The Infection would like to present to you yet another post by our very own Lionel Heart!
30 years, that’s longer than I’ve lived. 1979 was a pretty good year, Super Bowl XIII: The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 35–31 at the Miami Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. Saint Lucia becomes independent of the United Kingdom. Conservatives win the British general election; Margaret Thatcher becomes the new prime minister. Joe Clark becomes Canada‘s 16th and youngest Prime Minister. The first British nudist beach is established in Brighton. Michael Jackson releases his first breakthrough album Off The Wall; it sells 7 million copies in the United States alone, making it a 7x platinum album. Pope John Paul II visits the United States. But one thing that happened in 1979 that always gets overlooked Gundam was born.
Gundam the word associated with robots and destruction. Throughout the franchise’s history, its meaning has changed from the white devil, to the white doll, to an indestructible metal alloy, to General Unilateral Neuro-link Dispersive Autonomic Maneuver; but it is still the same Gundam we have come to love. Like any franchise there is the Good (Gundam Wing), the Bad (SD Gundam, Gundam SEED Destiny), and the you either love it/hate it (G Gundam, Gundam ZZ). But what is Gundam? Is it just an anime franchise which has sold countless model kits, video games and DVDs? Or has Gundam become an iconic standalone culture which represents a genre of media? Both of these questions can be analyzed and answered carefully but which one would be correct or are they both corect?
When Gundam started out it was just Mobile Suit Gundam, it was supposed to be just another Mecha show, but something happened; with Bandai by its side selling model kits it was doing something else, it was creating a movement, it had more people watching the reruns than it had people who had watched the original run of the series. But then Char’s Counterattack came, then Zeta and then Double Zeta; all of which were successful and we thought that was it right, wrong! Sunrise kept the tradition going and had kept on creating new series after new series some good, some bad. And so became the unstoppable Gundam franchise extending its reaches to whatever it could sell. Recently with its last two Gundam series Gundam SEED and Gundam 00, Sunrise did something impressive they readapted Mobile Suit Gundam and Gundam Wing respectively for the new generation, the new audience, taking current issues and new characters but sold older mobile suits to said audience.
Let’s look at Gundam as a culture. It created a new genre, real robot genre, where it wasn’t super ridiculous but it still showed some imagination, unlike the super robot genre which was just ridiculous. I mentioned it before and I will say it again there have been many cameos and tributes of Gundam outside of Gundam there are so many it’s hard to list from other animes, to TV shows to video games, the weirdest example I can think of is Heero Yuy in Hikaru-No-Go, but hey Heero Yuy blew himself up so what’s a game to him. Back to the point, though, Gundam as a culture is plausible as anyone can see that is following has been consistent from 1979, the people may be different but the fans adoration has always been the same. But there has to be more to be a culture, not just indefinite and undisputed respect along with a thorough following for 30 years, there has to be something else and there is; it’s when a series is remastered/reaired there will always be people to follow it when it was enjoyed by the majority or minority. There is still something missing from this, that makes Gundam a culture, it’s the fact that Sunrise has never swayed Gundam’s ideals, no matter the situation or ideals of the world at the time, i.e. Gundam SEED (although I did not like the series) came out in 2003, no more than 2 years after 9/11 and guess what, mobile suits are still being hijacked, people are still being mercilessly killed by the “bad guys” and space colonies are blowing up. That is dedication to the culture that is Gundam, that is why Gundam is a culture but also a successful franchise. I lie, here is when you know you are a culture when there is 20 million yen 3 meters tall bronze statue of the RX-78 Gundam outside Kamiigusa Train Station, but we are not done yet, no, here is the icing on the cake, this July a life size 18 meters tall RX-78 will be on display at Odaiba’s Shiokaze Park for two months, before this the largest official Gundam replica in Japan was a 2/3-scale LM312V04 Victory Gundam built 10 meters tall during the 1990s.
Basically to take away from this commemorative piece dedicated towards Gundam, is that Gundam is a culture, driven by people like me and you, which represents anime. A culture that won’t ask for donations, just your support. So here you go Gundam, take a bow, blow out your candles, you’ve got a lot more gas in the tank to go!
Want to find out more about the Gundam statue click here: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2009-03-11/18-meter-gundam-to-rise-at-tokyo-odaiba-island-in-july