Mobile Suit Gundam

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"It is the year 0079 of the Universal Century. A half-century has passed since Earth began moving its burgeoning population into gigantic orbiting space colonies. A new home for mankind, where people are born and raised. [[[Dramatic Pause]]] And die."

Mobile Suit Gundam (Kidou Senshi Gundam, lit. "Mobile Soldier Gundam"), the original Gundam show, started in 1979 as a planned 52-episode series but cut down to 43 due to the show pulling in horrible ratings. However, the merchandise for the TV show sold rather well, allowing the series to go straight into syndication, where it found its audience. A largely reanimated compilation trilogy successfully convinced the people with the money to further develop the series, and Mobile Suit Gundam eventually spawned a massive franchise. Though there are now a large number of sequels, side stories, and Alternate Continuities, the original Mobile Suit Gundam remains the most popular show of the franchise.

The series follows Ordinary High School Student Amuro Ray, opening in the midst of a stalemate in the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. Though the Earth Federation has (or, rather, had) superior numbers and resources, the Zeon military has annihilated much of the Federation's population with chemical weapons, decimated their fleet with their new mobile suit technology, nearly ended the war in a stroke with a Colony Drop, and follow up by invading Earth.

While fighting a losing battle on Earth, the Federation stepped up its R&D program to develop its own mobile suits, resulting in the Super Prototype "Gundam". While doing final tests on the Gundam in a remote space colony, they are attacked by a small Zeon force led by Char Aznable. Amuro ends up Falling Into the Cockpit in order to save the colony, and from there is pulled into the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. But, of course, things aren't as simple as they appear to be...

The original Real Robot series, Mobile Suit Gundam literally created a genre, and eventually spawned numerous sequels and side stories. Its direct sequel is Zeta Gundam, and there are also a trio of OVAs set in the same time period as Mobile Suit Gundam: Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket and MS IGLOO.


Tropes used in Mobile Suit Gundam include:
  • The Abridged Series: Gundam Abridged
  • Adaptation Distillation: The Compilation Movie trilogy, which are often considered better than the series. They streamline the plot, and cut out a lot of elements that Tomino didn't really want in there to start with. They also improve on the animation, which was not great in the original series.
    • The novelization is greatly compressed when compared with the TV series, completely skipping the Earth-bound portion of the plot and cutting out a lot of the characters and mecha (Zeon only has two MS, the Zaku II and Rick Dom).
  • Aerith and Bob: Standard names like Ryu, Kai, Matilda, etc. put alongside Kycilia, Dozel, Artesia, and, of course, Bright. In a funny twist to this, Tomino, the director and writer, decided to name the lead character Amuro because he thought it was exotic and a made up name. Turns out it is the name of a Japanese island and is in fact a real name.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Twice during the series; Ramba Ral's assault on the White Base, and the Zeon's attack on Jaburo.
  • Alternative Calendar: The Universal Century.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: SIEG ZEON! HAIL ZEON! Gihren Zabi is directly compared to Hitler by his father at one point.
  • Anti-Villain: Several examples, but most famously Ramba Ral. Often overlaps with Punch Clock Villain and My Country, Right or Wrong.
  • Anyone Can Die: The series was, after all, created by a man who was nicknamed Kill'Em All. In this case there are only a few main character deaths, though.
  • The Artifact: The TV series still carried many Super Robot elements. The later movie versions retconned many of them away.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Ryu Jose, and to a degree, Bright.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Zabi family; the Deikuns aren't far behind.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Amuro defeats Char, but is about to let himself die until he hears his friends' voices and is able to reunite with his adoptive family. Char survives, finishes his "revenge" by killing Kycilia and escapes, but is separated from his beloved sister Sayla forever. To add insult to injury, the Cool Ship, Whitebase is destroyed, along with the Gundam, Guncannon and Guntank, leaving the protagonists without a home to go back to.
  • Black and Gray Morality
  • Bling of War: Mobile Suit Variations reveals that several of the high-ranking Zeon officers had custom-built mobile suits, many of which had highly ornate engravings and other detailing. Of particular note are Dozle Zabi's custom Zaku II and M'Quve's downright gaudy custom Gouf.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The White Base girls -- Sayla, Mirai, and Frau.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: Soldiers of Sorrow/Ai Senshi. It's not the series' theme, yet it pretty much became the theme of the entire franchise, even becoming the BGM for the 30th anniversary video. Being a perfect example of Lyrical Dissonance probably helped.
