Let's see how the anime Mobile Suit Gundam created the genre real robots, extremely popular in Japanese animation of the XNUMXs and XNUMXs.

Mobile Suit Gundam it was a decidedly incisive series within Japanese science fiction. Among his main influences, particularly important was that of introducing the subgenus real robots in the world of mecha anime.
In this article we will first define the term "real robots"And its qualities. Then we will see how this genre was developed in several anime of the eighties. Finally, we will do a deepening on how Mobile Suit Gundam created this genre, and how other subsequent series in the franchise have partially detached from it, despite the notable exception of the series The 8th MS Team.

Schematics of the Gundam, the first example of a real robot
Gundam schematics, first example of real robots

Real robots: a definition

real robots we mean a narrative wick in which robots are treated as realistic objects. They can be mass produced, they need spare parts and supplies, they can be taken apart and replaced, sold and bought.
These mechanical means can be piloted by almost anyone (or so it should be in the best works), because they are not the exclusive privilege of the children of scientists or others predestined: just take a training course or read the instruction manual. 

In this sense, the genre real robots implements a process of democratization of war. In fact, the defense of the motherland and of humanity is no longer entrusted to the solitary hero, but to whoever is capable of serving. It is a very different setting from that of another line of souls (prior to real robots) dedicated to mecha, ie that of super robots, as Jeeg steel robot o Mazinga Z, led by predestined and with an aura more magical than technological.

The robots belonging to the real robots they follow the laws of thermodynamics (most of the time). Thus, they do not summon weapons out of thin air, they do not shout the names of their shots, they do not perform in ritual poses. With this vein, animated science fiction enters maturity and is ready to use more raw tones and tackle more mature topics.

Personal opinion: the qualities I love the most within this genre

Personally, I really appreciate this genre strand wick, because it is less elitist.
Furthermore, since it tends to be more raw and realistic, it tends to give much priority to human life and the interpersonal relationships of the characters. In fact, in the uncertainty of war, human life becomes more insecure, and we are therefore led to emotionally charge all human relationships that at any moment may no longer exist.
If used well, the strand of the real robots it allows you to tackle difficult topics, have intense action and tell war stories that leave their mark.
However, if the emphasis is not placed on the human aspect, on the people inside the robots and on what they sacrifice throughout the story, what remains are only the beautiful robots and there is little that distinguishes it from the many, too many generic souls to robottoni theme.

The genre real robots in the eighties

As anticipated, the genre real robots can be started from Mobile Suit Gundam, which was first aired in 1979 from the manufacturer Sunrise. How the Gundam franchise has influenced this genre will be discussed in more detail in the next paragraphs.
First of all, let's focus on how Sunrise herself rode and, over time, explored the genre real robots in the eighties.

The other souls real robots produced by Sunrise in the early XNUMXs

One of the first series of the real robot line produced by Sunrise was Fang of the Sun Dougram. This came out in 81 and still has many traits linked to tradition. In fact, the series is about a group of rebels who use the robot Dougram to fight against the evil rulers of the planet. 

Armored Trooper VOTOM it is also from Sunrise and aired in 1983. As opposed to Fang of the Sun Dougram, this is a very mature work in terms of quality and themes. In this series, in fact, the VOTOMs are mechanized suits halfway between the Heinlein Space Infantry and the Dreadnaughts of the Space marine. In this series there are betrayals, conspiracies, wars and escapes across the galaxy. The animation has aged, but thank goodness for other stuff. The mechanical design is by Kunio Okawara, already active on Mobile Suit Gundam, and is part of the success that the series has achieved, whose merchandising modeling continues to be actively produced and sold.

In the eighties, other series in this theme are produced, which ride the popularity of Gundam Zeta e Gundam ZZ (which were much more popular than the original series).
In fact, in this period was born, for example, the franchise di Macross, extremely popular and prolific, which saw the light in 1982 with the series Macross superdimensional fortress. Riding the contemporary wave of success of Transformers In the USA, Macross was imported with great success to the West under the name of Robotech.

Il real robots and mingling with other genres

A valuable variation on the theme real robots is, for example, Panzer World Galient, 1984 anime that offers a fantasy version of the genre, with Kunio Okawara obviously al mechanical design.
In the same vein, in 1994, the anime will also be produced by Sunrise The Skies of Escaflowne, that whoever grew up like me with theAnime Night of MTV will remember with pleasure. Escaflowne is a fantasy tale with these steam / magic mechas, a strong component shojo (a great love triangle / square) and a nice fantasy setting. It's on Amazon Prime Video, get it as soon as you can.

In 1987, on the other hand, the OAV was produced Metal Skin Panic Madox-01. In this much more cyberpunk series, a young mechanic finds himself stuck in the advanced Madox combat suit, and must escape while the government wants to take her back at all costs, regardless of her safety. The work turns comic from time to time, but offers very well thought out and executed action scenes that deserve the vision. The mechanical design of the series is reminiscent of VOTOM.

