With all the various spin-offs and entries released for the Gundam franchise, this one’s especially surprising. Although announced as early as September 15th, 2021, on December 20th, Sunrise unveiled the teaser trailer for Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island, premiering later this summer of 2022 after over 40 years of Gundam shows. Though this is technically old news for Japanese fans, with the studio recently posting the anime’s teaser on its official GundamInfo account on YouTube, it’s now officially global.
Originally the missing 15th episode of the original 1979 series, this (in)famous episode is now coming back into the light. (Source: YouTube)
Cucuruz Doan’s Island was originally episode #15 of Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 (1979), in which Amuro and the White Base crew stumble upon the titular Pacific island, where a Zeon deserter and a group of children are trying to live quietly away from the wider war. If that doesn’t sound familiar, you wouldn’t be the only one. With the exception of the first Italian localizations of the series in the 1980s, the episode was quietly buried by Sunrise after its initial broadcast, at Yoshiyuki Tomino’s insistence. When asked on it in a 2002 convention panel on why it’s never shown internationally, he replied:
I asked that it would be skipped. There is a reason, but since the staff is still alive I can’t answer it. It’s a long story.
The full truth may never be fully known, though it’s also not hard to see other reasons for why this was pulled off the air. Even with 0079‘s wildly inconsistent quality, the episode was infamous for being hilariously off-model, courtesy of outsourcing studio Anime Friend: Zakus riding planes like hang-gliders, proportions being all over the place, choppy animation, and so on. Which is a big shame, as the actual story does a good job in showing the effects of war on those trying to stay out of it, the reality of those orphaned by the bloodshed, and further humanizing the Spacenoids of Zeon.
Despite being memory-holed, Sunrise has evidently not forgotten about it, given how Cucuruz Doan’s Island has popped up in video games, to the bafflement of some Western fans. Moreover, it’s even led to the creation of a Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin spin-off manga by Ohno Junji, which significantly fleshes out the premise beyond what was shown back in 1979. Coincidentally, it’s this adaptation that’s serving as an inspiration for the upcoming movie, aiming to shed light on what really happened in that episode all those decades ago.
It’s still up in the air how the movie will turn out, or if it’ll do the original episode justice. Still, whether you’re old enough to have seen the original broadcast, or have heard of it spoken of in whispers among otaku, it won’t be long before you can see it for yourself.