Gundam, the iconic mecha franchise

By Jenxi Seow



Unicorn Gundam

The Gundam spans multiple universes and timelines, known for its compelling narratives, intricate world-building, and iconic mobile suits.

The Gundam franchise features mecha that called mobile suits. It is a common theme for the protagonist’s mobile suit and similarly high-powered suits to bear the name Gundam.

The Universal Century is the original timeline and the franchise has since branched out into unrelated alternative universes.

Brief History of Gundam

In 1979, Yoshiyuki Tomino spearheaded the creation of the Gundam franchise, marking a pivotal moment in mecha anime history. The inaugural series, Mobile Suit Gundam, shattered conventions by introducing intricate character development, weaving political subtext, and providing a starkly realistic portrayal of warfare, setting an unprecedented standard in the genre. This series established the Universal Century timeline, which became the cornerstone of the Gundam universe.

Subsequently, the franchise branched out into alternate universes with series like Gundam Wing, Seed, 00, and Iron-Blooded Orphans, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Gundam narratives.

The Gundam franchise’s enduring legacy is exemplified by its profound cultural influence, groundbreaking mecha designs, and an unwavering, global fanbase. This status cements Gundam as a revered icon not only in the realm of anime but also in the broader landscape of mecha fiction.

Universal Century

Universal Century (UC) is the timeline of the original Gundam anime, and a cornerstone of the Gundam franchise. Introduced in 1979 with the release of Mobile Suit Gundam, it is the most expansive and detailed timeline in the Gundam universe. Its storyline is enriched through numerous television series, movies, novels, and manga, each contributing layers of depth to its complex political landscape and technological evolution.

It begins with the foundation of space colonies at each of Earth’s Lagrangian points and chronicles a complex saga of human conflict extending over multiple generations. Central to its narrative is the tension between the Earth Federation and various separatist groups, most notably the Principality of Zeon. The UC timeline explores themes of war, autonomy, and the evolution of humanity as it adapts to life in space, making it a pivotal framework within the Gundam series.

The UC narrative is renowned for its realistic approach to mecha design and its profound reflections on the consequences of war, both of which have significantly influenced the mecha genre and left a lasting legacy on science fiction storytelling.

Notable series in chronological order:

Future Century

Future Century (FC) is the timeline of Mobile Fighter G Gundam and its related projects. It is the fifth Gundam series and the first to feature an alternate universe. It diverges significantly from the traditional military and political narratives typical of other Gundam series, focusing instead on a global tournament known as the Gundam Fight.

Held every four years, this tournament requires each participating country to send a representative Gundam to Earth to compete in martial arts-style battles, with the winner earning the right to govern the space colonies until the next tournament.

Debuting in 1994, Mobile Fighter G Gundam introduces a more flamboyant and dramatic style, both in its storytelling and the design of its mobile suits, reflecting the diverse cultural backgrounds of each participating nation’s Gundam. This series stands out for its emotional depth and the personal growth of its characters, particularly the protagonist Domon Kasshu, who navigates through personal and familial conflicts throughout the tournament.

Future Century’s emphasis on individual combat and character-driven plot lines offers a fresh take on the Gundam universe, appealing to a different set of fans while exploring themes of love, redemption, and the human spirit.

After Colony

After Colony (AC) is the timeline of New Mobile Report Gundam Wing. The series is the sixth Gundam series and is also set in an alternate universe. It first aired in 1995 and introduced a new setting where Earth and its surrounding space colonies are engaged in a socio-political conflict. The plot focuses on a group of young pilots who use advanced mobile suits to challenge oppressive powers.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing serves as a pivotal series, particularly for Western audiences, as it was among the first Gundam series to be broadcast in North America, significantly raising the franchise’s international profile.

The After Colony timeline, like the Future Century, allows for exploration of themes distinct from those in the Universal Century, including pacifism, the cost of war, and personal freedom, set against a backdrop of high-stakes political intrigue and revolutionary action.

