Ever since Mobile Fighter G Gundam, various anime in the franchise have been accused of not really being Gundam, or for betraying the idea of Gundam in some capacity. Whether that’s robots powered by martial arts, a preponderance of pretty boys, or the presence of a mustache and biplanes, it’s clear that, at least to some, there is a vague idea of what Gundam shouldn’t be, but what I find interesting is that over time these prejudices seem to fade or in some cases even become something of a minority. Where once in the English-speaking fandom G Gundam was seen as a freak accident at best, nowadays you’ll find plenty of people who actually will say that G Gundam is their favorite Gundam, or even that G Gundam is the only good Gundam.
I am not here to judge anyone’s tastes or preferences, but rather I would like to wonder aloud about how and why this happens. In the case ofGundam W and G Gundam, the answer partly lies in the way they were situated in the Toonami block of the early to mid 2000s and were able to build up a fanbase as a result, but I feel like that is just one instance of a more basic process at work.
Whenever opinions form about a current or upcoming Gundam, it seems to come primarily from those most invested and devoted to Gundam. This group consistently has Gundam-ness as a priority, and so the initial discussion is shaped by that established fandom and their values. What I’m thinking is that over time, a series has a greater chance of reaching more people, and eventually they’re found by people who won’t necessarily label themselves as Gundam fans, whose value sets are different. At that point, a series may reach an audience more receptive to its ideas or less prejudiced against it (though they may carry their own prejudices different from the ones of more hardcore Gundam fans).
Essentially, what I’m wondering about is whether or not Gundam series (and perhaps other franchises like Macross) undergo a process where they first start off surrounded by their immediate fandom created by the franchise, and then break through that established core, such that the discussion about these series starts to change, that it’s not simply “a matter of time” but also a matter of reaching people who might be more receptive to it. That might not mean that a series will be loved, but that there is a greater chance of it happening.