The Gundam Multiverse Is Huge And Confusing (And We're Here To Help)

Gundam is a massive franchise in Japan. There have been twelve TV series, scores of video games, numerous movies and direct-to-video releases -- and let's not even get started on all the different manga. So despite its cultural footprint -- or perhaps because of it -- Gundam is an intimidating beast, to say the least. There are so many series to choose from that it can be more than a little difficult for a newcomer to know where to start.

Don't worry though; we at Kotaku East are here to help. The first thing to choose when picking a Gundam series is the universe it's set in. While they each have similarities (ie, space colonies, wars, and of course, Gundams), the stories can vary from coming of age tales to terrorist revolutions. To see a breakdown of six of the most popular of these universes and recommendations on where to start watching within each, click through the gallery above.

And if you wonder why Gundam AGE (the currently airing series) isn't included in this article, that's simply because I haven't watched it yet.

Universal Century

What's It About? This is the original Gundam universe. It details several wars between earth and its space colonies.

Should You Watch It? Yes. Pretty much everything in all other Gundam series has its roots in the UC universe. It definitely has its ups and downs, though -- and being as old as it is, some series haven't exactly held up very well over time. Still, even 30 years after its inception, this timeline has the most rabid Japanese fanbase of the franchise and continues to get new content even now.

Where Should You Start? Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team is the perfect taste of what the UC timeline has to offer. Made in the mid-90s, the animation is beautiful and the story is quite moving. Happening at the same time as the original Gundam, 08th MS Team follows a group of normal soldiers on the frontline -- and even has a star-crossed lovers story to boot.

Included Series:

MS IGLOO Mobile Suit Gundam The 08th MS Team 0080: War in the Pocket 0083: Stardust Memory Zeta Gundam Gundam ZZ Char's Counterattack Gundam Unicorn Gundam F91 Crossbone Gundam Victory Gundam G-Savior Turn A Gundam

Cosmic Era

What's It About? This is the story of a war between Coordinators -- genetically engineered humans mostly living in space -- and Naturals -- the normal humans living on earth.

Should You Watch It? Yes. The Gundam SEED universe takes all the best from the UC Gundams and updates them for a modern audience. It is the perfect Gundam gateway drug and what you like or dislike in the C.E. timeline can be used to gauge which other Gundam series you will enjoy.

Where Should You Start? Gundam SEED, as the first Cosmic Era story, is literally designed to introduce the viewer to this timeline. It follows a young coordinator from a neutral space colony. But when the colony is attacked, he and his friends find themselves rescued by a Natural warship. As the only coordinator on the ship, only he can pilot the prototype Gundam stored on board. So it falls to him alone to protect the warship while the Coordinator military (including his best friend) hunt him across the stars.

It's a story with no dull moments and is perfectly paced from beginning to end. The characters are interesting, realistic, and will have earned a place in your heart long before the final credits roll.

Included Series:

Gundam SEED MSV: Astray SEED Destiny C.E. 73 Stargazer

After Colony

What's It About? Oppressed by the Earth government, the space colonies each build a Gundam and send them to earth to weaken the Earth's military enough for the colonies to achieve independence.

Should You Watch It? No. While it was quite popular in the West (since it was the first Gundam most 90s anime fans ever saw thanks to Cartoon Network), it is actually not very interesting. None of the characters are particularly deep, nor is the story anything more than mundane. The plot tends to meander aimlessly with the characters falling into one situation after another -- but never really getting anything done.

Included Series:

Gundam Wing Endless Waltz

After War

What's It About? Near the end of a war between the space colonies and Earth, the Earth created the Gundam X, a mobile suit that could destroy a colony in one shot. The colonies responded by dropping empty colonies across the surface of the earth. The war ended in a stalemate with the earth ravaged and space colonies mostly destroyed. Gundam X is the story of a group of people living in the post-apocalyptic earth wasteland.

Should You Watch It? Yes (with a but). Gundam X is a series very unlike any other in the Gundam franchise. While it starts as little more than a post-apocalyptic survival story, by the end it becomes a treatise on the evolution of humanity. If you're a fan of games like Fallout, I recommend this one. But if you're looking for an epic war between earth and space, there are other Gundam series that will better suit your tastes.

Included Series:

Gundam X

Future Century

What's It About? Instead of resorting to war, the space colonies decide which colony will rule for the next four years based on who wins a Gundam fighting tournament on Earth.

