When I was still a Gundam skeptic, I could not get why Bright Noa had such a good reputation among mecha anime fans, if not general anime fans who had the sense to see and enjoy Universal Century Gundam shows. I really did not see anything exceptional in his actions as a commander, no tactical genius; just a warm body who happened to hit people under his command—without being a bully, and hit on people under his command—without being a creep.
Years later I really think I do get why Bright is special, or at least, can articulate to myself why I think he’s the way he is and why he can fascinate. I’ll get the obvious out of the way: He brought the hammer down on Amuro when the lead character was being a whiny punkass wuss. That was satisfying. To this day we wish the kind of justice Bright Noa brings to every whiny lead character in anime.
With that out of the way, let’s examine the Captain of all the mother ships that carried the Gundams into battle.
Would Bright Noa have done a better job than Bruno Global if he were the Captain of the Macross?
While the Macross was a bigger job which involved a lot of logistics, administration, governance and alien diplomacy, I think it’s really just a blown-up White Base, with a much larger refugee count. Still, I can only speculate on Bright being a macro-leader, to think that he’d have to be the de facto leader of humanity after Space War I.
From a purely military perspective, I don’t see him having that much more of a tough time compared to Global. Hikaru would have to watch out though, because Mirai is nowhere near the hotness and awesomeness that is Misa.
Would Bright Noa have done a better job than Lafiel Abriel if he were the Captain of the Basroil?
I think yes. This is not to say that Lafiel has done poorly, but only that there’s nothing that tells me that Bright would struggle in the situations the Basroil was put in. The White Base was mostly a ship on the run, but it did perform attack roles in Solomon and A Baoa Qu. The Nahel Argama single handedly took on Neo Zeon, but fuck ZZ Gundam. Bright in that show is all about chicken.
Would Bright Noa have done a better job than Okita Juzo/Kodai Susumu if he were the Captain of the Yamato?
I think Bright would’ve done better than Okita from a military standpoint simply by not getting sick. He would then be wholly in his element having an ace pilot in Kodai to command. I think Bright would’ve done well in the Yamato. Unless he gets sucked into a power-struggle/rivalry with the likes of Kodai who would be his age or older. But if we’re talking about Londo Bell era Bright than it would be no problem I think.
Would Bright Noa have done a better job than Holland Novak if he were the Captain of the Gekko-go?
Yes, if Holland would remain on the ship as its ace pilot. This would be a great job for Bright, who emerged from having to Captain a ship of fools (Nahel Argama) to do his best work as the Captain of the Ra Caillum during the Second Neo Zeon war. Without Holland, Charles and Ray Beams would kill Bright, Eureka, and all of them.
Holland would own Bright though in the Talho Yuki sweepstakes. Remember Sleggar Law had to die before Bright could escape his faux-NTR situation.
Would Bright Noa have done a better job than Misumaru Yurika if her were Captain of the Nadesico?
Yes. It wouldn’t be half as funny though, because fuck ZZ Gundam.
Would Bright Noa have done a better job than Yang Wenli?
He’d probably make for a good Dusty Attenborough, or maybe Ulrich Keßler… maybe. He’s clearly no Sigfried Kircheis though, to use someone of comparable age.
Why is Bright Noa such a legend within the Universal Century?
He gets credit for leading the Gundams into battle, and this makes a difference after the First and Second Neo-Zeon wars. After the OYW Bright got zero respect. Who could forget how the assholes like Bask Om and Jamaican Danningham beat the shit out of Bright out of pure bullying bullshit in Z Gundam?
Bright was down on himself because he was a Captain with a sunken ship, who didn’t go down with his own ship. He got his crew out alive and I think that’s a bigger achievement despite plunging into A Baoa Qu itself. But when he met Lt. Quattro Bajeena for the first time, it was Quattro who clearly had the respect for him. Which brings me to this thing I noticed:
In the Universal Century, Bright Noa’s biggest fan is none other than Char Aznable himself. In the first half of Z Gundam you see Quattro give everyone, everyone who was a veteran of the White Base a ton of respect (Hayato Kobayashi, even Kai Shiden, and fuck it… Katz “The Man” Kobayashi). Char was more than happy to launch out of the Argama commanded by Bright. This was a delightful partnership to watch, and is one of the many satisfying things about Z Gundam.
You’ll see this again in CCA, when Char realizes that his plans were becoming undone, he’s the first to credit “That Bright Noa” for the effective countermeasure. Char Aznable was the device (an powerful one given his role and stature) to give Bright a favorable, and legendary reputation within the Universal Century and especially in the eyes of the viewer.
In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Bright finds himself being tasked to capture the Gundam, or destroy if he can’t. He wonders at the honor, which I find strange given the success of Londo Bell in stopping Char. I’d think that was pretty significant, stopping Char meant stopping the Axis asteroid from destroying the Earth. But Bright seems both not promoted and at the same time highly regarded. Where does the EFSF get their commanders?
So what did Bright do in this episode? Nothing truly noteworthy. He puts Riddhe in his place, without having to slap him. But otherwise, he did what he pretty much always did – deployed the mobile suit squad to the field. Instead of being a tactical commander he is often a manager of personalities in the history of the UC. In this I find him comparable to the most victorious Head Coach of the National Basketball Association’s history: Phil Jackson.
Phil won 11 championships as a head coach, a staggering achievement. A big part of thhis result is how he had the greatest players of not only their era (Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal), but he had one that was the greatest player ever—Michael Jordan.
Bright had the Gundams, with pilots like Kamille Bidan, “The One, The Only” Judau Fucking Ashta, and Amuro Ray himself. He had the best mobile suits and the best pilots relative to their competition (hard as it is to think of enemies who sucked worse than Beecha Oleg, Elle Viano, and Roux Luka, but seriously, fuck ZZ Gundam). Bright was enough of a stabilizing force for the young stars that they were able to get the job done.
Char himself flew out from his command, like he did under no other. This is really what makes Bright bright.
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 04 Post Series