As a human being I put a lot of value at the very notion of possibility. It is to me, what causes action in my life. Possibility is that external thing that one/I choose to act on, that drives me forward to accomplish things. When Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn chose to use the rhetoric of possibility, I was drawn in like no other fan can possibly be drawn in.
Five episodes in, I’ve seen the possibility become real. It is my stand that the Universal Century is, and has always been, the best setting to tell the Gundam narrative. It is my stand that the original Mobile Suit Gundam is the apotheosis of “war is hell” as a theme, and now it is my stand that Mobile Suit Unicorn is the apotheosis of that tension wherein the appeal for peace exists within the pilot of the most destructive weapon in the narrative. It does this better than any other attempt so far, and it begins with the purposeful use of language.
Gundam Unicorn is the Beast of Possibility. In this post I will talk about what I thought was possible, but has since become real.
When I first started watching Gundam, my attitude is similar to many fans who can be described as “realfags” or “08th MS Team or bust.” I had a violently negative attitude to the presence of magic elements in what I wanted to be a very grounded, down-to-earth, gunpowder and bullet casings kind of military robot show. While I’ve warmed up to the idea of Newtypes by my second viewing of Char’s Counterattack, it was this show and especially this episode that really brought it home for me.
Gundam is spiritually (figuratively) tethered to Star Wars, both in terms of its light saber-wielding giant robots, and its Jedi Newtypes. This is the reality of Gundam that I had to accept. Unicorn made it easier, and lovely even. I never held Jedi magic against Star Wars, and this is the attitude I’ve brought into appreciating Gundam.
The Fetishization of Mobile Suit Warfare
Except for magic elements that I intended to cover when I discuss Newtypes, the combat element of this show is the best contemporary anime can provide; mostly free from the annoying habits that have plagued the tradition of robot shows from the 70s up to present. It’s not as novel as say, Broken Blade; it’s not as dynamically fast as Macross Frontier, but it is the the best as it comes in real-robot anime: land, sea, air, space, fixed installations, urban, beach head, capital ships, asteroid fortress; you name it – this show featured it in a consistently superb manner.
It must be said how this show so effectively brings back and makes highlight reel performances for older, obscure mobile suits and mobile armors. In episode 04 we saw Kapools in proper action, we saw a Byalant cause utmost terror and rack Ace-pilot kill counts. In episode 05 we saw Angelo Sauper bring back the Humma Humma from ZZ Gundam hell and destroy something like a dozen mobile suits, including Mass-production transformable Z-plus mobile suits. Unicorn shows how these suits really fought, using superior direction and production values. This is robot anime heaven.
Or, at least Bright Noa. It’s amazing how I actually think that some of Bright Noa’s finest moments occurred in the previous 2 episodes of Unicron. Some of it, wordless scenes… like when he stood up just as Banagher transformed the Unicorn into Gundam. That scene was masterfully directed. Bright didn’t have to say anything. But when he had to say something, he made it count.
Bright counseled Banagher Links, who told him he was no soldier, and this allowed him to view the conflict with unconflicted eyes. He did not see people in terms of the friend/enemy binary, but at the same time, he thought little of his own power. This is when Bright stood taller than any figure in the life of any teenage pilot. Banagher said he was just lucky, he lucked into becoming the pilot of the Gundam. Bright told him that this is the case with every boy who piloted a Gundam. He told him that he believed that the Gundam chose him too. Now, I just finished rewatching ALL of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in one day last Saturday – and Lord Genome help me if that show isn’t inspiring in a manly way. Still, I found Bright’s understated pep-talk to be every bit as effective as any of Kamina’s blustery epic manly speeches.
The best part was how Bright just had to, had to talk to Amuro’s photo in his office after he coordinated one of the most convoluted plans in robot anime. While I know the novel Hathaway’s Flash exists, but this anime completed Bright, the same way it’s completing the Universal Century, theme by theme, suit by mobile suit.
And this is the purpose of this show, the 30th Anniversary OVA offering for the great franchise. It completes the Universal Century, the saga so many of us Gundam fans truly love. It completes it by making us remember, and by taking the story into its inevitable end. For we know the Zeon will be gone, and without the Zeon, the Universal Century, and Gundam, just isn’t the same.
Posts on Gundam Unicorn Episode 05:
- The Purpose of Possibility: What Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Does for the Universal Century Narrative (Post One of Three) [You are reading this]
- When Fighting Isn’t Combat: Banagher Links Continues to Evangelize From The Cockpit While The Rest of The Show Provides The Actual Action (Post Two of Three)
- The Most Complicated of Set Pieces: The Battle of The Stratosphere (Post Three of Three)