  • Bridge Bunnies: Mirai as White Base's pilot, Sayla as Communications Officer later replaced by Fraw Bow, plus two male navigators who play no role in the plot outside of navigating.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Word of God is that Amuro is half-Japanese and half-North American, but over the years they've flip-flopped on whether his mother was American, Canadian, or Mexican.
  • Char Clone: The original, actually, from which all Char Clones derive.
  • Character Development: What set it aside from several other Humongous Mecha shows of its time, aside of the Real Robot aspect.
  • Colony Drop: Operation British in the back story is the Trope Namer. Zeon nerve gassed a space colony, and then deorbited it in an attempt to destroy the Federation HQ in South America (which, being an Elaborate Underground Base whose exact location was secret, was effectively invulnerable to everything up to and including nukes). Unfortunately for them, the Federation intervened and inflicted enough damage on their missile that it broke up in the atmosphere, with the only major damage being to Sydney, Australia.
  • Combining Mecha: The Gundam is formed from three separate parts; later in the series, even more optional parts are added.
    • The Guncannon and Guntank are also merely plug-and-play parts that can be attached to a Core Fighter.
  • Compilation Movie: Three of them.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Zeon's mobile suits. The Zaku series is probably the most famous for Humongous Mecha as a whole.
  • Death by Adaptation: Amuro is killed in Tomino's novelization. However, this wasn't due to his Kill'Em All attitude but because he didn't anticipate any sequels, and he has said that he wouldn't have done it if he knew better.
  • Death by Falling Over: Happens more than once. First Garma's girlfriend Icelina slips and falls off the top of the aircraft she was chasing after the White Base on in an ill-conceived attempt to avenge his death (though this part was cut from the compilation). Later on, Amuro's dad falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his neck. Eerily, this is also how M'Quve's voice actor died in Real Life.
  • Doomed Hometown: Side 7.
  • Downer Ending: In the novelization of the series, Amuro is actually killed by a random beam bazooka blast from behind during the Battle of A Baoa Qu. The novelization differs in several other points (such as actual use of the G3 Gundam), but this is the most shocking change.
  • Double Weapon: The Gelgoog, Zeon's answer to the Gundam, has a double-ended beam naginata, one of the earliest examples of this in speculative fiction.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Fans of the franchise who haven't seen the original series will be surprised to find there are no mid-season upgrades, only one Gundam, several machines and weapons that aren't mobile suits and plenty of battle scenes that do not revolve around actual mobile suit battle. There's also the Guntank and Guncannon, which are reasonably far from the types of mobile suits seen in later installments. The series can have something of a rough around the edges feeling, given that Tomino was in the process of figuring things out.
  • Energy Weapons
  • Engineered Public Confession: How General Elran gets caught - Amuro corners him with incriminating evidence whilst the general's soldiers (who Amuro had warned beforehand) monitor the cameras in his office.
  • Evil Is Bigger: If the Brow Bro, Elmeth, and Big Zam are any indicator, someone at Zeon's department of design likes to build large.
  • Falling Into the Cockpit: Amuro, even when his dad was the one who built the Gundam itself. To a lesser extent, the entire White Base crew; at age 19, Bright was the most junior officer of the White Base's original crew until a Zeon attack left him as acting captain.
  • Fan Nickname: The Bright Slap.
  • The Federation: The Earth Federation, naturally.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The super napalm used in the second episode; a mecha-scaled flamethrower would have been awesome and useful. Somewhat rectified in recent years, as newer video games included it as part of Gundam's arsenal, as well as its inclusion in the newest Gundam MG model kit.
  • Full-Name Basis: Everyone calls him "Ramba Ral". Nobody calls him just "Ramba" or "Ral". It's always "Ramba Ral". Also Challia Bull, and often, but not always, Fraw Bow.
  • Full Potential Upgrade: The RX 78-2 needed multiple upgrades due to Amuro's growing capabilities.
  • Genius Bruiser: Prince Dozle Zabi is 7' feet of pure Zabi muscle and leads his troops in person heroically in the Battle of Solomon. Might be a bit of a Gentle Giant, since he truly cared for his family (namely his little brother Garma, his wife Zenna and his daughter Mineva. Thank God Mineva didn't take after her father in appearance.
    • That probably also explains why the indestructible Big Zam was so easy to destroy. Most of it was simply the cockpit.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Now this is where the infamous Bright Slap comes from. We also have Sleggar and Ryu mastering this technique.
