The franchise bearing the name Gundam can be considered the Anime equivalent of Star Trek. In 1979, a planned 52-episode series got cut down to 43 due to low Ratings, Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidou Senshi Gundam in Japanese) became easily one of the two most well-known and long-running series of the Humongous Mecha genre (the other most well-known being Macross) Created by Yoshiyuki Tomino, it's a veritable merchandising empire encompassing manga and video game tie-ins, plastic models and toys, (theme park rides and race team sponsorships). The comparisons to Star Trek line up in the rousing success of reruns, movies and the sequel series Zeta Gundam, which solidified its status as a franchise, and where a western show would have a Trekkie, a Japanese show is likely to include a Gundam fanatic. Theme-wise, however, the franchise could be considered an antithesis of what Roddenberry's work represented; if there are strange new worlds to see, expect them to either host space-fascists or simply blow up.
Gundam effectively invented the Real Robot genre, depicting mobile suits as mass-produced machines of war similar to planes or tanks, rather than unique creations solely responsible for defending against enemies. Of course, its Super Robot roots remain in the Gundams themselves -- unique mobile suits (typically Super Prototypes or Ace Custom units) piloted by the main character(s) and the focus of much of the show.
One of the most noticeable quirks of the Gundam metaseries is its prolific use of Alternate Universes; to date, there are eight different Gundam universes, each identified by the name of the calendar they use:
- 1 Universal Century (UC)
- 2 Future Century (FC)
- 3 After Colony (AC)
- 4 After War (AW)
- 5 Correct Century (CC)
- 6 Cosmic Era (CE)
- 7 Anno Domini (AD)
- 8 Advanced Generation (AG)
- 9 Other
Universal Century (UC)
The One Year War
- Mobile Suit Gundam (1979 TV series, recut in 1981 and 1982 into three Compilation Movies): In UC 0079, the Principality of Zeon fights a war of "independence" against the Earth Federation, the initial skirmishes killing off half the human population. The story follows the refugee crew of the Earth Federation ship the White Base (and its load of Super Prototype mobile suits) as they battle their way through the latter half of what would later be called the One Year War. What set this series apart as Real Robot was the large scale military use of mecha, the in-depth technical specifications of the future technology and the depiction that both the Federation and Zeon had good and bad people fighting for them, rather than one side of Heroes and one side of faceless evil mooks.
- Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO (2004-2009 CGI OVA): Covers the One Year War, first from the POV of a Zeon Wide-Eyed Idealist engineer who's always in charge of testing new prototypes, and then from the POV of a Federation battalion as they fight Zeon on Earth.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (1996 12-episode OVA, 1998 compilation movie): A sort of Lower Deck Series counterpart to Mobile Suit Gundam, it follows the eponymous 08th MS Team, a textbook example of The Squad (only with mobile suits), with nary a Newtype in sight.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (1989 OVA): Set in a theoretically neutral space colony near the end of the One Year War, it features an eleven year old boy and tells the story of his brief but tragic involvement in the war, driving home its moral that War Is Hell with unforgiving intensity.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (1991 OVA, 1992 compilation movie): Set in UC 0083, featuring The Remnants of Zeon Gundamjacking a nuclear-armed Gundam. Also serves as a series-long Retcon to explain the political situation at the beginning of Zeta Gundam. Generally counted as a One Year War series, despite taking place after the OYW.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story: The Blue Destiny (1996-7 Sega Saturn game, has novel and manga adaptations): Late in the One Year War, Federation pilot Yuu Kajima leads a "guinea pig team" that tests out new technologies before they hit full production. During one sortie, his team is attacked by a berserk blue GM, which Yuu barely drives off. This gets him assigned as the official pilot of the machine, Blue Destiny 1, and draws him into a conflict with "The Paladin of Zeon", Ace Pilot Nimbus Schtarzen, over the mysterious EXAM System used by the Blue Destiny units and Nimbus' Efreet Kai.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise from the Ashes (1999 Sega Dreamcast game): Follows the exploits of the White Dingo Team, a Federation combat group much in the vein of the 08th MS Team, as they fight to retake Australia from the Zeon forces.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0079: Zeonic Front (2001 PlayStation 2 game): Described as Rainbow Six meets Gundam, this strategic action game focuses on the Midnight Fenrir Team, a Zeon special forces unit that operates just off to the side of the events of Mobile Suit Gundam and crosses swords with Federation pilot Lt. Agar and Gundam Unit 6 "Mudrock".
- Mobile Suit Gundam Side Story: From Place Beyond the Blaze (2003 manga): A spinoff of the Original Generation plot from the PlayStation 2 game Encounters in Space, this awkwardly-titled manga focuses on the White Base's sister ship Thoroughbred and its two main pilots, veteran Luce Kassel and rookie Ford Romfellow, pilots of Gundam Units 4 and 5.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Deleted Affair: Portrait of a Young Comet (2001-9 manga): Taking place after the One Year War, this manga focuses on Char Aznable's life on the asteroid base Axis up to his return to the Earth Sphere in UC 0083. It also details a young Haman Karn, and her rise to power as well as her relationship with Char. Fixes a couple plot holes from the MSG movies (e.g. M'Quve's disappearance) and serves as a bridge to both Gundam 0083 and Zeta Gundam.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Rebellion (2013- manga): A retelling and Adaptation Expansion of Stardust Memory, this work follows the chain of events that would eventually lead up to the beginning of Zeta Gundam. Like the original OVA, it's generally counted as a OYW series though set after it.
