Mobile Suit Gundam: Where to Start and What’s Worth Watching [2024 Edition]


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Aerial from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury

Forty-five years ago, Mobile Suit Gundam was a cartoon designed to sell robot toys to kids, and it initially received such low viewership ratings that it ended up being canceled. It was only later that the anime’s hardcore fans, many of whom were teens and young adults and decidedly not the child audience Gundam‘s producers were expecting, made themselves known by giving Gundam rerun episodes much higher viewership numbers than anyone expected.

You know the rest. Today, Gundam is a major multinational franchise with fans all over the world. The IP has expanded to dozens of shows, many of which take place in different universes and timelines. Between TV anime, compilation movies, one-shots, and shorts, it has gotten to the point where it’s almost impossible to list every Gundam anime in one article. Even when I initially published this article in 2015, I stuck to Gundam anime which I was able to legally get my hands on. Nine years later, there are 15 more titles to add to the list!

When I was asked to revisit this article, I was initially a bit reluctant because of its previous reception. Some readers asked, essentially, who died and made me the arbitrator of which Gundam shows people are allowed to watch, and first of all, I am not. These are my personal opinions, and I don’t claim to have impeccable taste in mecha anime. My only qualification for writing it is that I can claim to have watched EVERY Gundam anime that is available in the US (and some that aren’t; I checked out some shorts last time I visited Gundam Base Tokyo).

I have written this article for the same audience that Chris and Nick were addressing in This Week in Anime: Getting into Gundam (and Other Long-Running Anime), Gundam-curious anime fans who have limited time and even more limited tolerance for bullshit, looking for Gundam‘s most approachable stories. My fellow Millennials, it might be time for us to admit that we don’t like Gundam Wing because it is well-written; we like it because of our nostalgia for the time we first discovered mecha anime.

Over the years, the Gundam franchise has managed to create a tangled and frequently self-referential multiverse. Nearly every show since the first contains clever Easter Eggs to reward fans who are in it for the long haul. At the same time, there are gems in the catalog that are enjoyable without any of the prerequisites. Gundam anime that you can watch without having to do any homework – these are the shows that I am recommending the most.

My guide is divided into the Gundam multiverse’s different timelines. All the shows that fall into each subhead are related in some way—usually, one takes place after the next. As a Gundam fan myself, I want your first (and second, and third) impression of the franchise to be a good one. Keep in mind that even though there are a lot of shows here, I still haven’t even listed all of the shorts, movies, and bonus OVAs that exist. This is simply my take on which shows out of Gundam‘s massive library are most worth your time.

A big thank you to Tom Aznable, who contributed his time and knowledge to this article.


Universal Century

About this timeline: Welcome to Gundam‘s first and largest timeline, the Universal Century. Production-wise, this is the first timeline in the Gundam franchise, kicking off with 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam. As the oldest timeline, it has the largest cultural footprint and if you’ve seen Gundam parodies or imagery, they’re likely from here. The bulk of Gundam series takes place in the Universal Century timeline.

Timeline themes: The events or fallout of the One Year War, a conflict between Earth and a nation of rebel space colonies. The Earth Federation, the eventual winners who write history, are depicted as the good guys, while Zeon is a thematic placeholder for the Axis powers. Universal Century shows are immediately recognizable by the iconic mobile suits the “Feddies” and “Zeek” forces pilot.

Here’s the complete list of shows in order of release, with recommendations of which ones are worth a look.

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Mobile Suit Gundam

What it is: Starts in media res during the One Year War. A key point is the introduction of impulsive teenage Amuro and the charismatic Char: the respective ace mobile suit fighters for the Federation and Zeon, establishing their rivalry as one of the timeline’s most enduring conflicts.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: It’s not just the basis of the Universal Century, but the grandfather of every Gundam show, introducing the concept of the “mobile suit” weapon that every Gundam show has in common. That said, at 43 episodes and ’70s era animation, it can be an acquired taste for modern viewers. Mobile Suit Gundam – The Movie Trilogy is a speedier compilation.