  • Gundam Fighter
  • Half Truth: The opening narration for the early episodes lays the blame for the slaughter of half of the human race on both the Federation and the Principality of Zeon. This isn't actually the case, however, since it was Zeon's colony-drop that wiped out most of the population.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: From both throwaway and major characters. Poor Matilda, poor Ryu, poor Michelle, poor Woody, poor Lalah...
  • Hot Blade: Being a step behind the Federation in Energy Weapons science, Zeon's standard mecha melee weapons for most of the war are superheated metal blades like the Zaku's heat hawk and the Dom's heat saber. General consensus is that they're good, but not quite as good as a beam saber.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Dozle Zabi and his wife Zenna. Zenna appears normal size, but Dozle is gigantically tall at 210cm coupled with a broad muscular frame built up like a brick house. And his daughter literally fits in the palm of his hand.
  • Humongous Mecha
    • Real Robot: Started the genre. Despite this, it still has many Super Robot hangups, mainly in the TV series.
  • Iconic Characters: Char Aznable has been oft-imitated, both in the Gundam franchise itself and in other shows.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Lalah
  • Image Song: Char gets his own song, "Char ga Kuru" albeit not sung by his respective seiyuu.
    • One might argue that the first ending is actually also an image song, though in the same case as above. That, or "Eien ni Amuro" (Forever Amuro) is a tribute to Amuro.
      • At least Andrew W.K.'s versions of "Tobe! Gundam" and "Eien ni Amuro" sound like tributes... only awesome.
  • Impossibly Graceful Giant: Thanks to Early Installment Weirdness, the RX-78 is far more agile than later Gundams - it even pulls off the occasional Unnecessary Combat Roll.
  • In a Single Bound: Thanks to its thrusters, the Gundam can jump high enough to engage enemy fighters in their own airspace.
  • Insult Backfire: Gihren takes it as a compliment when his father compares his world view with that of Adolf Hitler.
    • Though he'd never heard of Hitler before Degwin made the comparison onscreen, and Gihren didn't hear very much detail about Hitler. In this sense it's almost an Insult Backfire Backfire.
  • Lady and Knight: Kycilia Zabi and her Dragon M'Quve have got this vibe going. Kycilia is a Manipulative Bastard and Evil Genius, who nevertheless maintains a very feminine air to her persona. M'Quve, who always addresses her as "Lady Kycilia" serves as her strategist, enforcer, and go to whenever dirty work is required; he is obsessively loyal to her, and to top it all off, pilots a mecha (the YMS-15 Gyan) designed to resemble a knight.
  • Latex Space Suit: Pilot suits. Averted on the Federation side with the suits worn by civilians and the ship's crew, which are much bulkier.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The "Char custom" is probably the most iconic example.
  • Mask Power: Char, of course. Also, Kycilia.
  • Meaningful Name: Zaku comes from the Japanese word for Mooks, zako (雑魚, "small/inferior fish") which, incidentally was what they were actually called in SD Gundam Force.
    • Some fans believe Zaku to be derived from the word 'Zakuzaku', which (fittingly enough) means 'cut up roughly'.
    • This is also played straight with the Musai-class Battlecruisers, the word 'musai' meaning 'lacking skills or abilities'.
  • Mega Crossover: The Gundam Fighter Flash game, with over 80 gundam characters from various shows
    • SD Gundam G Generation World, the newest SD Gundam G Generation game, holds Mobile Weapons and Pilots from any series, up until A Wakening of the Trailblazer and Unicorn. Yup. More than 1000 Mobile Weapons and 500 Pilots in a PSP and Wii Game.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: The G-Armour, a transport/fighter-bomber/tank that is compatible with the Core Block System, provides the Gundam and its sister suits with a great deal of extra tactical utility.
  • Mildly Military: A deliberate choice on the part of the White Base officer cadre - given their desperate situation and the fact that most of their crew were green recruits and civilians, they decided that it would be easier for all concerned if they played fast-and-loose with the formalities. The mainstream Federation military is notably more rigid and disciplined.
  • Minovsky Physics: Trope Namer.
  • Missing Backblast: Tragically averted, as Miharu finds out.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Like you would not believe. It's interesting to note that this was a necessity - since the show was pulling low viewership numbers, the only thing that kept it on air past a certain point was a strong toy line - the full story of which is chronicled in Gundam Sousei.
    • What's impressive is that they were able to justify this to a believable extent - competition between manufacturers, a fundamental difference in the weapons designing process between the two sides, the scale of the war, etc.
