Moments of 2010: The Universal Century Joins the 21st Century By Celebrating With a 3-Way Prototype Mobile Suit Brawl (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 02)

[ROC] Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 02 [BD720,AC3].mkv_snapshot_31.14_[2010.11.02_07.00.57]
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll probably repeat myself over and over: I like updates in anime shows. I like retellings and I like remakes. Why? It’s fundamental to why I like anime in the first place: animation. I like illustrations a lot, and when they move, I like them even more.

As much as I can appreciate older shows (it’s not a problem for me really, as I’m old enough for them to be cutting edge animation when I saw them first (or when they aired)…ugh. But I generally like the advances made in digital animation and enjoy how many new shows look.

I’m not interested in a dichotomy between Miyazaki Hayao’s ideals and the supposed decline of animation skill in the industry. That may even be true, but it’s not something I’m interested in this post. I picked this moment from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 02 precisely because it looks great.

Here is part of it:

It is amazing in part due to the aversion from many if not all of what kept me from thinking highly of mobile suit battles in Gundam. I reproduce my list from this post:

  • Variable damage (weapons arbitrarily get weaker, targets arbitrarily become impervious to weapons)
  • Shouting matches concerning ideology and morals during fighting. And by during fighting I mean when you’re supposedly giving your all to lock on and shoot the other guy, concentrating like hell to avoid gunfire; or swinging a robot sword hand using levers, pedals, and buttons.
  • Standing around and not finishing a target off so as to allow a dramatic dialogue or scene to pass, then getting killed precisely because said drama was allowed to pass.
  • Stealing into, or just plain stealing mobile suits easier than stealing panties.
  • Remote beam weapons flying within reach of beam swords/melee weapons.
  • Hell, finding it easier to engage opponents with swords than it is to shoot them
  • HUGGING ROBOTS IN SPACE.

It isn’t just the avoidance of these pet peeves of mine. The battle used the environment. The asteroid and debris were factors. As I’ve mentioned in that post, the details in the fight felt like it meant something – the jettisoned parts, the finite ammunition, the damage incurred.

[ROC] Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 02 [BD720,AC3].mkv_snapshot_33.14_[2010.11.02_07.08.13]
In the 1980s, shows like Armored Trooper Votoms and Super Dimension Fortress Macross shared a few things in common with action movies like Rambo, Commando, and many others even less remarkable. These shows featured hordes of enemy soldiers who seemed to exist only for the purpose of being gunned down by the heroes.

While I think the UC Gundam shows never had this problem (and it’s truly a remarkable thing), it’s even more exemplary in Gundam Unicorn. We can tell that the Grancieres ship only had a few suits, maybe only two with the Geara Zulu already taken out in the first episode, and then the Kshatriya with a damaged wing/armor segment, as well as losing most of its funnels.

These things make up a high level of verisimilitude that I crave for in robot anime, especially Gundam. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn let me see it in 21st-century big-budget OVA glory. Sure, Macross Frontier: The False Songstress had prettier robots, faster dogfights, and generally better animation… but this is Gundam, and it’s serious business (a comical idea for sure, but indulge me), and the best robot action is when it’s serious business (see Macross Zer0, and Macross Plus, and Mobile Suit Gundam: MS Igloo 2).

What are your favorite moments in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn so far? What are your favorite robot battles this year?

Haven’t seen any Gundam at all? Don’t know where to start? Find your Gateway Gundam!

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.
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39 Responses to Moments of 2010: The Universal Century Joins the 21st Century By Celebrating With a 3-Way Prototype Mobile Suit Brawl (Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 02)

  1. Yes, those battles were something special, and I care about all of those things you do, because battles are a big deal to me, and they mean so much more when my disbelief is significantly suspended. God, the level of animation put into the way the cockpits moved in those complex spherical motions, and the mechs turned in those ways that looked awkward but made sense. Full Frontal launching off of the asteroids, with that devilish Char grin, making it all look easy, was glorious. Not everyone who got hit was killed, but the damage was important (I think the one guy lost a leg? Didn’t put up too much fight after that, did he?) This fight made me say ‘this is awesome’ out loud, and it wasn’t because of the drama, but because of the technicality. Drama in a fight, like something out of Gurren Lagann, can make it rule every time I watch the show, but when I see these glorious technical fighting displays, it makes it worthwhile just to watch the fights alone (as I’ve done for the final battle in Stranger many times).

