Gundam is Much More than the Universal Century, But UC is What I Love

I’m not saying that I don’t like the alternative continuities, far from it. After all, Gundam 00 is my ‘gateway’ Gundam; the first show in the franchise that I really got into after sampling many of its shows from the original Mobile Suit Gundam to Turn A Gundam (It should be noted that of the 7 shows I tried and dropped prior to Gundam 00, only Wing Gundam and Turn A Gundam were not UC shows).

gundam-mecha-gelgoog-explosion

Gundam 00 accomplished something for me that what I believe Gundam SEED did for the current generation of fans: It took the particular romance (not talking about rabu-rabu here) of the original series (which is 30 years old this year) and made it accessible. I don’t have a name for that romance, I just feel that Gundam – while probably will never be as lovable to me the way Macross is – is irresistably intriguing. I’m fascinated with it: not only by the shows themselves, but also the tradition, the history, and its fandom.

The Universal Century: A Very Deep Well

I don’t mean that the narrative is intellectually deep, though it can be. What I mean is that what seems to be a simple overarching narrative of a one-year war can yield such a good number of well-told stories. As a science fiction setting there’s much to explore. Daffyd Dyar did a great job in detailing the real science behind the fiction in his awesome site, Mobile Suit Gundam: High Frontier. A warning to Gundam fans, many hours will be lost relishing the work done in these links.

gundam zeon-clock

The era of the Zeonic conflicts is a time that I don't get tired of re-visiting. Apparently Sunrise and Bandai are the same.

What do I like about the Universal Century so much? It’s hard to distinguish it except through juxtaposition with the other continuities. I’ll just say that the UC is the source narrative. It is the essence, if you will, of the Gundam metaverse. Superficially,

  • rather less fanciful technology
  • 20th century war dynamics
  • 20th century outlook towards the future

I specifically made no mention of characters, because interesting characters abound in the metaverse, particularly the copies of Char Azanble, whose appearance in Zeta Gundam is still my favorite turn of his. Same with mecha; though my favorites are mostly from the UC, I don’t believe they do have a monopoly of the best or the most interesting ones.

This is best expressed in this video, which has clips of the ‘romance’ that I’ve found difficult to articulate:

What’s behind my fascination with the 20th century? I really can’t say anything beyond the fact that I grew up in it. I spent my childhood hearing firsthand accounts of World War II stories from my Grandfathers who fought in it, and my Grandmothers who lived through the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Gundam was never part of my childhood the way Macross is, but its resonance with my own families’ histories make it such an intriguing source of narratives.

gundam-1st-gundam-char-amuro-sayla-lalah-poster

A caveat: I have only really seen the arc of the original narrative. I’ve yet to see a show that follows Char’s Counterattack in the timeline. Thus my view really is more about the Federation vs. Zeon era of the UC. I will get to watching the rest in good time.

As a reference, a list of shows in the UC timeline: (My comments in green)

What’s your favorite Gundam show? What makes it so?

Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? Find your Gateway Gundam!

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in fanboy, Gundam and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Gundam is Much More than the Universal Century, But UC is What I Love

  1. schneider says:

    Cool vid. That site could kill my entire day, I’m reading all of it later.

    But why did you have to drop ZZ? It becomes an anime halfway through! :(

  2. This just in, all Gundam sucks. Why? Because Gundam Seed Destiny and Sunrise. I know because I read it on the internet and everything on the internet is true. :P

  3. animekritik says:

    So, would it be technically feasible to line up all the shows you listed in “internal” chronological order, as in within the fictional timeline and not the year they were released, or is there overlap/retelling and stuff??

  4. ghostlightning says:

    @ schneider

    Mechafetish used to have a printout of that WHOLE thing which he carried around in the train in his commute to work. It looked like science instead of weaboo faggotry lol.

    I actually saw ZZ on Animax before I was into Gundam. I’ll reconsider watching it after I watch Zeta TV, but I’m… not… optimistic…

    @ Kaioshin Sama

    LOL

    @ ac

    Keep it fun! The fanbase “is what it is ^_^

    @ animekritik

    Yes there is overlap – but very minor re-telling. At times you get to witness the same (large) event, usually the big battles – from the perspective of other characters. In alternate continuities such as Gundam SEED and Gundam 00 there is an attempt to re-tell or re-create the original story in a slightly different setting, perhaps as an update for more contemporary viewers.

