In this section of Gundam Unofficial, you'll find some of the translations I've made from Japanese-language sources. In recent years, I feel the Japanese publications have become increasingly repetitive, consisting mainly of recycled text from earlier works which has been spliced together with little regard for clarity or consistency (the Gundam Officials encyclopedia published by Kodansha in 2001 is a particular offender here). I've chosen to revisit the primary sources in an attempt to untangle this confusion.
The text translations you'll find here represent some of the most historically significant sources of information on Mobile Suit Gundam and the Universal Century world in which it takes place. Inevitably, some of this information has been revised by later writers or invalidated by more recent animated works, but it's still interesting to see this material in its original context. And as the section title suggests, placing these original accounts in chronological order gives us a rare opportunity to trace the evolution of the Gundam world we know today.
Format: Planning document
Release Date: December 1978
Although the settei-sho, or "setting notes," for the original Mobile Suit Gundam series were drafted at the end of 1978, they were intended only as a reference source for the show's staff and weren't initially available to the public. These notes were first published in the first volume of the Mobile Suit Gundam Record Collection, which was released in December 1979. Here is a full translation.
Format: Television series
Release Date: April 1979
The following is a literal translation of the opening narration from the first episode. This narration was repeated verbatim in the first theatrical motion picture, which premiered in March 1981.
It has already been a half-century since humanity migrated its excessive population to space. Hundreds of giant space colonies float around the Earth, and people have turned their cyclindrical walls into artificial land. Here, in humanity's second home, people were born, and raised... and died.
Universal Century 0079. Side 3, the space city furthest from Earth, began a war of independence against the Earth Federation government under the name of the Principality of Zeon. In roughly one month of fighting, the Principality of Zeon and Federation Forces caused the deaths of half the total population. People were horrified by their own actions.
The war became a stalemate. Eight months have passed.
In addition to this minimalist introduction, the television series provides a few details about the earlier battles of the One Year War and the history of the Principality of Zeon. It establishes that the war began with a One Week Battle (episode 5), rather than the Three Day Battle described in the setting notes. We learn that, during the the Battle of Loum, Char Aznable destroyed five Federation battleships (episode 2) and the Black Tri-Stars team captured General Revil (episode 24). And when Char Aznable and Sayla Mass meet at the Texas colony (episode 38), they talk of how their father founded the Republic of Zeon which was then taken over by the Zabi family, and their real names are revealed to be Casval Rem Deikun and Artesia Som Deikun.
Release Date: July 1979
This was the first volume of a pioneering dojinshi, or fanzine, created by the fan group known as GFC. Gun Sight was perhaps the first publication to connect the world of Mobile Suit Gundam to real science and technology, and the technical explanations which appeared in this amateur magazine were a major influence on later works such as Gundam Century and the Roman Album Extra series.
Release Date: November 1979
This issue of Animec magazine featured the third in a series of four interviews with Mobile Suit Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino, in which he first confirmed some key details of the series background. In this installment Tomino revealed the full name of the legendary Zeon Zum Deikun for the first time, confirmed that the space colonies of Side 5 were attacked in the One Week Battle before their destruction in the Battle of Loum, identified Luna II as the former asteroid Juno (rather than Pallas as claimed in the setting notes), and explained that the missing son of the Zabi family was assassinated by the followers of Zeon Deikun. However, his comments here regarding space colony population—ten million per colony, 400 million per Side, and a total of 2.8 billion in the planned seven Sides—have generally been ignored in favor of the figures given in the original setting notes and in Tomino's own novels.
Release Date: November 1979
Director Yoshiyuki Tomino's novelization of the original Mobile Suit Gundam story differed dramatically from the animation, but its first volume provided the very earliest published accounts of the history of the Gundam world and the opening events of the devastating One Year War. An English translation of these novels has been released by Stone Bridge Press, and is available from retailers such as Amazon.com and AnimeNation.