  • Mukokuseki: Mostly averted. Mirai Yashima, the one with more direct Asian heritage, looks noticeably more Asian than the rest. Amuro is an aversion, since he's But Not Too Foreign (his mother is either American, Canadian or Mexican, depending on the canon you follow).
  • No Export for You: Depending on whether Madman licenses by the series or franchise, this could be the case in Australia. Their staff seem to find it too dated to be worth releasing.
    • Which rings more than a little hypocritical considering that they have released series from the 60s.
    • Bandai of America has had fun with this: the movie compilations are only available in Japanese with subtitles. Meanwhile, due to Bandai of Japan not wanting the US DVDs imported into Japan (where Mobile Suit Gundam had not come out yet on DVD) refusing to give Bandai of America the Japanese audio tracks, resulting in a English dub only release in the states.
      • The series is finally getting a bilingual release from Bandai Entertainment now.
  • Nose Art: Many of Char Aznable's Ace Custom mobile suits featured his trademark red paintjob. Played Straight to the point of parody, where several mangas even featured "Char Aznable" custom RB-79 Ball designs, painted red with horns attached.
  • Won't Work On Me: An interesting variation in the first episode. When Amuro is shot at point blank with a Zaku machine gun after starting up the Gundam for the first time, he starts screaming in abject terror, but the Gundam itself stands stalk still as the bullets bounce off its fancy new super alloy armor.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Some of the English localizations had this. The Federation forces were nicknamed "Feddies", while Zeon forces were nicknamed "Zekes". Some weapons received nicknames too, such as 'skirts' for Zeon's Dom fast assault suits, which used hover-jets to propel their massively-armoured frames.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Averted hard. Nukes are used extensively in the opening battles of the war, resulting in up to a billion civilian casualties. M'Quve also launches an explicitly nuclear missile when it becomes clear that he's lost. Mobile suits also have nuclear reactors in them that Go Critical when hit by beam weapons; this happens several times in the series, including in Side 7 during the first episode.
  • The Ojou: Iselina Eschenbach is a very tragic version of the trope. Mirai is technically one, but she tries her best to not let her family connections interfere.
  • Off-Model: While it ran rampant throughout the series, one episode was taken out of circulation because of it.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: By the end of the One Year War, Hayato, Sayla, and Kai are all highly competent pilots who qualify as aces several times over. They just have the bad luck of serving alongside the One-Man Army that is Amuro Ray. Zeon, meanwhile, has its own examples in the MS-14 Gelgoog and MSN-02 Zeong (particularly and especially the Gelgoog), suits that equal or exceed the Gundam in performance but pale before Amuro's supreme piloting skills.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze-Frame
  • Plot Hole: "9 months ago, the cluster of colonies farthest from the Earth, called Side 3, proclaimed itself the Principality of Zeon and launched a war of independence against the Earth Federation... 8 months are passed since the rebellion began..." Only Zeon can start a war 9 months prior to the show's beginning and still only have been at war for 8 months. Nobody knows what happened to the last month...
    • Done again about halfway through the first episode, where the civilians die from the Zaku II attack. One moment, the crater is filled with bodies, next moment they're gone.
  • Psychic Powers: Newtypes.
  • Ramming Always Works: Averted. Ramming sometimes works (at huge expense in lives and equipment), but mostly it's just an excellent way to get killed.
  • Real Robot: The Trope Maker.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: A healthy share of the Federation officers are like this, and whilst Zeon doesn't have as many, they're still visibly present.
  • Redshirt Army: In most games, both the Zaku II, Gouf, GM and Ball qualify for this. In Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, this is increased to every One Year War-era suit except for the Gundam, Char's Zaku and Gelgoog, and the Zeong.
    • In SD Gundam G Generation Wars, this is, however, not so much the case. While they can still get blown up in one attack, provided a strong enough Mobile Suit, the GM, Zaku II, Gouf and Ball can actually become some of the most lethal Mobile Weapons at Level 99, provided they get both the +3 inheritance bonus, a Level 99 pilot from the beginning and a target to kill.[1]
  • Self-Made Orphan: Gihren kills his father via Solar Flare, and then his younger sister offs him.
    • Tragically, Amuro is indirectly responsible for his father's brain damage and subsequent death.
  • Media Franchise
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Amuro Ray
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Sieg Zeon!" is taken directly from Adolf Hitler's infamous quote, "Sieg Heil!"
      • Zeon is an outright reference to Nazi-Germany. Heck, their political leader, Gihren Zabi, is even compared to Hitler in-series, and takes it as a complement!