    The chronological order of the shows would be (IIRC):

    1. Mobile Suit Gundam (TV: 1979; compilation movies: 1981–1982)
    –Shows that narrate events that occur immediately before, after, and throughout the above show–
    1.1 Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO (CGI movies The Hidden One Year War: 2004; OVAs Apocalypse 0079: 2006)
    1.2 Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO 2: Gravity Front (HDV CGI movies 2008)
    –Shows that narrate events within the timeline of Mobile Suit Gundam
    1.3 Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (OVAs: 1996, compilation movie: 1998)
    1.4 Gundam the Ride: A Baoa Qu (amusement park ride movie: 2000)
    1.5 Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (OVAs: 1989)
    2. Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (OVAs: 1991; compilation movie: 1992)
    3. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (TV: 1985; compilation movies: 2005-2006)
    4. Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (TV: 1986)
    5. Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (movie: 1988)
    –end of original story arc (Federation vs. Zeon) What follows are separate and unique narratives within the continuity–

    Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (movie: 1991)
    Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (TV: 1993)
    G-Saviour (live action TV movie: 2000)
    Gundam Neo Experience 0087: Green Divers (specialty format movie: 2001)

    Gundam Evolve (short film series: 2001-2007, all episodes are based on UC except Episodes 3, 6, 7, 8 and 14)

  5. animekritik says:

    wow. ok, i’ll keep this for future reference!

  6. Crusader says:

    G-Savior is not Gundam, G-Savior is a bunch of Canadian Weeaboos who were goofing off with shoddy production values who were in reality hacks who acted without the approval of Tomino. It was supposed to be a deterrent but somehow it misfired and ended up on store shelves…

    You are making a grave error in declaring it UC comrade…it’s not UC its not even AU!

  7. The thing with G-Saviour is that while it has yet to actually be decanonized it makes no real reference to anything that happened in the Universal Century prior to it so you don’t even have to acknowledge it’s existence as being in line with anything else U.C. For all we can tell it’s some mutated alternate dimension U.C where technology is somehow regressed to just behind what we saw at the end of the One Year War. There’s a brief mention of an Earth Federation but that’s about the only link there is to the rest of U.C. The A.D universe also has an Earth Federation though so it still doesn’t necessarily forbid G-Saviour from being relegated to some offshoot dimension.

  8. ghostlightning says:

    @ animekritik

    One of these days I’ll have to Geass you to watch Gundam.

    @ Crusader

    I know very little about it except what Wikipedia has on it. The list I published is lifted straight from the UC Gundam article (commentary added). Additional reading tells me that it is quite an awful movie, and that Tomino is very much against it. (LOL I certainly would be if I were him, given the unanimous outrage against it)

    However, I see no hard evidence that it isn’t a Universal Century Gundam show (U.C. 277) – if quite an awful one. As I said, I’ve no interest in watching this.

    @ Kaioshin Sama

    If Macross II can be decanonized then I suppose G-Savior can be as well. Until then, I’ll keep it on this post’s listing.

  9. vendredi says:

    Very insightful post. I think you touch on a major thematic focus here: Gundam has always been about an uncompromising, if stylized, portrayal of war. It’s somewhat sanitized due to the use of mecha, but I think it’s no less savage – mainly in part because of the primitive technology and close ranges involved.

    The mainline Gundam series are for the most part completely war narratives, with the potential exception of G-Gundam – and even then G-Gundam does involve conflict between political entities.

    Macross by way of contrast seems to feature the more generalized idea of conflict that arises from cultural and physical differences; rarely do you see human vs. human conflict on anything more than a personal level.

    Gundam perhaps feels far more “20th century” because the underpinnings of the conflict are usually ideological and political. There is a looming sense of bureaucratic inertia behind each of the characters – often voluntary or press-ganged soldiers, which allows certain themes like the morality of following orders to be more evident.

    • Thank you Vendredi. I’m intrigued with how you see the use of war machines such as mecha ‘sanitizes’ the portrayal of war in the series.

