Long before there was Naruto (1997), Sailor Moon (1992), or even Dragon Ball (1986), , there was Mobile Suit Gundam. Mobile Suit Gundam, created by Yoshiyuki Tomino, first aired in Japan in 1979 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The series not only revolutionized the mecha genre of anime but also marked a significant turning point in the history of anime as a medium. Here are a few reasons why the original Mobile Suit Gundam is important to anime history. Let’s dive in!
Mobile Suit Gundam introduced a new kind of realism to the mecha genre. Before Gundam, most mecha anime featured robots that were either super-powered or had an unrealistic level of agility and speed. Think of something crazy like the zords in Power Rangers. Mobile Suit Gundam, on the other hand, depicted mechs that moved realistically, with their movements modeled on those of actual heavy machinery. The mobile suits sound and look like they carried real weight/heft.
The mechs in the series also suffered from realistic mechanical malfunctions and damages, which added a level of realism and grittiness to the series. This new approach to mecha design has since become a standard in the genre, influencing countless mecha anime that have followed.
The series tackled complex themes such as war, politics, and the consequences of humanity’s actions. The story of Mobile Suit Gundam is set in a future where Earth has become overpopulated and humanity has expanded to space colonies. The series explores the tensions between the Earth Federation and the space colonies (Principality of Zeon), as well as the conflicts that arise between the characters on both sides.
Although the anime clearly does it’s best to make the audience side with the protagonist, there are several morally gray issues that are raised on both sides of the conflict. The show also delves into the morality of war, questioning the justification for violence and the impact it has on the innocent. This emphasis on complex and mature themes was a departure from the simplistic storylines and characters that dominated anime at the time.
Thirdly, the characters in Mobile Suit Gundam were much more nuanced and complex than those in previous anime. The series presented a range of characters with differing motivations and ideologies, all of whom had their own strengths and weaknesses. The protagonist, Amuro Ray, was not a typical hero, but rather a flawed and relatable character who struggled with the weight of his responsibilities. Amuro had moments of bravery but also cowardice and an unwillingness to dedicate himself to a righteous cause at times.
On the other side of the war is Char Aznable, the disposed son of the former head of state of Zeon who now fights the Earth Federation all the while seeking out those responsible within Zeon for the murder of his father. Char is a remarkable pilot and an ace. He is sort of a “Red Baron” figure in which he paints his Zaku a bright red to stand out against the rest of Zeon’s forces.
The show also featured strong female characters who were given agency and important roles in the story, something that was rare in anime at the time. This focus on character development has since become a hallmark of anime storytelling. In fact, Sayla, a character who has deep ties to both the protagonist and antagonist of the series, is a fan favorite who has a remarkably deep background that gets fleshed out over the years and series as a whole.
Mobile Suit Gundam was also notable for its use of serialized storytelling. Unlike most anime of the time, which were typically episodic and self-contained, Mobile Suit Gundam was a continuous narrative that unfolded over the course of multiple episodes. This allowed the show to explore complex themes and develop its characters in a way that was not possible in a self-contained format. This approach to storytelling has since become common in anime, with many series utilizing a serialized format to create more engaging and immersive stories. There are no filler or generic beach episodes to be found here, unlike a lot of anime today that is way too padded out with inconsequential episodes.
Lastly, Mobile Suit Gundam was a commercial success, paving the way for the anime industry to become a major player in the entertainment world. The series was not only popular in Japan but also gained a following around the world, with its popularity leading to the creation of numerous sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. The success of Mobile Suit Gundam helped establish anime as a legitimate form of entertainment, opening the door for other anime series to gain mainstream success in Japan and beyond.
The original Mobile Suit Gundam is an important series in the history of anime. Its realistic mecha designs, mature themes, complex characters, serialized storytelling, and commercial success have all had a significant impact on the medium, influencing countless anime that have followed.
The series is a testament to the power of anime as a storytelling medium and its ability to tackle complex themes and ideas. It is no wonder that Mobile Suit Gundam remains a beloved and influential series to this day. It is what has inspired my love of Gundam model kits(Gunpla). Do you have a favorite Gundam series? Have you ever seen the original? Be sure to comment down below. I love reading your comments. Check out our other geeky articles on our site, GeekNewsNow. Watch some of our geeky content on our YouTube channel here. As always, stay geeky out there! We’ll see you next time.