— Mooks throughout the franchise. It usually ends badly for them.
The franchise bearing the name Gundam can be considered the anime equivalent of Star Trek. In 1979, a planned 52-episode series got cut down to 43 due to low ratings, but Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidou Senshi Gundam in Japanese) became easily one of the two most well-known and long-running series of the Humongous Mecha genre (the other most well-known being Macross). Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino, it's a veritable merchandising empire encompassing manga and video game tie-ins, plastic models and toys, (theme park rides and race team sponsorships). The comparisons to Star Trek line up in the rousing success of reruns, movies and the sequel series Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which solidified its status as a franchise, and where a western show would have a Trekkie, a Japanese show is likely to include a Gundam fanatic. Theme-wise, however, the franchise could be considered an antithesis of what Roddenberry's work represented; if there are strange new worlds to see, expect them to have a lot of the same problems we deal with on Earth.Gundam effectively invented the Real Robot genre, depicting mobile suits as mass-produced machines of war similar to planes or tanks, rather than unique creations solely responsible for defending against enemies. Of course, its Super Robot roots remain in the Gundams themselves — unique mobile suits (typically Super Prototypes or Ace Custom units) piloted by the main character(s) and the focus of much of the show.One of the most noticeable quirks of the Gundam metaseries is its prolific use of Alternate Universes; to date, there are eight different Gundam universes, each identified by the name of the calendar they use:
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Universal Century (UC)
The One Year War
Mobile Suit Gundam (1979 TV series, recut in 1981 and 1982 into three Compilation Movies): In UC 0079, the Principality of Zeon fights a war of "independence"note More like conquest of the Earth and other colonies. against the Earth Federation, the initial skirmishes killing off half the human population. The story follows the refugee crew of the Earth Federation ship the White Base (and its load of Super Prototype mobile suits) as they battle their way through the latter half of what would later be called the One Year War. What set this series apart as Real Robot was the large scale military use of mecha, the in-depth technical specifications of the future technology and the depiction that both the Federation and Zeon had good and bad people fighting for them, rather than one side of heroes and one side of faceless evil mooks.
Record of the MS Wars (1984, manga): A side story by Kazuhisa Kondo, (who also penned a graphic novelization of the original series incorporating elements of both the TV series and movie that was briefly published in English) starring Frederick F. Brown, a young Zeon soldier who participates in many pivotal battles of the One Year War (and even makes a cameo in the aforementioned novelization).
Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story: The Blue Destiny (1996-7 Sega Saturn game, has novel and manga adaptations): Late in the One Year War, Federation pilot Yuu Kajima leads a "guinea pig team" that tests out new technologies before they hit full production. During one sortie, his team is attacked by a berserk blue GM, which Yuu barely drives off. This gets him assigned as the official pilot of the machine, Blue Destiny 1, and draws him into a conflict with "The Paladin of Zeon", Ace Pilot Nimbus Schtarzen, over the mysterious EXAM System used by the Blue Destiny units and Nimbus' Efreet Kai.
Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes (1999 Sega Dreamcast game): Follows the exploits of the White Dingo Team, a Federation combat group much in the vein of the 08th MS Team, as they fight to retake Australia from the Zeon forces.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt (2012 ongoing manga): Set in 0079 during the One Year War, the story's focus is on the "Thunderbolt Sector", a shoal zone where old destroyed space colonies are discarded, so named because of the electrical discharges between various debris. The main character is Federation MS pilot Io Flemming, who is dispatched with other federal forces to the area; awaiting him is Zeon sniper Daryl Lorenz.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0079: Zeonic Front (2001 PlayStation 2 game): Described as Rainbow SixmeetsGundam, this strategic action game focuses on the Midnight Fenrir Team, a Zeon special forces unit that operates just off to the side of the events of Mobile Suit Gundam and crosses swords with Federation pilot Lt. Agar and Gundam Unit 6 "Mudrock".
Mobile Suit Gundam Lost War Chronicles (2002 manga, video game): Set shortly after the one year war, the focus is on Federation Captain Matt Healy, who leads his Special Forces Experimental Unit into battle with Zeon. On the other side, Ken Bederstadt, a lieutenant with Zeon's Foreign Legion gears up to confront Federation forces.
Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story: From Place Beyond the Blaze (2003 manga, also called Space, To the End of A Flash): A spinoff of the Original Generation plot from the PlayStation 2 game Encounters in Space, this awkwardly-titled manga focuses on the White Base's sister ship Thoroughbred and its two main pilots, veteran Luce Kassel and rookie Ford Romfellow, pilots of Gundam Units 4 and 5.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Deleted Affair: Portrait of a Young Comet (2001-9 manga): Taking place after the One Year War, this manga focuses on Char Aznable's life on the asteroid base Axis up to his return to the Earth Sphere in UC 0083. It also details a young Haman Karn, and her rise to power as well as her relationship with Char. Fixes a couple plot holes from the MSG movies (e.g. M'Quve's disappearance) and serves as a bridge to both Gundam 0083 and Zeta Gundam.
