What is GUNDAM?
Gundam (ガンダム) is a metaseries of Japanese anime created by Sunrise studios that features giant robots (or “mecha”) called “Gundam”. The metaseries started in April 7, 1979 as a serial TV show called Mobile Suit Gundam. That first TV series has since spawned a franchise that has come to include works released in numerous media. Titles have appeared in the form of multiple television series and OVAs, movies, manga, novels and video games, among other modes. The story from the original 1979 series has been considerably extended with sequels, prequels, side stories and alternate timelines. As a result, the title “Gundam” has become a collective term for the seven distinct but related timelines that can be pieced together from the stories that appear in the Gundam franchise. Generally speaking, the timelines do not intersect, but they do contain a few common elements such as the titular war machines called Gundam.
Mobile Suit Gundam is said to have pioneered the real robot era of mecha anime.
Unlike its super robot cousins, Gundam attempted a realism in the robot design and weaponry, by running out of energy and ammunition or breaking and malfunctioning. The technology is practical and is either derived from true science (such as Lagrange points in space and the O’Neill cylinder as a living environment) or at least well-explained, feasible technology, requiring only a few fictional elements to function (such as Minovsky Physics as a means of energy production from helium-3).
The necessity of developing humanoid robots is also explained, albeit fictional. The fictional Minovsky particle pervasive in Universal Century is depicted as interfering with radar-guided long-distance cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guns, missiles, and all early warning systems, with weapons systems having to rely on human eyes. In Universal Century, the space-based Principality of Zeon rebels against Earth Federation, requiring a weapons system that could function in zero and normal gravity, be able to open and close air locks, plant demolition charges, and engage with enemy tanks and planes; with a robotic giant being an excellent choice. Once mobile suits have been developed by one side, the opposing force had to develop a similar system, just as British invention of tanks lead to the development of tanks in Germany, and eventually lead to tank-to-tank battles.
What is GUNPLA?
Gundam Models refers to plastic and non-plastic model kits depicting the mechas, vehicles and characters of the fictional Mobile Suit Gundam universe by Bandai. These kits have become popular among anime fans and model enthusiasts, especially in Japan and in other nearby Asian countries since the 1980s. The popularity of Gundam models increased in the 1990s with North America and Europe being exposed to Gundam through television, video and manga. These Gundam Models are also called Gunpla (ガンプラ Ganpura), a portmanteau of “Gundam plastic model”. “Gunpla” more commonly refers to the practice of building Gundam models, rather than the models themselves.