Find Your ‘Gateway’ Gundam

Originally a post by mechafetish, we’re putting this out as a blog page for easier accessibility. The tool tracks back to the original post, but you can also give comments and suggestions here.

Let’s say you’ve been an anime fan, but not necessarily a mecha anime fan. But something happened, like coming across a series like Macross Frontier, Tenngen Toppa Gurren Lagann, or Code Geass and you ended up liking it. Those shows somehow made mecha anime interesting to you, and you’re sort of on your way to being a fan of the genre. However, even if you watch more shows like Gunbuster, Neon Genesis Evangelion, or more obscure but good shows like VOTOMS or Patlabor (after watching these shows you’re probably a mecha fan already, unless these shows only represent a small fraction of your anime consumption) there’s still this elephant in the room: the Gundam franchise.

Elephant? It’s more like a brontosaurus. That’s just the thing about the Gundam franchise: it’s huge. It’s significance is remarkable. It’s fans are legion.

A quick glance at the Wikipedia article tells us:

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, New Mobile Report Gundam Wing ranked 18th and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ ranked 20th.

As of 21 January 2008, the Gundam franchise is a 50 billion yen trademark. Gunpla’s (Gundam Plastic model) income is 90% of the Japan character plastic model market’s income.

Academic fields in Japan also view the series as a good inspiration in research fields. The Gundam academy, or officially International Gundam Society is the first academic institution based on a cartoon.

If we’re curious about it even just a little, we’d like to know what the fuss is all about right? One of the more common threads on /m/ (the mecha imageboard on 4chan) is about an Anon asking the gentle/m/en, “I want to start watching Gundam, where do I start?”

R-E-A-L Robot

R-E-A-L Robot

To illustrate the complexity of this problem, here is an enumeration of Gundam anime (again c/o Wikipedia):

Furthermore, there are considerations pertaining to the narrative continuities within the franchise. There is the originating narrative called the Universal Century, and there’s the rest (6 others). Fans of the UC would insist that you watch UC first and from the beginning, but this does not mean you will enjoy Gundam if you do. Sure, you may enjoy it as an academic exercise, but we watch anime to be entertained, and what we value in entertainment is quite subjective.

gundam084zr7

This is why We Remember Love prepared this guide, a way to find the Gundam show that will give you the best value and hopefully turn you into a fan of the franchise. Dear old ghostlightning floundered about a lot with much whining, calling himself tsundere for Gundam and such nonsense before calming down and acknowledging his newfound love for the franchise.

The methodology:

With the intent of finding a Gundam show that will be enjoyable for a variety of viewers with different considerations, I subjectively ruled out shows that I believe do not make for the best ‘gateway’ shows. So not all shows in the canon is part of the final selection.

The subjective part is the selection of possible ‘gateway’ shows. This selection represents what I believe to be shows that will appeal to the broadest tastes possible. But to Gundam fans, I reassure you, this is no cheap and lazy sell-out. After I narrowed down the list I compiled a list of commonalities and distilled them into the considerations you’ll see in the guide.

Ready? Proceed to the La Vie en Rose to begin selecting your Gateway Gundam. GOGOGOGOGOGOGO GUNDAM HASSHIN!

Assuming you are interested in watching a Gundam show, what did you pick?

P.S. To you who are already Gundam fans, your input and suggestions to improve the tool are much welcome!

41 Responses to Find Your ‘Gateway’ Gundam

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  2. DonKangolJones says:

    Have to say I’m finding this blog post MORE & MORE useful as I run into newer anime fans on MAL & Twitter. I have to say thanks to you & Mechafetish for knocking this out. I’ll be sure to keep referencing this page & MAHQ as my defacto ways to introduce people to Gundam.

  3. Gowa says:

    I gotta give G-Gundam a try, although I expect nothing more than a Dragon Ball rip-off.

    • Whoa, what do you mean by rip-off? The fighting anime tournament is a standard category. Maybe you consider all examples that succeeded DB a ripoff?

