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Mobile Suit Gundam: The Past, Present and Future of an Iconic Mecha Franchise

Mobile Suit Gundam is a Japanese media franchise that spans various forms of entertainment, such as anime, manga, novels, video games, model kits, and more. It is widely regarded as one of the most influential and popular mecha franchises of all time, with a loyal fan base and a global cultural impact. But how did it all begin, and where is it heading? Here is a brief overview of the history, current state and future prospects of Mobile Suit Gundam.

The History of Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam was created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate in 1979, as an anime television series produced by Sunrise. The series was set in the futuristic calendar year “Universal Century” 0079, and focused on the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon, two factions that emerged after humans colonized space. The series introduced the concept of “mobile suits”, giant humanoid robots that were used as weapons of war, and featured the titular RX-78-2 Gundam, a prototype mobile suit piloted by the teenage civilian mechanic Amuro Ray.

The series was intended to be a realistic and mature depiction of war and its consequences, as well as a commentary on social and political issues of the time, such as the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the nuclear arms race. However, the series faced low ratings and was cut short from 52 to 43 episodes. It was also criticized by some for being too violent and depressing for children, the target audience of most anime at the time.

Despite its initial failure, the series gained popularity through reruns, merchandise, and word-of-mouth. It also spawned a trilogy of compilation movies that re-edited and improved the original series, and were released in 1981 and 1982. The movies were well-received by critics and fans, and helped establish Mobile Suit Gundam as a cult classic and a pioneer of the “real robot” genre of mecha anime, which emphasized realism, technology, and drama over fantasy, magic, and comedy.

The success of the movies led to the creation of numerous sequels and spin-offs, both animated and printed, that expanded the Universal Century timeline and explored different aspects of the Gundam universe. Some of the most notable examples are Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985-1986), Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (1986-1987), Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (1988), Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (1989), Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (1991), Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993-1994), Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (1996-1999), Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn (2010-2014), and Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (2015-2018).

In addition to the Universal Century timeline, Mobile Suit Gundam also branched out into alternative timelines that featured different settings, characters, and themes, but still retained the core elements of mobile suits, war, and human drama. Some of the most popular alternative timelines are the Future Century of Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994-1995), the After Colony of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995-1996), the Cosmic Era of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (2002-2003) and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny (2004-2005), the Anno Domini of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2007-2009), and the Post Disaster of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (2015-2017).

The Current State of Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam is currently one of the most successful and influential media franchises in Japan and the world, with a loyal fan base and a global cultural impact. According to Sunrise, the franchise has generated over 80 billion yen (about 730 million US dollars) in annual revenue as of 2014, and has sold over 500 million Gunpla (Gundam plastic model) kits as of 2018. The franchise has also received critical acclaim and recognition, winning several awards and honors, such as the Animage Anime Grand Prix, the Japan Media Arts Festival Award, the Seiun Award, and the Nebula Award.

The franchise is also actively producing new works and projects, both in the Universal Century and alternative timelines. Some of the recent and ongoing works are Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative (2018), Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash (2019-2021), Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (2022), Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island (2022), and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – Urðr Hunt (TBA). The franchise is also exploring new mediums and platforms, such as live-action films, virtual reality, and streaming services.

The Future Prospects of Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam has a bright and promising future, as it continues to innovate and evolve with the changing times and trends. The franchise has a loyal and passionate fan base that supports and consumes its products and services, as well as a creative and visionary staff that produces and delivers its works and projects. The franchise also has a rich and diverse history and universe that offers endless possibilities and opportunities for storytelling and worldbuilding.

Some of the possible directions and developments that the franchise could take in the future are:

  • Expanding and exploring the Universal Century timeline, especially the events and characters that have not been fully covered or revealed, such as the Gaia Gear novel, the Crossbone Gundam manga, and the F90 and F91 eras.
  • Creating and developing new alternative timelines, especially ones that feature different genres, themes, and styles, such as horror, comedy, romance, or mystery.
  • Collaborating and crossing over with other media franchises, especially ones that share similar or compatible elements, such as Star Wars, Transformers, or Marvel.
  • Adapting and remaking existing works and projects, especially ones that have not been animated or have outdated animation, such as the Gundam Sentinel novel, the G-Saviour live-action film, or the Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 anime series.
  • Experimenting and utilizing new technologies and formats, especially ones that enhance the immersion and interaction of the audience, such as 3D, 4D, VR, AR, or AI.

Mobile Suit Gundam is a franchise that has been around for over four decades, and has shown no signs of slowing down or fading away. It is a franchise that has inspired and influenced generations of fans and creators, and has contributed to the advancement and enrichment of the mecha genre and the anime industry. It is a franchise that has a past to be proud of, a present to be celebrated, and a future to be excited for.

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