sold over 100 thousand copies within a month’s time from 21 December 2007 to 21 January 2008.5
At the 2010 New York Comic Con/New York Anime Festival, Bandai Entertainment announced that they would re-release Mobile Suit Gundam with both Japanese and English dubs. Only episode 15 was not dubbed at the request of Yoshiyuki Tomino. Bandai released Gundam in two sets in the summer of 2011.6 The first set was released on 13 September 2011.
Following the closure in 2012 of Bandai Entertainment, the series has been out of print. At their New York Comic-Con 2014 panel, Sunrise announced their plans to re-release all of the Gundam series on home video in North America, starting with the original series. They will be distributed via Right Stuf Inc..7 They will release the series on Blu-ray and DVD in October 2015.8
On 25 July 2015, UK anime distributor Anime Limited announced they will release Mobile Suit Gundam in cooperation with Sunrise for the first time in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray.
In both American TV showings and on the American DVD release, episode 15, “Kukurus Doan’s Island”, was cut out. Torino remained silent as to why the episode was cut and it remains a mystery, the episode becoming a “lost episode” of sorts, never being dubbed.9 The episode remained on the Japanese DVD release. This episode also has an error in continuity at minute 19 when the Gundam’s weapon is suddenly changed.
Following the success of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series, Yoshiyuki Tomino returned in 1981 and reworked the footage into three separate compilation movies. The first two movies, Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam: Soldiers of Sorrow, were released in 1981. The third movie, Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space, was released in 1982.
Each of the three movies is largely composed of old footage from the TV series, however Tomino felt that some things could be changed for the better. Tomino removed several aspects of the show which he felt were still too super robot-esque for the real robot series he intended Gundam to be, such as the Gundam Hammer weapon. The G-Armor upgrade parts were also completely removed and replaced in the narrative by the more realistic Core Booster support fighters, and Hayato receives a RX-77 Guncannon at Jaburo to replace the disadvantaged RX-75 Guntank. The third movie also includes a substantial amount of new footage expanding on the battles of Solomon and A Baoa Qu.
In the late 1990s, the three compilation movies were first released for directly to VHS dubbed in English with a different vocal cast from the later English dub of the TV show, which makes them among the first Gundam works released in English. The movies were released again in North America on 7 May 2002 in DVD format, available separately or in a boxed set. But these are available only with Japanese audio with English subtitles. This DVD boxset is identical to the 20th anniversary release of the movie compilation DVDs. The original voice cast members rerecorded their lines with the exception of those who were deceased. The 20th anniversary release is digitally remastered but many of the sound effects are replaced, most notably the futuristic gun sounds being replaced by louder machine gun sound effects. Also, the music soundtrack, while not remixed is rearranged and in some cases removed from some scenes. The vocal songs are rearranged also, especially in the closing credits of the second and third movies.
Bandai Visual announced the re-release of the Mobile Suit Gundam movies on DVD from new HD masters and with the original, theatrical, mono audio mix. The box set was scheduled for release in Japan on 21 December 2007.10 On 18 May 2010, Bandai Entertainment re-released the 20th anniversary version of the trilogy under their Anime Legends label.11 As with the TV series, the movies would be re-released in North America under Sunrise’s label, distributed by Right Stuf.12
Gundam was not popular when it first aired, and was in fact cancelled before the series was intended to end. The series was originally set to run for 52 episodes and was cut down to 39 by the show’s sponsors. However, the staff was able to negotiate a one-month extension to end the series with 43 episodes.
When Bandai received the licensing to the show’s mecha, however, things changed completely. With the introduction of their line of Gundam models, the popularity of the show began to soar. The models sold very well, and the show began to do very well in reruns and even better in its theatrical compilation. Audiences were expecting another giant robot show, and instead found the first work of anime in an entirely new genre, the mecha drama or the real robot genre as opposed to the super robot genre.
Main article: Mobile Suit Gundam novel
In 1979, before the end of the anime, Yoshiyuki Tomino himself created the first novelizations of the series. The novel trilogy allowed him to depict his story in a more sophisticated, adult, and detailed fashion. Along with this adaptation came several major changes to the story. For example, Amuro is already a member of the Federation military at the time of the initial Zeon attack on Side 7, and the main characters in the Federation serve on the White Base-class ships Pegasus and Pegasus II rather than the Pegasus-class White Base as depicted in the anime.13
Additionally, the war continues well into the year UC 0080 in the novels, whereas it concludes at the beginning of that year in the anime series. In the novel Amuro Ray is killed in the final attack against the Zeonic stronghold of A Baoa Qu when his RX-78-3 is pierced through the torso by a Rick Dom’s beam bazooka. This occurs as Char’s unit attempts to warn him about Gihren’s intention to destroy the fortress and take the Federation’s offensive fleet along with it. Char and the crew of Pegasus II, along with handpicked men under Kycilia Zabi’s command, make a deep penetrating attack against the Side 3 and together kill Gihren Zabi, after which Kycilia is killed by Char. Tomino later lamented that had he known that anime ending would be different and that another series would be made, he would not have killed off Amuro in the novels.