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Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

What it is: Takes place seven years after the events of Mobile Suit Gundam with a new protagonist, Kamille, and a new redemption storyline for Char. This time, the Earth Federation is the antagonistic force.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: Zeta is a sequel, but its character-writing allows it to stand on its own. This is Tomino off the leash—with a cult hit under his belt, it’s clear he had more creative freedom in his second Gundam show. Zeta‘s critique of the Federation’s less-than-cool policies after the war blurs the lines between good and evil for a cerebral treatise on the complexity of war. Keep in mind that my adamant “yes” is for the TV series. For the 3 compilation movies, which offer a jarring mix of old and new animation while altering plot elements, I’d say it’s a “maybe.”

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ

What it is: Following the events of Zeta, a portion of the cast is joined by a goofy group of kids.

Worth watching? No.

Why: No Gundam show has made me laugh as much as ZZ, but the humor is always at the show’s expense. After Zeta’s dark drama, this sequel is a bizarre attempt to lighten the mood. From nonsensical plot developments (there’s no reason the lost colony of Moon Moon should have been lost in the first place) to slapstick to cheesecake to abrupt, somber interludes, it’s a discordant entry in Gundam history.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack

What it is: A movie that redirects the focus back to Char and Amuro and completes their arc.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: With an unlikeable protagonist, Quess, who takes up valuable screen time, this is only a so-so movie on its own. Still, anyone who is invested in the Gundam franchise’s most iconic rivalry—between rival mecha pilots Amuro and Char—will want to bear with it to see how the story ends.

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

What it is: A One Year War side story starring a child protagonist as the horrors of war come straight to his door.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: This is a self-contained capsule story set against the Universal Century’s central conflict. This series paints the realities of war without getting preachy about it. It may be only six episodes long, but that’s more than enough time to grow attached to Al, a child who thinks war sounds like fun, Zeon soldier Bernie, and Al’s neighbor and babysitter, Chris.

Mobile Suit Gundam F91

What it is: After decades of peace, a group of self-declared space aristocrats makes a power grab in the Frontier colonies.

Worth watching? No.

Why: While the production team worked on F91, there was a constant dispute about whether the title would be adapted as a TV show, a TV show and movie combo, or its eventual result: a single feature film. It’s safe to say that this time in limbo resulted in the movie’s poor pacing. Not to mention, it seems to crib a lot of its material from Star Wars (a Darth Vader-like antagonist, music that resembles the Imperial March), so you might as well watch that instead.

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory

What it is: After the One Year War, it turns out the victor, the Earth Federation, still has plenty of political infighting to address. Stardust Memory focuses on that fallout.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: This is the prequel to Zeta Gundam, which sets up major plot points in the following series. It’s not required viewing and it’s possible to comprehend Zeta without watching this as “homework.” However, Stardust Memory is pretty good in its own right! From its ’80s power-ballad intro song to its setting on a training base, it has a lot of the same story beats as Top Gun, giving it the nickname “Top Gundam.”

Mobile Suit Victory Gundam

What it is: A 13-year-old must pilot a mass-produced mobile suit called Victory Gundam to face off against the formidable Zanscare Empire.

Worth watching? No.

Why: One of the major criticisms is that this show feels like an incidental footnote in the Universal Century timeline, which ought to make it a recommendation from me. However, it is far from the franchise’s finest offering. Even Tomino tongue-in-cheek-ly discouraged fans from watching it: “I want to completely reject this work,” he said. (Funnily enough, the Victory Gundam Blu-Ray sales page used this quote as copy.) Based on the French Revolution, this show has a cool premise that it fails to deliver on due to poor pacing and a puzzling plotline.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

What it is: A One Year War side story, focused on a squad on the East Asian front.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: A side-story with a lot of heart, 08th MS Team shares the story of ordinary soldiers going head to head in humble ground combat in the jungles of Southeast Asia. While Mobile Suit Gundam outlined what the top brass and aces are doing, this OVA shows how other people got on during the war. As a result, it’s a self-contained story of the titular team that relies on strong character writing and wild fight scenes to make its point.

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G-Saviour

What it is: Earth and the colonies battle over food shortages.