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Justified, in that the mobile suits that Amuro fights are all top-of-the-line at the time, and Zeon is forced to continually develop more powerful suits as they come to terms with the Gundam, and later the Federation's GM's.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Principality of Zeon are big fans - more so here, in fact, than at any other point in the faction's history.
  • Shoot The Sky: the Gundam's "Last Shooting" in the final episode.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Lots of 'em, including the Principality/Duchy/Archduchy/Grand Duchy of Zeon/Zion/Jion. Also Kycilia/Kashiria, Gihren/Ghiren/Giren, and Mineva/Minerva Zabi. Amuro's last name also frequently shows up as "Rei" instead of the official "Ray".
  • Stock Footage: Mostly involving the Gundam launching or combining with its various parts.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: "We're jumping onto White Base - AAAAAAAHHH!"
  • Super Prototype: The Gundam. The Zeong late in the series, as well.
  • Super Robot Wars: as it is the original Gundam series it does appear in quite a few of the games.
  • Superweapon Surprise: More than one, and used by both sides.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: A very basic example - the Gundam's beam sabers can extend their handles to become short-bladed tridents.
  • Sword Fight: With mobile suits, and between Char and Amuro in person during the final episodes!
  • Tank Goodness: Guntanks.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: Newtypes.
  • Theme Naming: Several characters are named for World War II aircraft; Kai is named for the N1K2-J Shiden Kai, while Amuro himself is named for the infamous "Zero".
  • Trolling Creator: "The Zakrello is the strongest machine in the One Year War." - Yoshiyuki Tomino
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: All three of Zeon's late-game superweapons, the Big Zam, the Colony Laser, and the Zeong. Results were decidedly mixed.
  • Visual Pun: During its stay in the neutral zone of Side Six, the White Base's weapons are literally tied down with red tape.
  • Warrior Therapist: Char and Amuro tend to talk a lot while they're fighting.
    • Well, it is a Gundam show, so this is actually obligatory.
      • Being the first one, this is the show that MADE it obligatory.
  • Weak but Skilled: Initially the reason that Char can keep up with Amuro. Later on it's the reason Amuro can keep up with Char.
    • And by the end of the show, Gundam can't keep up with Amuro's reflexes, which is fixed through an off-screen upgrade.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: More like Amuro's dad, who never actually got a death scene even though he did die at Side 6.
    • Only in the series; the Compilation Movie adds a scene where he falls down some stairs and breaks his neck. The whole thing comes off as rather arbitrary, really.
    • On the other hand, M'Quve disappears after Odessa in the films. The manga Char's Deleted Affair depicts him dying in a similar fashion as the TV series, only at A Baoa Qu instead of in the Texas Colony.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Amuro's mother denounces him for becoming a soldier and killing other soldiers who could have had children of their own in spite of Amuro's intention of protecting the refugees.
  • Whip It Good: The 'heat rod', Weapon of Choice of Zeon's Gouf mobile suit, which Ramba Ral in particular uses to devastating effect.
  • Worst Aid: After having his arm impaled by the blade of Char's fencing foil, Amuro pulls the broken piece out. This can probably be forgiven as he was in a depressurized area of Abaowaku, and his main motivation appears to be patching his normal suit.
  • Worthy Opponent: Char and Amuro eventually consider each other this. Earlier, Ramba Ral came to respect Amuro.
  • You Are in Command Now: Happens to Bright during the opening episodes; despite being 19 years old and only a Lieutenant, he ends up in command of the White Base when every other officer on the ship is killed or critically wounded.
  • You Have Failed Me...: Subverted: After seeing his squadmates killed by Amuro, Slender escapes back to Char. While Slender (and any audience member familiar with super robot shows of the time) seems to expect this to happen, Slender is told by Char that, as he followed his commander's orders and those of his immediate superior, he has nothing to worry about.
  • You Keep Using That Word: According to the novel the "Colony Laser" is a hollowed out colony filled with a large number of mirrors with a single focal point. Therefore the Colony Laser is not, in fact, a laser.
    • That said, the Gryps Colony Laser that shows up in Zeta Gundam is a bona-fide laser cannon the size of a space colony, so the Novel may just be the odd one out.
  1. The reason for needing a Level 99 pilot? The Pilot's level determines the Suit's upgrade amount (3 points, +1 to ATK, DEF or EVA at level 1, while 20 points and +10 to ATK, DEF or EVA per certain number of points).