Char, I am Disappoint: Revelations of a 3rd Viewing of Char’s Counterattack

gundam char's counterattack char aznable

I think Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack is an exceedingly important movie in that every time I view it, my opinion of something I had thought to be fundamental to the Gundam franchise changes. The first time I watched it (2008) I was a skeptical non-fan of the franchise as a whole, and was intensely disappointed by what I thought was an unnecessary distraction to the whole narrative: the Quess Paraya sub-plot. I took this as an indicator of the weak, or silly plot craft of Tomino’s parts in the franchise as a whole.

I had seen it again last year, and by that time I was already won over by Gundam by and large. The significant change after this viewing was my attitude towards the Newtype conceit, and its close affinity with deux ex machina habits to end shows. I had accepted that this was fundamental to Gundam, and if I can’t get past my dislike for these, I will not be able to enjoy the franchise as much as I intended.

This would be such a waste, and would be inconsistent with my actual feelings of intense enjoyment of many of the shows. A big part of my enjoyment of the Universal Century is the very idea that it is the narrative milieu where Char Aznable did his deeds. Even during my most skeptical days, I had never not liked Char.

gundam char's counterattack char aznable hiroyuki kitazume art

Yes, he was smooth and had incredible charisma – but these are superficialities to what I find so fascinating about him. For the most part, I agree with Iknight’s reading, wherein he compared the circa CCA Char to the Anti-Spirals of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:

The Anti-Spirals are not villainous; they are a dedicated and hard-working group who have sacrificed pretty much anything a human can sacrifice in order to protect the universe from destruction. Their resolve and integrity are unquestionable, which is why it takes an equally resolved set of heroes to defeat them. The Anti-Spirals are a pretty admirable bunch, in a funny kind of way. I term their unswerving (and wierdly selfless) integrity purity of purpose; they may be wrong, but you can’t call them hypocrites or simple powermongers.

Char Aznable, by the time of his Counter Attack, shares the Anti-Spirals’ pessimistic picture of human nature. He and Amuro agree that humanity has to colonise space in order to further their evolution into something less prone to war,¹ but Char feels that humans need some encouragement. Encouragement in the form of a giant rock crashing into the Earth and rendering it uninhabitable (this is anime, after all).² Amuro is prepared to, as he puts it, ‘wait for humanity to learn and grow’ and – just like the Anti Spirals puzzling over Simon’s continuing resistance – Char can’t understand Amuro’s faith in humanity

But Char, who (as I read him) has always operated on the basis that the ends justify the means, proceeds unwaveringly towards his goal. Again, not a self-interested antagonist, grasping for power, but a man marching onwards with the absolute conviction that he is correct. Neither Char nor the Anti-Spiral represent some dramatic revolution in storytelling, but they are both very well-executed examples of the villain who can oppose the hero while keeping his own integrity intact. I, for one, find this kind of opponent builds up the hero, too: it’s one thing to physically defeat your opponent, and quite another to challenge their whole view of the situation – and perhaps it’s most satisfying for the hero to do both.

All very interesting, because what this 3rd rewatch gives me is the opposite of this reading!

Perhaps, I should say that the second half of the film gives me the opposite of this reading. The first half of CCA set Char up to be this powerful and charismatic ideologist, who only so happens to find a scorched-earth strategy acceptable.

gundam char's counterattack sazabi jagd-doga alpha azieru nu gundam

In the second half, the closer Char seemed to the resolution of all his plans, the more outright lies he told people: his allies! He lied to Gyunei about his interest in Quess, and lied to Quess about loving her back (“I’ll forget about Lalah and Nanai” LMAO), and lied to Nanai as well (“I need you here with me” I never thought for a moment that Char loved Nanai).  It’s interesting that what he told Gyunei is actually truthful in its twisted way: that he cared nothing about Quess and was really only interested in Neo-Zeon and defeating Amuro.

However, I don’t even fully accept his interest in Neo-Zeon. His suicidal bent at this point tells me that he doesn’t see himself transitioning humans into a post-Earth world; ergo, it doesn’t matter so much if Neo Zeon leads it. As it is, there isn’t a level of succession within it to ensure any form of a sustainable future. Neo-Zeon remains a cult of personality. He just wants to make sure that a post-Earth world happens. As we eventually find out, there isn’t much of a Neo-Zeon without Char.

gundam char's counterattack poster char amuro

The final confrontation between Char and Amuro is characterized by Char wanting to face the best possible version of his nemesis. Consider his actions:

  • He leaked the Psycoframe technology to the scattered Anaheim Electronics organization, which in turn allowed Amuro’s Nu-Gundam to perform that which ultimately foiled all Char’s plans.
  • When faced with the opportunity to destroy an unmanned Nu-Gundam, he instead dismounted from his own mobile suit to fight Amuro ‘on foot’ inside the Axis asteroid.

Char had his death wish. He ensured Amuro would get god mode levels of ability. While Char faced stronger suits at clear disadvantages (see the finale of Z Gundam, when he faced both Paptimus Scirocco’s The O, and Haman Karn’s Qubeley with his inferior and damaged Hyaku-Shiki at once), Amuro in the Nu-Gundam is on another level of ability. Amuro was simply untouchable in CCA, in one of the best if not the best performance of an ace pilot in Universal Century Gundam.

  • He criticized Amuro for being no more than a pilot, never doing more to change history except by fighting in a mobile suit. While this is indeed correct, it isn’t a very powerful criticism especially given how Amuro did save the Earth by himself.
  • He lashed out to Amuro about Lalah. Never mind Char’s weird reasons, what’s important here to note is how he never got past that event. This final confrontation undermined the touching moments in the end of Z Gundam 37 (The Day of Dakar), where Amuro gave Char confidence in sacrificing his personal freedom for the good of humanity over glasses of whiskey.

