The History of Gundam in America part 2

by Christopher Troy

Welcome back readers! I’m going to continue with the article in a minute, but I wanted to do shamelessly plug something first.  Always the trendsetters, both FPNYC and I are on twitter and if you wish to follow us, you can add @FPNYC and @ Anarchris to your follower list! Warning: I curse like a sailor. Anyway let us continue!

War in the Pocket, MS 08th Team, and Stardust Memory

Even though MS Gundam didn’t live up to it’s expectations, the franchise still had some life in it. MS 08th Team was placed on Toonami, which was kind of an odd fitting, given it’s plot and setting. Stardust and War in the Pocket did fairly well on Adult Swim though, which I’m sure pleased Bandai, as 3/4th of that block were shows from their catalogue. However, merchandising behind these shows wasn’t as easy/strong as it was for Wing and original Gundam, but we did manage to get a few kits over here, and some figures as well. A handful of games were released as well for the Playstation 2, but they were pretty subpar (Most of the Bandai games are simple cash-grabs for the record)


Here’s when things get a little bit odd. Toonami was desperate for another mecha-related hit. The Big O did well for them, but we were still a little away from season 2. “Mecha Week”, a week where heavily-edited for day-time TV ADV’s mecha shows were aired was a disaster. Cartoon Network wanted another Wing-sized hit, and the only show that Bandai felt met that criteria was G-Gundam, which didn’t do so well in Japan, but apparently they felt would do better in the States. It actually did well here, as tons of kits and toys were pushed throughout retailers. Bandai also made sure to edit names of mecha, so that the no one would be offended and not carry their merchandise. Still it proved that Toonami’s viewers preffered self-contained AU stories versus UC stories, which is something all 3 parties took notice of when it came to the next series, SD Gundam, which in my opinion, is Sunrise’s revenge for America shooting down Doozy Bots.

The show wasn’t too big of a hit in the States (big surprise there). In fact, it did so poorly that the 2nd season never aired in the US. However, thanks to fan’s pleas the show did make it’s way to the US via a DVD bundle, complete with a dub. Hopefully this will teach Bandai/Sunrise that America does not care much for super deformed Gundams (the amount of unsold merchandise-Gunpla, action figures, video games)  was probably a indication as well.

By now, things were looking pretty grim for the Gundam franchise in the US. There were talks of bringing over Zeta Gundam on airing on [adult swim], but there was a fear that a show that old may not bring in viewers, despite how much it would please the hardcore.  However over in Japan, the franchise got the shot in the arm it needed.

Gundam SEED: Savior or a Little too late?

Gundam SEED revitalized the franchise in Japan. With solid ratings,  renewed interest in Gunpla, and a new female audience (it aired with the original Fullmetal Alchemist), the property was hot, and Cartoon Network/Bandai of America was looking to get in on the action. It had the potential to be the next Wing, something both companies were banking on when it debuted on the new Saturday night Toonami.

In theory, given it was a self-contained AU series with great (for it’s time, at least in the earlier episodes) animation, the series should have been huge. However, the new Toonami did not fair too well with the viewers, and SEED was butchered in terms of being edited to being Y-7 TV friendly. Also the once a week showing killed the pacing of the series statewise, and halfway through it’s run, it was changed to a 2am death slot. Bandai of America tried giving it a push with tons of merchandise, but retailers were wary since there was still SD Gundam/G Gundam merch still sitting on the shelves. The follow up series SEED Destiny was never aired in the states, although both shows sold well enough on DVD. Also worth noting that even the the show did poorly in America, it was a hit in Canada, where it was less censored, and Destiny was aired. However the damage was done, and the Gundam brand was more or less dead in the eyes of the  mainstream. It was strictly an Otaku only franchise as DVDs were still coming out, as were Manga series by Del Ray, Tokyopop and Bandai’s own label.

Rebirth: Gundam OO

It had nearly been 5 years when Manga Entertainment/Bandai of America/ and the Sci-Fi channel announced their new alliance to combat the monopoly Cartoon Network/[adult swim] had on showing late night anime. The 1st 2 Bandais properties announced for Sci-Fi came as no surprise: The hot-blooded Gainax hit “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann”, and Gundam OO, the first show to be aired on a non-Cartoon Network channel. While neither show did Wing numbers, neither were considered flops, and the fact that Gundam still sold after a 5 year absence proved that the brand still had some life in it when it came to the mainstream anime crowd. While there’s no word of when the new series will air in Japan, let along in America, there’s a good chance someone will air it on our shores. Will Gundam ever be as big as it was when Wing aired? It’s kind of doubtful, but who know what lies in the future.

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