    This was certainly the best mech fight of the year. The best fight overall to me was probably Greed vs. Wrath in the latter’s room from FMA: B, which is hardly surprising since Bones are IMO the gods of the fight scene. And from this season, motherfucking PantyStocking ep 6.

    • Shit, I forgot, THE best fight of the year, Nanoha vs. Fate in the Nanoha movie. This should classify as an aerial dogfight mixed together with a DBZ-style beam war, and it was the coolest thing I saw in anime this year.

    • Fuck yes somebody gets it. Well-constructed, choreographed, and animated battles is one of the most wonderful things in anime. It’s a significant part of why I like it so much. Having the battle involve giant robots just escalates the potential of the fight — in Gundam you’ll have beams, guns, missiles, swords, and kicking. Anything that I’d find interesting in a shonen battle show I can find done particularly well here in Unicorn… except the crazy special attacks and grappling… which is why I enjoy super robot shows for.

      Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt ep 06 is indeed special, quite a technical achievement in portraying an extended fight. Now if they’d just animate Eden: it’s an Endless World already!

  2. Favourite part: Anything with Marida in it.

    I’m… quite shallow…

    Actually, the very first scene with her, where those pretty funnels did their deeds and where I first awed at the amazing soundtrack, is probably my favourite part in specific. Kshtriya looks odd, not at all like a Mobile Suit to begin with, and then blossoms. For no discernable or sensible reason, Marida has her eyes closed until the exact moment the funnels are in position. The finger movements are precise and… sort of dignified. The first three suits die in some macabre strobolight dance. Kshtriya spins. When the two clash, they then form something looking like a particle interaction trace. Marida choreographs the whole encounter rather than fights it. Because she’s that good. It’s unduly poetic for a multiple murder. I quite loved it.

    Also whenever anyone says Full Frontal I giggle. Third place moments.

    • The Kshatriya is a smaller (??!?) design from a mobile armor type of weapon: the Quin-Mantha from ZZ Gundam. Mobile Armors are often monstrous in appearance and the Kshatriya maintains that tradition: the wings/armor folds it has makes it seem less humanoid… and the way it opens, yes it kind of blossoms indeed.

      Check the video on funnels I posted in response to Sekou below. But here’s another one on the ‘historical’ use of the weapon system throughout the UC:

      Marida’s performance is actually a more grounded depiction of funnel control. This is precisely what I’m harping about when talking about this show: the more detail and care for verisimilitude they put in, the more skillful and awesome the performance becomes — despite the apparent relative plainness of the fireworks compared to the extravagances say, in Gundam 00 or Gundam SEED.

  3. gwern says:

    Youtube link seems to be broken currently.

  4. Sekou says:

    I tried to view the video and it’s saying Bandai has blocked it.

    I have two favorite moments of Unicorn so far. The first is easily Marida’s duel with the faceless Stark Jegan pilot. From the beautiful animation, to the enthralling music and intensity that rivaled a Gundam series finale duel, it was an absolutely amazing battle.

    The second would have to be the negotiation of sorts between Full Frontal and Daguza. Not only was the tension was high but having not read the novel, I had no idea what to expect at that moment. And the casual way Full Frontal declared he’d destroy the ship after three minutes passed was wonderfully evil.

    • Ahh probably they region-blocked it since it works here and they haven’t asked me to take it down. Too bad.

      It was an amazing battle indeed, that one. I truly felt that it was a funnels deployment finally done right:

      The negotiation was incredible as well. Daguza was soundly trounced not only by FF, but also by Mineva.

      • Sekou says:

        Thanks a lot for posting the videos. “Funnels Through the Ages” is going into my favorites right now.

