The Gundam Saga is set in the Universal Century (UC), with the original series beginning in September of UC 0079. That date is, of course, meaningless without a date of adoption for the UC calendar itself and that adoption date has been purposely obscured over the years. The year 0079 seems to have been selected to correspond with the year 1979, when the original series went on the air, which makes it entirely arbitrary. Over the years, a number of UC timelines have established a number of dates for the adoption of the UC calendar. Each has its champions, but all are subject to dispute.
In his original series proposal, Yoshiyuki Tomino specified the year 2066 AD—about a century in the future from the time at which he was creating the show. If we accept the UC calendar at all and go with Tomino’s original vision as to when the story takes place, then UC 0001 corresponds to 1988 AD—ten years in the future when the original Gundam series went on the air. This worked for the 1980s, but now it has the same problem as the original Star Trek series, which also stepped on its own coattails with references to the “Eugenics Wars” that supposedly began in 1996 AD.
The next possible start date for the UC calendar is 1969 AD, the year that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Lacking any other reference, Gundam fans of the early 1980s settled on this date, which was suggested by a comment made by Robert A. Heinlein, author of the prophetic 1947 science fiction novel Rocket Ship Galileo and its popular 1950 film adapatation Destination: Moon, to news commentator Walter Cronkite on 20 July 1969: “They should make this Day One of the Year One!” This was picked up and used in the manga side stories Stampede and Outer Gundam.
By this reckoning, UC 0079 would equate to 2047 AD, just twenty years shy of Tomino’s original proposal. The problem is that UC 0001 marked not only the beginning of space travel, but also the construction of the first giant space colonies, which obviously didn’t happen.
This would also place the UC 0027 completion date of the first permanent Moon colony, Von Braun City, in 1995 AD.
The next start date for the UC calendar is 2001 AD. This is popular for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the ease of conversion: add 2000 to the UC date to get the AD date. Proponents of this start date can also cite some supporting evidence in the anime canon itself.
In the 26th episode of the original series, a surveillance photo is shown with the date “2079” stamped on it. (This date stamp was subsequently removed when the scene was re-animated for the second compilation movie, Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow) Similarly, in the eighth episode of the second series, Z Gundam, an astronomical photograph is shown with the date “Sept 20, 2087” stamped on it.
By this reckoning, Von Braun is yet to be built in 2027 AD and the original series action takes place in 2079 AD, a full century from the time at which the original series was broadcast.
The next start date for the UC calendar is both the most official and the most ambiguous, in that it can only be stated as “sometime after” 2045 AD. The official UC timelines published by Bandai in 1981 and subsequently reprinted or adopted in books from other publishers, stated that construction of the first permanent space colony began in 2045 AD, then jumped to UC 0001 as the date that actual migration actually began. In later timelines, the two events would be listed together with a dateline that read “AD 2045 ~ UC 0001”—a convention that led many readers to conclude that 2045 AD and UC 0001 referred to the same date. Realistically, the earliest start date for the UC calendar would be 2046 AD and, even then, only if the first colony were completed within a single year.
As will become evident in my description of the evolution of orbital habitats, a decade would be a more reasonable estimate for such construction.
By this reckoning, the earliest date for the establishment of Von Braun is 2071 AD, with the original series action taking place in 2123 AD. This is nearly a century and a half from the time at which the original series was broadcast and over half a century after the date specified in the original proposal—and nearly half a century away from the present day.
It’s worth noting that, as of 1996, all Bandai timelines now jump directly from the current year to UC 0001, thus removing any official sanction of any specific year that may be linked to the start of the UC calendar in any way. However—
In the last episode of Gundam 0080, a newspaper is shown with the date Monday, 14 January 0080. If anything seen on-screen is canonical, this gives us a very specific reference point from which to determine which dates in Gundam history correspond to which days of the week. Tenuous? Perhaps. But it’s internally consistent—weekdays and weekends match up with the dates given for them—and the timeline in B-CLUB’s Gundam 0080 Visual Comic, Volume 2, seems to to have been used as a source for the timeline in Sunrise’s Gundam 2000 calendar. Furthermore, the official Shindosha timeline indicates that, like the Gregorian calendar to which it appends, UC leap years are multiples of four—in Gundam ZZ, Axis proclaims itself to be Neo Zeon on 29 February 0088—so UC 0080 must be a leap year in which 14 January is a Monday. This further invalidates the 1969 AD and 2001 AD start dates, as in neither case would 14 January 0080 be a Monday.
There are, in fact, only three dates more than 80 years (to reach UC 0080) but less than 150 years (to be reasonable) subsequent to 2045 AD in which 14 January falls on a Monday in a leap year: 2132 AD, 2160 AD, and 2188 AD. If UC 0080 were 2132 AD, then UC 0001 would be 2053 AD—just eight years. It took that long to put a Man in a Can onto the Moon, from Project Mercury on 31 January 1961 to Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969. O’Neill himself projected 25 to 30 years for it—had we started building his “High Frontier” in 1979 AD, we’d just be finishing it around 2002 AD. If UC 0080 were 2188 AD, then UC 0001 would be 2109 AD—64 years or about three generations. That’s almost as long as from the beginning of the UC to the timeframe of the original series. Too long!
The “sweet spot” is 2160 AD.
By this reckoning, the Universal Century begins in 2081 AD—over a century after the original series aired—following 36 years of construction—on par with O’Neill’s own projection—and Von Braun City is completed in 2107 AD, with the original series action taking place in 2159 AD.
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Last Update: 01 January 2020
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