The feeling the final moments between Amuro and Char gave me is how Char revealed himself to be such a small human being. This wasn’t the hero (who is willing to be hated by history to do what he believed was best for the future of all) that the first half of the movie set up. This wasn’t the hero that fought valiantly during the entirety of the Gryps conflict (and on the side of the Angels too!). This was more like the revenge-driven slickster that did more than significant things to undermine The Principality of Zeon in the OYW.

gundam char aznable acguy

Only now, his smoothness is marred by something in the province of pathetic. While it was easy enough to root for him as he took out Kycilla Zabi in A Baoa Qu with a bazooka, it’s disappointing to watch him lie to Quess and Gyunei, and how he led Nanai on.

I imagine myself to be one of the Neo-Zeon mobile suit pilots who attempted to push back the rear half of the Axis asteroid along with the Feddies, when they perhaps figured out that Char was already gone. I mean, why would they do that at all? I interpret this as Char not revealing how he really intends to accomplish his ends to the front line. It’d be similar to how Anavel Gato despite being an officer was kept in the dark about the actual strategy and plan of Operation Stardust in Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory.

There were Neo-Zeon soldiers who didn’t think scorching the Earth was an acceptable strategy. Char wasn’t truthful to them as well. Char lied to everyone anyway. What I find remarkable and fascinatingly disappointing is how Char lies were. They weren’t great lies, they were small, petty, and manipulative things. They were lies of someone who perhaps felt close to the end, who was certain of death, and just stopped caring.

gundam char's counterattack geara doga helps with axis

Char made everyone think that he was the one to change history, on both sides of the conflict. Blex believed in him, Amuro did too for a time; Bright and Sayla did as well, and Haman Karn gave him every opportunity to create a new world with her.

The thing is, Char wasn’t even selling anything. He never did, until Blex started filling his head with a sense of importance. In the One Year War Char just wanted revenge against the Zabis for killing his father. In CCA, beneath all this world-destroying for world-building theater, Char just wanted to beat Amuro on his own terms and die trying. Why? Revenge for Lalah – who Amuro didn’t murder: she sacrificed herself to save Char. Char’s just angry and hates himself and irresponsibly dragged so many people down.

It’s his soul that’s weighed down by the gravity of his own hatred.

Liking Char this much, is what I would call an authentic guilty pleasure. I attempted to describe here how my latest rewatch of Char’s Counterattack revealed to me how incredibly small a person this character was – not ended up being; he was this small and petty man the whole time. The guilt is for my incredible fascination for him, akin to my fascination for other anime ‘villains’ though outside of Macross characters, I still hold Char as my favorite character in all anime.

Further Reading

Char is fighting for our prayers (Charz 2008/03/16)
Pure Purpose in the Anti-Spiral’s Counterattack (Iknight 2008/03/18)
A similar guilty pleasure is my fascination for Ikari Gendo of Neon Genesis Evangelion [->]
My initial attitude towards CCA is rather unforgiving [->]
But I sure warmed up to it later on! [->]

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, Gundam, showing a bit of character and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

70 Responses to Char, I am Disappoint: Revelations of a 3rd Viewing of Char’s Counterattack

  1. miki_sei says:

    Though Char has always been one of my favorite characters in all of anime (and nothing’s gonna change that), I’ve never thought of him the way that you’ve presented him here. I’m always impressed by your ability to show my favorite characters and episodes to me from a different angle.

    • Thank you. I really like people and my interest in them translates to a very involved approach to fictional characters.

      I feel very much the same way. Nothing’s going to change my stupid love for Char… as my favoring fictional characters isn’t predicated by whether I’ll trust them with my life savings, or with a guarded personal secret.

  2. I see what you’re getting at, but I still take something closer Iknight’s view. Char didn’t put anything in place as far as continuing the leadership of Neo Zeon, but he didn’t need to. Leading humanity in terms of governance wasn’t what Neo Zeon was about, though I’m sure plenty of his underlings wanted to seize power in a post-Axis drop world. There are two parts to Neo Zeon in my view, and it’s important to keep them in mind and separate to view his actions. There’s Neo Zeon the philosophy and Neo Zeon the organization. The whole movement was about propelling humanity forward by any means necessary. As such, all the organization had to do was facilitate actions that would accomplish the goals of the philosophy. Dropping Axis and forcing humanity to abandon Earth while the planet was uninhabitable for a century or two was the major, final way to push humanity to expand and live in space. Thus humanity would change in the manner that Char and the Neo Zeon philosophy wanted. The organization of Neo Zeon made up of fleets, bases, personnel, governing structures and mobile suits was just a tool for realizing the philosophy, and its existence was unimportant after Axis was to be dropped. In a way Char (and Zeon Zum Daikun) trusted humanity to develop and evolve on their own provided that they left Earth behind. So they didn’t take the complete Anti-Spiral view that Iknight wrote of, they just weren’t as optimistic as Amuro or the Dai Gurren-dan.

    You can fault Char for wanting to have a last duel with Amuro when he was in the midst of carrying out Neo Zeon’s ultimate and final act, but I felt that manipulating those around him was just his way of executing a ‘higher goal.’ He wasn’t a flawless idealist since he included his plan to carry out the final duel, but I’d still say that he was an idealist and possessed with the ends justify the means mentality of the fanatic he had become. Most of his actions revolved around that, he just couldn’t let go of one last remnant of Char Aznable the man to completely become Char the Saviour. His integrity was not totally compromised by that, and in my final analysis he still had a lot of integrity at the end. Not, you know, the kind of integrity I respect because he was being forthright about murdering billions of people, but it’s still integrity. He still meant what he said regarding Neo Zeon, just with one instance of failing his ideals to pursue a vendetta.

    • Instead of wanting to insist that you’re wrong, I actually take comfort that there are people who intently believe in Char, or at least see him in the light you see him in.

      From the bottom of my heart I want to see him as the hero. Amuro I grudgingly respect (and respect him I do, he was a God of space combat in this film!), Char I grudgingly condemn.