- Gundam Legacy (2004-9 manga): Set before, during and after the One Year War until the events of Char's Counterattack, this manga is a collection of short stories focusing on characters from various works, including games.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (2001-11 manga, 2015- OVA series): An Adaptation Expansion and remake of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Not only does it cover the events of the 1979 anime, but also sheds light on the events leading up to the OYW and backstories of the likes of Char and Sayla.
The Gryps Conflict and Neo Zeon Wars
- Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985 TV series, three 2005 Compilation Movies): Set in UC 0087, eight years after the original series ended. It featured a mix of new and returning characters joining together to form the AEUG and fight first against the vicious Titans and later Axis Zeon, making it essentially one long Melee a Trois series. Comparable to Star Trek: The Next Generation in expanding the mythology of the saga. Three new compilation movies were made in 2005 as a celebration of Gundam's 25th anniversary known as A New Translation, with new clips added in and major changes to the story plot.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Ecole Du Ciel (2001 manga): Set in UC 0085, the series follows a girl called Asuna Elmarit, generally regarded by fans as being Gundam's first female lead as she goes from unsure test pilot to member of the AEUG.
- Gundam Sentinel (1987-8 photonovel): A story depicting events in between Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, telling of elite officers going rogue from the Earth Federation and forming a new anti-colony force, the New Desides. In response, Task Force Alpha is sent to quell their uprising before it gets out of hand. Notable for being the series that introduced Hajime Katoki, who would become one of the franchise's most prolific mechanical designers.
- Advance of Zeta: Flag of the Titans (2002 novel): A prequel to Zeta Gundam, it tells the story of the first Titans unit. There are two versions: a Dengeki Hobby serial that takes the form of a photo-novel accompanied by mechanical designs, technical information, and model photographs, and a Dengeki Daioh serial is in manga format. Each version covers the same events, but some characters and events are depicted only in the photo-novel or only in the manga. Created as a a collaborative project between the staff of Dengeki Hobby Magazine and Sunrise, it is a popular long running series.
- Advance of Zeta: The Traitor to Destiny (2010 novel): Another prequel to Zeta Gundam, however this one was created with a new staff, new mecha, new characters and a new setting completely different from the previous series.
- Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (1986 TV series): Deals with the fallout of Zeta's conclusion, with the victorious Axis Zeon declaring themselves Neo Zeon and launching a new war against the Earth. It falls to the battered remnants of the AEUG to combat the Neo Zeon menace. The early episodes are surprisingly lighthearted, as they take the POV of civilians not directly involved in the events of Zeta Gundam. This makes it highly divisive among the fandom; it's either loathed as Mood Whiplash or seen as the franchise's sigh of relief after Zeta's gratuitous Wangst.
- Under the Gundam: Double Fake (manga): A side-story set between ZZ Gundam and Char's Counterattack, it is based around a decoy operation launched by Char in preparation for his Neo Zeon movement, and notably features, for what is possibly the only time in the entire franchise, a fake Gundam, hence the title. Later had a sequel called Mobile Suit Gundam Almarya, set very far down the Universal Century line.
- MSV-R: The Return of Johnny Ridden (2010- manga): Set in UC 0090, between ZZ Gundam and Char's Counterattack, it follows the exploits of the Federation Survey Service as they gather data on mobile suits, prototypes and experimental weapons particularly those from the One Year War. But what seems to be a Merchandise-Driven Excuse Plot quickly reveals itself to be part of a deeper, larger story involving Zeon's Chimera Corps., Kycilia Zabi and Johnny Ridden himself.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988 movie): Set in UC 0093. After vanishing at the end of Zeta, Char returns and founds a second Neo Zeon with the intent of dropping Axis on Earth to cause a nuclear winter. Only the Londo Bell taskforce, lead by Amuro and Bright, has the manpower and initiative to stop him. CCA is the ultimate conclusion of Amuro and Char's character arc, and clears the field for new stories to come.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn (2007-9 novel, 2010-12 OVA): Three years after Chars Counterattack, Ordinary High School Student Banagher Links meets a mysterious girl, and becomes pilot of the Unicorn Gundam as The Remnant of Neo Zeon returns.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway's Flash (1989 novel series): Set in UC 0105, the novel centers on Hathaway Noa, the estranged son of eternal captain Bright Noa as he leads an anti-Federation terrorists and suffers one hell of a Downer Ending. Though it springs from the continuity of the Char's Counterattack novels rather than the films, fans tend to count it as having happened.
Second Universal Century
- Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (1991 movie): In UC 0123, the forces of the Crossbone Vanguard begin taking over the Frontier Side colonies as part of their plan to create the elite society "Cosmo Babylonia". It falls to young civilian Seabook Arno to pilot the Gundam F91 and battle the Crossbone menace. Originally intended as a TV series, after 13 episodes were scripted it was instead turned into a movie, resulting in a rather rushed story.
- Mobile Suit Gundam F90 (1990 manga): A prequel to F91, the story is put in motion when a faction of Zeon that has been hiding on Mars for decades steals a prototype Gundam unit and the Federation sends the legendary 13th Autonomous Corps to retrieve it.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Formula 91: Formula Wars 0122 (1991 Super Famicon game): Essentially a sequel to Gundam F90 it covers Mars Zeon's invasion of Earth.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Silhouette Formula 91 in UC 0123 (1992-3 manga): Another manga tying in with the movie, though this one is happening concurrently with it and covers separate events. It focuses on Anaheim Electronics' "Silhouette Project" (read: stealing data on the F91 and using it themselves) and their encounter with the Crossbone Vanguard, a colony of Zeon die-hards, and a corrupt Federation officer.
- Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam (1994-7 manga): A continuation of the F91 story written by Tomino himself; the Crossbone Vanguard, now lead by the heroes of F91, have become Space Pirates and fight a shadow war against the mysterious Jupiter Empire. Has two sequels, Skull Heart (2003-4) and The Steel 7 (2006-7) which wrap up the plotline and tie it into...
- Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993 TV series): Set in UC 0153, the story deals with the elitist Zanscare Empire trying to conquer Earth in the name of their queen, while the Federation's final descent into stagnation leaves the planet's defense in the hands of a civilian militia called the League Militaire. Famous for Yoshiyuki Tomino going through a battle with depression while writing this series, making it Darker and Edgier even than Zeta.
- Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Ghost (2011-?? manga): Set during the last part of Victory, as Zanscare prepares to use the Angel Halo. Focuses on a revived Crossbone Vanguard who are trying to sabotage Zanscare's efforts, in particular a bioweapon called "Angel's Call", which Zanscare plans on integrating with Angel Halo.
Third Universal Century
- Gaia Gear (1987-1991 novel series): A far-future sequel to the Universal Century, set in the early UC 0200s and centering on a "memory clone" of Char who leads the rebels of Metatron against Manhunter, a Titans-like entity. Originally written before F91 and Victory, their creation pushed Gaia Gear into Alternate Continuity (though Gundam Unicorn did feature a Continuity Nod with the appearance of the Manhunters).
- G-Saviour (2000 live action movie): Originally intended for Gundam's Big Bang Project (the 20th anniversary) in 1999. Besides being set in the UC 0200s, it has extremely little to do with Gundam overall; this, combined with the poor production qualities, has resulted in fans and Sunrise alike trying to pretend it never happened (but not officially disbarring it from canon). It also got a video game set in the same era but with its own plot, actual Continuity Nods, and decent gamplay, making it much better received than the film.
- Gundam: Reconguista in G (2014 TV series): Set even further into the future of the Universal Century timeline, this marks Tomino's first series in years since Turn A Gundam.
Future Century (FC)
- Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994 TV series): A shamelessly Super Robot series Mix and Match'd with a Fighting Series, G Gundam was an intentional break after the dark Mobile Suit Victory Gundam. Set in FC 60. In this universe, war is avoided by establishing Gundam Fights, championship battles that determine the country that leads the human race. The fight that occurs this year is rendered unique in that it deals with a Government Conspiracy and the monstrous Dark Gundam. Notable in being the first Alternate Universe series and that Yoshiyuki Tomino set aside the directors duties and allowed someone else to work on a Gundam series.
- Choukyuu! Mobile Fighter G Gundam (2010 manga): Essentially a retelling of the original anime, with some slight alterations to the plot (portraying Domon as a more comical Idiot Hero, for example).
After Colony (AC)
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995 TV series): Set in AC 195, five Gundams are sent to Earth from the space colonies to fight for independence from the Earth Sphere Alliance. Sides change frequently even among the Gundam pilots as the politics and manipulations grow more and more complicated. Notable for being the first Gundam series released in English and was a megahit on Cartoon Network, helping to bring the other franchise members into English adaptations. The uncut version shown late night also helped inspire the Adult Swim programming block.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz (1997 OVA, recut into movie in 1999): Takes place a year after the end of Gundam Wing, when the Gundam pilots try something completely different against a new enemy. Features completely redesigned Gundams, despite them nominally being the same machines.
- Episode Zero (1997 manga): A series of vignettes focusing on key moments in the childhoods of the Gundam Pilots and Relena that helped make them who they are in the series. Since it was penned by the show's head writer, and Word of God said that it just barely missed being animated due to scheduling conflicts (the two episodes it would have made up became Clip Shows instead), Episode Zero is more or less considered canon.
- Gundam Wing Dual Story: G-Unit, aka The Last Outpost in America (1997 manga): A sidestory beginning roughly halfway through the TV series, G-Unit focuses on the Asteroid Belt colony MO-V that's developed its own modular Gundams with a special Super Mode. This draws the attention of OZ's black ops division Prize, which begins a months-long siege of the colony. Not to be confused with another G-Unit.
- Battlefield of Pacifists (1997 manga): One of the three Interquel manga, focusing on rumors of a lost OZ mobile doll plant and the race between OZ remnants and a supposed pacifist group to get their hands on it while the Gundam Team works to find and destroy it.
- Blind Target (1998 radio drama and manga): The second Interquel, focusing on a shadowy rebel group attempting to stir up war once more, and the efforts of the Gundam pilots to stop them.
- New Mobile Report Gundam Wing Sidestory: Tiel's Impulse (1998 manga): A short manga, it deals with a young girl whose quest to find her missing brother leads her to discovering Romefeller's secret plant for creating mass produced Gundams. Because it was made for a book on model customization, it's a little light on substance and all the MS are just parts swaps of existing designs.
- Frozen Teardrop (2010 novel): A sequel written by the series' head writer Katsuyuki Sumisawa and serialized in Gundam Ace Magazine. Set some time after the end of the series in the date "MC 0022", it focuses on the new generation of Preventers, who revive a frozen Heero in order to battle a new enemy based out of Mars. Includes Flash Backs to the era before the original anime, showing what the generation before Heero's did and how it shaped the future conflicts. Was not at all well received by fans, in the English speaking world, at least, due to numerous improbable plot twists on par with a stereotypical Soap Opera.
- Gundam Wing Endless Waltz: The Glory of Losers (2010 manga): Primarily an External Retcon of the television series, using the Endless Waltz-styled versions of the Gundams and adding plot elements from the other sidestories like Episode Zero and Frozen Teardrop.
