Outside of occasional YouTube availability, the inability to consistently stream the first three series of the iconic Gundam franchise—Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ—has been a source of frustration for fans. But, at long last, that’s changed.
Although in recent years the first three shows that make up the vast Gundam franchise have made their way to streaming in the U.S. in fits and starts, this week Crunchyroll—as part of the ongoing merger of its streaming library with that of Funimation, thanks to the company’s acquisition by Sony in 2021—confirmed that Zeta Gundam, the 1985 sequel series to the original Gundam, is now streaming on the platform. It makes the first time in the west that the primary story of the “Universal Century”—the first and main timeline in Gundam’s vast continuity—from the original 1979 show all the way up and including its climax in the 1988 movie Char’s Counterattack, is readily available on a singular streaming platform. All three series and CCA have long been available on Blu-ray, but even then, it’s still notable that they’re accessible on streaming in one place.
Because now it means I can say that one of the grandest trilogies in sci-fi animation is now easier to watch than ever before, and should you find yourself with the time to sit down with nearly 150 episodes of classic anime and then a two-hour movie, you should. Each of the first three Gundam shows, for different reasons, are well worth experiencing in isolation, and for the most part are largely designed to do so, rotating out casts of characters and advancing the world and timeline to focus on different factions and perspectives. But watching the wider story that connects the trio of series together—a story of the cycle of conflict across multiple generations, a declining liberal state grappling with the specter of fascism, the trauma of war’s impact on even its poster pin-up heroes, whether or not Char Aznable and Amuro Ray will just shut up and psychically kiss each other—is a rare sample of long-form animated sci-fi storytelling that has few parallels in contemporary television.
Across multiple tones—from Gundam’s traumatic but clear-cut war story; to Zeta’s harder-edge, more complicated examination of the rise of fascism and a corrupt ruling elite; to ZZ’s own tonal evolution through the lens of a young, disenfranchised protagonist—the original saga of the Universal Century is far from perfect, but still a deeply compelling journey to take on, and a classic of sci-fi anime. Whether you’re a Gundam neophyte or more familiar with its alternative mainstream success icons like Gundam Wing or the latest show, Witch From Mercury, seeing where it all started, and the influence that Gundam has had on generations of anime that came after it, is well worth it—and now easier than it has been in years.
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