      In any case, I don’t really think so; and even if it really is — there’s so much to enjoy about it ^_^/

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  9. Jan S. says:

    Here through Yumeka’s post today referencing your 2nd anniv. post – congrats on two years! :) I’ve read your comments on Yumeka’s blog before, but for some reason never clicked through to look at your blog before today.

    I’m in the throes of Gundam-watching right now, so this post caught my eye. Here’s how I started with Gundam:

    1 – Watched all of Gundam Seed.
    2 – Watched first season of Gundam 00.
    3 – Watched episode 1 of Gundam Unicorn in a room full of Bandai representatives and screaming fans at Anime Expo 2010.
    4 – Watched all of Gundam Wing.
    5 – Just finished the second season of Gundam 00, a few days ago.

    So it’s quite possible to jump into Gundam without any sort of plan whatsoever, and still enjoy it immensely… :)

    My plan of attack proceeding forward:

    1 – Watch Mobile Suit Gundam.
    2 – Watch Zeta Gundam (must be sure to watch in Japanese, with English subs, because I love Nobuo Tobita’s voice and he plays the main character).
    3 – ?? Not sure where to go after that… Maybe Seed Destiny?

    I love your Gateway Gundam guide. I may utilize it to pick my next Gundam to watch after Zeta Gundam.

    • I honestly think that at this point the tool has outgrown any use it might have had for you in the first place. I started watching without the tool and it lead to my dropping all 9 shows I tried lol. (Btw, this is mechafetish’s conceptual work, I only put together the post for him).

      What I recommend is that you watch the following in order:

      Mobile Suit Gundam Movie Trilogy
      08th MS Team
      0080 War in the Pocket
      0083 Stardust Memory
      Z Gundam
      Char’s Counterattack
      Gundam Unicorn
      Turn A Gundam

      The first 7 shows are chronologically consistent in the Universal Century continuity.

      Thank you for all the kind words and may you continue to make yourself at home here on WRL.

  10. Jan S. says:

    Thanks for the list! I’ve noted it down and will use it to keep my Gundam-watching in order and somewhat under control. :)

  11. Dude says:

    That Gundam guide link was awesome although I’ve already watched then all I just found it interesting to click and see what it had to say cause I have a friend I’m trying to get into mecha’s but anyway the best part had to be “Pshaw! I watched Legend of the Galactic Heroes!” which i just recently watched and found to be amazing although its slow paced but. I donate many hours to anime so 110 episode takes me less a week to watch. But today I just finished off Zoids: Genesis and have moved onto to a show called Blue Gender. If you have seen it I would appreciate any comments on it

    • Dude says:

      let me correct that I’ve watched all the series I’m not to big on watching anime spin off movies although I’ve watched a few just not all

    • Thanks for all the kind words.

      I thought taking 2 months to watch LotGH was an accomplishment! One week is a blistering pace! Recently I blitzed through SEED and SEED Destiny and you can find my posts on them by clicking on the Gundam category on the sidebar (warning, I really hated them). Unfortunately I have seen none of the Zoids shows and I haven’t seen Blue Gener either. The categories on the sidebar are more or less useful guides to the shows I’ve blogged (though I’ve seen more shows than I’ve blogged).

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  14. JoeQ says:

    Well, shit.

    Against all odds, I watched and actually rather liked 08th MS Team and thanks to it, as well as the supplemental material (maybe even more so), I now find myself somewhat intrigued by the UC-verse, much to my intense disgust. Trouble is, from what I’ve gathered the rest of UC also seems to contain copious amounts of shit I’d rather not suffer in my real robot shows, namely supernaturally talented teenage pilots, waaangst, painfully annoying romances (Shiro+Aina was bad enough), Super Robot bullshittery and whiny pacifist preaching (only acceptable if handled well, like Balsa or Shiro). Keeping that in mind, is ghosty’s list still a safe bet for me?

    (Yes, G Gundam and Turn A are already on my watchlist.)

    • JoeQ says:

      To elaborate, my ideal UC Gundam show would be all about Norris Packard and his crack team of ace Zeon pilots kicking Feddie ass.

