Translator's Note: The Roman Albums published by Tokuma Shoten are a series of reference books devoted to various anime titles. The original Mobile Suit Gundam is represented by a total of four volumes, with the television series covered by Roman Album Extra 35 and the three theatrical motion pictures by volumes 42, 44, and 50. In addition to story summaries, character and mechanics profiles, and staff commentary, these books also included Science Establishment features 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. Another feature of particular interest is the mechanical section included in the last three volumes, which provided some of the most detailed explanations of Universal Century history and mobile suit development available before the release of Gundam Century.
Roman Album Extra 42: Mobile Suit Gundam the Motion Picture was published in May 1981. Its Mechanical History section, from which the following text is excerpted, represented perhaps the first attempt to reconcile the background information from Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels with the animation continuity. This material was also derived in part from the fanzine Gun Sight, and an editor's note in the following volume apologized to the Gun Sight creators for this unauthorized borrowing.
The following text is copyright © 1981 Tokuma Shoten.
Translator's Note: The Mechanical History section begins with a summary of the events that led up to the start of the Mobile Suit Gundam story, drawn primarily from Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels.
Even before U.C. 0079, conflict between the Earth Federation and the space colonists over matters such as the autonomy of Side 6 had been building up to the use of force. This was intensified by ideological antagonism as the space colonists began to think of themselves as a new race born of the space age. Side 3, which initially declared its independence from the Earth Federation as a republic led by the remarkable Zeon Zum Deikun, went on to adopt a monarchial system and steadily built up its armaments. With the military application of Minovsky physics and the development of the Zaku mobile suit, it finally went ahead with a declaration of war.
Just three seconds after this declaration, the Zeon forces began their attacks on Sides 1, 2, 4, and 5. It thus became known as the Three Second Declaration. The Zeon forces overcame the Federation Forces stationed at each Side, and in less than one day they completed a clean sweep of the space colonies using biological and chemical weapons. Together with the subsequent operation in which they dropped a colony itself onto Earth, this was called the One Week Battle. In reality, it was a campaign of Zeon aggression.
During the One Week Battle, the only Earth Federation force that was able to oppose the Zeon forces was the Revil fleet stationed at Side 5 (commonly known as Loum). One month later the Zeon forces, which had been unable to completely occupy Side 5 thanks to this opposition, reorganized their fleet and attacked once again. General Revil also mobilized his remaining vessels and fought back, and the largest fleet battle in history developed between Earth and the moon in the area surrounding Side 5. This was the Battle of Loum.
The Zeon forces had the upper hand throughout the battle. While the Federation had a greater number of vessels, the exploits of the Zaku more than made up for this handicap. In a situation where Minovsky particle interference meant that only visual-range combat was effective, nothing could be stronger than the Zaku, a supremely mobile humanoid weapon with nuclear armament. Its superiority was confirmed as the Federation Forces lost the majority of their main fleet to the wide-ranging attacks of the Zakus, and Revil himself was taken prisoner.
After the Battle of Loum, Supreme Commander Gihren Zabi of the Principality of Zeon urged the Earth Federation government to surrender, and Antarctica was chosen as the site of the negotiations. On the day the surrender was to be signed, General Revil made a miraculous return, and his speech "No soldiers in Zeon" hardened the Federation's resolve. The Antarctic Treaty ended by merely prohibiting the use of nuclear and chemical weapons, establishing regulations concerning various acts of war, and confirming a nonaggression pact covering the transport fleets sent to Jupiter. Thus the war fell into a stalemate which neither Zeon nor the Federation had a means to break.
With the start of space colonization, the Universal Century calendar is adopted.
40 percent of the total population (about 5 billion) have emigrated.
Establishment of Luna II. Settlement of Sides 1 and 2 is completed.
Zeon Zum Deikun establishes a republic.
Death of Zeon Zum Deikun. Degwin Sodo Zabi succeeds him as leader of Side 3's independent government.
Side 3 completes the development of the Zaku mobile suit.
Side 3 declares war under the name of the Principality of Zeon.