Worth watching? A thousand times no.

Why: You don’t want to watch this. This live-action movie with poor acting and a worse plot. Unfortunately, it’s not “so bad it’s good” so it’s better to just forget it happened. This isn’t easily available in North America anyway (even though it was filmed in Canada), and that’s for the best.

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Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO

What it is: A CGI animation that focuses on Zeon’s engineering team and their rush to create technology the struggling army requires.

Worth watching? No.

Why: MS IGLOO provides some insight into why Zeon may have lost the war, but isn’t required viewing. These standalone anthology stories are animated in early, clunky CGI, making them a bizarre experiment in the Gundam franchise. Its almost humorous depiction of overworked Zeon weapons inspectors has given it diehard supporters (like my husband), but I don’t see the appeal myself.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn

What it is: The last scion of the Republic of Zeon meets a seemingly normal boy in a fated encounter. As a result, he becomes the pilot of a Gundam that has the potential to threaten the Earth Federation’s hard-earned peace.

Worth watching? No.

Why: Recency bias originally compelled me to recommend Unicorn as required viewing since I was enjoying it so much. Now that it’s long over and I have some distance from it, I realize that what makes Unicorn great is the payoff—though a small part of the story takes place in UC 0001, it is in many ways a conclusion to the Universal Century. Even Unicorn’s cool fight scenes and high production values aren’t enough to make me waver.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin

What it is: An origin story for the One Year War that begins when Char is still a child and details the political intrigue that results in the birth of the Republic of Zeon.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: This is the closest thing the Universal Century has to a prequel. It establishes a fascinating and human face on the political mechanisms hinted at, but never fully explained, during Mobile Suit Gundam. It also adds more characterization to Char, explaining how he became an antihero, without excusing his darker elements. It’s a modern and fast-paced introduction to the Universal Century.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt

What it is: Leagues away from the main front, Federation and Zeon soldiers duke it out in the hazardous, high-voltage Thunderbolt Sector to secure a supply path to A Baoa Qu.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: Everyone knows about Amuro Ray and Char Aznable, but what about the non-celebrity soldiers risking their lives in the One Year War? Thunderbolt gives us a rare glimpse into the lives and deaths of the war’s more “expendable” soldiers. It’s best not to get emotionally invested in a TV series with such a high body count, but its humanizing story paired with its intense, jazzy soundtrack makes that nigh impossible. Thunderbolt also has two movies, but I only recommend the first one: December Sky. The second, Bandit Flower, is an unfinished story, and there’s no indication that it will ever get the continuation it deserves.

Mobile Suit Gundam Twilight AXIS

What it is: Months after the events of Gundam Unicorn, two Zeon remnants (a weapons developer and a test pilot) are hired by the Federation to investigate the ruins of the asteroid base Axis when they are unexpectedly attacked by a mysterious Gundam.

Worth watching? No.

Why: Though I hate to put down the rare Gundam entry that stars a female protagonist, this 26-minute short engages in a lot of perplexing revisionism, including some unnecessary whitewashing of Char Aznable’s antihero reputation. This film crunches a light novel into mere minutes, making it hard to follow. The primary conflict of the story, when Gundam Tristan attacks the leads, doesn’t seem to have a motive beyond “prompting a cool-looking fight scene.”

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Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative

What it is: A year after the events of Gundam Unicorn, the Unicorn Gundam and Banshee Gundam have been supposedly sealed away forever. Unexpectedly, the long-lost Gundam Phenex has been sighted, compelling the Earth Federation to track it down.

Worth watching? No.

