Crown Jewels of Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam

Posted by Guest Author on May 14, 2008 in Animation |

Crown Jewels of Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam

In this exclusive series our guest author Tim Eldred picks the top ten crown jewels of anime:

As a guy who started watching anime in 1980, I was lucky enough to catch the virus when the medium was in a creative upswing the likes of which simply hasn’t been seen since. Of course, there was great stuff before that, but never in quite so much abundance. The early 80s in particular were chock full of shows that had the power to make me (A) cry like a baby or (B) leap out of my chair like a sports fan. And any show that could do both became a crown jewel in my eyes. They haven’t all been officially exported yet, which means a lot of people still have an opportunity to experience them for the first time. Here’s number 3 on my top ten list:

Mobile Suit Gundam

If you’re having trouble sorting out one Gundam anime from another, you’re not alone. If you’ve heard that Gundam is a legendary saga that everyone has to see, you heard right‹but it’s not the current stuff (the latest being a TV series called Gundam Double O) that earned it this reputation. If you want to cut to the bone, you need to go all the way back to 1979 for the original no-extra-title-added Mobile Suit Gundam. It’s inescapably clunky and rough around the edges, a low-budget show even by those early standards, which was prematurely cancelled but went on to become a theatrical blockbuster.

Crown Jewels of Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam

By the mid-80s, the buzz was powerful enough to warrant a sequel series (Zeta Gundam) and a followup (Double Zeta) and a feature film (Char’s Counterattack) and then a whole string of side-stories that examined this world through different eyes. These are still being made, the latest of which is a state-of-the-art CG series called M.S. Igloo.

All of this put together is commonly referred to as Universal Century (U.C.) Gundam, the period in which humans begin to expand into space, and THAT’S where the legend lives up to the hype. Amuro Ray, the most reluctant of reluctant heroes, literally falls into the cockpit of an experimental giant robot and ends up turning the tide of a space war that decides the entire future of humanity. That’s series 1. Seven years after this war, the Earth Government has become just as bad as the enemy they defeated and now must be opposed. That’s Zeta. With the government crippled, a remnant of the original enemy returns to fill the power vacuum. That’s Double Zeta. Five years later, Amuro faces his arch enemy again to finish what they both started. That’s Char’s Counterattack, and all four of those stories add up to the real thing.

It’s almost 150 episodes from end to end, and it’s worth every minute of your time. Along the way you’ll meet dozens of great characters on either side of the conflict, numerous plot twists that will make you question your own sanity, crushing tragedies, hard-won victories, a prodigious body count, and plenty of hard science to keep it real. What you’ll also find is an eloquent commentary on the tendency of human beings to get caught up in petty rivalries and sabotage their own evolutionary progress. It’s a message that will still resonate even when our own Universal Century finally arrives. There’s plenty of other Gundam that’s worth seeing, but until you’ve taken in the incomparable U.C. saga, you’re only getting second best.

Crown Jewels of Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam

Crown Jewels of Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam

Below: Titles from the first Mobile Suit Gundam series.

Tim Eldred is a graphic novelist, TV animation artist, and hopeless fanboy. You can see his work at and

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