1978-9 – Mobile Suit Gundam (Fiction) – Yoshiyuki Tomino (Japanese)

Although inspired by Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" that had infantrymen wearing "power suits" that surround their bodies and amplify their movements, most of the Gundam mobile suits were of the "driveable robot" tradition, where operators sat in cockpits and manipulated levers and pedals.

The Gundam concept was developed in 1978, with the TV series first airing in 1979.

Mobile Suit Gundam statue erected in Japan.

A Mobile Suit Gundam poster


WHAT'S gundam by Martin Ouelette
From the magazine "MECHA PRESS"

To understand the story and "raison d'etre" behind gundam, one must go back nearly thirty years, to the early 1960's and the start of the Japanese "Giant Robots" animation show tradition, "TetsuYin28" being the first one. The base story being, 99.9% of the time, the struggle for power between good and evil in the style of bad guys attack Tokyo (seemingly the only city on Earth!), killing a scientist in the process. Following that, the son or nephew of the scientist in question climbs into the brand new giant robot (with a suitably noble name, of course!) the dearly departed had just completed (in time for the invasion, it goes without saying!). Then he quite simply saves the world from destruction, while reading the instruction book, nonetheless!
But Yoshiyuki Tomino, an experienced animation director, was convinced that Japanese animation had more to offer. According to Frederik L..Schodt in his introduction to "gundam MS I AWAKENING (the first of a three books series on gundam MS), Tomino was partly inspired by the 1959 novel by Robert Heinlein "Starship Troopers" when he created a brand new approach to the "robot shows" with "gundam Mobile Suit". The Mobile Suit consists of a giant piloted mechanical suit, or exoskeleton, sporting sophisticated armament. In Tomino's viewpoint, mechanical designers had to keep the limits of credibility and the laws of physics in mind while creating the designs. Named "mecha" or "Mobile Suit", these machines looked realistic and didn't have the "principal character" aura the robots before them had. Like the "mecha", the characters created for gundam were much more complex than the ones from the earlier animations. He innovated in introducing characters which couldn't simply be considered good or bad. An example of this being the relationship between Char Aznable and Amuro Rey.
The first "gundam MS" television series, in 1979, did not meet the rating expectations of Tomino at first, but ended up as "the" sensation of the early eighties in Japanese animation.


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