      I never really want to let go of the man who gave the speech in Dakar, the man who Blex entrusted the future of the Earth Sphere, the man who Amuro believed in, the man that Haman admired, the man that Lalah… ok I should really stop~

      he was being forthright about murdering billions of people, but it’s still integrity.

      Indeed this is a kind of integrity, he was doing what he said he was going to do. His word and deed, at least with Amuro at their (almost) most intimate level, was one and the same. However, in all other aspects of his life his integrity was shot.

      The whole business with Lalah, for instance… it’s hard to see Char be in integrity about this hang-up. He never confronted what really happened, and instead chose to hate Amuro despite a willful avoidance of the truth.

  3. Gorilla says:

    I see Char as a deeply flawed character who sticked to his beliefs and tried to realise his fathers and his ideals, while pursuing his personal goals and confronting his inner demons (he sura has a lot of them). Did he put his personal agenda over “the greater good” as he saw it? In the end he did. That’s true to the core of the UC Gundam. My personal interpretetion of the message of UC Gundam is that: People will always fight and commit atrocities when in war. A change in the human nature is required to stop this, an evolution (Newtypes).
    Char wanted to help that evolution but he failed because he was still by bound “by his own gravity” and couldn’t evolve. That’s really depressing when you think about it.

    I know my interpretation isn’t the best one and I don’t really believe that we humans have to evolve literally to change things, but it works for me at least, unless Gundam Unicorn presents new themes and new information about Universal Century.

    Great post on one of my favourite characters. You really are on your best when you write about Gundam or Macross!

    (Sorry for my bad english and for not elaborating more. My reading comprehension in english is perfect but my writing skills suck)

    • Thank you for your generous compliments.

      That’s an interesting interpretation of the Newtype as the evolutionary solution of the pettiness of humans, the smallness of their souls, weighed down, as they say, by the Earth’s gravity.

      As Cardeas Vist said in Gundam Unicorn, the Newtype ability is the that which allows people to communicate through the vastness of space (without misunderstanding and the conflict that arises from such).

      In light of this view, Char’s failures are indeed sad. I really feel sorrowful for his undoing. His was a power and talent that had vision, but is undone by a greater talent — who had no overarching vision of his own. Amuro was the perfect, perfect tragic foil for Char:

      A small man with a big heart defeats the big man with big dreams and the smallest of hearts.

      This post is my way, I suppose of making peace with who Char ended up being. I can continue favoring him above so many fictional characters with eyes open, with a love that’s free that frees Char in turn, to be himself.

  4. Vendredi says:

    I’ve always taken this reading of Char that you present here, rather than IKnight’s position: Char as a nihilist with a death wish – perhaps a noble nihilist, but ultimately trapped by despair, obsessed with revenge, and driven to extremes by pessimism over the human condition.

    I must admit, the reading is perhaps influenced by cross pollination from the other “masked men” of Gundam – Char is the noblest and the brightest of the lot, maybe, but all of the Masked Men in the Earth vs. Spacenoid timelines – Mr. Bushido, Rau Le Creuset, Zechs Merquise, and so on are characters who’s primary motivation is revenge (alas, I can make no comment on G Gundam or Turn A yet).

    It is the one consistency that defines them as much as the presence of the mask – the mask itself is a physical metaphor for that brittle, external facade of chivalry they keep. It’s notable that the breaking of the mask, when it does happen, always signals a significant shift in the direction of the character.

    Personally I’ve always found the masked men a big draw for me in the various Gundam series, ever since Zechs in Gundam – an opposing “black knight” in the Arthurian model to the ideals of the protagonist, and they always end up my favourite characters within their respective series. The fact that they pilot wonderfully designed mechs (which are aesthetically a lot more pleasing than the plain Gundams) doesn’t hurt, either.

    • Robert Weizer says:

      Turn A and G Gundam don’t have Masked Men in the vein of Char, Zechs, Chronicle (wait, does he even count?), etc etc. Turn A has Harry Ord, who is freaking awesome and part of the reason I’m picking Turn A back up after I clear out a show that isn’t Wing or G Gundam (my anime watching’s a bit flowcharty). G Gundam has Schwarz, who is a German Ninja.

    • An interesting path to the truths you hold about Char.

      Here are some things for you to think about:

      Graham Acker is really more Jerid Messa than Char Aznable. The thing that eats him up the most is defeating the Gundam, just as Jerid hitched his star to that wagon. Char is obviously far more than a Gundam hater, though Mr. Bushido’s insistence that Setsuna always be at his most powerful is consistent with Char wanting the Nu Gundam to be the best weapon in Amuro’s hands.

      I have little sympathy for Wing, but I heard this from Gattai’s (fansub group) AzraelNewtype: “Zechs basically went from 0079 Char to CCA Char in the course of a year.”

      G Gundam’s Schwarz Bruder isn’t a Char clone the way the others are, he’s no way at all (but yes, he is a masked German ninja LOL). Harry Ord seems to me the kind of Char that Haman wanted to see beside Mineva Zabi. Harry Ord is unlike any of the Chars, and he is really awesome.

  5. As scathing a review of Char’s actions as I’ve heard. I always try to understand the reader’s side of a commentary, and it isn’t hard when it comes to Char. I never really “drank the Kool-Aid” when it came to Char’s legacy. I can break down Char three ways. In the One Year War, he was dark and brilliant and driven by an almost singular purpose. In the Gryps conflict he was unsure, humble and full of untapped promise. And finally in Char’s Counterattack he was very much just as you say.

    The fact that the Char in Zeta Gundam is my favorite version of him is just another one of my many unpopular choices. I saw the good and the hope in Char in that series. He came across as more human in that series than in the others.

    For me, seeing Char as he was in CCA was an intensely sad thing. Anyone who saw the events of Gryps or even some of the atrocities of ZZ Gundam should be able to see how badly and directly it tainted his character. Before there was anger, in CCA it was pure hate and contempt. Maybe that’s why I sympathized with him. In a way, I believed he was right. Look at the later UC series and you see the same horrors repeat. Bright and Amuro didn’t solve anything, they just delayed the events. Char can’t be called a hero for attempting to slaughter so many innocents, but the maintenance of the status quo only led to the eventual rise of more conflict. The Federation is one of the worst fictional governments I have ever seen. Part of me wonders how Amuro could live with that.