        And with the negotiation, it was ironic how despite having a gun, Daguza had such little control of the situation.

        • Well, it’s because FF really feels confident he can win it all without Mineva. This is where his confidence is coming from. On top of this, he made it clear that he doesn’t acknowledge that the hostage is indeed Mineva Lao Zabi… and on top of this, he really never intended to destroy the Nahel Argama because the Laplace Box may really be inside. Should Mineva be unharmed, she can be rescued along with the box. FF really just denied Daguze any negotiating leverage.

          • Sekou says:

            Good points. I can’t wait to learn more about FF.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I was under the impression myself that FF made the denial in part to protect her, though I may be reading too much into it, since she brings up the matter to Riddhe about the connection between the Federation and the Sleeves and how the Federation was now making moves to silence that link with the incoming ‘professional’ Of course its likely still a political machination on FF’s part, but there are certain points which illustrate his need for her, Marida’s assertion making a pointed example of the delicate balancing act FF needs to manage in order to keep the Neo-Zeon alliance together, which he himself asserts to Banaghar is not a monolithic movement and has various ideals, though united primarily based on their opposition to the Federations control of space.

          • I think that while FF would prefer not to harm Mineva, it’s also the case because he doesn’t have the box yet… though I don’t really know how much faith in it he has. Otherwise, he really wouldn’t compromise her and was merely being a masterful bluffer.

      • rxsiu says:

        GREAT summary of funnel weaponry in the vid. This made my day, after a long psych exam! Thanks!

  5. Jack says:

    Indeed, most of the action in Unicorn has been beautiful, exciting, well choreographed and well thought out. It’s certainly at the height of real robot combat.

    One thing I would like to say though is you mention that “In the 1980s, shows like Armored Trooper Votoms…shared a few things in common with action movies like Rambo, Commando… These shows featured hordes of enemy soldiers who seemed to exist only for the purpose of being gunned down by the heroes.”

    I find it a bit odd that you mention Votoms combat. Now I’ve only just started the show (I’m somewhere around episode 18) but all the mecha combat has stuck pretty closely to your above rules.

    On foot Chirico does run around blasting his machine gun from the hip and apparently hitting everyone from ridiculous distances, but in mecha combat he always wins because he’s an amazing pilot (trained special forces vs. mooks). Even if he does blast through a number of combatants, his machine is easily damaged and frequently destroyed by the enemy.

    • Bonesy! says:

      There are moments later in the series where I was wondering when the hell Chirico would run out of ammo. I like the fights, but after a point I have to admit they’re a bit ridiculous.

    • When you get to the jungle arc (or maybe just as he tries to escape Uoodo) you should see what I’m talking about. At first it didn’t bother me, but after 30 or so episodes I got worn down. I do intend to finish VOTOMs even if only to watch the other shows in the franchise because if I can watch Gundam SEED I certainly should be able to enjoy something from ATV.

  6. Otaku Surf says:

    My favorite moment in Gundam Unicorn so far for me has been the very first battle in episode one between the Kshatriya and the Jegans. A large factor for me was the music playing during the fight. The animation was just stellar.

  7. Sorain says:

    Unicorn took 08th MS Team’s idea of realism and rides it for all its worth. I am extactic about the work it presents so far. I took the time to count how many shots the Unicorn’s beam magnum had left, and they were spot on. Watching good fight coriography is a wonder to behold for me, and writing it for the enviornment of space is something of a nightmare due to lack of cover. (brillantly solved by debris, and used so well in Unicorn) I am curious how this is a three way prototype fight, the Kshatriya is a prototype? Speaking of the Kshatriya, for a moment I thought they had recycled the Unicorn slashing off that wing. Then I watched closely and saw that it took a chunk more off the already nearly gone wing. My head nearly exploded at the attention to detail presented there. Also Airbags to handle G forces. Its about bloody time someone thought to include those so pilots dont slam their head into things.