Start of the Zeon attack. The One Week Battle. The Battle of Loum.
The Antarctic Treaty is concluded on January 31. The use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons is prohibited.
The war becomes a stalemate, and eight months pass.
Translator's Note: Although this timeline resembles the one provided in the original setting notes, many of its dates are derived from Yoshiyuki Tomino's novels. As per the novels, the start of the One Year War is placed at January of U.C. 0079, and the date of the Antarctic Treaty is shifted accordingly. The timeline is vague as to exactly when the Principality of Zeon was established, an event that the novels place in U.C. 0065.
While the attack on Side 7 doesn't appear on this timeline, the book elsewhere places this event on September 18, U.C. 0079, which has since been accepted as the official date. The Roman Album Extra books also provide dates for the rest of the story's events, but the remainder of their chronology is implausibly condensed and has been ignored by subsequent writers.
Translator's Note: The Mechanical History section continues with a discussion of the history of the Principality of Zeon and the evolution of the Zaku mobile suit. Although its account of Zaku development history resembles this one in many respects, the later Gundam Century claims that the mobile suit was originally designed for space combat, rather than for use inside space colonies as described here.
In discussing the progress toward the birth of the mobile suit, it is first necessary to look at the world situation behind it.
Roughly half a century had passed since the construction of space colonies began in order to resolve the population explosion and energy crisis of the latter half of the previous century. With large numbers of people now seeing Earth from the outside and experiencing the vastness of space with their own bodies, discord between nations and races naturally weakened. Thus the great historical enterprise of space colonization led to the realization of a unified world government.
However, as space development continued and the space colonies—or rather, the new societies in space—became capable of supporting themselves and separating from Earth, antagonism emerged as they came to think of themselves as a separate species. For the space colonists who were opening up a new frontier with their progressive ideas, it was hard to accept that the center of government remained on Earth. The colonial autonomy, or colonism, advocated by the remarkable thinker Zeon Zum Deikun was widely disseminated into the consciousness of these space colonists and inspired them to seek independence. This was made manifest when Side 3 declared itself the independent Republic of Zeon, founded by Zeon Zum Deikun. But the Earth Federation government refused to recognize it.
Even in an era where more than half of humanity lived in space, the Federation's armaments, which it had maintained since the days when a third world war seemed imminent, far surpassed those of the Sides. While the Federation tried to resolve this political antagonism by using its armaments as a deterrent, the Republic of Zeon changed its system of government and became a principality, devoting its national power to acquiring the military strength it needed to resist the Federation. Thus it became unavoidable that the antagonism between Earth and the Sides would escalate into armed conflict.
Given this political situation, Zeon's successful application of Minovsky physics gave it new strategic concepts that rendered existing weapons systems completely obsolete and instantly reversed the balance of power. By applying the fundamental theories of Minovsky physics, spacecraft unsuitable for military use due to the limitations of their power systems were turned into space warships equipped with nuclear thermal rocket engines and mega particle cannons. In addition to their mobility, they could disperse Minovsky particles in space to completely nullify radar. This made a counterattack by the Federation Forces, who relied on nuclear missiles based in satellite orbit and linked to a radar network, effectively impossible and placed control of space within Zeon's grasp.
However, in order to make a clean sweep of the Federation forces within the colonies, a new type of weapon which could travel short distances through space under its own power and engage in combat inside a colony would be practically indispensable. The development of the Zaku mobile suit, the all-purpose weapon which would later become the terror of the Federation Forces, began at the point when this necessity was identified.
The sample machine designed in response to the original goal was based on the robots used for developing the outer asteroids, and equipped with two "magic hands" and three "legs" whose mobility exceeded that of wheels or caterpillar tracks. However, not only was wireless remote guidance impossible, but its ability to adapt to various anticipated situations was contingent on its having a human pilot. It was determined that it would be necessary to apply the concepts of worker spacesuits in order to achieve high-level capabilities such as approach, attack, and constructing and guarding facilities after occupation. Investigation thus continued in this direction. Meanwhile, it also required armor strong enough for a nuclear battlefield, whose mass proved to be so great that no existing power system could support it.
