The Third Impact, The Innovator/Newtype Future, and Grace O’Connor’s Conspiracy: The Evils of Unification in (Real) Robot Anime

macross frontier 24 giant ranka death of sagittarius-1

This post also serves as part of WRL’s episodic series of Macross Frontier; Episode 24 “True Beginnings.” The beginnings of the overarching narrative, at least from the point of view of the villainy of Grace, and the origin story of Ranka are only revealed so close to the end. The stage is set for the finale, complete with a the cheesiest kind of cliffhanger ending. What I’ll be focusing on this post takes advantage of the full exposition of the primary villain’s plan and motivations. While it is a novel twist within the Macross franchise, it bears significant similarities with the two other major ‘real robot’ franchises in anime. My analysis here will mostly be a comparative one.

There’s a lot to take in, so I’ll plunge immediately to what we find out about the Vajra in this episode:

  • The Vajra are a species able to communicate through fold-waves, and are not impeded by fold faults. This means they are capable of communicating with each other throughout the Galaxy.
  • Vajra society is hive insect-like, only that every being who is not the queen, is only semi-autonomous. The queen controls all.
  • Ranka, with her version of the V-Type sickness, manifests an ability to control the Vajra.
  • The Vajra network, when Grace controls it, can be replicated in humans, via implants – a practice already mass produced in the Macross Galaxy colony.
  • The human (Zentraedi) race will be networked via these implants, and Grace – whose existence is already similar to that of an artificial intelligence (non-dependent on a human body) will become an equivalent of a god, as the Vajra Queen is unto her ‘subjects.’
  • The Vajra soldiers are to be used as enforcers. Those who will not agree to being implanted, will be destroyed.

This is somewhat similar to the ideal in Gundam wherein ‘Innovation’ or awakening of Newtype powers allow for communicating telepathically without constraints of language, and supposedly a means to achieve perfect understanding. The difference is that in Gundam there isn’t a centralized controller for the ideal, though in Gundam 00 Ribbons Allmark put himself up as a master of a master race to control the new version of humanity.

Here’s a look at this science fiction preoccupation in the three major “’real-robot’ franchises.

neon genesis evangelion geofront rei shinji asuka

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Remarkably, the most ‘benevolent’ version of this is that of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Seele, a shadow organization that controls the United Nations are manipulating events and organizations in the service of the “Human Instrumentality Project,” which aims for:

the forced evolution of humanity through bringing about Third Impact under their own control. As a result, all Lilin souls would be gathered into Lilith’s Egg and united as one being. This would create an existence where nobody existed singularly, but merely as part of the whole. In Instrumentality, the flaws in every living being would be complemented by the strengths in others, thus erasing the insecurities in people’s hearts.

-EvaWiki

The catch is that this goal will be achieved without anyone else’s knowledge, much less consent. The consequence of this is the removal of individuality. There will be but one self, and the path to this is a violent one (the Third Impact). The violence is through the provocation of the angels, and the use and manipulation of the Evangelions; complicated by the independent motivations and actions of Ikari Gendo, supposedly SEELE’s asset, who uses the material of SEELE to reunite with his dead wife despite the consequences of the Third Impact.

gundam gihren zabi speech RISE RISE

Mobile Suit Gundam

The Universal Century continuity of Gundam doesn’t put forth a master narrative wherein Humans evolve to achieve a state similar to that outlined by Evangelion’s Human Instrumentality Project. Instead, the concept is an ideology; corrupted at times – as with Gihren Zabi of the Principality of Zeon’s fascism in the One Year War, and as a possibility as told by Cardeas Vist of the Vist Foundation in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. The hopeful ideology values the ability to unify, or eliminate conflicts between human beings.

In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the visionary scientist Aeolia Schernberg ‘prepared’ humanity to undergo “Innovation” via interaction with GN Particles, which allows a similar experience of communication without misunderstanding. This is in the hopes of humanity to eradicate conflict amongst themselves, and prepare for “the dialogues to come,” presumably with life-forms beyond the solar system.