    • Robert Weizer says:

      The first rule of governments in Science Fiction (in my mind) is that mega-governments are flawed to a small or large degree. The Federation in UC Gundam is a fairly large example (see: Titans dohohoho~). An example of more localized flaws would be, say, Firefly/Serenity.

      CCA Char is my least favorite. One of the reasons I kept renting Zeta from Netflix back in the day was because of good ‘ol Quattro Vagina (oh you, Engrish).

    • The fact that the Char in Zeta Gundam is my favorite version of him is just another one of my many unpopular choices. I saw the good and the hope in Char in that series. He came across as more human in that series than in the others.

      Why is this unpopular? I thought Quattro was rather very popular.

      You’re right in that Bright and Amuro failed to change things in a profound way… their actions can sometimes feel like kleenex to wipe off the Tears of Time in the Universal Century.

      But the thing is, what they did was unquestionably good. When is it ever going to be right to allow Char to smack the Earth with the Axis asteroid?

      • Well, I just meant that in my experience I’ve talked to alot of Gundam fans that preferred the original Red Comet. That’s all. I didn’t mean to imply that he was totally unpopular, just that the original was more so.

        • It is true that many prefer the ‘villainous’ Red Comet of the OYW.

          Think about this though: in the OYW Casval hid himself behind a name and a mask, in the Gryps conflict he stopped wearing a mask but put on another name to hide his first fake name… and his Counterattack he shed that name and the mask entirely, but behaved in the most untruthful manner in his entire life of falsehood.

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  7. schneider says:

    Ah, CCA Char. When I first forayed into UC Gundam, CCA was one of my first stops. I was fascinated with the character of Char, and I wanted to consume it in the shortest, most succinct way possible.

    Imagine my disappointment. The movie showed a great deal of Char’s greatness alright–his personal magnetism, piloting skills, and what seemed to me as untarnished ideals of how humanity should move forth, extreme measures and all.

    However, it seemed that Tomino himself was holding Char back. No, he actually degenerated Char. The title of the movie is Char’s Counterattack. Char was to launch a counterattack… aimed at whom? Or what?

    It wasn’t the Federation or the Earth that Tomino wanted Char to fight. It was Amuro–the movie is structured so that Char can have his final go at Amuro, in the backdrop of a war he started. The tragic thing is that Tomino could have easily written CCA in such a way that Char’s main purpose was to drop Axis on Earth, Amuro being just another unwanted thorn in his side. But no, he had to encase Char in myopia and have him make concessions just to allow Amuro to engage him on equal footing.

    It’s common sense. If you really wanted to achieve something, you don’t give your enemy legroom in order to trounce you.

    I found it hard to like Char when his ego was ridiculously bloated like this. He started the ball rolling, but stopped caring midway, playing around with Quess instead of, you know, commanding an army. And for all his coolness in the first half of the movie, he is utterly trounced by Amuro in what is the greatest mobile suit bar brawl in all of Gundam. WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??

    And Lalah… that is the worst cheap shot ever.

    I can understand all this, but seeing how Char had been screwed up in Zeta, I’d think he would be smarter, more resolute (in the sense of ensuring that you succeed with what you want). But I can’t accept this self-destructive behavior of his. There’s a reason why in Super Robot Wars, we usually have Quattro to play with, not CCA Char.

    However, that takes nothing away from my fascination with the original masked man. He was truly at his worst in CCA, but it was still a grand film that concluded a great rivalry in a satisfying way. I could turn a blind eye to his failures, and look at the man with admiration, his fatal flaws and all.

    • it was still a grand film that concluded a great rivalry in a satisfying way.

      I used to think the opposite, but now I’m totally with you. In some ways it’s really okay to see Char fall apart like that. It’s amazing how for the most part he really felt he was fighting Amuro at an advantage, or at least on equal terms… but Amuro just really owned him. It was a humiliating defeat, and then Char does himself no favors by flaming Amuro. It’s unbecoming of him, and this embarrassment perhaps is the best epitaph of his fall.

  8. Shance says:

    Oh god this just made my Char itch worse.

    The way Char was presented in CCA is probably the most extreme. He’s the ultimate Newtype Pinocchio, lying his way to everything and everyone, just to get the ending he wanted, and defeating Amuro along the way. Everything the he is or he may be was not justified like the ending of the movie itself.

    Then again, do words from a mechafag who watches the Universal Century backwards matter?

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  10. Strange. That’s about the same take I had on him during my last viewing. I think it’s important to block out all other commentary on the man to do with his legendary exploits, charisma etc. and to pay the most attention to what he does and how he does it during the movie. In that simplest of viewpoints you can regularly find the true measure of a man.

    • It’s only easy to find the true measure of a human being — following your methodology, if the person dies soon after. Otherwise, it is very difficult to make such conclusions without putting the whole history into context.

      In the case of Char, his actions in the end have tremendous bearing on all his acts leading up to it, because he is a large presence in the history of the Universal Century.

      Otherwise, it would be easy to ‘get the true measure’ of Bright Noa due to his incompetence during the first war against the Neo Zeon (against Haman and Glemy). Bright’s actions as the leader of Londo Bell to me do much to create his legacy as a great tactical officer, and a good leader of men.

      If you look at Bright’s narrative, Char is his biggest fan (Mirai and Emary aside). Char was his biggest follower and most capable officer during the Gryps conflict, and Char was always generous in acknowledging him in CCA.

      I have no problem imagining an alternate possibility wherein Char won, and Londo Bell died to the last man. In this reality Char would be the best person to deliver Bright’s eulogy.