Mobile Suit Gundam Battlefield Record U.C. 0081 -The Wrath of Varuna- (2009 Playstation 3 game with a manga adaption): Side story set just after the one year war, it focuses on an elite Federation unit known as the Phantom Sweep Corps, led by Hugues Courand, assigned to hunt down Zeon remnants. However an elite Zeon force, called the Invisible Knights, led by Erik Blanke, stands against them. Had an animated OVA prequel (the only video game to get such), called Mobile Suit Gundam Battlefield Record: Avant-Title.
Mobile Suit Gundam The Plot To Assassinate Gihren (2007-2010 manga): An unusual Gundam, in that it doesn't focus on massive battles between mobile suits, but is a detective story, following Leopold Fieseler, a detective with the Zeon Public Peace Department/Zeon Public Safety Department who is tasked with investigating various terrorist attacks against the Principality of Zeon during the One Year War. What he discovers is a plot to assassinate Ghiren Zabi by the anti-Zeon group, called Valkyrie (an obvious throw back to the name of the operation that almost killed Adolf Hitler).
Mobile Suit Gundam: We're Federation Hooligans!! (2007 manga): This oddly named five volume manga follows a federation special unit in December 0079 called Nemesis. Is tied into the infamous critically panned Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire. It had a sequel, called...
Mobile Suit Gundam: Katana (2009 Graphic Novel): An adaptation of the arcade game Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield, the plot, set in 0084, follows Lt Col Ittou Tsurugi, the new captain of the Federation's special forces unit BGST (Barghest). operating about concurrent with Zeta Gundam.
Gundam UC Hard Graph: Iron Mustang (2011 manga): Yet another OYW story, this one still manages to be a fairly unique entry into the Gundam saga for several reasons. A P.O.V. Sequel that follows a group of Zeon Soldiers who appeared in a single episode of the original TV series (ep. 14, Time Be Still, for the record) and their experiences during the One Year War. One thing that sets it apart from most Gundam stories is that the main character, Chief Petty Officer Cuaron, is not a mobile suit pilot but rather a scout who rides a Wappa hoverbike, the Iron Mustang of the title.
The Gryps Conflict and Neo Zeon Wars
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985 TV series, three 2005 Compilation Movies): Set in UC 0087, eight years after the original series ended. It featured a mix of new and returning characters joining together to form the AEUG and fight first against the vicious Titans and later Axis Zeon, making it essentially one long Mêlée à Trois series. Comparable to Star Trek: The Next Generation in expanding the mythology of the saga. Three new compilation movies were made in 2005 as a celebration of Gundam's 25th anniversary known as A New Translation, with new clips added in and major changes to the story plot.
Mobile Suit Gundam École Du Ciel (2001 manga): Set in UC 0085, the series follows a girl called Asuna Elmarit, generally regarded by fans as being Gundam's first female leadnote she isn't, technically as she goes from unsure test pilot to member of the AEUG.
Gundam Sentinel (1987-8 photonovel): A story depicting events in between Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, telling of elite officers going rogue from the Earth Federation and forming a new anti-colony force, the New Desides. In response, Task Force Alpha is sent to quell their uprising before it gets out of hand. Notable for being the series that introduced Hajime Katoki, who would become one of the franchise's most prolific mechanical designers.
Four's Story: And to a Soldier... (2001 novel): A prequel telling the story of how the insane Tyke Bomb known as Four Murasame came to be, from losing her parents in the Colony Drop at the end of 0083 to her time at the Murasame labs where she befriends two other test subjects and goes on a mission to recover a stolen Prototype Psycho Gundam. Features Miharu Ratokie's younger brother from the original series as Three Murasame.
Advance of Zeta: Flag of the Titans (2002 novel): A prequel to Zeta Gundam, it tells the story of the first Titans unit. There are two versions: a Dengeki Hobby serial that takes the form of a photo-novel accompanied by mechanical designs, technical information, and model photographs, and a Dengeki Daioh serial is in manga format. Each version covers the same events, but some characters and events are depicted only in the photo-novel or only in the manga. Created as a a collaborative project between the staff of Dengeki Hobby Magazine and Sunrise, it is a popular long running series.
Advance of Zeta: The Traitor to Destiny (2010 novel): Another prequel to Zeta Gundam, however this one was created with a new staff, new mecha, new characters and a new setting completely different from the previous series.
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (1986 TV series): Deals with the fallout of Zeta's conclusion, with the victorious Axis Zeon declaring themselves Neo Zeon and launching a new war against the Earth. It falls to the battered remnants of the AEUG to combat the Neo Zeon menace. The early episodes are surprisingly lighthearted, as they take the POV of civilians not directly involved in the events of Zeta Gundam. This makes it highly divisive among the fandom; it's either loathed as Mood Whiplash or seen as the franchise's sigh of relief after Zeta's gratuitous Wangst.
Under the Gundam: Double Fake (manga): A side-story set between ZZ Gundam and Char's Counterattack, it is based around a decoy operation launched by Char in preparation for his Neo Zeon movement, and notably features, for what is possibly the only time in the entire franchise, a fake Gundam, hence the title. Later had a sequel called Mobile Suit Gundam Almarya, set very far down the Universal Century line.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Revival of Zeon (1988 manga): An Interquel between ZZ and Char's Counterattack by Kazuhisa Kondo depicting the Neo-Zeon forces on Earth racing to get back into space to join up with Char. Light on story or character development, it's mainly an Excuse Plot for lots of set piece battles showcasing Kondo's gritty yet obsessively detailed, and often strangely organic, style of mecha design. Notable for featuring both the limited production versions of various Gundams introduced in Sentinel as well as Frederick Brown making an appearance as one of the Neo-Zeon commanders.