After War (AW)
- After War Gundam X (1996 TV series), has not been released in English. It deals with a variation of the UC timeline, set in a dystopian future After the End; 15 years prior to the series, the war between Earth and the Space Colonies got out of hand and the two factions Colony Dropped each other into near-oblivion. While everyone fights just to survive, a group of Disaster Scavengers attempts to protect Newtypes from the rest of the world and protect the rest of the world from them. It was canceled early like the original series, but that was attributed to poor scheduling rather then lack of quality.
- After War Gundam X: Under the Moonlight (2004-5 manga): A sequel set nine years after the anime's end, it focuses on Rick Aller, a Vulture pilot who, during a salvage competition, uncovers a black Gundam X whose cockpit contains the mysterious Newtype, Kai. In an ironic twist, the story's runaway popularity netted it an unexpected extension.
Correct Century (CC)
- Turn A Gundam (1999 TV series, 2002 compilation movies): The technologically advanced people of the Moon decide to return to live on Earth, which upsets the agrarian locals, who were there first. Violent conflict results, despite the wishes of leaders of both sides of the conflict, with the Moonrace's mobile suits pitted against the local milita's recently-excavated relics of the mysterious Black History. Yoshiyuki Tomino returns as director, but the mecha designs were (in)famously done by American Syd Mead, the man responsible for the visual design of works such as Blade Runner and Aliens. Fans regard it as one of the best in the franchise, notably avoiding the Downer Ending "Kill'Em All" for which Tomino was famous.
Cosmic Era (CE)
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (2002 TV series, 2004 compilation movies): In CE 71, tensions between Coordinators and Naturals have erupted into outright warfare, with the Coordinator militia ZAFT employing mobile suits for the first time. The first half of the series mirrors the plot of the original Mobile Suit Gundam quite closely, and is even occasionally called "21st Century First Gundam". The second half diverges quite quickly, however, when the main characters decide that the Earth Alliance and ZAFT are each as bad as the other and decide to Take a Third Option. For the anime's 10th anniversary, the series has been rereleased in HD, called SEED HD Remaster.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray (2002- manga series): Set alongside the events of SEED, Astray focuses primarily on junk tech Lowe Guele and mercenary Gai Murakumo, who discover two prototype Gundams in the ruins of Heliopolis and battle Orb aristocrat Rondo Gina Sahaku, who possesses the third. Notable for intersecting with the events of the series to close several Plot Holes without resorting to actual Retcons. Astray is a series unto itself, with an ever-expanding number of manga and photonovels that continue even as the primary SEED story has stalled.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny (2004 TV series, 2006-7 compilation movies): Considered the Zeta Gundam to Gundam SEED's Mobile Suit Gundam, it features a combination of new and returning characters in a second round of the Natural-Coordinator conflict. In the beginning, it centers around Shinn Asuka, a former citizen of Orb who is now a Gundam pilot for ZAFT. Through the course of the series, pretty much everyone turns out to have secret devious schemes, and about halfway through the series Kira Yamato returns and usurps the role of main character. Though successful in Japan, Destiny has a very vocal Hatedom and a truly massive Broken Base in the West, with fan battles over the series continuing well after its conclusion.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED C.E. 73: Stargazer (2006 ONA): Set in the same timeframe as Gundam SEED Destiny, notable for its initial release being online (hence its being labeled an ONA, or Original Net Animation) rather than TV or DVD.
- A movie intended to conclude the Cosmic Era timeline was announced in 2005 following the end of SEED Destiny, but head writer Chiaki Morosawa's ongoing battle with cancer (according to an April 2008 interview with Animage magazine, Morosawa had uterine fibroids and an ovarian cyst, and had a hysterectomy performed) has pushed it into Development Hell.
Anno Domini (AD)
AKA "the current calendar system", notable for being the only Gundam timeline to avert the Exty Years From Now of other timelines.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2007 TV Series, 2009-10 compilation movies): The first Gundam series to be split into two explicit seasons (of 25 episodes each), with a six month real-time (and four year in-universe) gap between them. The first season deals with the mysterious group known as Celestial Being who, armed with Gundams, announce their plan to end war on planet Earth by killing anyone and everyone who starts one. The second season deals the fallout of The Reveal at the end of the first season, with Celestial Being struggling to put their hijacked plan back on track, and the true purpose of Celestial Being coming to the fore -- and becoming another point of conflict.
- A Wakening of the Trailblazer (2010) is a movie that concludes the 00 timeline. Taking place two years after the end of the series, it will feature Celestial Being's plan coming into its final and most important stage: "the dialogues to come". Making this movie particularly interesting is the first appearance of an alien species in the Gundam franchise.
- A number of manga and photonovel sidestories also exist, detailed on their own page.
Advanced Generation (AG)
- Mobile Suit Gundam AGE TV Series (2011) The newest Gundam series, will revolve around a "Hundred Year War", with three generations of protagonists.
- Gundam EXA (2011- manga): Set in the distant future of all Gundam universes, EXA centers on Leos Aroi, a "G-Diver" who enters archives of historical data that allow him to "travel" to any of the universes, encountering familiar characters and looking for important data. Fans have taken to calling it "Gundam Meets Kamen Rider Decade", a fairly accurate descriptor. It also features a cross-promotion with Gundam Extreme Vs., marking the first physical appearance by the game's Final Boss ex-.
At its core, each Gundam series tells the story of a war between Earth and the space colonies that orbit it; it is this Earth vs. Space theme that is consistent throughout the entire Gundam metaseries. The TV series generally follow one of two basic plotlines (though the various OVAs, movies, manga, and novels mix things up a bit more):
- The protagonist is an Ordinary High School Student who ends up Falling Into the Cockpit of the newest Gundam during the first episode after the series' antagonist attacks his Doomed Hometown. Drawn into the ongoing war against their will, they end up helping The Federation defeat The Empire.
