There are two things that Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn is very good at: mecha battles, and quiet moments of conversation. I’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink over the former, and a bit on the latter. What these quiet moments of conversation do in the big scheme of the Universal Century is serve an editorial on history.
In all installments of the Universal Century, all the characters are very much living in their moment of history. Big things are happening and are yet to happen and the characters are right in the middle of it. If we get commentary on big events, they come in big speeches like Quattro Bajeena in Dakar (Mobile Suit Z Gundam); worse, lectures from the cockpit during battles like from Anavel Gato (Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory).
While there are quiet, but electric moments throughout the saga (Char and Amuro, having whiskey in Zeta), again they are very much in the thick of history – enriching their personal mythologies rather than offering an editorial on the same history. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, happening after the “end of history” allows for this. It has a number of ways (from the people behind the big events explaining things to their children, to dinner table discussion), but it’s this conversation between unlikely veterans in episode 04 that evoke such strong feelings.
Not much was really said, but there was a deep reservoir of feeling that affected me greatly. It was a duel of gestures, of kindness and dignity. What more could be the starkest of contrasts with everything else that we see in the Universal Century?
You will pay for this.
For now you will not have the grace to accept gifts
Because the Princess of the Spacenoids
In exile, must be a giver of gifts.
The bills you leave under the coffee cup and saucer
Hardly match the value of this conversation.
The free man, with a free mind, a free tongue gives freely
His sentiments spanning three wars
Encompassing all of your life, dear princess.
You pray the money does not insult him.
Be assured, that this man who has faced the guns of Zeon
Will not be affronted with their money
Given in good faith,
Even if only a token of appreciation
For some of the best coffee and conversation
The Princess of Space ever had on Earth.