Mobile Suit Gundam Chars Counterattack (1988 movie): Set in UC 0093. After vanishing at the end of Zeta, Char returns and founds a second Neo Zeon with the intent of dropping Axis on Earth to cause a nuclear winter. Only the Londo Bell taskforce, lead by Amuro and Bright, has the manpower and initiative to stop him. CCA is the ultimate conclusion of Amuro and Char's character arc, and clears the field for new stories to come.
Mobile Suit Gundam UC The Postwar: The War After the War (2012 novel): Set between Char's Counterattack and Unicorn in 0094 and based on the videogame Mobile Suit Gundam UC The Postwar, the focus is on a botched deal that results in the theft of a high performance prototype mobile suit by the Neo Zeon group, The Sleeves.
Mobile Suit Gundam U.C. 0096 Fragments of Starlight (2010 manga): A manga side story set concurently with Unicorn, this tale focuses on two lesser known pilots sent to assist the Nahel Argama after it was attacked by Neo Zeon remnant forces called the Sleeves.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway's Flash (1989 novel series): Set in UC 0105, the novel centers on Hathaway Noa, the estranged son of eternal captain Bright Noa as he leads an anti-Federation terrorists and suffers one hell of a Downer Ending. Though it springs from the continuity of the Char's Counterattack novels rather than the films, fans tend to count it as having happened.
Late Universal Century and the Era of the Warring Space States
Mobile Suit Gundam F 91 (1991 movie): In UC 0123, the forces of the Crossbone Vanguard begin taking over the Frontier Side colonies as part of their plan to create the elite society "Cosmo Babylonia". It falls to young civilian Seabook Arno to pilot the Gundam F91 and battle the Crossbone menace. Originally intended as a TV series, after 13 episodes were scripted it was instead turned into a movie, resulting in a rather rushed story.
Mobile Suit Gundam F90 (1990 manga): A prequel to F91, the story is put in motion when a faction of Zeon that has been hiding on Mars for decades steals a prototype Gundam unit and the Federation sends the legendary 13th Autonomous Corps to retrieve it.
Mobile Suit Gundam Formula 91: Formula Wars 0122 (1991 Super Famicon game): Essentially a sequel to Gundam F90 it covers Mars Zeon's invasion of Earth.
Mobile Suit Gundam Silhouette Formula 91 in UC 0123 (1992-3 manga): Another manga tying in with the movie, though this one ends three days before it and covers separate events. It focuses on Anaheim Electronics' "Silhouette Project" (read: stealing data on the F91 and using it themselves) and their encounter with the Crossbone Vanguard, a colony of Zeon die-hards, and a corrupt Federation officer.
Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam (1994-7 manga): A continuation of the F91 story written by Tomino himself; the Crossbone Vanguard, now lead by the heroes of F91, have become Space Pirates and fight a shadow war against the mysterious Jupiter Empire. Has two sequels, Skull Heart (2003-4) and The Steel 7 (2006-7) which wrap up the plotline and tie it into...
Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993 TV series): Set in UC 0153, the story deals with the elitist Zanscare Empire trying to conquer Earth in the name of their queen, while the Federation's final descent into stagnation leaves the planet's defense in the hands of a civilian militia called the League Militaire. Famous for Yoshiyuki Tomino going through a battle with depression while writing this series, making it Darker and Edgier even than Zeta.
Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Ghost (2011-?? manga): Set during the last part of Victory, as Zanscare prepares to use the Angel Halo. Focuses on a revived Crossbone Vanguard who are trying to sabotage Zanscare's efforts, in particular a bioweapon called "Angel's Call", which Zanscare plans on integrating with Angel Halo.
Mobile Suit Victory Gundam Side Story (1995 manga): Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Set in 0153, it stars Uso Evin mopping up what ever remains of Zanscare, and getting ambushed. He (and one of his attackers, a girl named Kamui Gian) is rescued by a disguised, now adult Judau Ashta, the main character of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. Together, they set out to seek the mysterious mobile armor that attacked them, the Zong.
Gaia Gear (1987-1991 novel series): A far-future sequel to the Universal Century, set in the early UC 0200s and centering on a "memory clone" of Char who leads the rebels of Metatron against Manhunter, a Titans-like entity. Originally written before F91 and Victory, their creation pushed Gaia Gear into Alternate Continuity (though Gundam Unicorn did feature a Continuity Nod with the appearance of the Manhunters).
G-Saviour (2000 live action movie, novel): Originally intended for Gundam's Big Bang Project (the 20th anniversary) in 1999. Besides being set in the UC 0200s, it has extremely little to do with Gundam overall; this, combined with the poor production qualities, has resulted in fans and Sunrise alike trying to pretend it never happened*
"]] (but not officially disbarring it from canon). It also got a video game set in the same era but with its own plot, actual Continuity Nods, and decent gamplay, making it much better received than the film. There is also a novelization of movie that differs in that it provides better connections to the rest of the Universal Century and tells the story more like a conventional Gundam work.