      • Matt Wells says:

        Then you are shit out of luck my friend! Its all wangsty sub-super robot ham fisted pacifism from here on out! Of them all, Stardust Memory is probably the least guilty offender, though it features an incredibly pointless and annoying romance, the usual whiny main character and wildly inconsistent, even fluctuating levels of technology.

        On the other hand, it has an interesting plot, good characters, great mecha, decent action and solid animation. And its all human pilots all the way, no Newtype magic bullshit whatsoever. Top Gun in Space with Gian Robots and Nazis.

        Unicorn may be somewhat guilty of the tropes you list, but it is at least thoroughly well made, and less groanworthy than your average Gundam series. I would say you owe it to yourself to at least check out the compilation movies of the original series and Zeta in its entirity; though the originators of most of these flaws, they are integral to all mecha that came after them, and stand the test of time on their own merits.

        Personally I would reccomend you watch G Gundam and Turn A post haste, they are really incredible shows. Just make sure you watch G in Japanese to see it at its best, the dub is a little cheesy to say the least. G’s first half may be a tad formulaic for you, but its last 26 or so episodes are beyond awesome. Turn A is an odd beast, not for everyone, but well worth investing your time in if you can be patient.

        After that, I might suggest Gundam X. I’ve yet to watch the whole series myself, but from what little I have seen it was intriguing. The main Gundam is almost an outright super robot, the main pilot leaves the wangsting to his girlfriend and commanding officer, Newtypes are treated in a very interesting light, and its the shortest of all full length Gundam series. Also, Newtype Dolphins.

        • JoeQ says:

          Yeah, I kinda figured it’d be like that. Already added Unicorn and X to my list, guess I’ll make time at some point to see how those agree with me and then consider the rest.

          It’s not like I’m fundamentally opposed to those tropes I mentioned, they just need to justified and executed well enough for me to be able to stomach them (Eureka 7 in particular is a shining example of how to do them right) and unfortunately the impression I get is that Gundam in general pretty much fails at that.

          • Matt Wells says:

            Well Gundam was the first to come up with this stuff, its only natural that the execution is primitive compared to the superior examples you mention. And your idea kicks ass; an entire series of just human MS aces just kicking ass in semi-realistic combat. You know, like Votoms, but Gundam (sort of)!

            I get your reservations though, and Gundam has always seemed so on the fence to me: they can never decide how Real or Super they want to go. You don’t have to devour the entire franchise like Ghostie did in a year, just see how each installment takes you. Keep us posted on how you find these series!

      • Basically every realfag wants Band of Brothers in mecha anime form.

        • JoeQ says:

          Pretty much, yeah. My ideal real robot show would probably be a combination of all the best parts of Flag, Gasaraki, Ghost in the Shell and (presumably) Votoms. Small scale, mass produced grunt mecha piloted by older, professional soldiers embroiled in war and political intrigue.

          Basically, Heavy Gear the anime.

    • You are depriving yourself of goodness then.

      No matter what anyone says, the Original Movie Trilogy of MS Gundam is the apotheosis of real robot anime.

      And while that remains true, Mobile Suit Z Gundam is even better.

      If you’re going to rule out anime due to the presence of things you don’t like, then you are indeed out of luck. Very few things will please you and you will spend your days whining about what other people enjoy. I started out very skeptical of Gundam, but I got over myself and I probably enjoy the franchise as much as any hardcore fan.

      What Matt says makes sense.

      It is unwise to judge older examples of a tradition with standards accrued in the present. It is always harsher on the new, precisely because the old contributed already to the tradition. But to impose standards of freshness from the current period on old stuff is foolish. Wangsting was new shit, once upon a time. It was radical and swam against the current.

      • JoeQ says:

        “If you’re going to rule out anime due to the presence of things you don’t like, then you are indeed out of luck. Very few things will please you and you will spend your days whining about what other people enjoy.”

        *shrug* That’s what I do all the time already, except for the part about pointlessly whining about what other people enjoy. I’ve long since given up on trying to enjoy all anime anyway and freely admit there are a lot things I simply do not like, and yet my watchlist is long enough to keep me entertained for the foreseeable future.

