What is Gundam?



Gundam (ガンダム) is a metaseries of Japanese anime created by Sunrise studios that features giant robots (or “mecha”) called “Gundam”. The metaseries started in April 7, 1979 as a serial TV show called Mobile Suit Gundam. That first TV series has since spawned a franchise that has come to include works released in numerous media. Titles have appeared in the form of multiple television series and OVAs, movies, manga, novels and video games, among other modes. The story from the original 1979 series has been considerably extended with sequels, prequels, side stories and alternate timelines. As a result, the title “Gundam” has become a collective term for the seven distinct but related timelines that can be pieced together from the stories that appear in the Gundam franchise. Generally speaking, the timelines do not intersect, but they do contain a few common elements such as the titular war machines called Gundam. However, all Gundam timelines/worlds long after their own anime series will eventually intersect and combine back to one in the series Turn A Gundam.

The original timeline for the Gundam series was the Universal Century (UC) series, which included Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985). Since the 1990s, alternative timelines have been produced and developed, including the Future Century, After Colony, After War, Correct Century, Cosmic Era and Anno Domini timelines.

As of January 21, 2008, the Gundam franchise is a 50 billion yen trademark. In the 2008 ranking of average sales figures for anime copies sold in Japan (1970-2008 total sales figures averaged by episode), Gundam series were in 4 of the top 5 places: Mobile Suit Gundam ranked second, with Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny third, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED fourth, and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam fifth. Also, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing ranked 18th and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ ranked 20th. Gunpla’s (Gundam Plastic model) holds 90% of the Japan character plastic model market.

Academic fields in Japan have also viewed the series as a good inspiration in research fields, with the Gundam academy (or officially International Gundam Society) being the first academic institution based on an animated TV series.



Innovation

Mobile Suit Gundam is said to have pioneered the real robot era of mecha anime.

Unlike its super robot cousins, Gundam attempted a realism in the robot design and weaponry, by running out of energy and ammunition or breaking and malfunctioning. The technology is practical and is either derived from true science (such as Lagrange points in space and the O’Neill cylinder as a living environment) or at least well-explained, feasible technology, requiring only a few fictional elements to function (such as Minovsky Physics as a means of energy production from helium-3).

The necessity of developing humanoid robots is also explained, albeit fictional. The fictional Minovsky particle pervasive in Universal Century is depicted as interfering with radar-guided long-distance cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guns, missiles, and all early warning systems, with weapons systems having to rely on human eyes. In Universal Century, the space-based Principality of Zeon rebels against Earth Federation, requiring a weapons system that could function in zero and normal gravity, be able to open and close air locks, plant demolition charges, and engage with enemy tanks and planes; with a robotic giant being an excellent choice. Once mobile suits have been developed by one side, the opposing force had to develop a similar system, just as British invention of tanks lead to the development of tanks in Germany, and eventually lead to tank-to-tank battles.

Gundam’s realistic scientific setting has gained a reputation in the field itself as well. On July 18, 2007, when MIT’s Astronautics Department’s Professor Dava Newman displayed a biosuit, the suit was referenced as Mobile Suit Gundam’s Normal Suit is now real by various news agencies. On February 14, 2008, when NASA proposed research into nuclear thermal rockets, Technobahn, a scientific journal in Japan, referred to the usage of nuclear thermal rocket engines on mobile suits in the Gundam universe.

- Articles from Gundam, Wikipedia

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