Gundam Legacy (manga): A collection of side stories set during multiple other Gundam series and works, generally taking place between UC 0079 and UC 0093 (from the original Mobile Suit Gundam up through ''Char's Counterattack). Each story features a different set of characters and different events from various works throughout the timeline.
Choukyuu! Mobile Fighter G Gundam (2010 manga): Essentially a retelling of the original anime, with some slight alterations to the plot (portraying Domon as a more comical Idiot Hero, for example).
After Colony (AC)
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995 TV series): Set in AC 195, five Gundams are sent to Earth from the space colonies to fight for independence from the Earth Sphere Alliance. Sides change frequently even among the Gundam pilots as the politics and manipulations grow more and more complicated. Notable for being the first Gundam series released in English and was a megahit on Cartoon Network, helping to bring the other franchise members into English adaptations. The uncut version shown late night also helped inspire the [adult swim] programming block.
Episode Zero (1997 manga): A series of vignettes focusing on key moments in the childhoods of the Gundam Pilots and Relena that helped make them who they are in the series. Since it was penned by the show's head writer, and Word Of God said that it just barely missed being animated due to scheduling conflicts (the two episodes it would have made up became Clip Shows instead), Episode Zero is more or less considered canon.
Gundam Wing Dual Story: G-Unit, aka The Last Outpostin America (1997 manga): A sidestory beginning roughly halfway through the TV series, G-Unit focuses on the Asteroid Belt colony MO-V that's developed its own modular Gundams with a special Super Mode. This draws the attention of OZ's black ops division Prize, which begins a months-long siege of the colony. Not to be confused with another G-Unit.
Battlefield of Pacifists (1997 manga): One of the three Interquel manga, focusing on rumors of a lost OZ mobile doll plant and the race between OZ remnants and a supposed pacifist group to get their hands on it while the Gundam Team works to find and destroy it.
Blind Target (1998 radio drama and manga): The second Interquel, focusing on a shadowy rebel group attempting to stir up war once more, and the efforts of the Gundam pilots to stop them.
Ground Zero (1998 manga)
New Mobile Report Gundam Wing Sidestory: Tiel's Impulse (1998 manga): A short manga, it deals with a young girl whose quest to find her missing brother leads her to discovering Romefeller's secret plant for creating mass produced Gundams. Because it was made for a book on model customization, it's a little light on substance and all the MS are just parts swaps of existing designs.
Frozen Teardrop (2010 novel): A sequel written by the series' head writer Katsuyuki Sumisawa and serialized in Gundam Ace Magazine. Set some time after the end of the series in the date "MC 0022", it focuses on the new generation of Preventers, who revive a frozen Heero in order to battle a new enemy based out of Mars. Includes Flash Backs to the era before the original anime, showing what the generation before Heero's did and how it shaped the future conflicts. Was not at all well received by fans, in the English speaking world, at least, due to numerous improbable plot twists on par with a stereotypical Soap Opera.
Gundam Wing Endless Waltz: The Glory of Losers (2010 manga): Primarily an External Retcon of the television series, using the Endless Waltz-styled versions of the Gundams and adding plot elements from the other sidestories like Episode Zero and Frozen Teardrop.
After War (AW)
After War Gundam X (1996 TV series), has not been released in English. It deals with a variation of the UC timeline, set in a dystopian future After the End; 15 years prior to the series, the war between Earth and the Space Colonies got out of hand and the two factions Colony Dropped each other into near-oblivion. While everyone fights just to survive, a group of Disaster Scavengers attempts to protect Newtypes from the rest of the world and protect the rest of the world from them. It was canceled early like the original series, but that was attributed to poor scheduling rather then lack of quality.
After War Gundam X: Under the Moonlight (2004-5 manga): A sequel set nine years after the anime's end, it focuses on Rick Aller, a Vulture pilot who, during a salvage competition, uncovers a black Gundam X whose cockpit contains the mysterious Newtype, Kai. In an ironic twist, the story's runaway popularity netted it an unexpected extension.
Correct Century (CC)
∀ Gundam (1999 TV series, 2002 compilation movies): The technologically advanced people of the Moon decide to return to live on Earth, which upsets the agrarian locals, who were there first. Violent conflict results, despite the wishes of leaders of both sides of the conflict, with the Moonrace's mobile suits pitted against the local milita's recently-excavated relics of the mysterious Black History. Yoshiyuki Tomino returns as director, but the mecha designs were (in)famously done by American Syd Mead, the man responsible for the visual design of works such as Blade Runner and Aliens. Fans regard it as one of the best in the franchise, notably avoiding the infamous "Kill 'em All" ending for which Tomino was famous. Despite this it is notable for being the only Gundam series with no sequels or spinoffs whatsoever. There are, however a manga and a novelization which are notable for featuring more Continuity Nods to the UC stories, including a Haro that transforms into a Child Bug from F91 and Guin Rhineford trying to fight the Turn A with an MRX-009 Psycho Gundam called the Black Doll (which was famously featured in Super Robot Wars).