The violence here is the planned armed interventions of different organizations including Celestial Being, the United Earth Federation and then their autonomous ‘peace-keeping’ force A-LAWS, and then the Innovators. The innovators and their leader Ribbons Almark, sought to take over the plan and set up the Innovators as a master race under his absolute control.

macross frontier 24 giant ranka vajra home world defense line

Macross Frontier

This theme or science fiction preoccupation is very new to the Macross franchise. It flirted with galactic oblivion in Macross 7, with the Protodevlin’s insatiable hunger for life force or Spiritia, but nothing like this until Frontier. In Macross, there is no pretense to benevolence the way Newtypes and Innovation is idealized in Gundam, or how Instrumentality is idealized by SEELE in Evangelion. This ability to communicate across space and time is wholly alien – an ability by aliens, that isn’t really coveted by humans as a species.

It is really coveted as a means of domination by Grace O’Connor (and the Macross Galaxy Colony Fleet’s Board of Directors, behaving/portrayed in a way very reminiscent of SEELE). There is no idealization of this ability. The Vajra are wholly alien, the most anthropomorphic thing done to them by the narrative is the contextualization of the song ‘Aimo’ as a “love song” (a mating call). Otherwise, it is difficult to think of Vajra as a race. They are many, but one.

I do wonder if this is how post-instrumentality humanity will function. Assuming they/it is able to manifest itself physically, it will interact with other intelligences similarly the way Vajra interact with humans, Zentraedi, and the Protoculture. That is, manifested ‘bodies’ do not represent individuals but are rather physical forms controlled by the singular being (formerly of many). Perhaps this is how Vajra colonies find and mate with each other, hence the need for ‘Aimo.’ Post-instrumentality humanity won’t have the benefit of fold-wave communication systems, but maybe they won’t have to – the way Newtypes communicate with each other.

But if I understand it correctly, NTs require some proximity, though Innovators seem not to need any. Non-innovator humans require the use of GN Particles, but I think when “Innovation” is complete, dependence on such particles will decrease. In any case, a Ribbons-led “Innovation” would situate him very similarly to where Grace would be should her plans come to fruition.

What I find interesting is how the villainy in both Macross and Gundam is rather simple, and is in keeping with cartoon character kind of villainy: an evil genius who would be overlord of the world. Evangelion’s SEELE enjoys far more nuance and ambiguity. Its aims have the semblance of nobility. After all, the end point is the elimination of the self. If they succeed (and in some ways they really do), it is the triumph of selflessness itself. The wishes of one can no longer supersede those of others. There will be no more others. The villain in the form of Gendo Ikari, actually stands as an obstacle – manipulating SEELE and everyone else for his own ends. Gendo represents the very concept of what Instrumentality will remove forever.

macross frontier 24 grace goals for mankind

I attempted to document some of the similarities in table form:

Anime Visionary/Source Proponents Black Swan/Mule Enforcers Methodology Cause of Failure/Resolution
Mobile Suit Gundam Universal Century Zeon Zum Deikum Vist Foundation (?) Char Aznable Zeon/Neo-Zeon Cyber-Newtype Program God-Mode Amuro/Tomino
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Aeolia Schernberg Innovators Ribbons Allmark A-LAWS Innovation God-Mode Setsuna F. Seiei
Neon Genesis Evangelion Dead Sea Scrolls SEELE Ikari Gendo Eva-Project Instrumentality Ikari Shinji (unresolved choice)
Macross Frontier Protoculture/Bird Human(?) Macross Galaxy Board/Council Grace O’Connor Vajra Rankamentality Triangler (Music, Mecha, & Love)

Notes:

The Visionary and/or Source pertains to from whom the idea of unification, or the power involved in it comes from, or is learned from.
Proponents involve the organizations who sponsor or stand to benefit from the results of the unification (or believe they will benefit from it).
Black Swan is a concept in probability science by Nassim Nicholas R. Taleb, pertaining to events that cannot be explained by the planning models that the event(s) undo. The Mule is such an example in the context of the Seldon Plan in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction novels The Foundation Series.
Methodology is the means by which the proponents attempt to achieve their unification objectives.
Cause of failure (of the plan)/Resolution (of the conflict) is more often than not, by being stories about characters, a character or characters heroically (or in the case of Shinji, unheroically) undoes the plan.
Macross Frontier remembers love for Evangelion not only for crucified Ranka (a la crucified Lilith) but also with Giant (not quite)Naked Ranka (a la End of Evangelion’s Giant Naked Rei).
This episode should have settled the love triangle business.

macross frontier 24 crucified ranka

In exploring this theme, I am rather limited to robot anime, and more and more limited to the main franchises of ‘real’ robot anime. Are there other shows or manga that explore or feature similar themes or preoccupations?

