Netflix just brought Gundam fans something they’ve been waiting over a year to see: Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway, the long-delayed latest film in the beloved mecha franchise. But if you’re looking to dive in to see what the fuss behind Gundam is for the first time, you might want want some context before getting in that proverbial giant robot.
What *Is* Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway?
Hathaway — named Hathaway’s Flash in Japan — isn’t really “the next entry in the Gundam franchise” as Netflix first vaguely presented it during its “Geeked Week” festivities last month. It’s not a new TV series. It’s actually a new movie adaptation, and the first in a planned trilogy, bringing to life the trilogy of novels of the same name written by Mobile Suit Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino in 1989 and 1980.
Hathaway was originally meant to release theatrically in Japan and the West last year, but has been delayed multiple times due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. It finally released in theatres in Japan last month, before heading stateside as part of Sunrise’s new partnership with Netflix. The partnership, among other things, includes bringing more Gundam content to the streamer internationally, as well as Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ upcoming live-action movie adaptation of the franchise — as of July 1.
What’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway About?
Hathaway is set in the year 0105 of Gundam’s “Universal Century,” or UC timeline — one of several timelines the 42-year-old franchise has dabbled in across myriad TV series, movies, manga, novels, and games, but arguably the most popular and primary of them all, first introduced in the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Set 26 years after the events of the original show, it follows the titular Hathaway Noa (voiced by Kensho Ono in the film), the son of Mobile Suit Gundam characters Bright Noa and Mirai Yashima, and an important supporting character in the 1988 movie Char’s Counterattack.
Twelve years on from the events of Char’s Counterattack, Hathaway takes place in a brief period of peace in the Universal Century, where the Earth Federation has re-accepted its former opposition, the secessionist space colony known as the Principality of Zeon, into the fold. But as the Federation has become stagnant, cracking down on spaceborn citizens and harshly deporting the lower classes from Earth into the rebuilding space colonies, Hathaway turns his back on the Federation.
Taking on the name Mafty Navue Erin and piloting an experimental new mecha, the RX-105 Ξ Gundam (that’s the Greek letter “Xi”, pronounced “Ksi”) as the leader of the dissident group Mafty, Hathaway begins a plan to take revenge against the military he once served in the Federation’s previous wars with Zeonic forces.
What Do I Need to Watch to Understand It?
As you might have gathered, Hathaway might be the start of a new movie trilogy, but a few things are going to be lost on you if you’re diving into it as your first taste of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise. This story in particular is wrapped up in a lot of context from some of the most famous pieces of the wider Gundam franchise, which means watching it can come off as a little intimidating. If you are intrigued by the idea of diving into this fascinating universe and are keen to do some research beforehand however, we’ve got your back — and thankfully, that’s actually become a bit easier recently.
Because of its place in the Universal Century setting, there’s actually a lot of movies, shows, and OVAs set in the timeframe between the very first show in the franchise (the year 0079), and when Hathaway takes place (the year 0105) that, while they might be able to provide even more context, aren’t entirely necessary to watch if you’re just looking to get a taste of the franchise before the new movie.
Ideally, to be most familiar with the world of Hathaway, there’s three shows and a movie you’d want to at least check out beforehand: the original Mobile Suit Gundam, its immediate successors Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, and the aforementioned movie Char’s Counterattack. Although maybe trying to cram them in a few weeks would just make you sick of giant robots, so pace yourself! Hathaway will still be there later!
How Can I Condense That a Little?
Even taking into account that this is not every Gundam story set between the original Gundam and Hathaway, that’s… a lot of anime. Like, nearly 150 episode’s worth, before you get to a movie to cap it all off, and that’s an intimidating ask of someone just to watch a new movie. If you want to try and condense it, shortly after it first aired just over 40 years ago, the original Gundam was re-cut and presented as a compilation trilogy of movies, called Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam: Soldiers of Sorrow, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space.
While these movies cover the general narrative arc of the original show in a much shorter amount of time — and are a good starting point to dip your toes in and see if you actually like the franchise in the first place — it’s condensed and it changes some things up, cutting some side narratives and plot beats that still make the original series, in spite of its contemporary late ‘70s animation, a very compelling watch today.
Alas, it’s the only one of the original three Gundam shows with a relatively easily accessible compilation. Zeta Gundam did receive a movie trilogy adaptation for the show’s 20th anniversary called Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation, but they’re currently only officially available physically (and also significantly re-work parts of Zeta’s narrative). ZZ Gundam, meanwhile, never received a compilation, so you’re stuck with the original show. If you’re short on time, the original Gundam compilation trilogy and Char’s Counterattack will provide you the bulk of a newcomer’s context for Hathaway, but be advised: you’ll still be missing out on a lot of character work and worldbuilding that way.
Where Can I Watch Them?
Thankfully, all of these shows and movies are available officially as physical releases, or partially on streaming. Mobile Suit Gundam and its compilation movies, Zeta Gundam and Zeta Gundam: A New Translation, Gundam ZZ, and Char’s Counterattack are all available on Blu-ray through Right Stuf Anime.
If you’d prefer not to drop a hefty chunk of cash on Blu-rays to try the franchise out though, several (but not all) of the series and movies are now streaming on various services. The original Mobile Suit Gundam began streaming in the West for the very first time last year, and is available to watch on Funimation. Last month, Netflix began streaming the Gundam compilation trilogy — Mobile Suit Gundam, Soldiers of Sorrow, and Encounters in Space — and Char’s Counterattack internationally. Unfortunately, Zeta Gundam, A New Translation, and Gundam ZZ are not currently streaming anywhere.