Cosmic Era (CE)
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (2002 TV series, 2004 compilation movies): In CE 71, tensions between Coordinators and Naturals have erupted into outright warfare, with the Coordinator militia ZAFT employing mobile suits for the first time. The first half of the series mirrors the plot of the original Mobile Suit Gundam quite closely, and is even occasionally called "21st Century First Gundam". The second half diverges quite quickly, however, when the main characters decide that the Earth Alliance and ZAFT are each as bad as the other and decide to Take a Third Option. For the anime's 10th anniversary, the series has been rereleased in HD, called SEED HD Remaster.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray (2002- manga series): Set alongside the events of SEED, Astray focuses primarily on junk tech Lowe Guele and mercenary Gai Murakumo, who discover two prototype Gundams in the ruins of Heliopolis and battle Orb aristocrat Rondo Gina Sahaku, who possesses the third. Notable for intersecting with the events of the series to close several Plot Holes without resorting to actual RetCons. Astray is a series unto itself, with an ever-expanding number of manga and photonovels that continue even as the primary SEED story has stalled.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny (2004 TV series, 2006-7 compilation movies): Considered the Zeta Gundam to Gundam SEED's Mobile Suit Gundam, it features a combination of new and returning characters in a second round of the Natural-Coordinator conflict. In the beginning, it centers around Shinn Asuka, a former citizen of Orb who is now a Gundam pilot for ZAFT. Through the course of the series, pretty much everyone turns out to have secret devious schemes, and about halfway through the series Kira Yamato returns and usurps the role of main character. Though successful in Japan, Destiny has a very vocal Hatedom and a truly massive Broken Base in the West, with fan battles over the series continuing well after its conclusion. As with SEED: HD Remaster, Sunrise announced that Gundam SEED Destiny will get the HD Remaster treatment in the future.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED C.E. 73: Stargazer (2006 ONA): Set in the same timeframe as Gundam SEED Destiny, notable for its initial release being online (hence its being labeled an ONA, or Original Net Animation) rather than TV or DVD.
A movie intended to conclude the Cosmic Era timeline was announced in 2005 following the end of SEED Destiny, but head writer Chiaki Morosawa's ongoing battle with her illness during production (according to an April 2008 interview with Animage magazine, Morosawa had uterine fibroids and an ovarian cyst, and had a hysterectomy performed) has pushed it into Development Hell.
Anno Domini (AD)
AKA "the current calendar system", notable for being the only Gundam timeline to avert the Exty Years from Now of other timelines.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2007 TV Series, 2009-10 compilation movies): The first Gundam series to be split into two explicit seasons (of 25 episodes each), with a six month real-time (and four year in-universe) gap between them. The first season deals with the mysterious group known as Celestial Being who, armed with Gundams, announce their plan to end war on planet Earth by killing anyone and everyone who starts one. The second season deals the fallout of The Reveal at the end of the first season, with Celestial Being struggling to put their hijacked plan back on track, and the true purpose of Celestial Being coming to the fore — and becoming another point of conflict.
A Wakening of the Trailblazer (2010) is a movie that concludes the 00 timeline. Taking place two years after the end of the series, it features Celestial Being's plan coming into its final and most important stage: "the dialogues to come". Making this movie particularly interesting is the first appearance of an alien species in the Gundam franchise.
A number of manga and photonovel sidestories also exist, detailed on their own page.
Advanced Generation (AG)
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE TV Series (2011): After generations of warfare, humanity has finally achieved lasting peace on Earth and in space under the Federation. But in the year A.G. 108, an unknown enemy attacks from beyond colonized space. Flit Asuno, orphan of a long line of engineers, rebuilds the legendary mobile suit "Gundam" to save humanity, but the revelation of the enemy's identity and the Federation's dark secrets set the stage for a war that will last nearly a century. The story follows three generations of protagonists—starting with Flit, then his son Asemu, and finally his grandson Kio, with a final arc that brings all three of their stories together.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE: Treasure Star (2011 manga): A short interquel taking place in between the first and second generations of the main series. It provides some explanation as to what happened to numerous side characters that never showed up again.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE: Memories of SID (2011 manga): Another interquel, this time set in between the second and third generations. This manga shows exactly what happened to Asemu to make him disappear and how he came to join the Bisidian Pirates. It also provides further backstory on the EXA-DB and marks the first appearance of the Mobile Armor SID.
Gundam EXA (2011- manga): Set in the distant future of all Gundam universes, EXA centers on Leos Aroi, a "G-Diver" who enters archives of historical data that allow him to "travel" to any of the universes, encountering familiar characters and looking for important data. Fans have taken to calling it "GundamMeetsKamen Rider Decade", a fairly accurate descriptornote not at all helped by The Rival carrying around cards that look a lot like Decade's. The premise is also reminiscent of ∀ Gundam, though where that series actually fits in is still up in the air. It features a cross-promotion with Gundam Extreme Vs., marking the first physical appearance by the game's Final Boss ex-.
At its core, each Gundam series tells the story of a war between Earth and the space colonies that orbit it; it is this Earth vs. Space theme that is consistent throughout the entire Gundam metaseries. The TV series generally follow one of two basic plotlines (though the various OVAs, movies, manga, and novels mix things up a bit more):
Either way, an enemy pilot will eventually become The Rival to the main character, usually an Ace Pilot who has more experience but is initially thwarted by the main character's Bigger Stick. This rival usually takes the form of an Expy of Char Aznable, the original — a mysterious, blond, masked man.