Notable series in chronological order:

After War

After War (AW) is an apocalyptic timeline of After War Gundam X and its related projects. It is the seventh Gundam series and was first broadcast in 1996. Like the series released in the previous two years, it is also set in an alternative universe.

This timeline follows the catastrophic aftermath of the Seventh Space War between Earth and its space colonies, which culminated in the near-complete devastation of Earth’s surface. The series explores a post-apocalyptic world where survivors struggle to rebuild civilization amidst continued threats and skirmishes involving the remnants of former military forces and their mobile suits.

After War Gundam X introduces a scenario where the scarcity of resources and the fractured remnants of humanity lead to conflicts that are smaller in scale but intense in their desperation. The series is noted for its themes of redemption, the importance of communication, and the quest for a peaceful existence despite the lingering shadows of past wars.

This timeline, like others introduced after the original Universal Century, serves to expand the narrative and thematic diversity of the Gundam franchise, offering a grittier and more survival-focused perspective on the consequences of war.

Correct Century

Correct Century (CC) is the timeline for ∀ Gundam, also known as Turn A Gundam, and its related projects. It is the ninth televised series in the Gundam franchise. Premiering in 1999, Turn A Gundam is distinguished by its significant role as a kind of culminating point for the various Gundam timelines, an idea conceptualized by Yoshiyuki Tomino.

This timeline posits a distant future where all previous Gundam timelines have ultimately converged through a series of catastrophic events known as the “Dark History,” which led to a technological regression on Earth.

Correct Century is set in a world that has returned to a more primitive, early 20th-century level of technology, with isolated pockets of advanced machinery and robotics from earlier civilisations. The series explores themes of technological loss and rediscovery, cultural integration, and the cyclic nature of history and conflict.

This timeline stands out for its unique approach to the Gundam universe, weaving together elements from various Gundam series into a narrative that examines the consequences of endless warfare and the possibility of a truly universal peace.

Cosmic Era

Cosmic Era (CE) is the timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny and related projects. It set the precedent as the first alternate universe with multiple TV series. It is also the second most developed timeline after Universal Century, with two TV series, an ONA, two compilation movies, and sequel movie.

CE is the tenth timeline in the Gundam franchise and represents a modern reimagining of the original Mobile Suit Gundam themes, adjusted for a new generation. Introduced in 2002 with the airing of Gundam SEED, the CE timeline focuses on the bitter conflict between the genetically engineered Coordinators and the unmodified Naturals, primarily represented by the military organizations ZAFT and the Earth Alliance. This mirrors the conflict between Earthnoids and Spacenoids in Universal Century.

Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny delve into the complexities of genetic engineering, ideological extremism, and the intense personal dramas of their characters, particularly the series’ protagonists, Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala.

The CE timeline’s narrative is known for its high level of dramatic intensity and a focus on character development, coupled with intricate mobile suit designs and action-packed sequences. This setting has contributed significantly to the franchise’s popularity, particularly in the early 2000s, appealing to both long-time fans and newer audiences through its updated visuals and contemporary themes.

Notable series in chronological order:

Anno Domini

Anno Domini is the timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and its related projects. It is the first Gundam anime series to be split into two seasons. 00 is the eleventh televised series in the Gundam franchise, premiering in 2007.

This alternate timeline represents a return to a more realistic and contemporary setting, grounded in a future version of our own world. It focuses on geopolitical tensions exacerbated by energy shortages, with the series’ central narrative revolving around a private military organization called Celestial Being. This group aims to eradicate war through armed interventions using advanced mobile suits known as Gundams.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 explores themes of interventionism, the morality of using force for peace, and the impact of advanced technology on global politics. The series is noted for its detailed political landscape, which reflects real-world issues like energy crises and the complexities of global governance.

The Anno Domini timeline stands out for its attempt to connect more directly with the present-day viewer by using a recognisable contemporary setting, making it a unique entry in the Gundam series that appeals to both new and seasoned fans of the franchise.