Why: Let me first say this: the fight scenes were incredible, and there have never been mobile suit designs flashier than the ostentatious Unicorn series. But this movie is so packed full of nonstop backstory and lore, and so consequently light on characterization, that there’s barely any reason to care about who’s piloting these Christmas tree-looking suits.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway

What it is: Twelve years after Char’s Rebellion, Hathaway Noa, the son of Bright Noa (a major character in Mobile Suit Gundam) is traveling to Earth. When his shuttle gets hijacked by the terrorist group Mafty, the resulting crisis connects him with a mysterious female Newtype and a prickly enemy officer. None of the three realize that their encounter is only the beginning of a new conflict.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: I’ve never seen a Gundam movie quite like this one: for example, the mobile suits don’t show up until more than halfway through. Before that point, it’s more like a spy movie with Hathaway turning the tables on terrorists, getting to know an enigmatic lady in a luxury hotel in the tropics, and navigating the intrigue of a detective’s investigation while concealing a hidden identity. This is based on a light novel series so if it feels like an opening act that’s because it is. Even though I didn’t grasp all the details of the plot, it’s still a fun ride.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island

What it is: After he is attacked by a mysterious Zeon mobile suit, Gundam pilot Amuro is stranded on a not-so-deserted island. If he wants any chance of escape, he will need to learn to empathize with its inhabitants.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: For decades, Yoshiyuki Tomino tried to downplay episode 15 of Mobile Suit Gundam: “Cucuruz Doan’s Island.” But the mystery only grew, leading to this feature film. Since it reinvents and expands on many major details of this standard mid-series episode, there’s no reason you need to watch the first 14 episodes to enjoy the film. It’s a standalone account of how an island full of war orphans got by during the One Year War, and it’s engaging and optimistic.

Cosmic Era

What it is: A timeline characteristic for a specific design aesthetic: overtly pretty characters complete with enormous eyes, waifish figures, and likewise elegant mobile suits.

Timeline themes: An enduring conflict between “Naturals,” AKA regular Earthlings, who must battle for the right to survive against the genetically modified “Coordinators,” who live in space. Did I mention this timeline also has a mysterious masked adversary?

Here are the titles that fit into the Cosmic Era, except Mobile Suit Gundam Seed FREEDOM, the movie that just came out in Japan. I haven’t seen it as of this article’s publication, but you can read ANN correspondent in Japan Richard Eisenbeis’ review.

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Mobile Suit Gundam Seed

What it is: One young Coordinator chooses to ally himself with Earth instead of space.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: SEED could be a good introduction to the franchise in replacement of Mobile Suit Gundam, depending on whether you value a modern look and feel over retro but decent storytelling. It has many similarities to the storyline of the original Gundam while bringing fresh animation and pacing to the table. On one hand, it suffers from wooden dialogue and a failure to surpass the original, but on the other, it boasts some of the best music in Gundam.

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny

What it is: A dark follow-up to the events of Gundam Seed. It attempts to be a clone of Zeta Gundam, following SEED’s Mobile Suit Gundam.

Worth watching? No.

Why: Destiny is alternately too dark, too light, and unbalanced. For example, one of my most memorable recollections begins thusly: the curtain rises on an explosion. There’s a bloody arm lying on the ground, a child crying nearby. Next, all the pilots enjoy a hot spring on the warship. What? Why?

Mobile Suit Gundam Seed C.E.73: Stargazer

What it is: A Gundam Seed Destiny side story told in three online episodes, this story focuses on the Phantom Pain faction and the scientists of the pioneering Stargazer project.

Worth watching? No.

Why: Like with many Gundam ONAs, Stargazer has the problem where you can practically imagine a corporate suit popping into the writing room and barking, “Less character drama! More cool robot battles!” Under those constraints, this short has more emotional impact than it has any right to offer, but I’m still not recommending it because its role as a side-story that starts between episodes 7 and 8 of Destiny means you would need to watch Destiny to understand it.

The Build Franchise

What it is: This is the only group of Gundam shows said to take place in the same universe as the viewer. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as Our Century, though as more Build Franchise shows come out, it becomes increasingly unclear if they’re all taking place within the same universe. The characters are humans with generally normal abilities who happen to be Gundam fans. This is currently the Gundam franchise’s most active timeline.

Timeline themes: In the near future on Earth, people of all ages build Gunpla—plastic Gundam models—and use high-tech arenas to make them battle for fun and profit. Oh, and there’s always a mysterious masked adversary, but you guessed that already.

Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G

What it is: After visiting the 1/1 Gundam model in Odaiba, one boy is inspired to not only build a Gunpla kit but enter his build in the virtual world of Gunpla Battle.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: This OVA is a prototype of the far superior Gundam Build Fighters, laying out the sport, its stakes, and at least one of this timeline’s most enduring Gunpla (the Beargguy).

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Gundam Build Fighters

What it is: A new sport in which you build Gunpla models and battle them in a tech-enhanced arena is the latest craze. Two friends team up to take their Gunpla to the top.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: This show will make you want to start building Gunpla models. But it’s more than a commercial because its compelling plot and engaging characters keep it interesting. I loved meeting each new rival pilot, who had his or her own reason for competing. The humor is spot-on and the animation quality of these no-holds-barred battles is gorgeous. Created by and for mecha fans, Build Fighters is a heartfelt love letter to Gundam that appeals to veterans and newcomers alike.

Gundam Build Fighters Try

What it is: This time, three friends team up to become the best Gundam Build Fighters etc. etc.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: Since this show has to divide the story between three friends instead of two, I don’t think Try’s story is quite as strong as its predecessor. However, Try is a show made by Gundam fans for Gundam fans, and the creators’ passion for the product shines through in every scene.

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Gundam Build Divers

What it is: Virtual Gunpla combat in an online arena has taken the Gundam fandom by storm. Online avatars, called Divers, compete in digital battles.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: Can AI have a soul? That’s the unexpectedly deep message at the center of this Our Century continuation. But when Gunpla battles move from the Build Fighters arena to wholly online spaces, the stakes are lowered since there’s no risk to any player’s mobile suit. (Interestingly, and in a self-aware move for the series, this is also the antagonist’s concern.)

Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE

What it is: Two years after Build Divers, a rogue mercenary Diver unites with three other players while he tracks down a mystery girl from his past.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: If you can be anyone in a virtual world, why not get weird? Get ready to see some very unorthodox suits. Also, this show just might feature Gundam‘s first time featuring a furry in a lead role. Still, if you haven’t seen Build Divers before watching this one, you’ll be missing out on the significance of some of the returning characters.

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Gundam Breaker Battlogue

What it is: The world’s best Gunpla Fighters face off in a series of intense battles.

Worth watching? No.

Why: This series was designed to promote the Gundam Breaker mobile game by showing some over-the-top fights between opponents with over-the-top grudges. Though I don’t recommend it, I will always be grateful to this show for giving us snazzy American Type Gunpla kits that you could pick up at major US retailers while this show was airing.

Gundam Build Metaverse

What it is: A young Gunpla fan in Hawaii meets the mysterious “Mask Lady” in the online metaverse. While she trains him in the art of Gunpla battle, he continues to seek out increasingly powerful opponents.

Worth watching? Absolutely Not.

Why: Much like the ill-advised Meta (formerly Facebook) vehicle, this Gundam short never needed to exist. Hollow and forgettable, this mini-series is little more than a toy commercial
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Alternate Universes

What are they: Some Gundam shows take place in their own timeline unrelated to any other Gundam show—except for the whole giant-fighting-suit-and-masked-adversary thing. It’s not necessary to grasp Gundam tropes to fully understand and enjoy these Gundam shows.

Timeline themes: Since these are all self-contained and separate settings, they don’t have a lot in common. However, they are all derivatives of Mobile Suit Gundam in some way. Whether they have a masked antagonist, a red, blue, and white protagonist suit; a plot that makes each side of a conflict sympathetic; or all three, they’re unmistakably part of the Gundam multiverse.

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Future Century — Mobile Fighter G Gundam

What it is: The space colonies agree to hold organized “Gundam Fights” in place of war. The victor earns his or her colony the right to govern all of the colonies for the next four years. One young fighter represents Japan while on a global search to find his brother.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: In most cases, it’d be irresponsible to recommend an anime full of unrealistic, exaggerated characters and over-the-top cultural stereotypes (some of which edge towards racism). On the other hand, G-Gundam‘s quick pace and intentional camp value—a horse Gundam piloted by a horse, for example—make it an unexpected fan favorite.