The vein of the real robots successfully crosses with the space opera on a couple of pleasant occasions. We have already mentioned the rich and prolific franchise di Macross with its iconic robots / fighters. It is therefore only right to mention a Nadesico, the robotic battleship. In this series the tones are light, and certainly i wick they are not central to the narrative. However, the themes of war and the centrality of human relationships are quite obvious such influences real robots.

Patlabor's robots, a clear example of the real robot genre
The robots of Patlabor, clear example of the kind real robots
The best work of its kind real robots: Patlabor

Towards the end of the eighties, Japanese animation becomes interested in other genres and the vein real robots languishes.
In this situation, the Patlabor, from 1988, is basically the swan song of the genre real robots.
In Patlabor the vicissitudes of a highly specialized police department are followed, but with a tainted reputation: it is the second mechanized police division. Leading the powerful (and beautiful) Patlabor, this ragtag group of cops will have to maintain security in the 1998 (!) Tokyo city.

This type of plot is, in fact, a classic of Mamoru Oshii, one of the in-house authors of the Headgear group, who created this franchise. Oshii will be better known after 1995, thanks to the success of Ghost in the Shell, in which we follow another problematic specialist department.
As always, Mamoru Oshii manages to insert profound reflections on the problems of today's society (especially how technology affects the world of work and the economy) in a narrative studded with excellent action and solid and well-constructed human relationships.
Mamoru Oshii collaborates in the creation of this work with the highly prized mecha designer Yūtaka Izubuchi (whose best work for me is armor in Kerberos Panzer Corps) and the iconic character designer from the 80s Akemi Takada. The Headgear team has created one of the best works of the genre real robots and Japanese animation of that decade.

One of the typical features of the real robot genre is that mechas are mass-produced, like these Zeon mobile suits from Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin
One of the typical characteristics of the genre real robots is that mechas are mass produced, like these mobile suits by Zeon from Mobile Suit Gundam the origin

Mobile Suit Gundam within the genus real robots

We didn't delve into the franchise's report before Mobile Suit Gundam with gender real robots, because it is a topic that deserves a separate paragraph.
In fact, Mobile Suit Gundam, in its multiple incarnations, constitutes the core of the genre real robots.
In this sense, Sunrise has produced over 30 animated series (and we will not count the manga!) Set in theuniversal century and at other times alternative lines of this franchise. Furthermore, Sunrise is essentially the only one to still produce clearly recognizable products of the genre today real robots

Why Mobile Suit Gundam he was revolutionary when he introduced the genre real robots?

When the first series of the franchise aired in 1979, that is Mobile Suit Gundam, the two authors Yoshiyuki Tomino e Kunio Ōkawara, together with the character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko presented a world where robots were mass-produced for a war.

Indeed, in Mobile Suit Gundam we are presented with a bloody war, called "One Year War“, Between the space colony of the Principality of Zeon and the forces of the Earth Federation. In this war, Zeon starts with a great tactical advantage, which is having an army of mobile suits. THE mobile suits they are robots of over 15 meters piloted by trained soldiers. All the hopes of the Federation are pinned on the prototype of its own mobile suits, called Gundam, which in turn will form the basis for the creation of the federal army.

Mobile suits as mass-produced weapons for real warfare

What can be seen from the very first episodes of the series is that these means have nothing mystical about them. THE mobile suits they are manufactured, they are subjected to industrial espionage, they are given training courses to pilot them and they are accompanied by an instruction manual. The vehicles are often destroyed or damaged, and therefore need spare parts. The availability of spare parts or the resources to build them is often an important reason in the strategic objectives of warfare.

In a nutshell, i mobile suits they are objects and are treated as such. Similarly, whoever is on board is not a predestined or a hero, but a person like all of us.
Also war pictured here is not the playful weekly battle between the alien punctually sent by the villain and the hero aboard his mecha. On the contrary, war here is a brutal conflict, often unpredictable, and those who survive never get out of it without serious psychological consequences.

The mecha design of Mobile Suit Gundam

even the mechanical design di Mobile Suit Gundam it was innovative compared to that of previous products, such as the i super robots in the wake of Mazinger. Here, in fact, it can be seen that behind the various robots belonging to the two factions there is a manufacturing concept.
For example, i mobile suits of Zeon are usually distinguished by a red optical sensor, they call single eye, and rounded shapes in the legs and shoulders. Instead, Federation-produced mobile suits have common hallmarks, such as chest vents and elements in the color scheme and head lines.
This homogeneity of design helps to communicate that behind the manufacture of these vehicles there is a common intention and I'm just not the gimmick of the week.

Of course, there are still strong influences of the genre in the first opera of 1979 super robots, and every now and then we fall back into certain designs that belong more to the previous decade than to the one about to open. True design maturity will come with the next series: Gundam Zeta (Mobile Suit Z Gundam of 1985) and Gundam ZZ (Kidō Senshi Gundam ZZ of the 1986).
Here a more iconic one will stand out mechanical design typical of the world of the franchise.