  11. SignOfZeta says:

    I first saw CCA in…probably 1992. Our copy had no subs and when there was no internet to speak of, and everyone spoke little to no Japanese the movie was…really hard to figure out, honestly. Every viewing would bring new understanding. Maybe not new understanding, but new theories about WTF we thought was going on.

    I’ve since seen it probably a dozen times, at least, and only in the past few years have I really felt that I “got” it. Then there is the novel, and the alternate ending episode of Gundam Evolve, which just blur things even more.

    • I get you man. I am totally aware that I could end up watching this show again years later and have a very different take. But Gundam and stories in general are interesting like that.

      Love your call sign, beyond the hard times…

  12. gwern says:

    > Char, I am Disappoint: Revelations of a 3rd Viewing of Char’s Counterattack

    I’ve not seen it; is this typo deliberate?

  13. Tee-Jay says:

    Fantastic piece man. The first time I watched CCA, I came away thinking everything was brought together simply for Amuro and Char to end their rivalry. Despite the threat of billions of lives being claimed, a spectacular battle and new personalities, everything was secondary to Char’s duel with Amuro.

    It was only a few months ago I realized this was what Tomino wanted but it was Char’s focus too. I questioned Char’s actions in CCA on a forum and came to the conclusion he wasn’t the leader people thought. I expressed while Char had the charisma to lead and seeemed hell-bent on changing humanity, he didn’t appear completely devoted to acheiving his dream in CCA. The lasting image I have of is of him in the escape pod seemingly disinterested in what was going on around him. Is that a leader, a legend?

    Your entry has affirmed beliefs about. You can’t but root for or sympathize with at times over the course of 0079 and Zeta. CCA however, wasn’t his finest hour.

    • Thank you very much. I felt very good writing this post.

      The lasting image I have of is of him in the escape pod seemingly disinterested in what was going on around him. Is that a leader, a legend?

      What a great way of putting it!

      I agree that CCA wasn’t his finest hour, but isn’t it fascinating that it feels like his truest hour? We are confronted with the authentic Char Aznable, and how do we choose to be counted among his fans as a fictional character.

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  18. OvermanXAN says:

    An interesting analysis of Char, and it’s provoked me to consider things more deeply and come to my own conclusion. I think Char truely was the idealist of the first half, but at the same time he was also the selfish individual that you see in the second half.

    Let me start by saying that I can’t be sure of all of this. We don’t know what Char was doing in between Zeta and CCA, and that makes it very hard to figure out his motivation. The Super Robot Wars games tend to suggest that he to a spot in the federation government. Hardly a source for canon, I know, but it’s certainly a believable possibility. Regardless, whatever Char was doing, what he experienced must have shattered his belief that humanity would migrate to space and become newtypes on their own. The rampant corruption he would have encountered in the federation government could easily have been that blow. He must step in and take action.

    And thus we come to the first half of CCA. Char is a charismatic leader, leading the forces of Neo Zeon. He’s successful! He forces the Federation to capitulate! …but in a way that he could only consider to be a failure. The federation government is just as corrupt. Despite presenting a threat to them, despite everything he’s done, he can’t overcome their corruption, can’t make them change.

    Char is left with two options, both of which would, at least in his eyes, force him to compromise his ideals to some extent. Either give up, and just hope that in the future things will work out as he hoped… or do what he decides to do, which will lead humanity into space, but destroy the earth he wants to save. He chooses the latter, but both are, in his eyes, failures. He has failed, and like most people, he’s left considering why. And this brings him, of course, to Lalah. The person who, more than anyone else, he believed capable of bringing his ideals to fruition. But she’s dead. He forgave Amuro during the Gryps conflict. He knows that Amuro wasn’t responsible… but Char at this point is so deep in despair, so desperate to come up with a rationalization form why he’s failed no matter how hard he tries. And so Amuro becomes his scapegoat. He becomes a target for Char to take revenge on, the reason why Char has failed. And we all know how Char gets about revenge. He CANNOT put revenge aside for anything, not for people he cares about, not to do the right thing, nothing. Everything becomes just something to be used to get that revenge. And THAT is why Char does what he does. Not because he never actually held those ideals, but because he’s fallen so far into despair of ever achieving them that he falls back onto old certainties. It’s no excuse for what he does afterwords, but it at least paints a portait that’s slightly more consistant, perhaps?

    • Thank you and for the interesting counterpoint as well.

      The problem I have with this is how he pretty much sabotaged his own chances by leaking the Psychoframe technology so that Amuro will be strong enough to be worth fighting. This had to happen sooner than before he thought his plans would fail. He seriously sabotaged his own chances for success, the whole plan’s chances for success by doing this.

      Furthermore, when he saw the unmanned Nu Gundam, he chooses not to destroy it and instead disembarks to fight Amuro on foot. If he really, truly cared about the mission (and therefore Neo Zeon, Earth and the future of the colonists/humanity) he could’ve just destroyed the Gundam right there, or crippled it so as to eliminate a threat.

      No, he was hung up on Amuro. It was more important than anything.

      In an earlier scene Nanai asks him about this (they were in their night robes), if he was still hung up about Amuro and Lalah. He flat out denied it, that it was nothing. Char was a liar, he knew exactly how it was and what his real plans were.

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  22. Xard says:

    My feelings about Char after first viewing are just about the same

    “Lalah Sune was a woman who may have become a mother to me” was the moment Char died in my eyes as anything else (said LOLTOMINO dialogue exchange also very much killed the mood of the scene for me, I burst out laughing at the line)

    • That is the mother of all soundbites LOL

      • Xard says:

        hahaha yeah. It was really funny, first Amuro and Char were debating idelogies from their cockpits in typical Gundam style and then suddenly it went down the line I COULDN’T BE A FATHER FIGURE FOR QUESS HMM I SEE I GUESS I SHOULD NOW AT THIS VERY MOMENT TO COME TO REALIZATION MY INTEREST IN LALA WAS IN THE END DEEPLY OIDIPAL WHELP out of freaking nowhere. Hysterical. 😀

        In any case I guess for me this reading felt quite obvious from the moment Char starts to “crack down” and show further signs of weakness increasingly often in film’s second half (I’ve avoided all discussion and reviews of CCA in fear of spoilers beforehand so I guess others’s opinions on Char didn’t colour my perception much). Which is not to say I don’t think Char had genuine “end justifies the means” and “good” (not that one can call act like that genuinely good) motives at all in play here, he did, but ultimately it were his personal demons and pettyness that determined the outcome and flow of the finale. Giving Feds better mecha designs, not destroying Nu.Gundam after Amuro abandons it etc. being all telltale signs were his real CRUCIAL interest were.