Often the rival, and usually the protagonist, will eventually receive a Mid-Season Upgrade either in the form of a Super Mode or an entirely new mobile suit. In some cases, it becomes a matter of "only a Gundam can defeat a Gundam."
No overview of Gundam could be complete without mentioning Kunio Okawara, who created the original mecha designs for the first Gundam universe, and who has continued to create designs for every Gundam show since. Hajime Katoki, who began as a model customizer, is also a key Gundam designer, often creating more "realistic" versions of Okawara's designs. Other important mechanical designers include Kazumi Fujita, Junya Ishigaki, Mamoru Nagano, and others.The origin of the name Gundam varies from series to series, in the first show it was simply the title given to the mobile suit. Later series in the same continuity uses the name as a direct reference to that first mobile suit. In other continuities it can stand as an acronym or as a reference to some new technology that the mobile suit pioneers, like a super armor named "Gundanium." The Gundams themselves generally share visual characteristics from generation to generation - the design is easily distinguishable by the yellow (or white, if you're the original RX-78) "V-fin" on the forehead, and the primary "Hero" Gundam will be mostly white and blue with some red accents. However, what actually makes a Gundam a Gundam is pretty arbitrary (both in-universe and out), and often boils down to whether people (both in-universe and out) call it a Gundam or not.The Gundam metaseries, particularly the original Universal Century timeline, is also notable for the remarkably consistent fictional technology; in UC, this is based on the original Minovsky Particle. Also notable is the presence of Newtypes, who are essentially psychics, and can be accurately described as "Jedi in giant robots". Newtypes, or something similar, appear in most Gundam shows.Gundam also has a large number of Video Games associated with it, notables including the Super Robot Wars series, the SD Gundam G Generation series of Turn-Based Strategy games, the Gundam Vs Series, Mobile Suit Gundam Climax UC, Dynasty Warriors Gundam, and semi-SD styled spinoff RPG MS Saga A New Dawn. And for Something Completely Different, there's SD Gundam, both in the form of a series of omake-style parody shorts and 2 full-blown series called SD Gundam Force and BB Senshi Sangokuden: Brave Battle Warriors. There is also an OVA about the model kits that fund the series called Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G. Also well-represented in the Robot Spirits toy line.Gundam apparently doesn't fall under the purview of the Japanese Agriculture Ministry. Except when it does.
Not helping things was the fact that Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam had scenes identifying the date as 20XX (as in, 2079 for the original show); these were quietly Retconned out of later releases. In response, fans attempted to pin down a specific year as UC 0001, using a couple of concrete datesnote As in, a specific date AND day of the week from Gundam 0080 and Gundam ZZ; the general consensus is that it's 2045.
Armored Coffins: In the older series, there's no real way to escape from an exploding mobile suit. Some Super Prototypes do have ejection seats of some form (i.e. Gundam's Core Block system), but they're typically removed from mass-produced versions.
Attack Drone: Every continuity has them in one form or another.
Badass Beard: While several characters qualify, it's worth noting that the red "beard" protrusion is one of the defining features of the Gundam's distinctive faceplate after the V-Fin.
The Battlestar: Most warships have impressive firepower in addition to their mobile suit payload.
Canon: Gundam has an unusual take on this, partly because the Western definition of "canon" in regards to fiction doesn't exist in Japan. All animated works are considered "official", while everything else is "non-official". This means that the various contradictory Alternate Continuity works (namely, the TV shows and their Compilation Movie remakes) are equally "canon", while some non-animated works like Crossbone Gundam are "non-canon" despite being praised for their quality and attention to not mucking up the timeline. This makes it completely impossible to come up with any kind of "one true version" of events: see Continuity Snarl below.
Centrifugal Gravity: Seen in everything from individual ships (many of which come equipped with rotating "gravity block" sections) all the way up to the kilometers-long space colonies themselves (whose entire structures spin along one axis), because Gundam's tech level generally isn't advanced enough to support Artificial Gravity.
The Coconut Effect: Consciously averted. When Tomino wrote the original series, he decided to use particle-based weapons rather than lasers specifically because lasers would be invisible, instant-hit weapons and would kill a lot of the drama of battle.
Collateral Angst: When a protagonist's love interest dies (and they do), the writing focuses mainly on how the protagonist feels rather than the tragedy of said love interest's life being cut short.
Colony Drop: The Trope Namer; Gundam series are extremely fond of dropping large objects onto targets from orbit.
Companion Cube: Many Gundam pilots either start or come to view their Gundams this way. They may even ask their advice and then behave as though the Gundam has given it.
Combining Mecha: Comes and goes in phases. The original Gundam had the ability to separate and recombine; this was downplayed later. The CE timeline has this in spades, as the titular mecha combine with "packs" that seem expressly designed to ship more plastic models of the mecha.
Compilation Movie: Gundam loves these. The television series generally get compilation movie trilogies, and even some of the OAVs have gotten compilation movies of their own.
Continuity Snarl: By Sunrise's policy, only animated works are truly "official". However, that still makes it impossible to determine a single "real" version of events, given that the franchise's full-length TV series are usually turned into movie triologies, which are Alternate Continuity to a greater (Zeta's movie trilogy retconned its entire sequel series, ZZ, out of existence) or lesser (the Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy just removes some of the wackier Super Robot influences and replaces shoddy animation with higher quality work) extent... and yet, they're all equally canon in Sunrise's eyes.