Should You Watch It? No. As far as Gundam X was from traditional Gundam stories, G Gundam goes even further. It is simply a sub-par fighting anime with giant robots. The only reason to watch it is to belittle the cultural stereotypes that permeate the series; the Egyptian Gundam looks like a pharaoh and the British Gundam looks like a member of the Queen's Guard. Greece's Gundam even has a beard and a chariot -- complete with robotic horses.

Included Series:

G Gundam

Anno Domini

What's It About? The world is split into three factions -- each constantly on the edge of open warfare with the others. To prevent a cataclysmic global war, a group called the Celestial Beings have developed a weapon (the Gundam) years beyond what the three factions have. Their plan? To decimate both sides wherever the nations clash, making it clear that war is a useless tool that won't win them anything.

Should You Watch It? No. Gundam 00 fails as a story because it really has no where to go. There are no surprises in the plot and everything goes exactly as you would predict. However, if you liked Gundam Wing, you may enjoy this one as well. They are very much cut from the same cloth.

Included Series:

Gundam 00 Gundam 00 the Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer


    wtf, cosmic era was the biggest pile of crap to ever be made for mecha anime/anime in general. Sure it was popular in Japan, and to a certain extent the West, but amongst avid anime watchers (let's not even get into mechtards), it is viewed with much contempt for its plot holes, main character plot armour, incessant teenage whining and excessive use of stock battle footage. Let's not even go into the number of shitty recap episodes the series has...

    To say it's worthy of a watch? Ha, you've got to be kidding me...

      It was at the right place at the right time to be a gateway series for a lot of people so it's still quite popular. The same thing happened with Gundam Wing in the 90s. It's also not that great but it was a first introduction series.

      I personally enjoyed SEED a lot. Destiny though ruined the whole setting for me.

      Gundam SEED is a good recommendation because it brought a LOT of non-traditional fans into the mix... eg girls. Many, many girls became fans of Gundam because of SEED and later OO.

    I'd question the value of recommending 08th MS Team also. Not because it's not good, but because it's so much better than most of the rest of Gundam.

    Also technically Turn-A Gundam isn't Universal Century. It actually is intended to tie UC, Wing, X and I think G together and it's more of its own continuity, set several millennia later.

    Gundam AGE is fairly reasonable for what it is, but it's aimed at a very young audience and it's designed primarily for selling games and toys.

    Macross is the superior mecha franchise anyway. Gundam went for quantity over quality and there's only really a few bits of it which rise above the rest.

    To name seed as the best gundam series is seriously way off course. I honestly can't mention anything materium didn't already mention, except maybe the bare bones art style. the mech design in seed was pretty nice, but the character design was awful. there was honestly 3 body frames , 4 faces, and they added different hair styles and colors. I believe seed was pretty interesting for the first half but took a pretty hard nose dive. honest to goodnest though, to seriously mention seed destiny in the same breath as the word watchable is downright awful. this series is pretty much taboo among die hard mech fans because of how absolutely bad it is. The art quality took a turn for the worse, the story is all sorts of messed up, and the recycled footage is EVEN worse than in seed. Kira shows up on the scene, cue the laser show, episode over. I usually live by the rule " to each their own " but to honestly suggest that seed is It’s a story with no dull moments and is "perfectly paced from beginning to end" makes me want to kill myself. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

      Boy I should probably proof read before I hit submit. that was supposed to be "honest to goodness", and the quotations were supposed to start at "it's" below.

    I'd have to disagree with G Gundam being bad, I quite enjoyed it, especially the last few parts.

    Different people liking different things, I suppose.

      G Gundam is great for what it is, but what it is is a super robot show rather than a mecha show. It's great but not representative of the franchise so it'd be a poor starting point.

    Can someone make this into a chronological flowchart like this?

    ouch, if you said that gundam 00 is not recommended to be watched, i disagree with you and recommend you to watch it yourself, both seasons.
    The Celestial being mission is to deliver Aeolia S.'s visions; unite human based on understanding each other trough war and military intervention and prepare them to meet/ encounter other species in this universe WELL. it is clear at the last episode of second season. and followed up by the movie-- awakening of trailblazer -- fighting alien attack from Planet Jupiter.
    From technological aspects, this is the most reasonable series i've ever watched so far and the story is professionally maintained. IF some previous series, woman factor is almost the final key that might turn over a character. but here, i saw that each character is able to maintain their "reason" to fight trough understanding each other. War strategy, Time/Space concept, Earth Condition, etc is presented well.
    Although i found the concept of "consciousness" is ambiguous to human soul when i observe Tieria's & Veda's case.
    overall, i enjoy it.. and wish there will be another season for Gundam 00.