        My favourite scene from the film might be the train ride when people are singing praise for Char. That this public image of Char was false idol to certain extent just adds to the scene’s attractiveness in my eyes. Wonderful moment.

    • Vahn says:

      Wow. Whenever fans talk about Char, I can’t help but get drawn in!

      Living in Japan and interacting with the Japanese, you come to realize that people often are telling you more through what isn’t being said. Char speaks so frequently about his father and his father’s ideals…but oddly enough, I can’t ever recall him speaking about his mother.

      That comment in CCA, “Lalah Sune was a woman who may have become a mother to me,” left me scratching my head back in the day; it seemed so out of left field. Of course, I could be mistaken, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Char’s CCA comment was Tomino alluding to a character point he didn’t visibly develop. I heard Tomino was born in the prefecture where I currently live. Should I have the fortune of meeting him, I’ll ask him and let you all know. “He may become a father to me.” (chuckles)

  23. Reid says:

    I guess he just wanted his mama. It’s understandable. He’d been through a lot in a short life. He’d killed a lot of people and seen a lot of people killed. He wanted someone to love him unconditionally.

  24. Andaer says:

    I rewatched CCA today (actually my first watching isn’t worth mentioning because it was the first UC title I had watched back then – and of course I was kind of lost). After reading this great interpretation of yours I realized that while you can simply watch it as an entertaining action movie, interpreting Char is what unveils the true value not only of CCA but of the UC in general.

    At first I tended towards Iknight’s interpretation, which may have to do with my fascination of the idea of dropping something huge on earth since I saw Zechs Marquise doing so in Gundam Wing. But I have to admit that this a little to simple because the movie cummulates Char’s weaknesses. It’s also hard to contra your arguments. Now personally, I don’t believe that any kind of “ideology” can be totally right, so I am a man of compromise. So from all these rich comments here it is Gorilla’s which I can agree totally with:

    [i]”I see Char as a deeply flawed character who sticked to his beliefs and tried to realise his fathers and his ideals, while pursuing his personal goals and confronting his inner demons (he sura has a lot of them). Did he put his personal agenda over “the greater good” as he saw it? In the end he did. That’s true to the core of the UC Gundam. My personal interpretetion of the message of UC Gundam is that: People will always fight and commit atrocities when in war. A change in the human nature is required to stop this, an evolution (Newtypes).
    Char wanted to help that evolution but he failed because he was still by bound “by his own gravity” and couldn’t evolve. That’s really depressing when you think about it.”[/i]

    This mother thing about Lalah is something I can’t understand, either. It’s so out of the blue. Don’t like it as Char’s last words.

    There’s another thing that bothers me in CCA. But that doesn’t have to do with Char.

    • Thanks for the kind words and for engaging me in this post. I’m pretty sure I want to watch the show again now that I got a big TV in the living room. It’ll be interesting what new thing I’ll get out of the experience.

      What other thing bothers you about CCA? Is it the mystical flying Letter T(omino) in Space?

      • Andaer says:

        No, it’s not. That “T” is some kind of tool for the psyco-frame. Chan is wearing it on her normal suit and it gets lost in space when she is shot by Hathaway.

        What bothers me is how come that Quess is a (strong) newtype. I mean she has grown up on earth and it is her first time in space. Newtype powers are supposed to arise from living in space.

        • Well, many many people hate Quess for many different reasons. She’s the first like this, but will be eclipsed by Usso Evin in V Gundam.

          • Xard says:

            Quess was messed up, naive and downright foolish teenage girl but in a way surprisingly realistic portrayal. Having now seen CCA and the infamous Paraya I must admit to finding the blinding hate towards her a bit over the board even if understandable (as she does act in very unapprovable ways most of the time). I liked her character in any case, she was interesting.

    • ex951753 says:

      “This mother thing about Lalah is something I can’t understand, either. It’s so out of the blue. Don’t like it as Char’s last words.”

      I think it was a “lost in translation” thing. I think he meant that he was going to marry Lalah, that’s why he hated Amuro for killing her.

      • Matt Wells says:

        The mother line does feel very “Freud for Beginners”. As I understood it, part of the reason Char took Lalah’s death so hard was that he saw her as one of the “True Newtypes” that his father prophecised would appear, people genuinely able to communicate their feelings across the vastness of space.

        Whith the Zabis dead he staked his life on ushering in the age of such people. He saw Kamille as one of them too, which is why many exapnded universe sources pin Kamille’s mental regression as the breaking point for him. All the bright young children who would build a future for humanity were getting killed in pointless wars, or turned into weapons for the agendas of Oldtypes.

        Crushed by the weight of his father’s legacy, his own insecurities and his utter resignation to optimism, he decided to throw it all away in one last stroke of ego, getting his suicidal duel with Amuro and taking the easy way out of fulfilling his dad’s aspirations. His last minute mother complex is still Tomino Writing WTFuckery of the highest order, though. Apparently parental abandonment = lolicon.