The mobile suit was the plan created to address all these indispensable but highly challenging requirements. An overview of the first combat type, known as the Zaku, will serve to convey the revolutionary nature of this weapon.
The Zaku had an overall height of 17.5 meters and a dry weight of 50 tons, and was equipped with a thermonuclear reactor that had only just been put into practical use. It had proportionate pairs of "hands" and "legs" and closely resembled a human form, due to the application of ergonomic principles to address the problems of manned operation and make it capable of higher-level work. This was because the human form was better suited for many tasks.
Its control system allowed it to be operated by a single pilot in concert with a computer, and a cockpit was installed in the torso near its center of mass. The cockpit was windowless, relying on TV screens for all visibility. A single eye containing a large high-performance TV camera, as well as laser and infra-red detection systems, was installed in the mobile suit's head. This could turn 180 degrees to the left and right thanks to its rotating turret.
The machine was equipped with two chemical rocket engines for space flight, and 14 high-performance verniers were installed throughout its body. These verniers produced momentary high thrust through the combustion of solid fuel in what amounted to a kind of directed explosion, and at full throttle they made the Zaku capable of greater acceleration than a warship. In the early type this acceleration capacity was thought of as auxiliary thrust, used mainly for disengaging from colony land surfaces under gravity and for jumping movement on the ground. But later, at the point when the Zaku was introduced into space combat, its mobility in space was dramatically increased by using them as attitude control thrusters. On the other hand, the fuel consumption rate of these high-performance verniers was extremely high, and because their fuel supply would be exhausted in just a few seconds their use required a high level of skill.
The main weapons used by the Zaku were a bazooka and a 120mm rifle made by scaling up human weapons essentially unchanged, with the mobile suit's form in mind. The Zaku was even able to perform tasks like loading ammunition or dismantling and assembling the weapons for maintenance using its own hands. After the conclusion of the Antarctic Treaty which prohibited the use of nuclear weapons, the 120mm rifle, whose small explosive shells could be used for both sniper attacks and strafing by switching between single shots and rapid fire, became the standard equipment. In order to make the most of the advantages of its hands, the Zaku had no internal weapons. Indeed, its working abilities were amply demonstrated in the Earth landing operations that followed the colony fall, when Zakus constructed a series of military facilities even as they wiped out the Federation's ground forces. This made it possible for Zeon to carry out the largest terrestrial conquest in history in an extremely short time.
Three years passed between the completion of the prototype and the combat deployment of mass-produced mobile suits. It could be said that the existence of the Zaku pushed the Principality of Zeon, in which real power had passed from Sovereign Degwin to his eldest son Gihren, into all-out war. It can't be denied that its change of objective, from the independence and liberation of all space colonists to the control of Earth by the most elite of the space colonists, was made possible by reliance on the kind of military strength represented by the Zaku. Now the Principality of Zeon had obtained the means to turn this ambition into a reality. Production of the Zaku type continued until November of U.C. 0079, and between the early and improved types more than 2,000 units were manufactured. It's said that more than a dozen variant types were also created through various modifications.
Finally, we'll discuss the differences between the early type and improved type. This was a model change accompanying the enhancement of the thermonuclear reactor, as a technological revolution reduced its size and weight and increased its power. Its armor was reinforced accordingly, and the heat hawk, a close combat weapon powered by the output of the thermonuclear reactor, was added to its equipment. Due to the higher performance of its cooling system, the pipes that contained its ducts were exposed on its waist and leg sections.
We'll leave the details of variation types, such as the Gouf used exclusively on Earth, until next time.
Translator's Note: The Mechanical History section concludes with discussions of the Principality of Zeon's air, space, and ground forces, as well as extensive coverage of various types of electric car. According to the editor's note in the following volume, the section's remaining text was created entirely by the Roman Album Extra staff without reference to the fanzine Gun Sight, and in any event I don't feel it particularly requires translation.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright Sotsu Agency and Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.