Gundam? Gun-Damn!

Wing Gundam Zero (Endless Waltz version)

"Gundam" carries as much weight in Japan as the words "Star Wars" does in the US. The US is just now seeing the tip of the iceberg that is Gundam. In fact the Gundam Wing series that has done so well here in the US is not only a very recent Gundam story it is also set in an alternete timeline. Yes thatís right Cartoon network and Sunrise productions chose to introduce Gundam to the US by giving us the equivalent of their "elseworlds" or "Batman Beyond".

Why? Because it was easier. Gundam Wing as a series does not depend on the long history of Gundam to be understood, and it contains some of the Gundam Universes most superhero like robots.

Let me start out by saying that Gundam is nothing like any of the "anime" cartoons that we had as kids. Not like voltron, transformers, G-force not like any the US has seen before. The good guys aren't always good, The Bad guys aren't always bad, they inhabit a world were politics, espionage and propaganda are tools of war.

Wing Gundam

Gundam RX-78-2
Wing vs. 0079
The original Gundam series, simply called GUNDAM and later referred to as the one year war or 0079 , was created almost as a backlash to the SuperHero Robot anime that was popular all over Japan in the 70's. Super robots like Mazinger Z, Getta Robo and Giant Robo were all the rage with children, but were not so with older teenagers and young adults. The Super Robots were just that, SUPER, while most were piloted by human beings, they had near supernatural powers. Super Speed, strength, X-ray vision and the like. They defended the earth from invading aliens every week on Saturday morning. Along comes Gundam and the idea of giant robots would never be the same. Gundams were not super, they were machines. The real difference was that the robots were no longer the focus of the show. The Human characters were now the focus. The robots, called Mobile Suits, were like tanks or planes, they were expendable weapons of war that could be damaged and destroyed. The Mobile suit pilots had to deal with real world problems. They ran out of ammunition, they had to have booster rockets to get into space and they fought other pilots and other Mobile suits rather then invading armies of little green men. This being said why didn't Cartoon network start at the beginning of the Gundam stories for an American audiences? Why start with Gundam Wing that is not even part of the established Gundam timeline. It is really a matter of marketing, while the original Gundam story appeals to teens and young adults it offers a complex story with very few real "hero" robots. While there are good guys and bad guys, there are no real heroic-larger-then life robots in the story. On the other hand Gundam wing offers more memorable heroic robots that would appeal to young audiences as well. The mobile suits in Gundam wing are for the most part like those in the original Gundam stories, but there is one main difference. In the original series the Mobile suits are just one type of weapon used in the war, in Gundam Wing they are the ultimate weapons in the war. The original series mobile suits had names like RX-78 and RX-79, where as the mobile suits in Gundam wing were named after their special skills and abilities. The Wing Gundam (whom the show is named after) could transform into a pseudo-jet, Gundam Heavy Arms was a walking arsenal, Gundam Deathscythe carried a huge scythe that could rip into the most heavily armored opponents with ease.
Wing Gundam Zero

Wing Gundam Zero (Endless Waltz)
Gundam Wing Endless Waltz: The best starter for anyone wanting to get into Gundam is Gundam Wing Endless Waltz. It will be shown from time to time on cartoon network and is available on video. It is a sequel and prequel to Gundam wing and can stand alone as a 2-hour movie. It follows the story of the 5 Gundams after the end of Gundam Wing. The world is at peace and the Gundam Pilots send their Gundam Mobile suits on a rocket headed for the sun. However, a new threat arises to peace and the pilots have to save their Gundams and open up a whole new can of whoop-ass. The great thing visually is that each of the mobile suits gets a new look, like the redesign that was done to the Batman animated series. They are still the same suits, but the looks have changed, darker more realistic colors, and cleaner more agile lines.
In the end Watch Gundam, any Gundam! You may just get hooked.