Also, considering how Neon Genesis Evangelion is sandwiched between old and new incarnations of Macross and Gundam with decade long intervals, isn’t it remarkable how it remains the most interestingly complex work? I don’t merely mean in terms of plot complexity, but in the form of the characters and their motivations.

Further Reading

You know who makes very good posts like this? This guy.
If you haven’t had enough of comparative readings, how about some Love in Studio BONES anime? (universalbunny 05/10/2010)

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in analysis, comparative, Evangelion, fanboy, Gundam, Macross Frontier, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to The Third Impact, The Innovator/Newtype Future, and Grace O’Connor’s Conspiracy: The Evils of Unification in (Real) Robot Anime

  1. Will of the Wisps says:

    Fascinating. I never connected these series before story-wise. I found the aspect of communication without misunderstanding both alien, as Macross pictured it, and desirable, as Gundam depicted it. There must be thousands of science fiction focusing on that topic, with the sequels to Ender’s Game being one of them, I think. Heck, even 2001 A Space Odyssey mentioned it briefly as the way the baby communicates with the monolith makers. I am curious on how the authors of those stories describe it — either as a boon, or a curse, or both, or just a technological advance that has no moral or societal concenquence.

    • I’m glad you found these interesting. Yeah it’ll be some time though before I can read those works of SF. I’m too fascinated with robots and idols to make time for them alas.

      I do intend to do further work on Tomino and Gundam, as I’ve made some preliminary notes on how he dealt with the NT “communication without misunderstanding” idea post-Gundam.

  2. gwern says:

    Ah, another Eva-themed post!

    I don’t see much to object to here, although if I were more knowledgeable in American SF I probably would find this a very limited analysis. The idea of unification/transcendence isn’t just from _2001_ or _Foundation_ or _Ender’s Game_* – you also have Clarke’s _Childhood’s End_ (one of my longstanding Eva desires is to find the source which claims _Childhood’s End_ influenced Eva), to mention one among many many such books. It’s just too old a meme to really pin down exactly. (You could trace it back to Eastern ideas like brahman, or even Western ideas like the Roman Catholic ‘Body of Christ’.)

    Also, does Instrumentality actually fail in Eva? Shinji is allowed out in EoE, but he didn’t have to, and no one else is forced out of Instrumentality, and who really knows what to make of the TV ending – certainly it doesn’t seem to’ve failed exactly. But I’m not sure what you mean by that entry anyway.

    * although _Ender’s Game_, at least the original, doesn’t seem to regard the Bugger’s Instrumentality as especially desirable or undesirable, which is different from pretty much all the other examples. It’s just another strategy, one which happens to backfire when they run into Ender.

    • Ah but good thing you don’t read my posts looking for something to object to! Or do you? :3

      It is indeed a good thing that I talk about anime and not SF in general because my readings will be limited. Whatever analysis I do here is really just to point out similarities, perhaps to create a ‘tradition’ of this theme within robot anime, that future works may or may not remember love for.

      The Second Foundation does have some kind of mental network but I am not confident in bringing it to discussion as it has been many years since I’ve read the Foundation books, and I have only read the short story version of Ender’s Game.

      The column reads as Failure/Resolution, which means an either/or binary and not both. I think Istrumentality resolved in Eva.

  3. Suiman says:

    In regards to Mobile Suit Gundam UC continuity, NTs have acted contrary to Deikun‘s visions being plagued with conflict among themselves like the NT grand melee in Gundam Z and the Amuro x Char rivalry. It does not mean that they failed to communicate with one another. Even mutual understanding between people (if it were ever truly achieved between NTs ) could still lead to conflict. Whether an example of perfect understanding or not, despite their “NT bond” and “telepathy”, Amuro’s argument with Lalah in CCA still ended in disagreement (if that was indeed her and not a product of Amuro’s subconscious).

    NTs have failed to transcend the barriers erected by their differing experiences, emotions and/or ideologies. Their individuality has so far denied Deikun of his ideal of unification. Was his unfulfilled goal of harmonious relationships among fellow NTs an overestimation of their abilities or an underutilization of their supposed latent and vast potential?

    If ever all humans were to leave earth and eventually evolve, I would not be surprised if war and conflict would still remain in this new society. I have yet to watch Victory and Turn A so I’m not sure if all NTs would eventually band together towards one goal. I’m looking forward to your article on Tomino’s “NT ‘communication without misunderstanding’ idea post-Gundam”. Perhaps I’m not giving NTs the credit they deserve.