- Otherwise, the main character is instead a trained-from-a-young-age Ace Pilot/Overt Agent in his mid-teens, and a vital part of La Résistance fighting against The Empire. (Whether Earth or Space are the good guys or the evil ones is a toss up depending on the series.)
- Either way, an enemy pilot will eventually become The Rival to the main character, usually an Ace Pilot who has more experience but is initially thwarted by the main character's Bigger Stick. This rival usually takes the form of an Expy of Char Aznable, the original -- a mysterious, blond, masked man.
- Often the rival, and usually the protagonist, will eventually receive a Mid-Season Upgrade either in the form of a Super Mode or an entirely new mobile suit. In some cases, it becomes a matter of "only a Gundam can defeat a Gundam."
No overview of Gundam could be complete without mentioning Kunio Okawara, who created the original mecha designs for the first Gundam universe, and who has continued to create designs for every Gundam show since. Hajime Katoki, who began as a model customizer, is also a key Gundam designer, often creating more "realistic" versions of Okawara's designs. Other important mechanical designers include Kazumi Fujita, Junya Ishigaki, Mamoru Nagano, and others.
The origin of the name Gundam varies from series to series, in the first show it was simply the title given to the mobile suit. Later series in the same continuity uses the name as a direct reference to that first mobile suit. In other continuities it can stand as an acronym or as a reference to some new technology that the mobile suit pioneers, like a super armor named "Gundanium." The Gundams themselves generally share visual characteristics from generation to generation - the design is easily distinguishable by the yellow "V-fin" on the forehead, and the primary "Hero" Gundam will be mostly white and blue with some red accents. However, what actually makes a Gundam a Gundam is pretty arbitrary (both in-universe and out), and often boils down to whether people (both in-universe and out) call it a Gundam or not.
The Gundam metaseries, particularly the original Universal Century timeline, is also notable for the remarkably consistent fictional technology; in UC, this is based on the original Minovsky Particle. Also notable is the presence of Newtypes, who are essentially psychics, and can be accurately described as "Jedi in giant robots". Newtypes, or something similar, appear in most Gundam shows.
Gundam also has a large number of Video Games associated with it, notables including the Super Robot Wars series, the SD Gundam G Generation series of Turn-Based Strategy games, the Gundam vs. Series, Gundam Climax U.C., Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, and semi-SD styled spinoff RPG MS Saga. And for Something Completely Different, there's SD Gundam, both in the form of a series of Omake-style parody shorts and a full-blown series called SD Gundam Force. There is also an OVA about the model kits that fund the series called Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G. Later, there was the Gundam Build Fighters anime, and its sequel Gundam Build Fighters Try. Also well-represented in the Robot Spirits toy line.
Gundam apparently doesn't fall under the purview of the Japanese Agriculture Ministry. Except when it does.
- Bright Slap (now Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!)
- Char Clone
- Colony Drop
- Ensign Newbie
- Minovsky Physics
- Mobile Suit Human
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
- The Abridged Series: There are quite a few Gundam Abridged
- Absent Aliens: One of the hallmarks of the show is that there are no signs of extraterrestrial life, which originally made the show stand out from the pack. The only exceptions so far are Gundam SEED mentioning a winged Space Whale fossil found on Jupiter in passing and Gundam 00, which includes Starfish Aliens in the movie.
- Aerith and Bob: There are some very strangely named characters in Gundam, there are also a scattering of people with completely mundane names.
- Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Most of the Cool Starships in the series qualify as these. Particularly if you count flight-capable Humongous Mecha as 'aircraft'.
- A Lighter Shade of Gray: While Gundam usually goes out of its way to show that both sides of the conflict have good and bad people, it's generally still the case that one side has the moral high ground.
- All There in the Manual: There are loads of supplements like side-stories and model kit manuals. You won't miss vital information by ignoring them... usually.
- Alternate Continuity: TV series, movie trilogies, manga, video games, and novels all retell the same stories... and all slightly differently.
- Alternate Universe: So far there's UC, FC, AW, AC, CC, CE, AD, and AG.
- Alternative Calendar: Used for every series but Gundam 00, largely to avoid having to set a definitive "X years in the future" setting. Amusingly, the first few series (from Mobile Suit Gundam to Chars Counterattack) simply filed the serial numbers off by setting them in the year "UC 00XX", where XX was the year in the 20th century that the show was released. Mobile Suit Gundam, for example, was released in 1979 and set in UC 0079.
- Anime First: Most Gundam animated work has been anime first, with the two exception for Chars Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn, which were based on novels. See the Novelization entry below.
- Anyone Can Die: The series was, after all, created by a man who was nicknamed Kill'Em All.
- Armored Coffins: In the older series, there's no real way to escape from an exploding mobile suit. Some Super Prototypes do have ejection seats of some form (i.e. Gundam's Core Block system), but they're typically removed from mass-produced versions.
- Attack Drone: Every continuity has them in one form or another.
- The Battlestar: Most warships have impressive firepower in addition to their mobile suit payload.
- Bittersweet Ending: By far the most common sort of ending to a Gundam series. Only a handful have unambigiously happy (Gundam X, Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz) or downer (Zeta Gundam) endings.
- Canon: Gundam has an unusual take on this, partly because the Western definition of "canon" in regards to fiction doesn't exist in Japan. All animated works are considered "official", while everything else is "non-official". This means that the various contradictory Alternate Continuity works (namely, the TV shows and their Compilation Movie remakes) are equally "canon", while some non-animated works like Crossbone Gundam are "non-canon" despite being praised for their quality and attention to not mucking up the timeline. This makes it completely impossible to come up with any kind of "one true version" of events: see Continuity Snarl below.