Cool Helmet: Sort of; the Gundams' iconic V crest attached to their heads.
Cool Ship: The main character usually has a ship to haul his Cool Mecha around.
Corporal Punishment: The main character usually ends up on the wrong end of a punitive beatdown at least once, and that's not even counting the therapeutic beatdowns he's also likely to receive.
Crapsack World: The Universal Century timeline has a rough couple decades starting in UC 0079 — the human population is cut in half over the course of a month by Colony Drops, nerve gas, and nuclear attacks, and the following 20 years bring multiple repeat performances of all three. It's not until post-Gundam Unicorn that things settle down, and then it's merely reduced to roughly one atrocity a generation instead of one every few years.
Dual Wielding: Ever since the original series, the classic melee loadout for a Gundam has been a pair of beam sabers, and if there's a variation from this formula, it's usually because the suit in question is fitted with even more blades as well.
Evolutionary Levels: Used, subverted, and played with. Newtypes from the UC timeline are initially presented as this, but they ultimately don't seem to have much effect on the world beyond a handful of ridiculously skilled Ace Pilots. Gundam X has an ending that explicitly states Newtypes are nothing of the sort, though since it's an alternate universe it's still an open question for the UC timeline. The CE timeline's Coordinators are a mixed bag — some of them consider themselves this, but many do not. Gundam 00's Innovators are the concept played completely straight. The X-Rounders of Gundam AGE are still on the fence; on the one hand, both sides are trying to cultivate them, but one of the series' most powerful considers them to be an evolutionary throwback rather than advancement.
Executive Meddling: Part of the reason the franchise failed overseas. Sunrise chose to follow the successes of Gundam Wing with Mobile Suit Gundam, whose dated animation and vastly different premise manage to kill the hype. Then they follow it with G Gundam, which was better received, but Bandai lost favor from toy stores as they forced them to stock merchandise that nobody wanted. By the time Gundam SEED rolled around, it has neither hype or driving force from merchandise to back it up, so it was shoved into a Friday Night Death Slot. Many fans hold the opinion that, had Sunrise exported Gundam X rather than the One Year War series, Gundam might have actually hung on longer.
This can partly be explained by the fact that there's a committee that decides which Gundam works to license, meaning that cult favorites like V Gundam and Gundam Xwould probably never be exported even if the franchise had hung on. The committee seems dead set on the idea that if a series was unsuccessful in Japan, it couldn't possibly be successful in foreign markets. Of course, considering the merchandise sales for Japan alone surpass those for the entire rest of the planet combined, odds are the suits aren't exactly crying themselves to sleep.
Expanded Universe: Sunrise's policy divided non-animate works in two categories. If the work doesn't contradict with official animate "white" works, then it's "gray", somewhat acceptable add-on to the timeline (just don't expect Sunrise to support the events). Whatever contradict with official works is "black", outright non-canon. Note that the "gray" status isn't permanent, new animate work may push the work to "black" by add new events that contradict it, or or make it "light gray" by has some of The Cameo (the story is still gray, but whatever appear on screen is "white").
Expy: To say the franchise is addicted to this trope is an understatement. There's a Char in every single series.
Gatling Good: The head gatlings, another iconic weapon for Gundam-type suits. Mostly used for dealing with small, fast threats like planes and missiles.
Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Bright Noa, the Team Dad of the UC timeline, is the king of this trope. So much so that it was originally called the Bright Slap. Used in serveral other timelines as well.
Glowing Mechanical Eyes: Mobile suit cameras (positioned in their heads like eyes, naturally) always glow when activated.
Grand Theft Prototype: Highly advanced Gundams featuring experimental technology and extremely high combat performance get stolen with alarming regularity in the franchise.
Grey and Gray Morality: Gundam is notable for rarely portraying either side of a conflict as faceless, mindless evildoers — there are good people and bad people on all sides of a conflict. That said, the protagonists' faction will usually be A Lighter Shade of Grey.
Heroes Prefer Swords: Whilst their enemies often get more exotic melee weapons, the hero's suit will have a beam sabre or two.
A Mech By Any Other Name: They're called "mobile suits" in general, though different timelines have variations like "mobile fighters", "mobile dolls", and "mobile bits". Non-humanoid versions are usually called "mobile armors".
Latex Space Suit: For use by both males and females, though only pilots; other crew get bulkier, more conventional space suits.
Long Runner: 30 years and counting. Big Name Fan Burke Rukes once pointed out on his old website that if one were to watch all of Gundam from MSG to Turn A, it would take about a week, and that was without counting work, sleep, and bathroom/meal breaks. And mind you, this was long before SEED, Destiny, 00, Unicorn, and AGE came out.
Made of Indestructium: Gundams are typically made of this; in UC it's named "Gundarium" in honor of the Gundam which was the first to use itnote it was initially named "Lunar Titanium" in the original series, as it was an artificial alloy of Titanium discovered by Lunar scientists; in AC it's called "Gundanium" and the Gundams are named after it; and in AD the Gundams use "GN Composite Armor", which is just normal armor reinforced with Applied Phlebotinum.