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After Colony – Gundam Wing

What it is: Five leads pilot unique mobile suits at the forefront of the colonies’ rebellion against a hostile Earth. As the series progresses, the pilots become allied with one another more so than any cause and choose their own reasons to fight.

Worth watching? It hurts me to say it, but no.

Why: Members of the early ’00s Toonami generation may remember falling in love with Gundam Wing, but we didn’t know any better. With poor pacing and a weak plot, the Gundam Wing older fans remember has not aged well and is unlikely to stand up to a modern audience. Give it a rewatch and the cracks will start to show: I didn’t remember the way the characters’ motivations could shift mid-conversation.

After Colony – Endless Waltz

What it is: A movie that follows the events of Gundam Wing while revealing souped-up suits and new details about the main pilots’ pasts.

Worth watching? No.

Why: While certainly a better story than Gundam Wing itself, it’s not a good standalone. You need to watch that series’ bloated 49 episodes before you can understand this one. Any movie that requires double-digit episodes as homework is not as well-scripted as I thought.

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After War — After War Gundam X

What it is: On a post-apocalyptic Earth, a young thief only looks out for his own survival. But when he meets a mysterious girl, he decides to pilot a mobile suit to save her life.

Worth watching? No.

Why: I love this ’90s relic with all its weirdness, especially the dolphin with Newtype powers. But I can’t deny the show’s slow start and vague, superficial cribbing of the One Year War. When I reviewed this series I said that its subsequent cancellation was a blessing in disguise because it compelled the story to drastically pick up the pace. If it had been that way from the start, I’d be recommending it.

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Correct Century — Turn A Gundam

What it is: Earth is a peaceful, if somewhat backward, frontier until the high-tech moon colonists that everyone has forgotten about make a surprise homecoming.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: This is Yoshiyuki Tomino‘s first Gundam series since Victory, and it is considered an artistic high point of his career by himself and fans alike. With music by Yoko Kanno and mecha designs by Syd Mead, the concept artist behind Blade Runner, Aliens, and Tron, this is one of the most unique visual and audio Gundam experiences in the franchise. On top of that, it’s got an earnest, charming protagonist and a plot that should resonate with everyone who’s ever wanted to discover a new world. Yes, I’m biased: out of every show on this list, Turn A Gundam is my personal favorite.

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Anno Domini — Mobile Suit Gundam 00

What it is: Three factions are at war over limited resources. To disrupt the balance of power, a fourth group called Celestial Being creates a revolutionary new superweapon—surprise, it’s five Gundams.

Worth watching? No.

Why: This show starts with a lot of promise, but slowly decelerates into a confusing mass of unlikeable characters and Deus Ex Machina plot points. The first season is salvageable, only to propel you into an abysmal second season. (A “favorite” part for me is when a popular character was killed off, only to be replaced by his surprise identical twin, presumably after an outcry.) Despite its issues, the show was successful enough to merit a movie, Awakening of Trailblazer, which also is not worth watching.

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Advanced Generation — Mobile Suit Gundam AGE

What it is: A story told in three time periods, following protagonist Flit as a child, as a man, and as a great-grandfather with increasingly crazy hair.

Worth watching? No.

Why: This show was heavily anticipated by fans because of the involvement of video game company Level 5. The character designs are expectedly great, but this was one show that didn’t benefit from the addition of a game-like storyline.

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Regild Century — Gundam: Reconguista in G

What it is: Humanity has entered a time of universal peace based on an anti-tech religion. One young man decides to pilot a mobile suit of mysterious origin and changes his life forever.

Worth watching? No.

Why: The storytelling is so confusing that it may take the entire series for you to figure out what’s going on. Allegiances are constantly swapped, and nobody seems to have a clear motive for their actions. This feels like the sequel to a story that doesn’t exist. Even though I followed up this series by watching the five Reconguista in G movies, I still don’t get what’s going on. Even more complicated, the Regild Century is part of the Universal Century. Is it, though?

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Post Disaster – Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

What it is: A group of teen and child laborers on Mars rose against their oppressors and found a security company.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: Iron-Blooded Orphans is one of the darkest entries in Gundam history (a tough bar to clear!) as well as one of its most interesting. Its story unflinchingly tackles tough issues like slavery, child soldiers, colonialism, and corruption, but somehow manages to culminate in a hopeful ending. The opening song is playing in my head as I write this.