    • Indeed, and there is even more to say, or I should say read from — from Turn A and later works by Tomino. I’m afraid I won’t get into that here since I’m working on a post that explores this.

      I will say that his idea of communicating without conflict is not very well-thought-out when he was making Gundam shows, something he poked fun of himself later on.

  4. Robert Weizer says:

    I like these sorts of posts. Reminds me of how I want my computer back so I can write about an idea I had regarding mascot-style characters.

    Weren’t Ribbons and Co. not true Innovators or something? Remember that I started watching S1 but I didn’t get far, so this is just hearsay.

    • Watch the show. If you’re not interested in finishing it, then the spoilers are all in the post body.

      • Robert Weizer says:

        oh I’d be working on finishing the show if I wasn’t having a host of Real Life Issues ™ that involve me not having access to anything besides a library computer

        so far I really really enjoy 00

  5. Kalandor says:

    Toward the Terra is a show that features similar advanced/evolved humans that make use telepathy and telekinesis. I might catch your interest.

    • I have seen more than half of Toward the Terra, but perhaps my inability to remain interested in it is why I forgot to think about it and its contributions to this ‘tradition’ (so to speak). Thanks for reminding me about it, I may pick it up again someday.

  6. vendredi says:

    Great post overall – I like how you highlight the role of the Mule as well; Asimov’s Foundation series doesn’t really have “unification” on the same sort of level as the examples you have here, but like these series here I think it highlights the tension between individual desires and freedoms versus collective goals.

    Part of the reason I think this sort of thing is limited to real-robot anime is that a lot of real-robot shows are more grounded in a literary science fiction tradition, at least thematically. Super-robot shows strike me always as drawing themes more from mythology and folklore.

    • Thanks, I’m very glad you like the work here.

      You know, the thematical grounding of real-robot vs. super robot is, and should be part of the theory you’ve been working on. I tend to distinguish between anime, as opposed to the mecha themselves. After all, we can mass produce versions of Gurren Lagann, while the Gundam 00 Raiser can do GODLY things, etc, and yet we can make meaningful distinctions between their shows among the binary.

  7. Chan says:

    Interesting observations, while I did connect Grace’s plan to the instrumentality in Evangelion I never thought to connect it to any Gundam franchise. It really makes me see the original MSGundam in a whole new light.

    • While I haven’t read the novels of the original MSGundam, I’ve been told that the Newtype concept was really fleshed out there. In any case, it’s the post-Tomino Gundam that somehow attempts to put a more positive spin on the intentions of the concept, particularly the latest iterations: Gundam 00, and Gundam Unicorn.

  8. RyanA says:

    evil genius who would be overlord of the world

    Grace was kinda meh imo, it came off to typically, although this episode did stress my own yearn and hope that Ranka would be saved. Also had a nice cliffhanger iirc. :)

    • I really thought she would come off like that to most viewers, unless they look closer or are willing to dig up the meta as I’ve done here. And even so, she’s not that impressive — as in, she’ll make a big impression. That said, I do find her interesting in light of the meta, and interesting goes a long way for me.

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  12. shumbapumba says:

    Thanks for linking me to this. Interesting stuff (seems to be a recurrent theme with your posts ;)). I would be interested to look at this instrumentality and unification stuff through Deleuze and Guattari’s Body-without-Organs. Seems to bear a lot of similarities. Also, kind of off topic, but what would you recommend as your top Gundam and Macross anime to watch – what you would consider essential Macross/Gundam viewing? I’m still a bit of an amateur with both franchises… Cheers

    • If you’re serious about doing a reading, then you’ll need to do a significant amount of watching. I am uncomfortable with the term essential as it suggests some kind of canon (which I am uncomfortable with). I will however, tag show that are the most useful to your project.

