To all you Gundam fans: where to start?

I watched the Macross Plus movie recently and thought to myself, that even though I haven’t seen all the Macross series, I have quite a good undersanding of the franchise and why I love it.

Now usually I don’t prefer mecha anime but there have been 3 exceptions to this: Macross, Full Metal Panic and Gurren Lagann. Ok yeah, Code Geass too. For me, in these series the characters and the story play a higher role than just mecha candy.  Personally I don’t like mecha in any of the above mentioned anime except Gurren Lagann and Macross. GL is kinda obvious (:p) and all Macross jets are just way too badass not to like! Especially in their Gerwalk mode (i.e. semi-transformed stage of half-mech and half-jet).

So, one series that I’ve been avoiding for ages is Gundam. I plan to watch some of the most pivotal series but don’t know where to start. I’ve heard good things about Gundam 00 and Gundam Seed. What timeline do these series follow? Or are they independent of each other (sort of) like each of the Macross series?

So the simple question is, where to begin? And how to follow it up?


12 Responses to “To all you Gundam fans: where to start?”

  1. 1 IKnight
    January 5, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Big question. Word-dump incoming!

    There’s a lot of Gundam stuff. If you’re looking for a linear breakdown of the different titles and their relationship to one another, the guide here is pretty helpful, though it’s a little out of date. More recently Ghostlightning and mechafetish put together a multiple-choice flow-chart-style tool for finding a ‘gateway Gundam’, here.

    Initially Gundam anime was all set in one continuity/timeline/universe, the Universal Century (‘UC’), but from 1994 onwards they started making new, standalone material (various alternate universes, ‘AU’). To complicate matters further some parts even of the Universal Century are fairly independent/standalone just as different bits of the Macross franchise are only loosely related despite taking place in more-or-less the same universe. (Of course the fandom is constantly riven by violent arguments about which bit is the best.)

    Gundam Seed is the beginning of one of the new AU timelines, the Cosmic Era (‘CE’). It has one major sequel, Gundam Seed Destiny. It’s not a bad introduction to Gundam (or at least, I think that: it was my introduction), it uses some of the franchise’s key motifs and themes, the action’s entertaining, the plot’s premise is good and so on. It was commercially very successful (hence the sequel).

    Gundam 00 is the beginning of another new timeline, Anno Domini (‘AD’, the conceit being that its setting is more closely an extrapolation of our real-world politics). Of course, since it’s very recent it has the most up-to-date animation (which may or may not be a plus for you). While Seed follows a spaceship caught up in a major war, 00 is (initially, at lesat) more about paramilitary attacks by a small group of very powerful weapons.

    If you’re just choosing between those two, and you want something that prioritises story and characters over mecha eye-candy, then perhaps I would slightly tilt the balance in Seed’s favour. It seemed to me that 00 often treated its characters and their dilemmas in quite a cold and detached way — which is actually quite interesting, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea. That said, I’ve no doubt plenty of Gundam fans would disagree with me, and maybe they’d be right. Why not try both?

    Leaving 00 and Seed aside, if you’re interested in some older stuff I’d recommend looking into the UC OVAs. I think they stand on their own fairly well and while their quality varies they don’t involve a commitment to watch fifty-plus episodes, as some of the full tv shows do. Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team might be a good starting-point, it’s an interesting little standalone story, with more of a ground-level focus on more ordinary soldiers than you’ll find in much of the rest of the franchise.

    If you want to try the very first, 1979 Gundam series, the official Region 1 release was dub-only, but I think fansubbers recently finished putting together a subtitled version. It was boiled down into a trilogy of compilation movies which are to my mind, despite the rough edges created by the compilation process, possibly better than their source material.

    And I suppose I shouldn’t pass up on the chance to mention Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the first AU series made and the most dramatic departure from Gundam’s conventional seriousness. It’s a more hotblooded, super-robot production, with a lot of influence from old-school martial arts cinema and television, very good fun but in some ways quite different to the rest of the franchise.

    I’m sorry to vomit so many words into your comments section, and I hope some of this is helpful. I’ve never found an easy way to explain the franchise. I’ll close with a word of encouragement: Gundam’s so big and so varied — if you watch a few parts you’ll begin to see how each title plays with its predecessors’ ideas — and there’s almost certainly some part of the franchise that’ll suit you.

  2. January 5, 2010 at 5:49 am


    Your comment almost discouraged me from adding my own lol.

    Anyway, IKnight’s explanation pretty much sums it up.

    It’s better to start with short-length shows like OVAs because from experience, they’re actually better than the full-length TV series. I’m talking about Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (as mentioned by IKnight) and Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.

    I did watch the original Gundam series but it was boring at times so it took me a while before I could finish it. But it might discourage you so maybe you should really start with the OVAs. Though somebody mentioned about the compilation movies for the original series so if you have the time you can look for them.