      I also recommend that you check out this post. I believe that you’ll have more discussion to sink your teeth into regarding this thematic concern of Gundam (and I bring up Macross in the comments too!).

      I also like how you contrasted Macross by noting that the conflict is between human and non-humans (or at least aliens relative to earthlings).

      I think Macross moralizes a fair bit here by showing how peace can exist – led by humans between earthlings and aliens, there’s little reason why peace can’t be achieved among people on earth right now.

      the underpinnings of the conflict are usually ideological and political. There is a looming sense of bureaucratic inertia behind each of the characters – often voluntary or press-ganged soldiers, which allows certain themes like the morality of following orders to be more evident.

      Good observation. I think the 08th MS Team is a very good example of this.

  10. codename:v says:

    Today’s Gundam animes are meant to sell plamos, not storytelling. The scripts are shallow and the characters lack of depths, which are meant to cater to today’s youngsters mentality by applying the “rules-of-cool” in the animes.

    • ghostlightning says:

      Plamo? Oh you mean these?

      Robot anime are made to sell robot toys. Story writers in robot anime try to write good stories on top of this primary goal.

      Try to look back at the early super robot shows like Mazinger Z. Notice how the many variations of weapons and called out attacks? They’re selling points for future merchandise.

      This applies to real robot anime as well. I salivate over all the Macross toys I can’t afford.

      The Gundam franchise isn’t very different. You’ll notice how popular UC plamo still is. There’s something to be said about classic designs. Zeta Gundam debuted new mecha almost every other episode, perhaps faster than Gundam 00.

      While I don’t think Gundam 00 is superior to Z, I don’t think it’s bad either. Depth is a subjective experience and one can have pretty in-depth discussions about 00 amongst fans who are willing to do so.

      • codename:v says:

        I’m also into UCverse much as you do because UC mecha designs to me has more realistic features, Wing is quite okay except I despise the boyzband idolization by female fanbase-who aren’t into mechas and can still be the majority of today’s current Gundam animes like SEED and 00. No wonder 00 meisters are so effeminate.

        To me, no Gundam animes are perfect and I seldom find teenage angst has something to do with changing the course of battles. Newtypes are as unrealistic as coordinators and innovators, which are like the Jedis of the East. Pretty much borrowed from Lucas’ Star Wars if I may say. Even the beam saber is copied from the light saber…

        (Robot anime are made to sell robot toys. Story writers in robot anime try to write good stories on top of this primary goal.)

        Then I don’t see there’s any discussion regarding the depths in each titles because there just aren’t any depths at all. The plots are kept shallow and easy for viewers to watch and no one pays attention to any nonsenses chirped by the characters. Who cares about whatever the story says? Just throw in the actions and SFXs and it sells. After all, action speaks louder than words-which most animes still can’t deliver.

        • ghostlightning says:

          Then I don’t see there’s any discussion regarding the depths in each titles because there just aren’t any depths at all. The plots are kept shallow and easy for viewers to watch and no one pays attention to any nonsenses chirped by the characters. Who cares about whatever the story says? Just throw in the actions and SFXs and it sells. After all, action speaks louder than words-which most animes still can’t deliver.

          Look harder. You can either find ‘depth’ or ‘create’ it. You’ll find rather complex abstractions about the shallowest of shows here [->], and here [->] [->] [->]. It’s a matter of perspective. Gundam 00 has led to very interesting discussion — really depending on who you read. Check out the comments and discussion here [->]; not bad for a 50-episode toy commercial right?

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  13. Maximillion Genius says:

    there are something in the likes of war in the pocket, 08th ms team, unicorn, (turn A) and even char’s counterattack that makes the AUs stagger so bad. I don’t know, but I just can’t swallow the idea of gundam being some kind of super hero or a knight where a bishounen pilots it.

  14. pochiv3 says:

    I’d actually argue that Turn A (although is technically not part of the Universal Century) carries the same ideals and philosophy of the Universal Century. And seeing that it was meant to be the end of all gundam series before it then I think it should be put in the chronological time order of the Universal Century Timeline’s end point.

    I think Turn A Gundam was about the only Gundam series that made me feel emotional every episode.

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