Well known anime streaming site, Crunchyroll has put together a mini-documentary on the massive success of the Gundam franchise. Gundam began in 1979 with the release of Mobile Suit Gundam. From there, the franchise would receive numerous shows, video games, manga, and of course, the plastic model kits.
To date, Gundam has received over 15 television shows. The impact of the franchise on popular culture cannot be overstated. Gundam is arguably the most popular of the mecha genre, though you can find many Gundam-like robots in countless anime, such as The Vision of Escaflowne and Eureka Seven. The franchise is best known for its emphasis on warfare, something that other anime in the robot genre didn't really focus on until Gundam. Gundam remains popular worldwide, and a live-action adaption of Gundam is even being prepped by Legendary Entertainment, with Brian K. Vaughn reportedly working on the script.
Tim Lyu hosts "How Gundam Became an EMPIRE", the min-documentary created by Crunchyroll. In the video, Lyu goes over the original Mobile Suit Gundam show and how the model kits became massively popular once to Bandai stepped in. Watch the mini-doc, below.
For those who may only know Gundam by reputation, it may be surprising to learn that the original show had its planned episode count shortened due to lackluster toy sales. What's also interesting is how Gundam differentiated itself from the "Super Robot" genre. Prior to Gundam, there were shows like the live-action show Giant Robo (US audiences know it as Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot), and as the video mentions, Mazinger Z, where there was one central, powerful robot.
Though the shows are mentioned in Crunchyroll's video, the primary focus is on the popularity of Gundam kits. Without the kits, the series would not be what it is today. As Lyu demonstrates, kit building can be a satisfying task to accomplish. One doesn't even have to spend a lot of money on a quality kit, as the smaller scale ones can be as cheap as $15.
Gundam remains one of the most well known Japanese media franchises, and for good reason. The early Gundam robots are as iconic as Optimus Prime or Voltron. If Legendary's film gets made and is well-received, Gundam's popularity could reach even greater heights. Those on the fence about kit building could be inspired, and who knows; maybe someone from the US or Canada will finally take first place at the World Championship.