- Cash Cow Franchise: Ever notice all those model kits?
- Char Clone: With the exception of the OVAs, there's at least one in every series where the original Char doesn't appear... except Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, where Char was originally intended to appear, but was scrapped when Chars Counterattack was given the green light.
- The Coconut Effect: Consciously averted. When Tomino wrote the original series, he decided to use particle-based weapons rather than lasers specifically because lasers would be invisible, instant-hit weapons and would kill a lot of the drama of battle.
- Collateral Angst: When a protagonist's love interest dies (and they do), the writing focuses mainly on how the protagonist feels rather than the tragedy of said love interest's life being cut short.
- Colony Drop: The Trope Namer; Gundam series are extremely fond of dropping large objects onto targets from orbit.
- Companion Cube: Many Gundam pilots either start or come to view their Gundams this way. They may even ask their advice and then behave as though the Gundam has given it.
- Combining Mecha: Comes and goes in phases. The original Gundam had the ability to separate and recombine; this was downplayed later. The CE timeline has this in spades, as the titular mecha combine with "packs" that seem expressly designed to ship more plastic models of the mecha.
- Compilation Movie: Gundam loves these. The television series generally get compilation movie trilogies, and even some of the OAVs have gotten compilation movies of their own.
- Convection, Schmonvection: Generally averted - the bigger Wave Motion Guns can ruin your day with even a near-miss.
- Cool Helmet: Sort of; the Gundams' iconic V crest attached to their heads.
- Cool Ship: The main character usually has a ship to haul his Cool Mecha around.
- Corporal Punishment: The main character usually ends up on the wrong end of a punitive beatdown at least once, and that's not even counting the therapeutic beatdowns he's also likely to receive.
- Crapsack World: The Universal Century timeline has a rough couple decades starting in UC 0079 -- the human population is cut in half over the course of a month by Colony Drops, nerve gas, and nuclear attacks, and the following 20 years bring multiple repeat performances of all three. It's not until post-Gundam Unicorn that things settle down, and then it's merely reduced to roughly one atrocity a generation instead of one every few years.
- Continuity Snarl: By Sunrise's policy, only animated works are truly "official". However, that still makes it impossible to determine a single "real" version of events, given that the franchise's full-length TV series are usually turned into movie triologies, which are Alternate Continuity to a greater (Zeta's movie trilogy retconned its entire sequel series, ZZ, out of existence) or lesser (the Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy just removes some of the wackier Super Robot influences and replaces shoddy animation with higher quality work) extent... and yet, they're all equally canon in Sunrise's eyes.
- Cyber Cyclops: The "bad guy" mobile suits tend to have a single, glowing camera; they're typically referred to as "mono-eyes".
- Dark and Troubled Past: Usually the main character, when they're the Overt Agent type. The Ordinary High School Students tend to have dark and troubled presents instead.
- Doomed Hometown: The main character's hometown, frequently a space colony, is usually wrecked early in the series. Sometimes directly leads to Falling Into the Cockpit.
- Downer Ending: Less common than the Bittersweet Ending, but more common than the Happy Ending. See Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory.
- Dual-Wielding: Ever since the original series, the classic melee loadout for a Gundam has been a pair of beam sabers, and if there's a variation from this formula, it's usually because the suit in question is fitted with even more blades as well.
- Energy Weapons: Frickin' Laser Beams, Wave Motion Guns, Laser Blades, and everything in between.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Gundam X is only TV series that total devoid of a princess (or a princess-in-exile, or the daughter of an important official, be it government or a scientist) in a major and/or supporting role.
- Evolutionary Levels: Used, subverted, and played with. Newtypes from the UC timeline are initially presented as this, but they ultimately don't seem to have much effect on the world beyond a handful of ridiculously skilled Ace Pilots. Gundam X has an ending that explicitly states Newtypes are nothing of the sort, though since it's an alternate universe it's still an open question for the UC timeline. The CE timeline's Coordinators are a mixed bag -- some of them consider themselves this, but many do not. Mobile Suit Gundam 00's Innovators are the concept played completely straight. The X-Rounders of Gundam AGE are still on the fence; on the one hand, both sides are trying to cultivate them, but one of the series' most powerful considers them to be an evolutionary throwback rather than advancement.
- Executive Meddling: Part of the reason the franchise failed overseas. Sunrise chose to follow the successes of Gundam Wing with Mobile Suit Gundam, whose dated animation and vastly different premise manage to kill the hype. Then they follow it with G Gundam, which was better received, but Bandai lost favor from toy stores as they forced them to stock merchandise that nobody wanted. By the time Gundam Seed rolled around, it has neither hype or driving force from merchandise to back it up, so it was shoved into a Friday Night Death Slot. Many fans hold the opinion that, had Sunrise exported Gundam X rather than the One Year War series, Gundam might have actually hung on longer.
- This can partly be explained by the fact that there's a committee that decides which Gundam works to license, meaning that cult favorites like V Gundam and Gundam X would probably never be exported even if the franchise had hung on. The committee seems dead set on the idea that if a series was unsuccessful in Japan, it couldn't possibly be successful in foreign markets. Of course, considering the merchandise sales for Japan alone surpass those for the entire rest of the planet combined, odds are the suits aren't exactly crying themselves to sleep.
- Expy: To say the franchise is addicted to this trope is an understatement. There's a Char in every single series.
- Falling Into the Cockpit: A popular way to select new crack Gundam pilots.
- Fanon Discontinuity: Contrary to popular belief, there is no official words removing G-Saviour from Universal Century. However, its existence is generally ignored by both the fans and the creators.
- The Federation: The Earth government is usually one.
- Fighter Launching Sequence: Pretty much everyone announces their name and which mecha they're using before launching from the Cool Ship.
