Tracing the Global Popularity of Mobile Suit Gundam
Keywords:Science Fiction, Japan, Anime, Robot, Fandom, mecha, gundam
In 1988, Tomino Yoshiyuki released Char’s Counterattack, the filmic conclusion to the nine year saga he had begun with the original anime series, Mobile Suit Gundam (1979). Set in a distant and alternate future where war is fought in giant humanoid robots known as “mobile suits,” Char’s Counterattack centers on the final battle between the Democratic Earth Federation and the fascist Neo Zeon Empire. This essay examines Char’s Counterattack as its own watershed moment for the Gundam franchise wherein Gundam would begin to spin-off into multiple media and other franchises, including more anime and films, but also manga, toys, novels, and later video games, all of which would be exported throughout the world, giving rise to Gundam’s global popularity. In reading the explosion of the Gundam franchise alongside its roots in the genre of “real robot” anime, this essay postulates that the destruction of real robots in Char’s Counterattack allegorizes the concept of C ool Japan. In doing so, this essay traces the production and exportation of Gundam’s media to both East Asia in the 1980s and North America in the early aughts, thereby repositioning the pivotal role Char’s Counterattack plays in the growth of otaku culture alongside other works in the anime canon, such as Akira (1988) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995).
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