While the idea of “mecha,” or giant robots or robotic suits controlled by humans, has been around for a while in Japanese fiction, I think few can argue the importance of one anime in the subgenre specifically: Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam, the 1979 series that spawned 36 follow-up TV series and movies in as many years. The Tokyo International Film Festival this year is paying tribute to the groundbreaking franchise by screening the very first theatrical film, several episodes of the series, as well as other films and shorts.
Mobile Suit Gundam, interestingly enough, wasn’t even that big a hit when it was released in 1979; it wasn’t until Bandai released build-it-yourself models in 1980 and the subsequent reruns of the first season that saved the show from cancellation and brought it back for another spate of episodes. Never underestimate the power of merchandising, and the fact that, for a show about people controlling giant, awesome robots, maybe kids would like to be in control of them themselves, in some fashion or another.
The Tokyo International Film Festival will be held from October 22-31, so you’ll have plenty of time to obtain tickets to fly to Japan, find lodging, get entry to the festival, and learn the Japanese language since I’m sure nothing will be subtitled in English. The newest Gundam series, by the way, Mobile Suit Gundam: Blood and Iron Orphans, is premiering in Japan on Oct. 4, and the latest OVA film, Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin II: Artesia’s Sorrow, will be screened in a limited two-week run beginning on Halloween. So basically, if you just want to live in Japan in October, you could see a whole lot of Gundam.
Last year, by the way, the festival held a “Worlds of Hideaki Anno” tribute, which means lots and lots of Evangelion. Surely the Gundam stuff will be more upbeat.
Tell us your favorite Gundam outings in the comments below!