    • There, yes, a fan after my own heart. The NZ-666 Kshatriya is indeed a prototype. It’s easy to distinguish a prototype… they’re the ones who aren’t mass-produced. During the OYW we might have had some difficulty distinguishing the Gelgoog and Gouf as prototypes since they were rarities in the original TV series… but their appearance in the OVAs (and the manga… in the case of the Kampfer appearing in Ecole du Ciel) let us know and feel that they were not unique units.

      I too, had to rewatch the beginning of ep 02 because I thought there was some mistake in how Unicorn slashed the same part of the binder/sub-arm … but yes, the Unicorn did in 2 different places. Very cool.

      • Sorain says:

        I have to wonder at what point is something mass produced? The Ground type Gundams were numbering in the 20’s or something right? Does that qualify?

        But ya, the NZ-666 Kshatriya is a impressive unique machine, I truely wonder how it was that this was built without the government asking who it was for. The more I learn about Anaheim Electronics, the more I feel that they have become the greatest evil in the UC timeline. They shamelessly exploit the conflicts for their own gain, and sit impervious to blame somehow. (well, until F91 era, and I imagine Unicorn incident helped that along.)

        • Anaheim Electronics is an exploitative organization. Alas, it’s really, really, really difficult to maintain growth and profitability after reaching a certain size and Anaheim is already the biggest or at least the most important technology company in the UC. Where and how else is it going to grow? Weapons makers need wars and the threat of war to move product and create demand. Without a ‘natural’ occurring conflict, AE plays the market against itself… making sure that no one side dominates the other so thoroughly so as to maintain a competition between customers.

          The Ground Gundams, and the V Gundam series in my opinion are already mass production suits. “Mass” being a relative term in this case, used to mean non-unique.

  8. KrimzonStriker says:

    Hmm, this is a tough decision. I think that, while not my absolute favorite moment, what was perhaps the most poignant scene in Unicorn for me right now would actually be the battle inside Industrial 7, because it encapsulated that theme about the hellish nature of war better then any other scene, Gundam or otherwise, in recent memory. And I’m not talking about things like arbitrary slaughter, I’m talking about real live war, with enemy combatants duking it out and civilians literally caught in the middle, often killed randomly in brutal fashion but also unintentional, as part of the collateral damage of war. It had all the right measures of panic, confusion, fear, hatred, and panic that really struck home as to what I’d always imagined as to what combat must be like.

    As for my favorite moments, probably the conversations I think, going in order from Banagher and Marida, Banagher and Full Frontal, and Mineva and Riddhe, because they were such a revelation in my opinion, answering all these long-standing questions about the Universal Century and providing the timeline something that I think has been missing since its first inception, context as to the how and why behind everything that’s happened up till now. This is what truly differentiates Unicorn from anything prior through its intention, to be a real bridge between the past and the present for the franchise, more then just some remake that I think ExecutiveOtaku unfairly groans about, its something that genuinely breathes new life into the series and reminds people of why they love Gundam so much.

    • Gundam Unicorn is indeed a buffet of riches because the battle within Industrial 7 is remarkable indeed, and would be a crowning moment of a lesser show… and it too ties into what you’re saying about the conversations in the second episode that explores these long-standing questions regarding the Universal Century. EO… sigh.

      As you say it does bridge the past of the franchise in a fulfilling end (as seems promised); and yes, it does remind everybody why Gundam is awesome.

  9. IAmZim says:

    Y’know, I’m in complete agreement with everything you said – but sometimes I feel too much emphasis on Unicorns action and art, which while beautiful, kind of plays second for me to the dialogue. My favourite scene has to be Full Frontal’s discussion with Banagher.

    We have seen some amazing animation and action scenes in Gundam since the 80’s, Gundam is Sunrises biggest asset, so of course they would poor as much money into it as possible, but in the main UC stories at least, there’s always been something very off about the writing. This has been gone into again and again, but while Tomino is a fantastic idea man, often his dialogue makes most of us all go “Um, what?”