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Ad Stella – Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury

What it is: A girl from the boonies of Mercury begins attending the prestigious Asticassia School of Technology.

Worth watching? Yes.

Why: G-Witch was practically designed to be a Gundam entry show. It honors the franchise’s most iconic themes without being beholden to them and adds its own special sauce of originality. Suletta is our first female protagonist since Quess in Char’s Counterattack, and leagues more likable. The way this show pits kids against adults who Just Don’t Understand is classic Gundam, but you don’t need to know that to comprehend and enjoy it.

SD Universe

What it is: Inspired by a fan art submission in the ’80s featuring a cute chibi version of a Gundam, the “Super Deformed” universe features adorable mobile suits. Originally starring SD versions of existing mobile suits, modern SD shows portray unusual mashup blends and completely original character designs. SD shows don’t necessarily all take place in the same timeline or universe, but this is the least confusing way to group these.

Timeline themes: While most Gundam shows fall squarely into the “Real Robot” genre, which imagines mobile suits as standardized weapons of war, SD Universe shows better resemble the “Super Robot” genre: a mecha story category that’s more playful, flexible, and surreal.

Omissions from me: There are more than 20 SD Gundam shorts spanning back to the ’80s, but I am only including the TV-length shows produced since 2000. Let’s allow Doozy Bots to rest in peace.

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SD Gundam Force

What it is: Humans and robots live peacefully in the futuristic city of Neotopia, but everything changed when the Dark Axis attacked.

Worth watching? No.

Why: This US/Japan co-production was designed with kids in mind, and it shows. It’s a perfectly pleasant story (and even the enemies are nice), but it lacks Gundam‘s trademark complexity. Plus, at 52 episodes, it wears out its welcome with an overly complicated plot.

Mobile Suit Gundam-san

What it is: In this parody of Mobile Suit Gundam, Char is a clown, Amuro is a perv, and Haro is a grown man stuffed into a tiny round robot.

Worth watching? No.

Why: This show’s slapstick humor smacks of an earlier time, and I don’t think modern audiences will think it’s as funny to watch Char get slapped around by Lalah until he’s bruised and broken. What made this show funny to me were the various creative ways it riffed on classic Gundam tropes, making it less than ideal from an accessibility standpoint.

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SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors

What it is: Inspired by the classic 14th-century Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this show follows three rival kingdoms and their bravest, mecha-shaped warriors.

Worth watching? Maybe.

Why: Perhaps because it was working with such a timeless inspiration, I think this is the best SD Gundam show there is, story-wise. It’s a light and certainly abridged version of that story, so you don’t need to dust up your Chinese history in advance. That said, many of the characters are directly inspired by famous mobile suits from other Gundam shows, so the payoff is better if you have some familiarity with other Gundam material.

SD Gundam World Sangoku Sōketsuden

What it is: Inspired by SD Gundam Sangokuden, which itself was inspired by Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but with new characters and a new story.

Worth watching? No.

Why: This show was created to celebrate the Gundam franchise’s 40th anniversary and it has some hallmarks of an IP resting on its laurels—for example, it is incredibly derivative of the previous SD show, but each role is now confusingly played by a new character.

world-heroes

SD Gundam World Heroes

What it is: A sequel to SD Gundam World Sangoku Sōketsuden. This time, the plot is inspired by a different classic story: Journey to the West.

Worth watching? No.

Why: I can’t believe I’m not recommending a series with characters like the Ben Franklin Gundam, King Arthur mecha, and Cleopatra mobile suit, but this just-okay series relies on parsing the complicated story beats of its predecessor, and it frankly isn’t worth it.


I’ve shared my opinions, but there’s no reason our tastes won’t differ. If anything, I hope this guide has given you a starting point to plot your Gundam journey. With so many shows spanning a full multiverse of options, there’s something for everyone in Gundam.

What was your first Gundam show? If you could go back and start with any Gundam series, which would it be? Let us know in the comments!





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