Only part of the information from Tomino's novels was accepted by the authors of later Gundam works. The Mechanical History section of Roman Album Extra 42 included a condensed version of the historical background from the first volume of the novels, representing almost everything that was retained by later publications. The Rank Administration that governs Side 6, and Prime Minister Darcia Bakharov of Side 3, were featured in the Gundam III theatrical motion picture after being introduced in this volume. And while early publications generally omitted the details of the Principality of Zeon's use of chemical weapons against the space colonies, the account in this novel seems to have gained more credibility after the use of similar tactics by the Titans in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam.
Release Date: March 1980
In his fourth and final Gundam interview, director Yoshiyuki Tomino confirmed that the series spanned a period of about four months and stated that the One Year War ended on January 1, U.C. 0080, which remains the official date.
Release Date: September 1980
The second volume of director Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam novelization introduced new characters and machines such as the Newtype pilot Kusko Al, the gray G-3 Gundam, and the Pegasus-class warship Thoroughbred, not to mention the Corregidor shoal zone which lies between the space fortresses Solomon and A Baoa Qu. These were later referenced in the Mobile Suit Variation series, while Char Aznable's red Rick Dom was largely forgotten until it was revived in the Gihren's Greed video games. This volume also introduced the codename Operation Cembalo, used here for a Federation Forces attack on A Baoa Qu but now commonly used for the Solomon offensive in the animated series.
Release Date: October 1980
The final volume of the Mobile Suit Gundam Record Collection series published by Sunrise included a reproduction of the legendary "Tomino Memo." This was the original 52-episode story outline drafted by director Yoshiyuki Tomino, which featured many new characters and mobile suits that were omitted when the series was canceled ahead of schedule. Some of these mobile suits were later included in the planned MS-X series, which was announced and then canceled in 1984.
Release Date: May 1981
This was one of several books published in conjunction with the first Mobile Suit Gundam theatrical motion picture. Although its main focus was on the new animation produced for the movie, this book also featured a set of four original illustrations by mechanical designer Kunio Okawara, depicting specialized Zaku variants designed for land, sea, desert, and anti-air combat. Together with the gray G-3 Gundam introduced in the second volume of Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels, these laid the foundation for the later Mobile Suit Variation series.
Okawara continued to produce new mobile suit designs over the following months. Kodansha's Mobile Suit Gundam Story Book 2, published in June 1981, featured prototype versions of the Gouf and Dom. Hobby Japan's How To Build Gundam modeling manual, published in July 1981, debuted the Prototype Gundam, the GM Cannon, and the space pod on which the Ball was based. Kodansha's SF Plamo Book 1: Mobile Suit Gundam Real Type Catalog, published in February 1982, depicted optional backpacks for the Zaku and Gelgoog and introduced Okawara's interpretation of the MS-06R Zaku II described in Gundam Century.
Release Date: March 1981
The third and final volume of director Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam novelization introduced the new character Cecilia Irene, Gihren Zabi's personal secretary, who subsequently appeared in the Gundam III theatrical motion picture. This volume also repeated the claim that Zeon Zum Deikun's followers assassinated the second son of the Zabi family, identified here as Sasro Zabi.
Release Date: May 1981
This reference book from Tokuma Shoten included a Science Establishment feature by scriptwriter Ken'ichi Matsuzaki, in which he introduced some of the technological concepts that would be further developed in the pages of Gundam Century. The book's Mechanical History section also featured a brief summary of Universal Century history and the One Year War drawn largely from Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels, as well as technical explanations derived from the fanzine Gun Sight. Here is a partial translation of this Mechanical History section.
Format: Motion picture
Release Date: July 1981
The following is a literal translation of the opening narration from the second theatrical motion picture. Unlike the original setting notes, this narration indicates that only half the total human population lives in the space colonies.
Hundreds of giant space colonies float around the Earth, and half of humanity now lives in space.
Universal Century 0079. Side 3 began a war of independence against the Earth Federation government under the name of the Principality of Zeon. After roughly one month of fighting at the beginning of the war, the war became a stalemate...
