Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Enduring Gundam Giant Robot Franchise From Japan

Just the other day I realized that I had previously talked about the giant, 1:1 scale RX-78-2 Gundam down in Odaiba and a bit about the Gundam Pod video games in the arcades, but never really about Gundam.  I'm a Gundam fan of the original series with its offshoot series based in the same universe, but also like the newer series too.  Gundam Seed is actually my favourite of all of the series for the blend of the characters and the awesome mecha designs.  Gundam Seed Destiny wasn't so good, but then Gundam 00 and Gundam Unicorn came along to save the day.  Everyone is going to have their own favourites for various reasons, so lets all just agree that we like Gundam for whatever reason and cherish the fact that Gundam exists.
Gundam billboard for the new game in Tokyo

So what the heck is a Gundam?  A Gundam is a "realistically" depicted giant robot.  Take that with a grain of salt as they're still pretty amazing in capability; since a good model in the hands of a Newtype or really good pilot could take on a small army of other mechs and conventional forces.  Japan pretty much created the giant robot trope originally in 1956 with the manga Tetsujin 28-go.  Many giant robots later, found even in the Godzilla movies, the next big hit was an anime named Mazinger Z which I watched in the mid-1970s when I was a kid (apparently it is going to get a video release in North America in 2014 - but I can't find it for sale yet).  Mazinger was an awesome giant robot piloted by the hothead Koji Kabuto that fought the robot minions of Dr. Hell every week to save the Earth.  Mazinger made a big impression on me and heck yeah, I'd pilot a giant robot any day, fully knowing that they would be impractical to implement or survive with near future military technology.

http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gundam

Anyhow, in the 1979, the Mobile Suit Gundam anime began broadcasting and became a big hit.  Children who watched that have become adults and many are still fans of the Gundam.  Gundam is now a massive franchise that has produced over 30 TV series and movies in the last 35 years.  That is a large amount of robot goodness and it has secured a place in the hearts of many Japanese and foreign fans.

A large number of Gundam plastic models.

Gundam was half done to sell toys too and the amount of Gundam merchandise is staggering.  These robot anime series sell toys, but I've always admired how the Japanese bring anime, manga, music, toys, and more together into a synergistic whole that enhances the Gundam experience.  I love the Gundam model kits and they fact you can create fully articulated models without the use of glue!  Painting always makes them better, but they are molded in colour with stickers for the non-painter.  They also vary in price and quality from a $5 kit for beginners to over $100 for the master grade model kits.  In the larger toy stores you will find a section just for Gundam as it is its own market.

50 episodes of Seed available on Youtube on the Official Bandai Channel

50 episodes of Destiny available on Youtube on the Official Bandai Channel

Right now you can even watch the complete series of Gundam Seed, Gundam Seed Destiny, and Gundam Build Fighters on the Bandai Channel on Youtube.  Fully knowing there is a massive entertainment media and toy complex behind Gundam, I'm really enjoying the still airing series, Gundam Build Fighters, that is about building Gundam models and battling with them in tournaments.  All of your favourite anime tropes about hot-headed pilots, never giving up, and doing your best are in this series.  Great mecha battles too!  Gundam Unicorn is still releasing right now and you can still find English dubbed releases over here for the older series that were released before Bandai withdrew from the R1 anime market.

Gundam Build Fighters.  Build your Gunpla (Gundam model) and enter it into a tournament.

Gundam Manga (I'm really enjoying this series)

There are also the new manga releases based on the original series, written and drawn by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the character designer from the original anime.  Right now Mobile Gundam Suit The Origin is still being released with volume 5 just coming out in the near future.  This hardcover manga is good, probably more accessible than the now aged looking original anime, and the production quality is awesome.

RX-78-2 Gundam at Diver City in Odaiba

If you become a fan, you can then go to Tokyo Japan to visit great toy stores to buy Gundam models, see the giant Gundam statue in Odaiba, have a drink at the Gundam Cafe, play as a Gundam pilot in the arcade, and immerse yourself within the Gundam Front mini-theme park.  Visit Japan, land of the rising sun, and the giant robot!


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