This year marks the 30th anniversary of Gundam, Japan's universally acclaimed animation series. Initially conceived by animator Tomino Yoshiyuki, the series began as Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979, and quickly gained popularity, spawning several animation series, movies, novels, model kits and games. An official anniversary celebration is being held in Japan. To those unfamiliar with the franchise, Gundam may appear to be merely another story featuring robots battling each other. But fans will tell you it is much more complex than that. The machines are merely a way to channel the series' innovative characters, creative storylines and feasible machine designs. Gundam explores themes that are highly relevant to today's world, such as war and conflict initiated by elitism and corruption, and environmental problems. Hui Chung-kui, a Hong Kong fan who has followed the series since its launch, says: 'The Gundam series was a breakthrough in robot animated shows. Before Gundam, all robot series consisted only of one-on-one duels. Gundam was the first to bring large-scale warfare with hundreds of robots battling each other.' The show has never shied away from sensitive political topics. Its most recent incarnation, Gundam 00, examines the conflict in the Middle East and the influence of religion on war. And every series ends with a strong anti-war message. The word 'Gundam' is a combination of the words 'gun' and 'freedom', emphasising the idea of a peaceful existence. Luckily for Hong Kong fans, there will also be celebrations here. Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill will host a Gundam exhibition from August 14 to 18 to celebrate the cartoon's anniversary. The exhibition will feature a Gundam-themed cafe, Gundam board games and a 5,000 sq ft Gundam supermarket where fans can buy their favourite Gundam model kits and collectibles. Tsutomu Suzuki, assistant manager of Bandai Asia, the company which manufactures Gundam products, said a local celebration was important. 'Japanese culture is very similar to Hong Kong's, which makes it easy for locals to accept. Like Japan, Hong Kong has many long-time Gundam fans - and they're not only children.' Meanwhile, the celebration in Japan comprises three parts. The first part is 'Real G'. An 18-metre replica of first-generation robot suit Gundam RX-78 will be on display at Sea Breeze Park in Odaiba, Tokyo, until the end of this month. Fans took part in an auction for the chance to take photographs sitting on the robot's shoulder. A total of 504 bidders battled for the coveted opportunity, with the eventual winner paying 2,601,000 yen (HK$212,300). The second and third parts, 'Feel G' and 'Soul G', give fans the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of the legendary machines. Feel G will take place from August 21 to 23 at the Tokyo Big Sight, one of the largest convention centres in the Japanese capital. It is set to be the largest Gundam exposition in history, with exhibits covering the history of the anime, as well as the development of gunpla, models based on the show and the hobby of building them. Soul G, meanwhile, is a concert featuring live performances of theme songs from the Gundam series. It will take place on October 24 at the exhibition hall, Tokyo International Forum. Mr Suzuki said he hoped to bring some of the exhibits from Japan to Hong Kong by the end of the year.