Gundam Is Finally Coming Back After A Seven-Year Absence – Here's What You Need To Know

"Gundam" is finally coming back after a long seven-year journey! "The Witch From Mercury" marks the return of one of Japan's biggest media franchises.

A massive 43-year-old franchise with over 50 installments across film and TV, it can be quite daunting to even attempt to enter the world of Yoshiyuki Tomino's epic robot space opera. Whether you're a returning fan or brand new to the very idea of what a Gundam is, we're here to answer every question you might have about the new show and the franchise it is aiming to revitalize.

So, first up, what is "Gundam" exactly? To give it its full name, "Mobile Suit Gundam" is a long-running series focusing on people capable of piloting Gundams, the most advanced, giant humanoid mecha — also called Mobile Suits. This is rather standard stuff for the mecha genre of anime, but what set Tomino's world apart — and helped revolutionize anime itself — was a more realistic approach when it came to the series' portrayal of war. No longer treated as superheroes, Tomino rejected the "super robot" genre to instead treat the giant robots as the serious weapons of war that they really are — weapons with very cool lightsabers.

Don't get in the robot!

Indeed, "Gundam" is far from the likes of "Star Wars," or "Mazinger Z," and instead leans more heavily into hard sci-fi, with giant robots that need to be repaired and maintained, a bigger focus on making the reality of living in outer space feel real, and robots being parts of a military-industrial complex.

Though the series does occasionally fall victim to making its fight scenes so cool that they distract from the atrocities committed, Tomino and his subsequent writers also made sure the audience got to know and care about the regular humans that inhabit this world, and how war affects them all. There are themes of racism, geopolitics, environmental issues, and so much more, making this one of the most complex franchises in all of anime.

What about the new show?

So, that just barely scratches the surface of what "Gundam" has to offer. But what about the new show, you may ask?

"The Witch From Mercury" is a brand new series from directors Hiroshi Kobayashi and Ryô Andô, written by Ichirō Ōkouchi (all veterans of the franchise). It takes place in the year 122 of the A.S. (Ad Stella) era, where humanity has slowly started colonizing the stars thanks to a space race fueled by mega-corporations. The story centers on a young girl named Suletta from the planet Mercury who enters a school of technology owned by the corporation that dominates the Mobile Suit industry.

As with many "Gundam" shows, a conflict between Earth and its space colonies is at the center of the story. But the new show seems to be focusing more on the industrial complex, with the main conflict raging between the Earth government's council in charge of Mobile Suits and independent mech developers.

"The Witch From Mercury" is notable not only because it is the first mainline "Gundam" show in seven years — the last one being "Iron-Blooded Orphans," after which we only got shows based on the Gunpla (model kits) meta aspect of the franchise — but because it is the very first "Gundam" show to have a female protagonist.

The new protagonist and the brand new timeline separate from the other shows mean "The Witch From Mercury" has the potential to bring in a brand new audience unfamiliar with the franchise.

Wait, what do you mean timeline?

Decades before the Marvel Cinematic Universe began building its multiverse, the "Mobile Suit Gundam" franchise explored the idea of separate timelines with separate, yet concurrent storylines.

The main timeline, called the "Universal Century" timeline, is the biggest in the franchise, spanning 19 movies, TV shows, and direct-to-video releases. It began with the original show, often referred to as "Gundam '79," and tells the story of the conflict between the Earth Federation and the colonial principality of Zeon. This timeline focuses more on the militaristic parts of the franchise and features iconic characters Amuro Ray and Char Aznable.

In order to give more creative freedom to the creatives behind the later seasons, "Gundam" branched out into several timelines separate from the original. For example, "Mobile Suit Gundam Wing," many Western fans' first introduction to the franchise, is part of its own "After Colony" timeline.

There are, shall we say, weirder timelines out there, like the "After War" timeline of the "Gundam X" standalone series, which is more of a post-apocalyptic survival story.

Question: What are Newtypes, exactly?

Welcome to one of the aforementioned weirder aspects of the "Gundam" franchise, and also one of its most fascinating. Besides crafting a complex space opera with militaristic and political themes, Yoshiyuki Tomino was also rather interested in what living in space for so long would do to the human body and spirit.

This resulted in the idea of the Newtype, the next step in human evolution, manifesting as heightened mental awareness necessary to adapt to life in space. Newtypes have been adapted and reworked across several of the franchise's timelines, but the basics remain the same, this is the "Gundam" equivalent to the Force from "Star Wars" or the powers of the Bene Gesserit and the Kwisatz Haderach from "Dune."

But unlike those franchises, where the hero uses his special abilities for good and they are mostly rewarded, Newtypes are often just exploited by corporations and governments. As is often the case in the "Gundam" multiverse, existence is a pain.

What is this prelude and when can I see the new show?

Studio Sunrise has released a prequel episode set years before the start of "The Witch From Mercury," serving as an introduction to this new timeline, and to the "Gundam" franchise as a whole.

"The Witch From Mercury" is set to premiere on October 5, 2022 in Japan. There is a simulcast planned in October, but no other details have been announced yet.