  25. banagherlinks says:

    There’s nothing wrong on liking char. I mean, he’s(in my opinion) the pinnacle of those good looking antagonists LOL. Besides, I found his character kinda interesting. I holded him in a much higher regard as a character compared to amuro. I also admired his quattro identity and as a mentor to kamille. Speaking of kamille, I still didn’t like the idea that kamille did not pilot any mobile suit again and decided to become a doctor. I somehow think that kamille would have been also an emotional impact to Char since kamille is his student. Just how obi wan and anakin in Star Wars. Although kamille said that he will only call him as char instead of his alias name, he saved quattro’s ass during the final battle in Z. He can add a subplot or something…. Besides, before the unicorn, CCA was supposed to be the original eulogy of the universal century…. It’s just that char is too guilty to something, giving my two cents, he wishes amuro to (free?) or punish him by asking a deathwish. Maybe char too is exhausted and tired.

  26. banagherlinks says:

    Can someone please explain to me why did Char have this 180 degrees character change? From his Quattro bajeena to the Char of Neo-Zeon in CCA. I had problems reading the subs in my copy of CCA…..

    • It’s because ZZ Gundam aired. Can you blame him?

      • banagherlinks says:

        Maybe because a lame Noob copy of himself in the likes of Zeheart will appear in Age. Poor guy… 😀

      • Matt Wells says:

        It’s right there in the Opening. The lyrics explicitly state the JEWDOUGH is the pinnacle of human evolution, and Quattro’s all like “…The fuck is this horseshit?! That’s it! Drop a colony on it and call it a day, humanity is done for”

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  29. ex951753 says:

    Char is by far my favorite anime character. Even though I have almost an unhealthy obsession with gundam and the Red Comet, I must admit very deep down I’ve thought along the same lines as you presented Char Aznable, but I’ve always buried those thoughts and happily ignored them. 😀

    An excellent read and I wish I’ve found this article sooner.

  30. 100yen Tofu says:

    I tend to agree with you on this point. The Char from 0079 may have been a revenge-driven schemer, but he had spectacular moments of greatness all the time. I feel that he had degenerated somewhat in Zeta with the loss of his ambition, though at the same time I felt that it was a necessary de-evolution that would later spur a significant rebirth.

    However, I too was disappointed by Char in CCA, as I felt that rather than rebound from the weakened character that he was in Zeta, he had been further downgraded, creating a more than unnecessarily elaborate stage in the sole purpose of revenge against Amuro and his desire for death.

    I also thought that his lies were small and petty (not even mentioning the Federation who just HANDED the genocidal maniac dropping asteroids on the planet an even BIGGER asteroid in exchange for some gold and a promise that he wouldn’t ever do it again), and that overall it just made his character that much more shallow and small.

    To be completely honest, after watching Gundam UC, I fell in love with Full Frontal (and pretty much only Frontal, except for Marida), mostly because I felt that he was the Char that Char should have been CCA. Though there are plenty of reasons for me to dislike Frontal, I feel that he has the ambition, and machiavellian-esque personality that Char had in 0079, but lacked in CCA. Or to put it better, Frontal is the Char that I had envisioned before I watched CCA.

  31. Kell says:

    This wasn’t a setup for Char to fight Amuro. This was Char being sincere and honorable with his wishes to create a better world for humanity. I saw him the way I saw Leto II from the Dune series.

    Why did Char manipulate those women? Simple. He needed them.

    As for Char never getting over Lalah’s death… is there really anything wrong with that? Sure, its not desirable… but its not inhumane either. Certainly not a villainous quality. As for revenge… that was merely a by-product of his plan. He wanted to see Amuro pay for what he did. Is revenge villainous? No, not really.
    As to why Char leaked the techs to Amuro if he was focused on efficiently carrying out his plans to the extent that he was even manipulating women for it… simple. Char is a great strategist. Possibly the best in the Gundam series. He knew that he’d get his showdown with Amuro but even if Amuro DOES beat him with the nu gundam, it wouldn’t matter. The Nu Gundam couldn’t prevent the asteroid hitting eath. And this is exactly what happened in the movie… until the last few seconds or something (forgot, been a long time since i saw it) which you can’t really count against him. Wtf, Amuro became stronger than a super saiyan lol.

    Sieg Char

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  33. josenewtype says:

    I remember when I first read this, it blew my mind. I think I teared up a little. Char is literally my real life idol. I aspire to be him. Yes, he’s had his erroneous ways, but we’ve all made mistakes. I believe in Gundam UC Full Frontal said, “To learn from your mistakes and to live on is what it means to be a man.” He was a man of action and fought for what he believed in even till his death.

    Long live Char Aznable and Neo Zeon.

  34. Jonathan says:

    Char was tired and worn down. He was ready to make the final move, the final checkmate. Char wanted to clean the slates of existence… He wanted to ensure that some form of humanity… Would still be alive in the future… He looked down deeply on the people of Earth… No matter what he did nor said… He was always ignored and in the end… Even when he fought alongside of Earth with a secret alias… Char tried hard to bring sense of the situations between the parties. Then… He had enough… He got wise and older… He began to see what was going to happen… I agree with him. He does use people. He just does not think much of them. Lala was the example of what all perfect humans would look like. Quess was a child… All the other women were naive and could only see the “person” shaped box they created. Char had become like a “God”. He was existing in the ideas and motives he deemed the best and most righteous.

    This is a lot like Magneto in X-Men. Char and Magneto are very similar… They wear similar outfits and have similar ideals too. Red is their color of choice. Why? Simple, RED is the color or passion and charisma. Magneto also tried to make the utopian society of evolved humans with Asteroid-M, he invited those that wanted to be with him and join his order and theology AWAY from Earth. He too hated the humans and their foolish ways. He hated the ignorance and stupidity in their minds… Remember that people chanted Char’s name and sang praises to him on that train. He was looked at with great respect. That train passes under bad parts of town and showcases Earth as a place of lust, vice and evils. These people on the train really did think of him as being in the light of truth and hope… He was their savior. Remember how many damn times he has tried to convince them all to leave Earth? He wanted to die and know that things would be “better”. He wanted a “NEW TYPE” of humanity and hope for the people.

