Over the course of our travels in the world of Gundam, we often see the same question popping up over and over again. This question is one that we have asked ourselves in the past, and well, all of the answers to it have been quite vague. That question? The ultimate question that everyone starting out on Gundam will eventually ask. The question of: “Just where do I start to get into the main ‘Early Universal Century Timeline, and how will this get me into Gundam Unicorn’?”.
The main UC timeline itself can be a bit daunting to get into. It’s easily the most time consuming, expansionistic and has the largest number of series’ in any Gundam timeline. Over the course of the run, you have three full length series’ (0079, Zeta Gundam and ZZ Gundam), as well as a number of OVA series’. What’s important to note is that the production order of things isn’t actually the order of the timeline either, however, each series is designed so that you kind of get the gist of what’s happened previously, and there are some assumptions made that you know about some future events when dealing with certain OVAs. But only to a really minor degree.
The best example of an OVA bridging the gap between two Gundam series’ is the OVA Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. This series acts as a gap between the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam as it briefly touches on the creation of the Titans organisation that act as a kind of aggressor in Zeta Gundam.
So really, just how should you be watching the Early UC Gundam timeline? The answer to this can be both simple and complicated, but we’ll try to keep this as direct as possible. It’s completely up to you on how you watch it and in which order. There are advantages and disadvantages to the order in which you watch the series, but ultimately, it all depends on the experience you want to achieve.
For our run, we watched each series up until Gundam Unicorn in production order. However, this created a little bit of confusion for us in the timeline due to some events being related to each other but being watched out of order with other series’ in between. However, each series is designed so that you at least kind of know the backstory behind what has happened, even though you can kind of work it out through the context anyway.
From our viewing of all of the series, for those of you wanting to power your way through to Gundam Unicorn in the absolute fastest route you can take, we’d advise just watching the four main Mobile Suit stories in their most condensed formats. These exist as three movies for the first Mobile Suit Gundam, three movies for Zeta Gundam, a 47 episode series for ZZ Gundam and then a movie for Chars Counterattack. However, it should be noted that the Zeta Gundam movies do leave out a plot point or two, but they are only really minor and serve only to flesh out the motivations for some characters. Of significant note though, is that the Zeta movies ending is vastly different to the anime series. So after you’ve watched the movie, track down the last episode and watch that through.
For what we’d consider the optimal full Gundam experience, we’d suggest watching the Mobile Suit Gundam movies as the animation quality and storytelling is much more suited for todays audiences, the Zeta movies with the missing episodes thrown in just for that little bit of extra character development, ZZ Gundam all the way through; stick with this one as it may seem lighthearted at first but gets dark quickly, MSG Chars Counterattack and then all of the OVA’s in order of the year that they were released.
The benefit to the optimal full Gundam experience is that you don’t get bogged down spending a couple of years on series’ that don’t hold up today just to get to the good bits. It’s also in order of production, so it is mostly set out to make sense in the way that the directors intended.
The next method of viewing is one we’d call the optimal timeline-order experience. This is pretty similar to the above method, except that you insert the OVAs into their correct place in the early UC timeline. So it would be something like: Mobile Suit Gundam movies, War in the pocket, 08th MS Team, Stardust Memory, Zeta Gundam Movies with missing episodes, ZZ Gundam, Char’s Counterattack.
The advantages to this particular viewing method is that you get to experience Gundam in a sequential order without having to spend a million years catching up both MSG and ZG. However, the change in quality, writing style and a small amount of assumed knowledge may initially seem a bit strange until it clicks with the setup established further down the line.
You can also do the full Gundam experience, which we would dictate as watching every episode of MSG, every episode of Zeta and Double Zeta and then moving onto CCA and watching the OVA’s sequentially by year of release. Of course, much like earlier, you could run with the sequential full Gundam experience and slip the OVAs into their correct spots in the timeline.
However, we do note that this is incredibly time consuming and the quality of the Gundam and Zeta Gundam series is much lower than you’d be used to due to being released in the 70s and 80s. Of other note is that there are both movie and series versions of some OVAs, only watch the series versions as the movies are too condensed, and they’re short anyway, so the time difference isn’t too dramatic.
The thing that might annoy viewers in regards to the early UC Gundam is the amount of retconning that happens. For example, when you go from Mobile Suit Gundam to Zeta Gundam, you see the Titans testing out new Gundam types made out of regular Mobile Suit materials as opposed to Gudamonium or whatever it was called. However, in both Stardust Memory and 008th MS Team, we can see clearly that the Federation was in cohorts with Anaheim Electronics and producing a load of different Gundam for a variety of purposes. It’s odd that the next generation of Gundam are more terrible than the Gundam that came just before them.
So, really, that’s all of the ways that we would suggest watching the Early UC timeline for the Mobile Suit Gundam series. A great resource is this particular image here, which is too large to fit into this article. If you have any questions still, feel free to drop us a comment below and we’ll take a look at it.
Early UC Timeline:
UC 0079: Mobile Suit Gundam
UC 0079: 08th MS Team
UC 0079: IGLOO (sounded unnecessary and not included in this guide, stick it in wherever the OVA’s are stuck within this guide if you feel it is necessary)
UC 0079-0080: War in the Pocket
UC 0083: Stardust Memory
UC 0087: Zeta Gundam
UC 0089: ZZ Gundam
UC 0093: Char’s Counterattack
UC 0096: Gundam Unicorn