    Seed was promising at first and for a gundam fan, it's awesome. But I disagree that it should be the first thing you should watch to be introduced to gundam because it was mostly dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. Gundam is about getting to the fight.

    Wing Gundam?! That was one of the most awesome series out there and it even explains in detail what a gundam is.

    00 raiser is the bomb and all but I do agree it is not the best start because if you see the gundam 00 raiser, you pretty much seen them all and it spoils the franchise.

    No. Seed is NOT the first gundam series you should watch. First of all, there are plot holes in technology all over the place. Secondly, they use A LOT of recaps and re-use alot of battle scenes over and over again. Third, though Gundam needs drama, Seed focuses on teenage love drama way more than needed for a mecha anime. While it is nice to have that one dude to go jesus mode on the battlefield, there is just too many plot holes around the technology, which is what mecha animes are all about. I did enjoy Seed, so I'm not bashing it, but I certainly wouldn't suggest it as the first anime for someone to get into Gundam. It would be VERY misleading for someone looking to broaden their horizons after watching Seed, because they'd then expect a high volume of whiny teen drama, which other Gundam series don't really focus on other than Seed series.

    To say that someone new to Gundam shouldn't watch Wing is kind of a joke to me. Gundam Wing is what brought me into the Universe over 15 years ago and has done the same for many more Gundam fans in the west. I recently started watching Mobile suite Gundam 0079 and even with the outdated animation and clunky fight scenes I found myself urging Amaro to jump into that Gundam for the first time and got quite excited the first time he raged out and destroyed the Zeon ground force with ease even though compared to Wings fight scenes it was quite lame. Also so far Wing seems to have many elements of the original series; Zechs is almost a carbon copy of Char right down to the mystery sister and a Leo is clearly based on a Zeon Zaku among many other things , maybe the purists see this as a rip off and that's why they don't like it but I see it as an homage with lot's of great fight scenes and music that is 100 times better also I thought the story was great with flawed heroes , likeable intelligent villans and awesome powerful gundamsl

    The only knock on Gundam Wing I have is that they changed the Gundams from the series to the movie just because they wanted a fresher look and did nothing to explain the change and made it seem as if the Gundams were always upgraded with flash backs that date before the series. That being said though the new designs were incredible with Heavy Arms and Wing zero being the two coolest Gundams I have ever seen in my opinion so I forgave them. Also did anyone else notice that Khatra from Wing and Amaro from 0079 are voiced by the same actor I thought that was kind of cool

    Gundam 00 was easily my favorite series
    The reason I like it so much is in my opinion I could see that actually happening in real life(compared to all other series it's the most realistic to me). In a world where suddenly the Middle East isn't needed, (And the countries are still in turmoil which hasn't changed) I watched it while learning about child soldiers in history class and it just felt real with the main character.

    This is my opinion so please refrain from shooting down my opinion no matter how wrong it may seem

    what era dose MS Gundam Iron blooded Orphens and MS Gundam Thunderbolt fall into?