As you progress in time with the main storyline, it can be clearly distinguished a technological evolution among the various models presented. Thus, real ones are created lineages of mobile suits, which update and improve generation after generation, maintaining some references to previous models in appearance. The main source of inspiration for this evolution were the developments in the tank industry during the Second World War.
For example, we were inspired by the production lines of panzer Tiger e Panther.

The boy band The Gundam Team of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, in which we move away from the real robot genre
The boy band The Gundam Team of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, in which we move away from the genre real robots

The evolution of Mobile Suit Gundam and the loss of the wick mass produced

However, over time many of the Gundam series have lost some of the typical characteristics of the genre. Among these, the one most affected was the non-exclusivity of the robot, which is my personal favorite feature of this genre.
After the "Gundam team" appeared in Gundam ZZ, in fact, all the main characters of subsequent anime have a unique model.

This formula has been standardized especially in Gundam Wing. In this series, in fact, we have five beautiful protagonists of various kinds to grab the female audience (as he did in his time The Zodiac Knights). Each of them has a Gundam distinguishable by color and armament, with the blue one always given to the main protagonist.
The pattern was repeated in Gundam 00 and in many other subsequent series that kept the franchise alive in the XNUMXs.

The question of new type and the gap from the genre

One of the most controversial topics in relations between Gundam and gender real robots generated by it is the matter of new type.
In fact, in the original series it is hinted that new generations born on the space colonies may develop unexpected abilities. These people are definite new type and by the time of the One Year War, studies of them had just begun. 
Where the philosophers had theorized that these new generations, endowed with extrasensory abilities, they would have been able to understand each other without error, the military industrial complex instead immediately sought a military application for these children.

The theme itself is beautiful and features a excellent narrative potential, very much in line with the antimilitarism of the first series of Mobile Suit Gundam. (Because yes, in general the message of the Gundam franchise is that war is bad.) Newtypes, in fact, are another good thing that war has irreparably ruined.
But let's see how it was developed in the various series of the franchise.

Newtype development: from useful rarities to key plot roles

In the first series, the protagonist Amuro, partially his nemesis Char, and a couple of other characters are the only ones new type against a rather large and varied cast of supporting actors. Rare and special, i new type they certainly give an advantage in the war, but they cannot win it alone.

In the following series, however, i new type they are more numerous, stronger and more important to the plot. All the main characters and their nemeses are. Also, their powers, combined with gods mobile suits that exploit its full potential, become increasingly decisive for the outcome of the war.
In the final scenes of Gundam Zeta, Gundam ZZ e Char's Counterattack you reach levels of mysticism that I miss Dave Filoni in the last few seasons of Star Wars Rebels.

To many i new type like them or at least don't dislike them. Personally, I find that they go a long way away Gundam from the vein real robots and bring it closer to genre shonen. There are even “give me your strength” style scenes that personally make my arms drop.

The protagonists of The 8th MS Team, considered as one of the best real robot series in the Gundam franchise
The protagonists of The 8th MS Team, regarded as one of the best series real robots of the franchise Gundam

The 8th MS Team and its key role for the genre real robots

The series The 8th MS Team, which aired in 1996, è the one that best embodies the spirit of the genre real robots. For the reasons mentioned above, you will understand that it is also my favorite series of Mobile Suit Gundam.

There are no newtypes here. In fact, for twelve episodes we will follow the events of a troop of regular Gundam pilots that in cleaning operations after the war, in its final phase, moves into space. The team will be on the hunt for a Zeon scientist who is developing a dangerous superweapon, but things are complicated by the fact that the protagonist finds love right on the enemy side.
Solid characters, short plot but that takes the time to dedicate a few episodes of in-depth analysis to each character, and a mechanical design which has been applying interesting solutions to popular models for twenty years. All seasoned with really beautiful action scenes and a direction that knows how to evoke the right atmosphere.

More a story of a war with robots than a story about robots

The 8th MS Team it is probably the most popular series by fans and one of the most successful. IS an honest war story and capable of arousing strong emotions. In fact, between one spectacular duel after another, they promptly remind us that war is a bad business.
In this sense, the directors also knew how to use rhythm well. Moments of quiet and long waits are interrupted by sudden outbursts of violence. Relaxed and joyful moments are alternated with painful scenes that hit like a punch in the stomach. 

Also in this case, the authors show that neither side is composed of absolutely good and irreproachable or evil and perverse people. In both sides there are heroes and infamous, well-rounded people. No justifications are given for one or the other faction (no one wants to apologize for Zeon), but it is shown that if you look at individual people it is much more difficult to divide humanity into good and bad.

From my point of view (and it is a widespread opinion among fans of Gundam) The 8th MS Team is the perfect story of the franchise. It is the one that hits the mark, that ticks all the boxes of what a story should do Gundam and one of the kind real robots.

Conclusions

The genre real robots carried by Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 he was very innovative in the otherwise stagnant line of robots.
He brought a lot of new ideas, both on a thematic level and on a design level. In some ways, it anticipated some of the aspects we would see in the late XNUMXs with the emerging phenomenon of cyberpunk.
In general, il real robots has brought the world of robots into adulthood, offering grown-up fans of the previous generation something familiar, but with more mature themes and more important issues to explore.