    Think about the way the movie paints Char’s character… Riding the horse like a savior figure and arguing with Amuro about the moral stakes of humanity’s ignorance… Amuro almost shoots Char with a gun after they fight and argue about all human’s capacity for change… Quess hears this and agrees with Char! Quess saved Char and this is always the effect he has on people he meets… Do you see that in his actions, he inspires people to CHANGE? Char is always asking people to fight and to die for a crusade… Not his crusade… Humanity’s crusade. Char is always willing to die in battle as himself… BUT! The truth is all people with selfless minds… WANT to follow him… Char’s namesake is a fun pun for “Char-ismatic”. The man is strong, angry and beautiful… Not selfish. He wants all people to embrace the selfless nature of Lala… Earth is just a tick… Sucking the blood and passion out of people… Killing them and assassinating their person hoods. Char is sick of it…

    Yes, In his younger years… He was mad and upset… He hated the world and his years of battle experience gave him direction… He got his revenge and ended the conflict… BUT… In the later years of his life and in the end he learned just how silly his father’s ideas really were. Earth would never stop it’s twisted small minded, selfish endeavors… He tried all he could… To shoulder the sins of the souls that refused… Attempting to drop Axis would SAVE the humans that wanted utopia and hope for CHANGE… He knew that in the near future… The Earth… Would become not just a tick on it’s own skin… But… A blood sucking tick to all the other spacenoids and colonies… He was right…

    The ending of that movie shows the beautiful debris of dead Earth Federation pilots and soldiers that foolishly held back that asteroid and saved Earth… The pitiful Earth dwelling humans look in awe as if it is a miracle that Char failed… They are painted as ignorant fools celebrating a hidden defeat… Char was actually right… They should have joined Zeon and left the weak and selfish Earth life behind… Now… They can look forward to more intense wars and another “familiar” conflict…

    Earth was selfish and in Char’s mind, it would destroy and suck dry all the living peoples it needed to survive, even Zeon’s resources… Full Frontal makes this clear in the later years… Not to mention they call him THE “2’nd Coming” of Char… Not CHRIST… Char… Think about that… His madness and passion were of no use and that “strange clone” is pretty much the final incarnation of “Char”. The soul of the man come back in an attempt to end this pitiful… Earth… Again… This man and his immortal soul just cannot leave the fates of the many futures in the hands of the lazy, clumsy and selfish hands starving humanity… It seems that “God” cannot allow this either… Char is literally back from the dead…

    Ask why he is painted like a religious figure? Hmmm… Japan seems to think very highly about this man… Need I remind you that they sided with the Nazis? Those odd blonde hair and blued men that also wanted to clean up the world… Japan knows that history has been soiled… Char is given a bad name, just like other men in the world… I will stop there… Just think about all of this… if we all suck this planet dry… See where it takes us…

    Let me also say this… I “Myself” was a real enlisted soldier in the real world… I can tell you that Gundam deals with very real things. I joined for honor and brotherhood. I was lied to… I too wanted “revenge” for something greater… I too was lying to myself… However… I do in fact believe in what Char wanted… He may have been human and used people… to a degree… But the end is justified by the means. The way I feel about the Earth is identical… That man got it right… In a sick way… I even look identical to him… same shape face/eyes and same color of eyes, same hair color… Same Nazi looking curse the womb gave me… I have poisoned mind to boot… Just let me say this… deep down… I love all things in creation… I just hate who and what they are… These humans could build a beautiful world. Instead, we suck each other and all things created DRY…

    Char loved Lala like a mother and he lost her… This mirrors me losing my innocence to all living people in my life as well… I know you may look at char as a selfish man… I just want to tell you… Deep down… He is right… he is with honor and stands for the truth… sick thing is this… It is not pretty… He may be attractive and charming… He may “get girls”. Deep down… he wants to save children and make them soldiers of truth… He wants a family and a strong one at that. He may be charming and people let themselves see what they want out of that man. I get that. They did it with me… I did it with them… Now that I am 31 years old… I too know how he felt after years of fighting and dealing with the loss of his innocence… I loved the world and I lost… Part of me is dead already. I could have reached out and crushed this world, shoved the truth in it’s face… Dropped an Axis of my own… Instead I gave up… In the end… Char did too… Axis was not meant to be… Earth did not deserve a forced transformation… The Heavens want nothing to do with them… Char may have wanted to save them and evolve them… GOD said no…

    Lala is that beacon of hope that men like Char and myself need in order to endure and not be “affected” by this hellish Earth… It keeps us cool, and at bay. It kills our loved ones and confuses our soul. Char is not a bad guy… I should now… I cry everytime I see his character and hear his words and know what he feels… I have seen it… I too tried to save people… Troubled souls… Those that are in pain… They ignore you… They never listen… My anger and my martial arts training could kill anyone… I have never lost a fight… One day I helped my enemy off the ground… And decided that hurting them was not the answer… Deep down… I wanted to wake them up… Show them the strength in passion and admiration for love… Instead I now pity my enemies and meditate for peace and clinch my fist at the Earth you all so lovingly adore! But… Why? Why do you love it? What do you worship in it? Do you even come close to honoring the selfless ideals that “love” demand? Lala demands you answer these questions… As does Char…

    Char loved Lala… She was that last part of himself wanting to fight on and cheer for all humans… She was the HOPE. The true deserving mother of all EARTH in Char’s eyes. When she was chaotically taken in war… That man changed and began to see the ugly truth… Life is really unfair… Cruel… Evi… Selfish… Human…

    That man wanted the world to “change”. He was going to force them to change… He did not want people such as himself to suffer anymore… He was not selfish…

    I am not selfish… I am just hurt… I ball my fists in rage… My tears are rivers of hope… I just have to fight them day to day… Knowing that humanity is going to lose it all… One day… It’s going to be… Gone…

  35. croqueit says:

    “But Char, who (as I read him) has always operated on the basis that the ends justify the means, proceeds unwaveringly towards his goal.”

    Just like the Doctors at Auschwitz.

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