Friday, October 11, 2013

Sunrise (and maybe Funimation) about to announce... something about Gundam.

It's been a while since I checked in. Sorry about that. We hit a kind of lull during the end of summer and the beginning of things now with only Attack on Titan to fill the void, and luckily, it did so well. We also saw the official end of Kamen Rider Wizard and are about to see the second episode of Kamen Rider Gaim (that's the official spelling, not Gaimu as I previously wrote before they romanized it).

The real news this season concerns Mobile Suit Gundam.

First airing in 1979 in Japan, Mobile Suit Gundam started as a serious war drama which arguably introduced "real robot" storylines in anime and told a tale of war, desperation, and young people who are forced to grow up very quickly when survival necessitates that they fight. The strength of its memorable characters, the adherence to semi-realistic physics, and its popular line of intricate plastic model kits made it a fan favorite and built it into a huge media franchise. In Japan, Gundam enjoys at least as much popularity as Star Wars does in the West, with famous quotes from the series at least as recognizable as that of Star Wars. A series of food products and cafes exist, and a gigantic statue of the original Gundam can be found in Odaiba.


This curry rice is three times more delicious than regular rice.

Some of you may remember that Mobile Suit Gundam was extremely popular in the US in the mid to late nineties and early 2000s due in no small part to Cartoon Network's licensing and broadcasting of Gundam Wing, G Gundam, and 0079 Gundam. Merchandising was high -- even Toys R Us sold Gunpla, the plastic model kits that catapulted Gundam to popularity in Japan originally. But popularity waned as the anime boom leveled out and Gundam's license expired from its original holders in the West. Crunchyroll, which featured freely streamable versions of the original Gundam and Zeta Gundam removed them at the beginning of this year as the license lapsed. Things seemed bleak for Gundam in the West.

But over the past few weeks, Gundam has seen a resurgence in presence here in the United States. Firstly, Barnes & Noble bookstores, a major retail store with actual physical stores, have begun to sell Gundam model kits once again -- mostly Wing and Unicorn stuff, but Gundam stuff nonetheless. Popular hobby shop Hobby Town USA has also seen a spike in Gundam model stock. Secondly, Sunrise has officially subtitled and released Gundam Build Fighters on their website which you should totally check out, since it's very entertaining. It's a commercial for Gunpla, but it hits all the right notes of Pokemon/Medabots style competition, references to classic series, and fun and enjoyable characters. Lastly, there are rumors that there is a possibility of the long delayed Gundam tabletop RPG, which R. Talsorian Games, publisher of mecha RPG game Mekton Z, may finally find a publisher after all.

I've just learned that at New York's Comic Con, Sunrise, Gundam's creator company, is having an official panel. Shin Sasaki, executive producer of the series, is said to be introducing "footage from new and upcoming series", and will be having a Q&A. (If any of you are there, please make sure you ask about an official release for Turn A Gundam.)

That's not the most interesting part, though. An hour before Sunrise's panel Funimation will be having a panel. Not in the same room, unfortunately (which would be absolute proof), but speculation is running high that these events are related. And while we can't say for certain that Funimation is going to pick up official distribution of Gundam in the United States... it would not be a bad thing if they did. Funimation is not 4Kids entertainment: Funimation doesn't tend to censor its shows in the US.

Furthermore, we know that Funimation recently "rescue licensed" several  Sunrise shows that had lapsed licenses, specifically Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, and Outlaw Star, and those shows got or are planned to get Blu-Ray releases.

Therefore, with this in mind, it is extremely likely that we are about to hear an official announcement that Funimation has officially licensed and will be releasing Gundam in the US.

Dare we hope for Blu-Rays of classic Gundam series? Will we finally see Turn A, X, and Victory officially released?

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