Tokyo Film Festival to Showcase ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’

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'Gundam'

The giant robot franchise phenomenon, which began in Japan in 1979, will be the focus of the festival’s animation program this year.

Japan’s genre-spawning robot animation franchise Mobile Suit Gundam will be given a special showcase at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, organizers have announced. 

Created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Mobile Suit Gundam first aired as an animated series on Japanese television in 1979. The series was later recut for theatrical release as three films, which began screening in 1981. Countless spinoffs, adaptations and sequels followed, as the giant robot genre became an international media and toy franchise phenomenon.

The Tokyo festival will screen the first Mobile Suit Gandam film, along with a few dozen TV episodes, other related films released in theaters over the years, and shorts that have rarely appeared on the big screen. The franchise creators and various film figures influenced by the genre will participate in talk events during the fest.

The central story of the Gundam saga features a battle between the Earth Federation and a group of rogue space migrants who have left the planet due to over population. A young boy named Amuro Ray is chosen to pilot the Federation’s latest weapon — the giant robot suit known as Gundam — and grows up fast in the heat of battle. The franchise blossomed from cult TV status into a veritable industry unto itself after plastic toy models of the Gundam robots, known as Gunpla, first went on sale in 1981.

Various Gundam-themed events are being planned in Japan in tandem with the Tokyo festival. In the weeks leading up to the fest, which runs Oct. 22-31, the latest TV series in the franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam: Blood and Iron Orphans, will be broadcast weekly across Japan on the MBS/TBS networks on Sundays, beginning Oct. 4. The latest Gundam film, Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin II: Artesia's Sorrow, will be screened as a special two-week event in 15 theaters throughout Japan starting October 31. Also, a visual culture exhibition, "The Art of Gundam," will be held at the Mori Arts Center Gallery in Roppongi Hills, the Tokyo fest’s main venue. The exhibition runs July 18 to Sept. 27.

The Gundam showcase marks the second consecutive year that the Tokyo festival is putting a strong emphasis on cult Japanese animation. In 2014, the festival showcased the work of Hideaki Anno, creator the Evangelion series.

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