Notable series in chronological order:

Advanced Generation

Advanced Generation (AG) is the timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam AGE and its related projects. It is the twelfth televised series in the Gundam franchise, first airing in 2011. Set in an alternate universe, this timeline introduces a narrative that spans over a century, covering the lives of three generations of the Asuno family, each facing their own challenges and enemies but united by the legacy of the Gundam.

The series explores how the threats to humanity evolve over time, from mysterious, almost alien-like attackers known as the UE (Unknown Enemy) to more familiar conflicts involving rival factions and political intrigue.

Mobile Suit Gundam AGE is notable for its unique approach of depicting the unfolding history through different protagonists from the same family line, allowing for a deep exploration of the impact of familial legacy and the cyclical nature of conflict.

The AG timeline’s narrative structure provides a fresh perspective within the Gundam universe, reflecting on how the decisions of one generation affect the next, and how the past continually shapes the future. This approach, combined with its focus on character development and technological evolution within the series, contributes a distinctive narrative depth to the Gundam franchise.

Notable series in chronological order:

Regild Century

Regild Century (RG) is the timeline of Gundam Reconguista in G and its related projects. It is the thirteenth televised series in the Gundam franchise, premiering in 2014. This timeline follows the events of the Universal Century and is marked by a significant reduction in both the human population and the level of technological advancement, a period referred to as the “Universal Century’s Dark History.”

The series is set many millennia after UC in a more peaceful era where Earth is no longer the central hub of human civilisation. The space elevator, known as the Capital Tower, serves as the critical infrastructure linking Earth to the space colonies.

Gundam Reconguista in G explores themes of resource scarcity, the complexities of maintaining peace, and the challenges of technological inheritance and legacy. The RC timeline presents a society attempting to move beyond the militaristic and war-torn past of previous timelines, emphasizing a narrative of exploration and rediscovery of lost technologies and capabilities. It adds a layer of mystery and adventure to the traditional Gundam narrative, focusing on how the new generation deals with the remnants of the old world’s mistakes and achievements.

Post Disaster

Post Disaster (PD) is the timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS and its related projects. It premiered in 2015 as the fourteenth televised series in the Gundam franchise.

Set over 300 years after a catastrophic event known as the “Calamity War,” this timeline focuses on a period marked by economic disparity and social strife, particularly affecting human settlements on Mars and other outer planetary bodies. The series follows the lives of a group of young mercenaries, part of a private military company called Tekkadan, who pilot mobile suits to fight for their independence and better lives.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans introduces themes of child soldiers, corporate exploitation, and the struggle for autonomy against oppressive Earth-based rule. The PD timeline is distinguished by its gritty portrayal of warfare and the personal cost of conflict, examining the bonds formed between characters as they navigate their harsh realities.

This timeline’s focus on more grounded and morally complex issues, alongside its portrayal of harsh living conditions and the use of mobile suits as both tools of war and symbols of hope, adds a profound depth to the series and resonates strongly with contemporary themes of resistance and survival.

Ad Stella

Ad Stella (AS) is the timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. It is the fifteenth televised series in the Gundam franchise, premiering in 2022. This timeline introduces a new era in the Gundam universe, centered around a predominantly corporate-dominated society where powerful conglomerates play significant roles in governing and the development of technology, particularly mobile suits.

The series focuses on Suletta Mercury, a young pilot from the remote planet of Mercury who enrolls in an elite academy dominated by corporate heirs and heiresses, sparking new conflicts and uncovering hidden agendas.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury explores themes of corporate influence, gender identity, and social hierarchy, diverging from traditional Gundam narratives centered on large-scale military conflicts. The Ad Stella timeline is notable for its fresh take on the societal impact of mobile suit technology in a more privatized and competitive context.

It also stands out for its vibrant character dynamics and the introduction of a female protagonist, bringing a new perspective to the franchise. The series is a reflection of contemporary issues, encapsulating struggles against systemic power structures and the quest for personal agency within a technologically advanced but ethically complex world.