Mecha-Mooks: Dozens of variants in the franchise, usually limited to two or three examples per series. The bad guys usually have one that's influenced by the original Zaku II from Mobile Suit Gundam, with the "gas mask" face and its iconic mono-eye. In fact, the word "Zaku" is even derived from "zako" which means "mook" in Japanese.
Mega Corp: Anaheim Electronics from the UC Timeline is a quintessential example.
Mythology Gag: While there are often indirect references to the original series in any given show, they often take this an step further by using the sound effects of the original series; this can range from the White Base's alert klaxon, to various booster/vernier sounds, to the classic "Pfeeew!" of the RX-78-2's beam rifle.
No Export for You: About half the franchise; of the animated works, Gundam ZZ, Victory Gundam, Gundam X, ∀ Gundam, and Gundam AGE have yet to see English releases, and many of the sidestory materials have never seen the light of day on this side of the Pacific. Now that Bandai Entertainment has pulled out of the North American market, this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. In the case of ∀ Gundam, it was actually licensed for Western distribution, but didn't make it onto shelves before Bandai dropped out of the North American market.
Novelization: All of anime series except Gundam X has at least one. Beltochika's Children is rather amusing case, it was originally Tomino's rejected plot of Char's Counterattack which, in turn, is adaption of Tomino's novel Hi-Streamer. In other word, it's novelization of The Film of the Book, with all three by same author!
Nuclear Option: Notable for averting the Nuclear Weapons Taboo. The UC and CE timelines, in particular, are fond of throwing nukes around. UC generally treats them as dangerous and powerful weapons but not necessarily evil incarnate (the good guys use illegally obtained nuclear missiles on at least one occasion), while CE is rather less forgiving.
Red Baron: It's usually the enemy Ace Pilots that get awesome nicknames (starting with Char as the Red Comet), but occasionally allies do as well. Oddly, the main character almost never gets this treatment.
The Remnant: Exaggerated in the Universal Century continuity. The Principality of Zeon is defeated in the One Year War, but the various Neo Zeon factions continue to be the standard villain for most of the later UC series, with their last holdouts only falling in 0123; Unicorn's adversaries get bonus points for being The Remnant of another Remnant.
Sensor Suspense: Tends to do this by having stuff suddenly appear immediately before they come under attack. The Bridge Bunnies suddenly yelling "Heat source detected!" out of the blue usually means bad things are about to happen.
Spell My Name with an S: Whoo boy. Too many examples to list, but common to a greater or lesser extent in basically every series. The most infamous examples are probably the Principality (Duchy/Archduchy/Grand Duchy) of Zeon (Zion/Jion) and Mu (Muu/Mwu — though thankfully no Moo) la (ra) Flaga (Fllaga/Fraga). And then there is Quattro Bajeena, whose name has on at least one occasion been translated as "Quattro Vagina", due to the katakana used in his name.
Standard Sci-Fi History: Many series features Stage 1: Exploration and Colonization of Space. And then jump right into Stage 2: World War changing the world.
Stealth Pun: Big Name Fan Mark Simmons observed that SNRI, the rival to Anaheim Electronics, was created shortly after Sunrise bought the rights to Gundam.
Stock Footage: And plenty of it. More of a problem for some series than others (the CE timeline was particularly infamous for indulging in it), and generally less of an issues in the movies and OVAs. Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, ∀ Gundam, and Gundam 00 are also notable for largely avoiding it. There are some scenes reused (as in, you could count them on one hand), but much of the time it's a two-second clip that's only reused once, or it's just a split-second explosion to change scenes.
Super Prototype: Just about anything with the word "Gundam" in its name, and a lot without it.
Superweapon Surprise: In the UC timeline, and the CE that mirrors it, mobile suits are these, with the subversion that they're used to attack instead of defend. The first Gundams in both universes are this again, in that they're Bigger Stick mobile suits that catch the other side by surprise too! More typical examples also appear in most timelines, as well.
Translation Convention: In Japan, the Army and Navy use the exact same ranking system, which has caused a good deal of confusion over what to use in the US dubs — for example, is Kou Uraki an Ensign or 2nd Lieutenant? Typically, this is handled by treating the Space Forces as a Navy, and the rare few series that focus on ground combat forces (like The 08th MS Team) use Army ranks.
Unstoppable Rage: In the Universal Century, Newtypes' psychic abilities are boosted by strong emotions, and an angry Newtype pilot is pretty much the scariest adversary you could ever hope (not) to face.
Vestigial Empire: The Earth Federation during the Late Universal Century. It's still the central power of the solar system, and even manages to expand a bit and briefly annex Jupiter, but it's mired in economic depression, red tape and civil war, and by the time of Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, it's such a mess that only a civilian militia is left to defend the Earth.
Villainous Valour: It's not uncommon to see highly courageous behaviour from Gundam adversaries, whether ordinary mooks or major villains.
Won The War Lost The Peace: The One Year War was both a Pyrrhic Victory and this. The Federation took one year to defeat Zeon, but between spacenoid agitation, the growth of a tyrannical State Sec, and a failure to properly suppress the various remnants of Zeon, the aftershocks lasted for a total of twenty years before the Earth Federation finally regained full control of the Earth Sphere.