      Iron Blooded Orphans is an all new universe although as previously mentioned will have roots from early to late UC timeline characteristics such as colonies, war, child soldiers etc. What's very interesting and refreshing about IBO is how it's taken ideas and concepts from so many different Gundam titles Across the franchise however as the newest series the typical Gundam series structure has been shaken with a wide variety of brand new ideas and concepts making it truly a unique and different Gundam world.
      I don't mean different like G Gundam is different. It's like the plan has been stripped down to a partial skeleton and rebuilt into a brand new Gundam adventure and settting.
      I was very skeptical of IBO at first.
      Where are the beam sabers? Was all I was thinking. Why are these high tech mechs fighting with medieval like weapons? After experiencing the show I realized it's just a whole different program that not only works brilliantly but ends up making sense as it unfolds. (Also I love the bring back if shell-firing weapons, something I adored about the original zaku warfare) the lack of mobile suit beam weaponry surrounded by an ultra high tech world was questionable at first but makes its way into the heart of a true Gundam fan with a fantastic plot and almost spotless story and character development. This series shows Gundams ability to make pure quality over quantity, quite literally with two 25 episode seasons. I wish they did two 50 episode seasons though it ends up beautifully constructed and I wouldn't change a thing about it. I'm just saying it's so good I want more. But that is something that happens with many beloved Gundam series (No teenage whining about killing others or wasting three episodes to mourn a tertiary character) also their Char clone depiction is very unique to the point it's hard to really notice it until character development has had a chance to take form. however this version of this character may be one of the best re creations of him ever.('Char-clones have become almost a necessity in Gundam series because he turned out to be one of the best characters ever created, and that goes for any character ever thought up by anyone-hence The Origin and all his development) Leaning from side to side, natural born ace, but more so then most Char clones carries the philosophical properties and beliefs of Char Aznable.
      Don't think for a second just because beam rifles, launchers and blades are not the primary means of fighting that this series lacks fantastic action and heart beating bad-assery. Very different, never seen before mobile suit styles and variations as well as interesting new battleship designs bring something completely new to the table but done so in quite possibly the best way possible.
      I love the lack of teenage whining. And the realism of the universal politics that grip the plot create a true modern Gundam masterpiece in concepts, ideas, and especially animation and illustration. It's interesting. It's beautiful. It's refreshing and it's a must watch.
      However. That is not to say I recommend it for a first time series intro to the world of Gundam.
      It's something to explore and enjoy once an understanding and appreciation to the roots of Gundam are first acquired.

      I was first introduced to Gundam with a hguc hi-Zack while binge watching Zeta-Gundam. I think that was a good place to start because it was close to the beginning and works as a first watch because I was able to unfold the ledgendsit layer out by going back and experiencing the first Gundam and then forward through all the other small and large UC series. UC being the biggest, most detailed and Finley tuned universe makes it a great collection of spectacular stories to pick and choose from.
      SEED was great, but so not the starting point. It's something that should be reserved for down the road.
      Same with 00. Really good but not a first or even second.
      I recommend dabbling around UC and eventually get to unicorn which is beautifully done and sorta wraps up the UC world, though that's not to say it's the end of UC timeline tales. It's just the perfect finale to the UC timeline in my opinion. Though my experience was that I had seen every Gundam UC series besides igloo at least twice before I thouched it. You gotta see the first Gundam and zeta at least before treading on unicorn i think. But throwing in stardust memory and 08th ms team and even war in the pocket is a good idea before unicorn if you can. ZZ is not necessarily a must before unicorn but it's not bad.
      Also a big one. Especially now in the present, for some amazing character building and explanation and a great way to get Gundam character perspective of some of including probably the most famous Gundam character: Char. The original not a 'clone'. And a short series with brilliant animation, holy god it's better space battle scenes then Star Wars and if animated is the new 'Gundam the Origin' - absolute gold I don't care what anyone says. (Also I'm sure that Star Wars comparison may upset some folks, but it was a well educated opinion. Chill out. It's obviously all different I'm making a point.)
      Good luck and forever enjoy the everlasting world of Gundam.

      Oh and that person who said 'mastershiet' or whatever is better then Gundam. "Gundam going for quantity over quality" I see what you mean in that little statement to a point but they had some tough times where they had to make money to stay afloat to keep being able to deliver all the amazing material they have put out over the last 35+ years, yea okay. But no way is there anything better then Gundam.

      Last edited 01/05/17 6:58 am

      Thunderbolt I believe is Obviously UC but seems to be a far off side story (similar in the way of the Iron Blooded Orphans side story of 'Gundam Astaroth' which I'm still waiting for them to animate and make into a series as the Gundam Astaroth and Astaroth origin is a great story with an awesome line of similar to IBO Gundams) somewhat later in the timeline though still a side story that was fished out of the manga and as the manga for thunderbolt is short so is the show. There are two volumes of thunderbolt and so two short thunderbolt seasons with a third work which was a movie.

      The two volumes are not long at all but had some promising story and a collection of unique super versions of classics like the Gundam and the zaku II that thankfully were seemingly must haves to be created and brought to life in some quality animation as well as making Gunpla fanatics drool over the psycho zaku and full armor Gundam, two super-stars of the Gunpla world.

      Last edited 01/05/17 7:41 am

    Thank you for the list! Although I am not sure if Turn-A Gundam is in Universal Century.

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