Mobile Suit Gundam THE ORIGIN: “Cool Japan” All Started Here
There have always been great “epoch-makers” in any field of cultural and sub-cultural production. The movie Star Wars, for example, laid a cornerstone for the following generations of VFX movies. Mobile Suit Gundam has played exactly the same role in the history of Japanese manga and anime. Especially among the Gundam series, what we are focusing on here is the title Mobile Suit Gundam THE ORIGIN, practically the definitive edition of the series.
The time is the Universal Century Year of 0079. The story is set in a future world where the Earth Federation has been founded by the members representing the planet earth and multiple space colonies. “Side 3,” one of the colonies, declared itself as “the Principality of Zeon” and waged a war for its independence against the Earth Federation (the One Year War). The story depicts Amuro Ray, the protagonist, and his friends, who join the war in its later stages as a pilot of Gundam, the top-of-the-line mobile suit of the Earth Federation.
The protagonist of the title.
He is the son of an engineer who designed Gundam and appears as a mere civilian at the beginning of the story.
One day as he was running for shelter, he comes in the cockpit of Gundam by accident and becomes involved in the war.
He is a rather introverted and passive child at first but the experiences in the war gradually change him into a grown-up man.
He was one of the senior military officers at first, but after losing many of the other officers in a battle, ends up assuming office of the commander of the battle ship White Base, on which Amuro happens to be boarding.
Like Amuro, she also gets accidentally involved in the war and becomes a communication operator of White Base. She is actually the daughter of the governor of the Principality of Zeon. She had her parents murdered during the course of the coup-de-tat, which led to the foundation of Zeon, and was forced to flee the colony.
Char is the ace pilot of the Zeon forces and also known by the nickname of “the Red Comet.”
The main antagonist against Amuro.
He is actually the elder brother of Sayla. While carrying out his duty as a soldier of the Zeon forces, he seeks revenge on a family who determined his tragic childhood.
Key to the Series’ Success
Gundam first started in 1979 as a TV anime series. The anime did not particularly win any popularity when it was first broadcasted, but it somehow started to gain popularity as it was rebroadcasted again and again. Then finally in 1981, an almost crazy Gundam boom occurred in Japan. The very first season in the Gundam series is now referred to as “the First Gundam,” and as of 2016, we still have new TV anime sequels continuously developed from the original episodes.
There used to be many anime titles in which man-controlled giant robots fight against enemies. Typically, those enemies were often aliens either from another planet or another world and boys who believe in justice rode robots and expelled those enemies with malicious intention against humans.
But the Gundam series featured protagonists and antagonists, who, even sometimes with some minor deformation, are both depicted as “humans” and is themed on more realistic “wars.” Moreover, the series depicts the experience of the protagonists who are not willing to fight but rather forced to be involved in wars against their wills at first and gradually mature in personality going through pains and anguishes of wars. Many boys among the TV anime audience were more used to simplistic stories where the just punishes the evil and must have had difficulty understanding the story of the Gundam series. But they watched the series again and again, grasped the essence of the series and finally caused the series to see a great success. Another interesting aspect of this long-standing series is that Amuro Ray, who is portrayed at first as a kid of rather “withdrawn” personality, and some other elements in the series seem somewhat prophetic of the society we live in today, where such issues as “Hikikomori (social withdrawal of the youth)” have been on the focus of social attention.
Mobile Suit Gundam THE ORIGIN is a manga based on the story of the “First Gundam.” The author of the manga title is Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, who designed the characters of the anime series. While the basic plot is not largely different from the original TV anime, the psychological descriptions and new episodes, that were not included in the original, were added to complement the original story. Even today in 2016, new manga and anime sequels depicting the aftermath of the “One Year War,” mainly focusing on the antagonist Char Aznable, are continuously produced.
The Classic with a New Twist
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The Gundam series now belongs to the category of “classics” and the old TV series might seem somewhat outdated to today’s audiences. But “THE ORIGIN” is a newly produced title with a twist to suit the sensibility of today. This epoch-making title in the history of Japanese anime and manga will surely be enjoyable and well worth reading.