A Pictorial History of Char Aznable’s Weirdest Ad Campaigns

A Pictorial History of Char Aznable’s Weirdest Ad Campaigns
Gif: McDonalds Japan

Mobile Suit Gundam is a decades-old franchise examining the costs of war and imperialism over eons of interstellar conflict between decaying, corrupt governments. It’s also an anime show about giant robots made to sell toys, so sometimes you get the very peculiar sensation of one of the series’ most iconic characters hawking a car.

Char Aznable — the ace pilot of the secessionist space colony Principality of Zeon in the original 1979 classic Mobile Suit Gundam, eventual Anti-Earth guerrilla fighter under the guise of Quattro Bajeena in its sequel series Zeta Gundam, and eventually the drastic leader of the Neo Zeon remnant in Char’s Counterattack — is one of Gundam’s most enduring and iconic characters. His shadow is cast across the franchise’s entire history as he switched from villain with his own personal agenda, to anti-hero, to a radicalized leader — whether in the primary “Universal Century” timeline of the series or across its totality in a litany of endless “Char Clone” expys. That makes him a fascinating and compelling character, one explored in depth more than even some of the franchise’s most famous heroes.

But that also means that Char often finds himself Darth Vader-ized in a way, a public face of Gundam as a corporate franchise almost as iconic as a brand as the series’ giant robots. In the decades since his debut Char’s masked face has been slapped across all sorts of weird and wonderful ad campaigns in Japan — including this week, where a new collaboration with McDonald’s Japan saw the Red Comet return to promote three new hamburgers inspired by his mobile suits in the original Gundam. Take a look at that, and more of Char’s most questionable ad campaigns, below.

CoCo Curry

Image: Curry House CoCoImage: Curry House CoCo

In 2018, Char and his iconic custom Zaku II — painted bright red and known for its modified speed — helped push the anime adaptation of Gundam manga The Origin with Curry House CoCo Ichibanya. In this campaign, fans could buy curry and enter a raffle to win prizes, including a model kit of Char’s Zaku clad in CoCo Curry decals, and… a spoon for it to hold?

Toyota’s ‘Zeonic’ Auris II

Perhaps one of the wildest entries on this list. Toyota teased a collaboration with Gundam for a specially customised Char-themed version of the Auris for years, before finally releasing the car in 2013, complete with an ad that saw Char’s original voice actor, Shūichi Ikeda, return to reprise the character. Don’t ask why a man who pilots a giant robot literally customised for speed needs a car so much, though.

McDonald’s

Char’s latest promo sees him offer up not one, but three new burgers at McDonald’s — a “Red” garlic teriyaki burger and a similarly themed, red-cheesed double cheeseburger, because of course, and a three-pattied “Newtype” burger, referencing Char and Amuro’s awakenings as psychically powered spacenoids in the original anime.

King Oscar Char-Dines

Image: HagoramaImage: Hagorama

I mean, what else needs to be said? They saw an opportunity for a completely batshit pun and they just went for it. Although I could do with never having an anime character suggestively offer me an oily fish ever again.

Gundam Enekeys

Once again, Gundam loves a crossover with cars despite the fact most of its characters get around in giant robots for a living. This collabo with Enekey — a keychain fob to pay for gas with an RFID scanner directly at the pump — followed Char and his arch rival Gundam pilot Amuro Ray as they navigated their humdrum lives outside of mobile suit cockpits… and how they needed gas in their cars to do that, I guess.

Uniqlo’s Customised Zaku-II

Image: Bandai/UniqloImage: Bandai/Uniqlo

The 40th anniversary of Gundam had a bunch of tie-in crossovers, but a highlight was Bandai’s collaboration with Uniqlo to create a classy line of t-shirts inspired by the original show. The shirts themselves were pretty nice, and of course Char featured on a few, but the real highlight was a special Gunpla kit available alongside the collection that gave Char’s Zaku a Uniqlo makeover. Which, admittedly, was not that much of a stretch considering his Zaku was already mostly red. Hey, new model kit though!

Google Assistant

This bizarre, brief mashup by Google Japan to promote its voice assistant imagines a world where Char is so desperate to contact his hapless second in command Dren that he must simply use voice-assisted commands on his phone to do so. Maybe in the world of Gundam, mobile phones aren’t affected by the distribution of comms-dampening Minovsky Particles like traditional ship-to-ship communication lines are.

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