    With Unicorn we finally have a main UC story, one which feels big important and epic, and with well-written dialogue. Full Frontal’s meeting with Banagher highlights this, with some interesting political discussion (So spacenoids can’t vote? That makes UC in general make a lot more sense) as well as characters who don’t ALL act like genocidal, ADD ridden five year olds.

    Except for Angelo.

    But Gundam needs to have SOME over-emotional, whiny and effeminate pilots, or else it wouldn’t be Gundam.

    • I don’t think Gundam is about the story at all, even if the romanticized intent (via Genesis of Gundam manga) is to create a modern sci-fi drama. The story is vehicular to the presentation of awesome robot action. At best, it stands alongside it (this is not to say that story isn’t integral). If it were about the story, in the sense that it’s pushing the envelope of science fiction, it wouldn’t be so formulaic.

      The formula works as much as it does, because it’s excellent in delivering the spectacle of moving illustrations of robots fighting. This is a good thing.

      The formula is but a structure, the excellence is to be found in the details, the execution, as you mention re the dialogue and the exposition therein. I noted a different moment from the second episode that is similar to what you value, and I’ve made quite a substantial post on it.

      Feel free to continue our discussion there.

  10. IAmZim says:

    Well it’s not so much that I think Gundam’s story takes prescience over the action (well I think it should, but I know it rarely ever will) but that its not rare for us to see a UC series with fantastic action and animation.

    Now a competently told UC story, in the main timeline? That is extremely rare. That is what makes Unicorn (sadly) remarkable to me. That’s all.

  11. sadakups says:

    Oh god. I almost died fapping watching that Sinanju-Unicorn brawl. The Kshatriya-Unicorn one was awesome too, but I have to give it to Mullet Char for showing how it is done.

    This year was the year of the Unicorn.

    • Mullet Char is the real deal. I’m still quite surprised how both the Sinanju and the Unicorn aren’t decked with funnels. I mean, both the Sazabi AND the Nu-Gundam were tremendously successful with them.

      • sadakups says:

        Unless funnels were part of the original design, I don’t think it would have the same effect if the Sinanju and the Unicorn did a funnel battle. Not for their first duel, I guess.

        • Perhaps, but my concern is an in-universe consistency one.

          While I do think the Unicorn is better than the Nu-Gundam in the sense that it can generate an I-Field without a fin-funnel formation, it’s still a loss of battle potential given how devastating funnels can be. Ditto with the Sinanju.

          That said, the Sinanju IIRC is the base model of the Unicorn according to the fat Anaheim guy… which makes it a suit that got turned into a Gundam from something else. I don’t know if there is any other suit that has such a development history.

  12. Quite simply, that scene… that fight was hot Gundam sex right there. I think it’s what all Gundam fans dream about when they see the ships close in on each other and everyone goes through their individual launch sequences. You knew it as soon as you saw it. I generally think that no matter the quality of a production, it’s a success if it does something memorable. If you can’t remember anything about it then it’s a failure. Gundam Unicorn has already made itself memorable in so many ways. Unless this battle is topped in some amazing way by the supposed end game battle that comes with most Gundam series, then this will go down as one of the best fight/battle scenes I’ve ever seen; that includes shounen battles, that includes Cowboy Bebop. Some may claim I’m a little high off of a “Gundasm” right now, but I know a quality fight when I see it.

    Hell, this might even inspire me to work on something on this subject next year.

  13. rakusukira says:

    well.. Gundam has always been about the story for me and not just some senseless, powerful robot action (It’s why I love Gundam Seed ad it’s why I couldn’t really appreciate Wing and 00 that much)

    Gundam Unicorn has a unique story combining politics and drama in a tasteful swirl of complete awesomeness.. the characters really stand up with their individual personalities..

    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is not the show that showcases exemplary story in the Gundam franchise. Quite the contrary, it has a derivative story that is hideously executed — marred by terrible production values, and some of the least sensible and overpowered robot action in all anime.

      And yes, Unicorn is as you described. Comparing it to SEED is terribly unfair to both shows.

  14. Pingback: Fantasy Warfare in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE 25 | We Remember Love

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