        Though I do aknowledge what you’ve both said about judging things according to their age and remain willing to give the rest of UC (and maybe even the rest of all Gundam, though that seems unlikely) a chance if the series I’ve already mentioned continue to impress me.

        Also, a lot of my complaints boil down to the need of having likeable or at least compelling characters, which is pretty important to me in any form of entertainment . It’s very hard more for me to care about the world and the story if I can’t give a shit about the characters. This is why Elfen Lied for example failed oh so hard for me and why Albert nearly ruined Gankutsuou towards the end. I might’ve have given up on 08th MS Team too if Shiro had post episode 7 let himself be crippled by his idealism or magically gained super piloting skill allowing him to flawlessly disable mobile suits without ever killing anyone, but thankfully they handled things a lot better.

  15. JoeQ says:

    Also on the subject of 08th MS Team, even though I enjoyed it I really think the show could have benefited greatly from having about the double it’s current lenght (some actual fucking camouflage on the mobile suits would have been nice too…). More missions, more character development and more interaction would have made for a much better show. Norris in particular was woefully underutilised. But I guess such are the limitations of the OVA format (unless you’re LoftGH of course).

    • Matt Wells says:

      You could argue 08th MS Team is underdeveloped, I prefer calling it lean and fat free. Given the sheer amount of padding in the average Gundam series, 08th is cut down and economic in its storytelling to the extreme. The romance takes up a grand total of three episodes tops, each character gets their time in the spotlight, and they all grow and change. Its slight, but rock solid in its storytelling.

      We always wish that truly great shows could last that little bit longer; dragging them out any further would probably hurt their superlative quality. But yes, Norris could have used more build up and it would be nice to get closure for the other members of the 08th MS team. And camouflague is something of a moot point when your driving a 23 feet tall giant robot.

      • JoeQ says:

        BS. When Minovsky particles force all fighting to happen within visual range you need all the advantages you can get. No matter how iconic they might be, bright primary colours are just fucking stupid in a jungle where the trees are often shown to be taller than your suit. At least the Zakus were slightly better off.

        • Matt Wells says:

          And crap like this is why I REALLY hate Minovsky Particles as an excuse for Real Robots…But yes, you are dead right. Stealth is hard to pull off with huge Mecha, but at least when at rest, camoflagued Mobile Suits would be essential. Speaking of naturally camoflagued design, you’ve given me another reason to love Scopedogs!

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  19. Jdecker says:

    Think you should add Gundam AGE to the list, or are you not counting it because it is not finished yet?

  20. Jdecker says:

    Hmmm, I may be an oddity (if you can call it that) when it comes to how I got introduced to Gundam. I ignored it for a while until I caught views of Super Robot Wars Z2. Then I figured “why not” and started watching. The order I watched them went like this:

    * Gundam 00 (which made its SRW debut in the aforementioned game) which seemed awesome to me
    * G Gundam (I was into super robots before I started on Gundam, so it may have helped to see this)
    * Gundam Wing
    * Gundam (0079). I wanted to catch the Universal Century in a way that was as spoiler-less as possible.
    * Zeta Gundam. Dragged on a little for me. Maybe I’ll do the movies next time.
    * Gundam X (Garrod Ran is now my favourite Gundam protagonist)
    * Gundam SEED. Meh. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it.
    * Gundam 0080 (pulled the heartstrings)

    I’m also regularly checking up on Gundam AGE, and I’m hoping to start Gundam ZZ soon, and I’m having a deuce of a time finding a way to watch Char’s Counterattack.

    Well, internets, what do you make of that?

  21. friendsheyho says:

    I hate starting series or franchises with anything but the very first episode, so I started with First Gundam. Then I watched Zeta and Unicorn and I’ve seen a bit of 00. I probably broke the sound barrier or something when I heard them say “General Revil” in Unicorn, I love continuity nods (another reason I think I passed out when Kai showed up). I’m so glad I started with UC. Screw people who say ladies don’t like mecha! :)

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