Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム) is a televised Anime that was written and directed by Tomino Yoshiyuki and is made up of 43 episodes that were aired in 1979. The series was later re-edited for theatrical release and split into three movies in 1981. Yasuhiko Yoshikazu did the character designs and Okawara Kunio was responsible for the mechanical designs, including the titular giant robot, the RX-78-2 Gundam.
The original Mobile Suit Gundam takes place during the One-Year War in the year Universal Century 0079 (U.C. 0079). During this time period humans live in orbiting space colonies called Sides. The ruler of Side 3 declares war against the earth for the independence of the colonies. It is about a crew of Earth Federation Space Forces on a space ship called White Base that fight against the Principality of Zeon using human shaped weapons called Mobile Suits. The crew of White Base fight Zeon using an advanced Mobile Suit called Gundam, that is more powerful than any weapon that Zeons have previously produced. The Gundam and the White Base are so important to the Federation, that the crew journeys to Jaburo, the Federation's main base located on the Amazon basin. In the process, the Gundam's pilot, Amuro Ray, and the other draftees are exposed to the harsh conditions of war, participate in many brutal battles, and experience the tragic trials and consequences of the conflict.
The series did not receive high ratings when it was first aired, and was in fact cancelled before the series was intended to end. Audiences were expecting another giant robot show, and instead found MS Gundam, the first work of anime in an entirely new genre, the mecha drama or the 'real robot' genre as opposed to the 'super robot' genre. The models from the show sold very well, however, and the show did very well in reruns and in it's theatrical compliation. Much like the original Star Trek, the original Gundam was not appreciated by its intial audience, and also like Star Trek, proceeded to spawn a massive sci-fi franchise, spawning numerous sequels, model kits, and videogames up to the present day.
Mobile Suit Gundam was released in the U.S. (dub only) in July 2001 on Cartoon Network but, following the pattern of its initial airing in Japan, it was later cancelled due to a combination of poor ratings and the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks before the entire series was shown. Subsequent U.S. reairings have failed to garner the ratings of the newer Gundam series.