    As for my gateway Gundam, it was Gundam Wing. I wasn’t very critical about shows back then so I was quite impressed. It is from AU timelines. But I agree with IKnight on Gundam SEED. It’s more closely related to the original in some aspects. I suggest you watch this first. As for Gundam 00, I was disappointed with it.

    The best Gundam series for me is Turn A Gundam. However, as you’re just starting, just stick
    with GSEED for now.

  3. 3 th
    January 5, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I think I’ll follow your advise and start with Gundam Seed. If I like the series and continue with Seed Destiny, then I’ll move onto the older OVAs and the original trilogy movies. And then I’ll proceed with Gundam 00.

    Gundam Seed isn’t so old, so I can start with that. I have this strange habit of starting some of the longer running franchises with their newer version, then going back to the old one’s; appreciating the source material and where they came from. Then I jump to the latest in the series.

    I did this with FMP, where I watched Fumoffu first, then the original FMP and then The Second Raid. Same with Macross: Macross Zero first, then Do You Remember Love, then Frontier and then Plus. Shit, I even did this with Top O Nerae, where I watched the 2004 sequel before the 1988 original…..what’s wrong with me?!

    Back to Gundam, so I’ll start with Seed, go for the older movies, then end it with 00. That looks like a nice plan to follow.

  4. 4 th
    January 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

    After some research, here’s my revised plan.

    1. Seed
    2. Seed Destiny
    3. 08th MS Team
    4. MS IGLOO 01
    5. MS IGLOO Apocalypse 0079
    6. MS IGLOO 02
    7. 00 Season 1
    8. 00 Season 2

    I watched some screencaps of the original movie trilogy and don’t think I cant stomach that. Although I can handle mid-80’s stuff and even Do You Remember Love, which was 1984.

    If there’s anything wrong/ missing with my road map, then do recommend. Also, I’m seriously considering watching the movie version of Gundame Seed and Seed Destiny instead of getting all the 100 episodes.

    • January 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      Don’t forget Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.

      If you get to like SEED, there’s also Mobile Suit Gundam Seed C.E.73: Stargazer. It is short, but in some ways it makes me wonder why they didn’t make GSD as good as this.

      Tell us then what you think after you’ve watched Gundam 00.

  5. 6 IKnight
    January 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Well, I would suggest at least trying the full television series in Seed’s case, as I thought that Seed’s compilations weren’t as good. (As always someone out there probably disagrees with me, though.) It’s less clear cut with Destiny as Destiny became somewhat incoherent towards the end of its run, and its movies fix some of its problems. (But, again, the same disclaimer applies!)

    • January 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      Well, if th doesn’t like recaps he can switch to the compilations. Although iirc there’s something in the compilation that isn’t in the series. 😉

      I haven’t seen Destiny’s compilation movies. What ‘problems’ were fixed?

      Hmm, makes me wish we could use spoiler tags here hehehe.

      • 8 th
        January 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm

        Well, you can go the old school route and use “/SPOILER” and continue writing underneath it. Unless there’s some setting in wordpress for this that I’ve missed.

        Hmmm…Stargazer’s like 3 small episodes, might watch that too.

      • 9 IKnight
        January 5, 2010 at 9:47 pm

        Heh. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS INCOMING (more viewing-experience spoilers than actual plot spoilers, though)

        It’s a while since I watched them, but here’s one example: Destiny’s compilation movies are narrated by Athrun, speaking in retrospect, which gives the plot more of a sense of drive — made it more teleological, if you like — and I thought one of the plot’s big problems in the television series was that it didn’t seem to know where it was going.

        Another example is the final battle, which got fleshed out so that it was (I thought) more satisfying.


        Yeah, Stargazer’s good, definitely worth a watch if you like Seed.

  6. June 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I know, Straight Build right? Your photography is really stunning, I think you have much chance to win

  7. January 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    after i got out of the military i was finding a lot of entertainment involving conflict and politics to be kinda petty. It seemed like the lessons being learned and decisions being made by characters didn’t reflect what someone would really feel in their situations. It felt so… on the surface. My roommate bought a Gundam game and I watched him play for a while, and I was intrigued by the dialog being exchanged by the characters. about a year ago I got my hands on the DVD collection of Mobile Suit Gundam, and I was interested to see if the show was as interesting as the game made it appear. I didn’t spend the entire time on the edge of my seat, gripped with excitement and dying to see the next episode. I don’t think that’s what it was about. It’s supposed to bring you through the experience of being uprooted and thrown into a war that you weren’t paying any attention to because it seemed so far away. It wasn’t so much a story as it was a sequence of events that ended up being significant. The politics of it were very spot on to what I had experienced in the military, and so it was kind of reassuring and motivating to know that somebody else understood it and was able to communicate this universal human experience so well. I’ve been going through all the series by order of release (just finished Gundam X), and while I think Zeta was the best overall, I think the original is the most important.

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