- Five-Man Band: The Universal Century was slightly more dynamic, but it came into full swing in G Gundam and Gundam Wing.
- Gatling Good: The head gatlings, another iconic weapon for Gundam-type suits. Mostly used for dealing with small, fast threats like planes and missiles.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Bright Noa, the Team Dad of the UC timeline, is the king of this trope. So much so that it was originally called the Bright Slap. Used in serveral other timelines as well.
- Giant Robot Hands Save Lives
- Glowing Mechanical Eyes: Mobile suit cameras (positioned in their heads like eyes, naturally) always glow when activated.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Gundam is notable for rarely portraying either side of a conflict as faceless, mindless evildoers -- there are good people and bad people on all sides of a conflict. That said, the protagonists' faction will usually be A Lighter Shade of Grey.
- Gundamjack: Obviously, the Trope Namer. Good way to kick off the events of a given series.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Whilst their enemies often get more exotic melee weapons, the hero's suit will have a beam sabre or two.
- Heroic Sacrifice: From both throwaway and major characters; a side effect of Anyone Can Die.
- Humongous Mecha: Obviously.
- A Mech by Any Other Name: They're called "mobile suits" in general, though different timelines have variations like "mobile fighters", "mobile dolls", and "mobile bits". Non-humanoid versions are usually called "mobile armors".
- Iconic Characters: Char Aznable has been oft-imitated, both in the Gundam franchise itself and in other shows.
- Info Dump: Happens in some spots, e.g. the introduction of the Specials in Gundam Wing.
- Idiosyncratic Series Naming: Almost all of the Gundam TV series (as well as Mobile Suit Gundam F91, which was intended as a TV series) are named after one of the protagonist's mobile suits. The Odd Name Out is Gundam Seed, which doesn't contain a Seed Gundam.
- Latex Space Suit: For use by both males and females, though only pilots; other crew get bulkier, more conventional space suits.
- Long Runner: 30 years and counting. Big Name Fan Burke Rukes once pointed out on his old website that if one were to watch all of Gundam from MSG to Turn A, it would take about a week, and that was without counting work, sleep, and bathroom/meal breaks. And mind you, this was long before SEED, Destiny, 00, and AGE came out.
- Love Across Battlelines: A staple of the series, as part of the standard Love Hurts Aesop.
- Love Hurts: Very, very rarely does a romance with a Gundam pilot work out for anyone.
- Love Triangle: Almost all series have this!
- Made of Indestructium: Gundams are typically made of this; in UC it's named "Gundarium" in honor of the Gundam which was the first to use it; in AC it's called "Gundanium" and the Gundams are named after it; and in AD the Gundams use "GN Composite Armor", which is just normal armor reinforced with Applied Phlebotinum.
- Made of Explodium: Frequently what mook mecha are made out of. Handwaved in UC with Minovsky Physics, but Gundam Wing (and it's classic Mecha Mook the Leo) are most infamous for it.
- Magitek: Newtype technology, designed to augment and be augmented by a pilot's Psychic Powers.
- Mask Power: The Rival and/or Char Clone usually wear one.
- Mecha-Mooks: Dozens of variants in the franchise, usually limited to two or three examples per series. The bad guys usually have one that's influenced by the original Zaku II from Mobile Suit Gundam, with the "gas mask" face and its iconic mono-eye. In fact, the word "Zaku" is even derived from "zako" which means "mook" in Japanese.
- Media Franchise
- Mega Crossover: The Gundam Fighter Flash game, with over 80 Gundam characters from various shows.
- Melee a Trois: First introduced in Zeta Gundam.
- Milestone Celebration: Happens regularly at the 10 year marks.
- Military Brat: Nearly all series have characters that are children of military personnel.
- Minovsky Physics: Yet another Trope Namer, in the UC Timeline, but implemented in really every timeline more or less.
- Merchandise-Driven: Much, much more money is made on Gundam modeling kits than the anime itself.
- Moe Anthropomorphism: MS Girl is originator of Mecha Musume.
- Mythology Gag: While there are often indirect references to the original series in any given show, they often take this an step further by using the sound effects of the original series; this can range from the White Base's alert klaxon, to various booster/vernier sounds, to the classic "Pfeeew!" of the RX-78-2's beam rifle.
- Novelization: All of anime series except Gundam X has at least one. Beltochika's Children is rather amusing case, it was originally Tomino's rejected plot of Chars Counterattack which, in turn, is adaption of Tomino's novel Hi-Streamer. In other word, it's novelization of The Film of the Book, with all three by same author!
- Nuclear Option: Notable for averting the Nuclear Weapons Taboo. The UC and CE timelines, in particular, are fond of throwing nukes around. UC generally treats them as dangerous and powerful weapons but not necessarily evil incarnate (the good guys use illegally obtained nuclear missiles on at least one occasion), while CE is rather less forgiving.
- Phlebotinum Girl: Ubiquitous. In fact, the proposed name for the trope was "Newtype Girl".
- Pink Means Feminine: Which is why so many female pilots, from Zeta Gundam all the way through to Gundam AGE, have pink mobile suits (or, at least, suits with pink highlights).
- Poor Communication Kills: Does it ever.
- Psychic Children: Pretty much every Gundam universe, with the exceptions of G Gundam, Gundam Wing and Turn a Gundam prominently feature many youngsters with psychic powers of one kind or another, most of whom end up getting turned into as Child Soldiers because of them.
- Psychic Powers: Newtypes and their various Expies from other timelines.
- Real Robot: It invented the genre, though it's always been stuck somewhere between the Real Robot and Super Robot styles.
- Recurring Element: Haro.