Release Date: September 1981
A legendary reference book created by many of the staff of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, as well as many of the key members of the famous Studio Nue. Along with Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels, this publication essentially created the Universal Century world we know today. Here is a partial translation, covering the book's history and mechanics sections.
Format: Motion picture
Release Date: March 1982
The following is a literal translation of the opening narration from the third theatrical motion picture, which repeats the claims of Gundam II regarding space colony population.
Hundreds of giant space colonies float around the Earth. In the Universal Century, people have turned their walls into a second home. Half of humanity now lives in space.
Universal Century 0079. Side 3 began a war of independence against the Earth Federation government under the name of the Principality of Zeon. Half the total population was killed at the beginning of the war, and people were horrified by their own actions...
This motion picture also included a few references to director Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam novelization, with cameo appearances by Cecilia Irene and Darcia Bakharov and a brief mention of the Rank Administration that governs Side 6.
Format: Model Kit Series
Release Date: April 1983
An original series of plastic model kits released by Bandai. These model kits were based on new designs by mechanical designer Kunio Okawara, and the accompanying kit manuals include detailed explanations of their development history and combat exploits, written by Masahiro Oda of the Stream Base modeling collective.
Release Date: February 1984
Released as part of the Kodansha Pocket Card Series, this book consists of 56 color illustrations of machines from the Mobile Suit Variation series accompanied by brief profiles.
Release Date: April 1984
Released as part of the Kodansha Pocket Hyakka Series, this book presents profiles and background information on the machines of Mobile Suit Gundam and the Mobile Suit Variation series. Here is a partial translation, covering the book's history and mobile suit development sections.
Release Date: April 1984
The second Mobile Suit Variation volume released as part of the Kodansha Pocket Hyakka Series. Here is a partial translation, covering the book's history section and continuing the story of the Zeon War. I've also translated the "Principality of Zeon Military Register" section, which provides biographies of several Zeon ace pilots, as well as the mobile suit and mobile armor development history sections.
Release Date: July 1984
The final Mobile Suit Variation volume released as part of the Kodansha Pocket Hyakka Series. Here is a partial translation, covering the book's history section and concluding the story of the Zeon War.
Format: Television series
Release Date: March 1985
The first animated sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam introduces the term ichi-nen sensô, or "One Year War," to describe the original conflict between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. In director Yoshiyuki Tomino's Zeta Gundam novelization, the first volume of which was published in February of the same year, this term is accompanied by the phonetic caption "The Year War." This series also featured appearances by mobile suits from the Mobile Suit Variation and MS-X series, establishing them as part of the official Gundam world.
Release Date: April 1986
The last in a series of Zeta Gundam reference books published by Kindai Eiga-sha. It is particularly noteworthy for its Mobile Suit Development History section, which classified the mobile suits into distinct "generations" and provided a new set of detailed specifications for the mobile suits of the original series. The Shindosha studio, whose members went on to write most of the Entertainment Bible volumes, also contributed to this book.
Release Date: February 1988
The first edition of this popular catalog, originally published by Bandai, which provides images and descriptions of every mobile suit from the major works of the Gundam series. The profiles and background information in the early editions of this book were compiled by the members of the Shindosha studio who wrote most of the Entertainment Bible volumes, and there is a considerable amount of overlap in their contents. This partial translation is based on the 1992 edition, the third and final one published by Bandai. Several updated editions have since been released, the most recent one in 2012.
Release Date: February 1989
The first in a series of pocket reference books published by Bandai. Drawing on earlier sources such as Gundam Century and the Mobile Suit Variation books, this volume established the generally accepted version of One Year War history and technology. This partial translation covers most of its contents except the pilot's manual and mobile suit profiles, which are largely replicated in the Mobile Suit Gundam MS Encylopedia.
Release Date: October 1989
Also published by Bandai, this book is notable mostly for its updated mobile suit specs chart, based on those in Gundam Century and Entertainment Bible 1.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright Sotsu Agency and Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.