"What is 'Gundam', anyway?" This simple (?) question is answered in our third casual weekly column just for new fans!
by Ema Baba
We're back with a third super-simple column for new Gundam fans, whether the ivory-tower (White Base?) elitists like it or not!
we covered Gundam faces and coloring,
was devoted to masked men and Haro, but now we've gotta look at one of the key phrases that always comes up when talking about Gundam.
What makes a Gundam? The Universal Century!
I'm sure you've all heard more and more about the Universal Century the more you learn about Gundam.
It sounds really complicated and obscure, but knowing about the Universal Century is one of the key things of Gundam as a series.
The Universal Century, or U.C., is a major point in the setting of Gundam series, beginning with Mobile Suit Gundam's "U.C. 0079" timeframe.
Mobile Suit Gundam, which aired in 1979, just happened (!?) to pass on its last two digits to the in-show chronology, but the Universal Century went on to have quite an impact on the "Universal Century" series that eventually took its name.
To put it simply, the "Universal Century" continues on and forms its own timeline.
What this means is that all U.C. series happen on the same timeline, and form a cohesive history.
From the first Mobile Suit Gundam TV series to the new Mobile Suit Gundam UC OVAs, there's over 30 years (!) to choose from!
This makes the Universal Century series the best, the mightiest among all Gundams! (Okay, okay, I just wanted to see if I could pull that off.)
Actually.... Didn't you know? Not all Gundam series have "Mobile Suit" in the title.
What makes a Gundam? Not necessarily the Universal Century!
I know you're clever enough to already be wondering whether those have anything to do with the Universal Century, right?
Well, at first only Universal Century shows were called "Mobile Suit" Gundam, but it's gotten a bit messier over the years.
Up until Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, each TV series had Mobile Suit in the title and was set in the Universal Century; both of these changed with Mobile Fighter G Gundam. After that, not all series with Mobile Suit in the title are U.C. (this is a little inconvenient, but it's important to remember!), but the U.C. timeline continues to grow.
None of the "21th century Gundams", Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, are U.C., even though all of them are called Mobile Suit. Instead, U.C. took a 13-year hiatus from traditional animation after Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team before returning recently with Mobile Suit Gundam UC.
What do shows that aren't U.C. have in common with those that are, then? They tend to blend key U.C. concepts with brand-new ideas and settings.
So to sum it all up, if you have to split Gundam shows into two categories, they're either "U.C." shows, which are set in the Universal Century, or "alternate universe" or "AU" shows which aren't.
What makes a Gundam? The Universal Century's realistic approach to history!
While Gundam has gone on for over 30 years now, it seems like the "core" Gundam fan still likes the Universal Century series the best (especially the time period between Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack.)
While the timeline started in 0079, from the 0080s the early bird gets the world-building worm; each show builds on the setting and events laid out in its predecessors.
Once something's laid down into Universal Century "history", it's effectively set in stone.
This means that when a new U.C. series gets made, it has to coexist with that history.
It's easiest to think of it as filling out the timeline of one sprawling science-fiction world.
It's almost the kind of planning you would have to do to make a war movie.
You need to take into account the era's weapons and tactics for that added sense of realism. With all the infighting, civil wars, technological progression, and so on in Gundam, it must be pretty tough.
On the other hand, that deep history is exactly what appeals to the fans.
As the years pass in the Universal Century, from the first series all the way up to Mobile Suit Gundam UC, characters age as well. Even Bright is getting older!
(* Bright Noa, a Gundam character. I'm sure you all know him as the captain of White Base. He's appeared in Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam UC, and many shows in between. His first appearance was at age 19, but in Gundam UC he's 36!)
Anyway, while Mobile Suit Victory Gundam was the last U.C. TV series, the timeline has continued to grow through games, novels, comics, and more.
I can't wait to see what new side of Gundam the U.C. timeline will show us next!
Well, well, well, that's it for this week. Next week we'll be taking another laid-back look at what makes Gundam Gundam!
Scriptwriter. Troublemaking scenarist.
Learning more every day to teach you about the fun of Gundam!