- Red Baron: It's usually the enemy Ace Pilots that get awesome nicknames (starting with Char as the Red Comet), but occasionally allies do as well. Oddly, the main character almost never gets this treatment.
- Retcon: Between all the Alternate Continuity versions and OVAs, they're inevitable. They're usually not too bad, but exceptions (such as Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory's Colony Drop) do occur.
- Say My Name: It's not a Gundam series if it doesn't have this.
- Screwed by the Network: Numerous examples, both in Japan and abroad. Mobile Suit Gundam was cut from a planned 52 episodes to only 39, and the staff had to beg to get an extention up to 43 in order to wrap up the series; Gundam X was left to rot in a Friday Night Death Slot and eventually cut from 49 to 39 episodes.
- Sensor Suspense: Tends to do this by having stuff suddenly appear immediately before they come under attack. The Bridge Bunnies suddenly yelling "Heat source detected!" out of the blue usually means bad things are about to happen.
- Series Mascot: Aside from the Gundams themselves, there are the Haros.
- Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Tends to hover between "Male Superiority" and "Men are More Equal".
- Signature Device: Gundams
- So Last Season: The Mid-Series Upgrade has been a staple since Zeta Gundam, and even Mobile Suit Gundam had a limited version of it.
- Space Friction: The aversion of this is why mobile suits have limbs. The series is not 100% consistent on remembering this however.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Whoo boy. Too many examples to list, but common to a greater or lesser extent in basically every series. The most infamous examples are probably the Principality (Duchy/Archduchy/Grand Duchy) of Zeon (Zion/Jion) and Mu (Muu/Mwu -- though thankfully no Moo) la (ra) Flaga (Fllaga/Fraga). And then there is Quattro Bajeena, whose name has on at least one occasion been translated as "Quattro Vagina", due to the katakana used in his name.
- Standard Sci Fi History: Many series features Stage 1: Exploration and Colonization of Space. And then jump right into Stage 2: World War changing the world.
- Stealth Pun: Big Name Fan Mark Simmons observed that SNRI, the rival to Anaheim Electronics, was created shortly after Sunrise bought the rights to Gundam.
- Stock Footage: And plenty of it. More of a problem for some series than others (the CE timeline was particularly infamous for indulging in it), and generally less of an issues in the movies and OVAs. Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, Turn a Gundam, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00 are also notable for largely avoiding it. There are some scenes reused (as in, you could count them on one hand), but much of the time it's a two-second clip that's only reused once, or it's just a split-second explosion to change scenes.
- The Smurfette Principle: Partially subverted. Every series has female pilots, but they're almost always outnumbered by male ones, and (with the exception of the manga Ecole Du Ciel), they're never the main character. Well, it is Shonen, after all...
- Super Prototype: Just about anything with the word "Gundam" in its name, and a lot without it.
- Superweapon Surprise: In the UC timeline, and the CE that mirrors it, mobile suits are these, with the subversion that they're used to attack instead of defend. The first Gundams in both universes are this again, in that they're Bigger Stick mobile suits that catch the other side by surprise too! More typical examples also appear in most timelines, as well.
- Sword Fight: Only with Humongous Mecha and Laser Blades!
- Tall, Dark and Bishoujo: There's at least two in a series. She's always an important female character, usually the main character's (possible or Canon) Love Interest, The Baroness or the Team Mom.
- Telepathic Spacemen: Newtypes from the Universal Century and Innovators from Anno Domini.
- Transforming Mecha: Varies between series, with some series chock-full of such mecha, and others devoid of them. Zeta Gundam springs to mind as the Gundam series with the most Transforming Mecha, which includes the title mech.
- Translation Convention: In Japan, the Army and Navy use the exact same ranking system, which has caused a good deal of confusion over what to use in the US dubs -- for example, is Kou Uraki an Ensign or 2nd Lieutenant? Typically, this is handled by treating the Space Forces as a Navy, and the rare few series that focus on ground combat forces (like Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team) use Army ranks.
- Unstoppable Rage: In the Universal Century, Newtypes' psychic abilities are boosted by strong emotions, and an angry Newtype pilot is pretty much the scariest adversary you could ever hope (not) to face.
- Villainous Valour: It's not uncommon to see highly courageous behaviour from Gundam adversaries, whether ordinary mooks or major villains.
- The War of Earthly Aggression: The most recurring theme in the series, and the one that generates most conflict overall.
- Warrior Therapist: The Rival tends to be one, resulting in philosophical debates during running mecha battles.
- Wave Motion Gun: There's always at least one, whether mounted on a suit, a ship, or a space station.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: In the Universal Century, Neo Zeon's default answer to any sufficiently serious problem is 'ram Axis into it'. Sometimes, 'it' even extends to 'other people from Neo Zeon'.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Most of the antagonists of a series are usually -- or at least can be argued to be -- this.
- White-Haired Pretty Boy: Char and his clones, for the most part.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Most cyber newtypes and their alternate universe expies are not known for rationality or mental stability.
- World Half Full: G Gundam, Gundam Wing, Gundam X, Turn a Gundam, Gundam SEED, and Gundam 00. Gundam Build Fighters and Gundam Build Fighters Try get extra points for being (possibly) a sort of Gundam Valhalla. Subverted with a vengeance in Gundam AGE.
- Yandere: Started to appear in Zeta Gundam.
- More like conquest of the Earth and other colonies.
- she isn't, technically
- to quote a Sunrise rep from a panel at Otakon 2010: "We don't like to talk about G-Saviour"
- not at all helped by The Rival carrying around cards that look a lot like Decade's
- it was initially named "Lunar Titanium" in the original series, as it was an artificial alloy of Titanium discovered by Lunar scientists