Some genre fans may be already aware of the immense media and toy franchise that surrounds the brand name of Gundam. Gundam is one well-known branch of what is known as Mecha. Giant robots and Mecha are a creation unique to Japanese pop culture, and a worldwide phenomenon that has not only survived but thrived since its inception in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It’s a subgenre of Japanese animation that blends action, mystery, adventure, and even romance into an immensely popular mix of series and the stories that tell their tales. Out of this, the Gundam franchise emerged as the king of modern mecha regarding popularity. Gundam is a massive pop-culture phenomenon across the globe and has had an enormous influence on anime in general since its creation.
The franchise started on April 7, 1979, as an anime TV series called Mobile Suit Gundam, which was revolutionary in that it defined the real robot genre of anime by featuring giant robots in an aggressive war setting. The popularity of the first TV series and the merchandising that followed spawned a franchise that has come to include works released in various media. Titles have appeared in the form of multiple television series and OVAs, movies, manga, novels, and video games. The franchise has also led to the creation of one of the biggest toy and hobby franchises in the Japanese toy industry.
There have been many iterations of the franchise, including the original Gundam series Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Also, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00. I have been revisiting Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans lately, a more recent edition of the franchise with better character designs and artwork than the older versions of this long-lived franchise, and one of my favorites. Things have changed a lot regarding the quality, artwork, and animation for these shows, mostly for the better, making them more enjoyable to watch.
Now Legendary has announced the mecha franchise is finally getting the live-action movie treatment and I am, probably like many others, wondering what took you so long? Due to a collaboration with Sunrise, the film itself will take place in the “Universal Century” timeline where so many Gundam anime, manga and video games of the franchise take place.
The Universal Century storyline focuses on the war between the Principality of Zeon and the Earth Federation, with the series’ protagonist being teen civilian mechanic Amuro Ray. Thanks to his skills, Ray ends up piloting the RX-78-2 Gundam to defend his colony during the war.
We can only hope this film succeeds in making the subgenre of giant mecha more popular. Gundams cultural impact certainly helped another Legendary franchise enjoy some success: Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Which only partially sold genre fans on the considerable potential in science fiction entertainment that giant mecha could and should represent. This task will require excellent writing and execution.