The three novels were translated into English by Frederik Schodt and published by Del Rey Books in September 1990. At the time, there were no officially recognized romanizations of character and mecha names, and a variety of different spellings were being used in the English-language fan community. In the original three novels, therefore, Mr. Schodt wrote the name “Char” as “Sha.” “Sha” is a transliteration of the Japanese pronunciation, although Mr. Tomino later publicly confirmed at Anime Expo New York 2002 that the name was originally based on the French name Charles Aznavour, a popular French-language singer. (Interestingly, the 2004 edition of the English translation revealed that Schodt felt that the “Char” rendering “seemed too close” to Aznavour’s name.) He also rendered “Zaku” as “Zak,” and (after consulting with Mr. Tomino) “Jion” as “Zeon,” instead of “Zion,” which was in use in some circles.
Some North American fans, already attached to particular spellings, took great umbrage at Schodt’s renditions, forgetting that in the original Japanese most character and mecha names are written in katakana, and that there were, therefore, no “official spellings.” Many years later, when the Gundam series was finally licensed in North America, the rightsholders did come up with a unified list of “official spellings” for English-language material, and some of these spellings include Schodt’s renditions, as well as the renditions to which certain North American fans were attached.
In 2004, Frederik Schodt revised his original translation of the books, which had been out of print for nearly a decade. What had been a three volume set in the 1990 Del Rey edition was re-released by Stone Bridge Press as one single volume of 476 pages (with a vastly improved cover design), titled Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation, Confrontation. Since the rights holders in Japan by this time had created a unified (although still evolving) list of romanized character and mecha names, Schodt was able to use it, and Amuro’s rival in the novel thus became “Char” and not “Sha”; the popular Zeon Mobile Suit, similarly, became “Zaku,” and not “Zak”.14
There have been two manga series based on Mobile Suit Gundam. The first one is Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 by Kazuhisa Kondo. It was published in Dengeki Comics from 1985 to 1986 in a total of twelve tankōbon volumes. Viz Media later published its first nine. volumes between 2000 and 2003. The second manga is Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin by anime character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. It was published from June 2001 to June 2011 in Kadokawa Shoten’s Gundam Ace magazine and collected in a total of 23 tankōbon volumes. The series was first released in English by Viz media but was dropped before it was completed; It is now currently being released by Vertical Publishing as of March 2013.
Besides adaptations, there is a popular parody yonkoma manga titled Mobile Suit Gundam-san, which was written and drawn by Hideki Ohwada and serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s Gundam Ace magazine since 2001. This manga was adapted into an anime in 2014. Ohwada also created a spinoff manga, Gundam Sousei (ガンダム創世), which follows Yoshiyuki Tomino and the Sunrise staff as they work to make the television series and the compilation movies. This series was serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s Gundam Ace magazine from 2009 to 2011 and compiled in the Gundam-san tankōbon starting in Volume 5. The manga was also collected in two tankōbon volumes released in 24 January 2014.15
Main article: Mobile Suit Gundam video games
- Gundam Battle Assault, Gundam Battle Assault 2
- Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise From the Ashes
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic Front
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space
- Mobile Suit Gundam VS Series
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire (Mobile Suit Gundam: Target in Sight in Japan)
- MS Saga: A New Dawn (Mobile Suit Gundam: True Odyssey in Japan)
- Dynasty Warriors: Gundam
- Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2
- Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 (Gundam Musou in Japan)
- Mobile Suit Gundam (1993 arcade game)
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Spirits of Zeon ~Dual Stars of Carnage~
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Spirit of Zeon ~Memory of Soldier~
- Quiz Mobile Suit Gundam: Monsenshi
- Mobile Suit Gundam Giren’s Greed: Blood of Zeon
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Lost War Chronicles
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Climax UC
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The One Year War
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Path of the Soldiers (also referred to as Ace Pilot)
- Gundam Battle (series)
- SD Gundam G-Generation (series)
- SD Gundam SCAD Hammers
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Operation: Troy
- Kidō Senshi Gundam: Senjō no Kizuna
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Gundam vs Gundam
- Amuro Ray …. Toru Furuya / Brad Swaile
- Char Aznable …. Shuichi Ikeda / Michael Kopsa
- Bright Noa …. Hirotaka Suzuoki / Chris Kalhoon
- Mirai Yashima …. Fuyumi Shiraishi / Cathy Weseluck
- Sayla Mass …. Yō Inoue / Alaina Burnett
- Fraw Baw …. Rumiko Ukai / Kristie Marsden
- Kai Shiden …. Toshio Furukawa / Richard Ian Cox
- Hayato Kobayashi …. Kiyonobu Suzuki / Matt Smith
- Ryu Jose …. Shōzō Iizuka / Ward Perry
- Lalah Sune …. Keiko Han / Willow Johnson
- Gihren Zabi …. Banjo Ginga / Hiro Kanagawa
- Kishiria Zabi …. Mami Koyama / Michelle Porter
- Dozle Zabi …. Daisuke Gouri / French Tickner
- Degwin Zabi …. Ichiro Nagai / Chris Schneider
- Ramba Ral …. Masashi Hirose / John Payne
- Crowley Hamon …. Yumi Nakatani / Lenore Zann
- Directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino
- Produced by Yasuo Shibue, Hobuyuki Okuma, and Wataru Sekioka
- Written by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate
- Music by Takeo Watanabe
- Character design by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
- Mechanical design by Kunio Okawara
- Art direction by Mitsuki Nakamura
- Official website
- Mobile Suit Gundam on Wikipedia
- Mobile Suit Gundam on Anime News Network’s Encyclopedia
- Mobile Suit Gundam at the Internet Movie Database