      Macross

      SDF Macross (36 episodes). Can’t go around this one. It’s the first (though in the in-universe chronology there is already a prequel). It is also my most beloved show ever.
      Macross: Do You Remember Love (film). This is one of the best and most influential films in anime in the 80s. It’s gorgeous. Also, a conceit in the film goes into the Protoculture race which should be relevant to a degree to your project.
      Macross Plus (4 episodes, also has 1 film edition). Not important to your project, but is brilliant (also the debut as a composer for anime by Kanno Yoko).
      Macross 7 (49 episodes) No need to watch the peripheral shows, but this is going to be a problem for you. This show is spectacularly divisive. Why? It’s very, very bad. It is also very awesome if you get past the unforgivable production values, and a galaxy’s worth of annoyances. It is my favorite of all the sequels. Also, the Protoculture are explored further — which is of interest in your project the way I understand it.
      Macross 7 encore (3 episodes)
      Macross 7 The Galaxy is Calling Me (short film)
      Macross Dynamite 7 (4 episodes OVA)
      Macross Zer0 (5 episodes OVA) Best CGI dogfights ever, all media. Also relevant to a degree to your project — since the Protoculture is involved. This is a prequel to the first series.
      Macross Frontier (25 episodes)

      Gundam

      Mobile Suit Gundam: Original Movie Trilogy (3 films). This is the BEST way to get into the franchise (especially academically). The films are also superb, and for me they represent the apotheosis of “real” robot anime (where robots are military machines as opposed to “super” robot anime e.g. Mazinger Z where the robots are superheroesile).
      Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (12 episode OVA). Not very important for your project, but amazing.
      Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (6 episode OVA). Not very important for your project, but transcendent.
      Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (11 episode OVA). Not very important for your project, but sets up the major TV series that comes next in the in-universe chronology (this show is also amazing robot action, and my favorite among the older shows in this regard).
      Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (50 episodes). Do not watch the movie editions. They suck. Amazing TV series. Relevant to you? Yes. This is great, great stuff.
      Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam (50 episodes). DO NOT WATCH THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I hate this show. It is the shittiest shit ever shat out of a butt.
      Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (film) Relevant. Also “ends” the saga.

      The above list of Gundam shows are from the main continuity or, the “Universal Century” (UC). The Alternate Universe shows can be relevant, Gundam 00 being rather relevant especially in the 2nd season and the film (but the show itself is rather awful).

      This should be of significant use to you. It should take you at least a year to leisurely go through all that. Good luck.

  13. shumbapumba says:

    Haha I didn’t mean do a reading on the entirety (might be a bit ambitious at this stage of my blogging life), perhaps just explore the instrumentality of Eva through D&G – or at least start there and see where it takes me. I was more interested in picking your brain in terms of what you recommend in terms of the Gundam and Macross franchise for my own leisure. Thank you for your comprehensive list. In terms of Gundam, I have seen Stardust Memory and 08th MS Team – enjoyed them both – and in terms of Macross, I have seen Plus and am a little familiar with ‘Robotech’. Besides the cheesey dubbing of Robotech, has the show been butchered like Do You Remember Love? was with Clash of the Bionoids? I bought the Robotech box set on DVD a while ago – haven’t watched it yet – assuming there would be a sub option, but alas, I was wrong – you should never assume, right?

    • Oh ok. I’ve listed these shows in the in-universe chronology style. This would be the best way to go about watching them. Start with the first offerings, that’s really the way to go.

      Robotech differs significantly, and you shouldn’t confuse them. I’m not a RT hater, though I obviously prefer the source material. Watch Macross.

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  15. Jethro Lubas says:

    Since all SEELE wanted was the evolution of man, Won’t Amuro Ray and Setsuna Fuck. Seiei be enough to not require 3rd impact at all? and can’t setsuna use 00 Qan(t) to communicate with the angels and use VEDA to explain the situations and human life to them, just like how Kaworu learned through his interactions with Shinji? i clearly see how a crossover would occur, another peace FUCKING flower!

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  17. flayjunior18 says:

    after reading this part:


    What I find interesting is how the villainy in both Macross and Gundam is rather simple, and is in keeping with cartoon character kind of villainy: an evil genius who would be overlord of the world. Evangelion’s SEELE enjoys far more nuance and ambiguity. Its aims have the semblance of nobility. After all, the end point is the elimination of the self. If they succeed (and in some ways they really do), it is the triumph of selflessness itself. The wishes of one can no longer supersede those of others. There will be no more others. The villain in the form of Gendo Ikari, actually stands as an obstacle – manipulating SEELE and everyone else for his own ends. Gendo represents the very concept of what Instrumentality will remove forever.”
    decided not to read more of your post, I mean you claim all the topics covered in earlier in Gundam, Macross and etc … are childish and for kids, but what is shown evangelion adult and intellectual people?

    I’ve always fallen ill the fan and fanboy of Evangelion, and this reinforces my theory about them … thank goodness it’s just a personal analysis written by a common one because if this were “official” Eva increase my disgust over what and this …

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