While the Universal Century continued with its wars and the involvement of Gundam in them via Gundam F91 (film), Crossbone Gundam (manga), and Victory Gundam (TV), for some fans such as myself the story of the Universal Century was the milieu of Char and Amuro, the Zabis, of Zeon and the Federation.
It’s last major conflict was Char’s rebellion, and the story of Gundam Unicorn serves as an eulogy, an epitaph to the great saga. It is why this show comports itself with such seriousness. It fully intends to celebrate the story of the wars, of the role of Gundams in its battles. This is why episode two did so much to flesh out the back story of space colonization.
It is premature to discuss the eulogy for the UC itself as we are only halfway through the OVA, however there is a eulogy or epitaph within the over arching one that I can discuss here: that for the Newtypes.
To make a full essay I do think that I’ll have to take into account After War Gundam X. For now however my familiarity and experience of it is limited to my playing Super Robot Wars α Gaiden while enriching, cannot suffice. Thus I must limit my scope to the UC, even as I speculate later on in the essay as to how other works outside Gundam can be read as part of a related but broader trope, or as I’m fond of saying, tradition in science fiction.
The NT is the possibility of humanity, a hoped-for evolutionary next step by those who view the conflict-related abilities of human beings as a genetic defect. Under the lights of this theory, attributed to Zeon Zum Deilum, the vastness of space triggered this ability in humans to communicate with each other without misunderstanding, with absolute empathy, therefore eliminating the propensity and desire for conflict itself.
With this ability, the human race will be suitably adapted for space exploration and colonization. It’s interesting that Gundam is actually rather down-to-earth (LOL) in pursuing this theme, as other shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion or even Macross Frontier took this idea as a kind of way for humans to meld with one another (Eva being more aggressive with this than Macross).
One of the tragedies of the Universal Century however is the misuse of the Newtype theory, the corruption of it if you will, as a military weapon. Newtypes were conscripted, converted, and even cultured to become advanced combat units as pilots of custom mobile weapons. Every major installment of the franchise, particularly those made by Tomino Yoshiyuki features such a tragedy:
- Lalah Sune, weaponized by the Flanagan Institute and by Char Aznable himself (under Kycilia Zabi, Mobile Suit Gundam)
- Four Murasame (Murasame Institute, Mobile Suit Z Gundam)
- Rosamia Badam (Augusta Institute, Mobile Suit Z Gundam)
- Elpeo Ple, Ple (Puru) clones (Neo Zeon, Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam)
- Quess Paraya, weaponized by Char Aznable (2nd Neo Zeon, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack)
A number of other stories exist (Ecole du Ciel, ZZ Gundam) but they are mainly reprises of the same theme: adolescents developed and deployed as weapons by the military-industrial complex. I shouldn’t have to point out that they never end well. AU Gundams outside of X and G, lay it thick when using cruder versions of this for their purposes: Mobile Suit Gundam SEED’s Coordinators, GSD’s Extended (equivalent to Cyber NTs), and Gundam 00’s Innovators. I can make an argument that Gundam 00’s Innovator concept actually builds on and goes beyond Tomino Yoshiyuki’s Newtypes… but I won’t. It was a wasted idea in that sub-franchise.
What Gundam popularized if not outright started in Lalah Sune then Four Murasame, paved the road for highly popular and/or critically well-received characters such as Ayanami Rei of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Anemone of Eureka SeveN (arguably Eureka herself is a Lalah Sune while Anemone is a Four; that analogue can be extended to Asuka Langley Soryu and Ayanami Rei respectively). I’ll even go further and read the Macross characters Sheryl Nome and Ranka Lee as Newtype idols (preceded by Nekki Basara and Mylene Flare Jenius) as their singing that have the power to create understanding across the vastness of space, that were also appropriated by the military-industrial complex at certain points of their respective stories.
In the latest episode of Unicorn, the NT-D weapon system is revealed for what it is: a weapon for a Newtype to destroy other Newtypes (NewType-Destroy system). The last of the Newtypes from the wars fight each other. The Gundam itself is now the ultimate weapon against them (as opposed to being a top-tier weapon in general). Under this development, in this milieu of a next-to-nonexistent Zeon spells out the writing on the wall: NT-based weapons development will be a senseless waste. Think about it: The Sleeves are never going to overwhelm anyone with numbers, therefore there has to be a high fighting capacity per unit ratio in their forces. However, historically Zeon’s high fighting capacity units, with the exception of several mobile armors (Big Zam, Apsalus, Neue Ziel, etc.) were Newtype weapons. This strategy is no longer even feasible while the NT-D exists.
The Gundam Unicorn may be the “key” to Laplace’s box which is said to have the power to end the Federation, but it is also the thing to unravel the hypocritical appropriation of Zeon Zum Deikun’s NT theory as a justification for war in the name of the spacenoids.
Marida Cruz, who is Ple 12 from the series of cyber Newtypes in Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam, is the last NT tragedy. Whatever happens in the end, her story thus far is a reprise of all the Newtype sob stories: a play on Lalah Sune’s brothel life with Suberoa Zinnerman playing the role of Char. The difference here is how Ple 12 ended up in a brothel after her NT weapon life, to be brought back into soldiery after that. Marida has known nothing but suffering – in this way the other Ple’s were lucky to have been killed in the first Neo-Zeon war.
Given the previous episode, and the kindness that she treated Banagher with (Otto Midas, the captain of the Nahel Argama plays this role this episode, in a charmingly understated way; though arguably it’s really Daguza who played the role in a big way), we find how Marida isn’t embittered by her life.
In this episode, Full Frontal who could very well be the last Newtype in the service of Zeonic hopes puts Marida in harms way – sacrificing her and the Kshatriya to prove his suspicions regarding the NT-D in the RX-0, as part of his gambit in giving it back to Banagher and the Federation. Full Frontal’s speech yields much:
The pilot is [just] a processing mechanism for converting received psycho-waves into hostility…
The Newtype Destroyer system. If it identifies the enemy as a Newtype, the suit’s limiters are disengaged. It’s a hunting machine that combines the paranormal interface of the psycho-frame abd the power to take control of an enemy’s pycommu weapons.
…The day that Newtypes can be destroyed by a product of technology is the day they will be consigned to history. Just as the Universal Century is about to mark its hundredth year, the UC [Unicorn] project was aptly named indeed.
Banagher’s awakening to regain control of the Gundam and stop it from killing Marida is significant. It is the narrative’s response to Full Frontal’s assertion that NTs can be destroyed by the power of technology. The human prevails over the machine. Newtypes live on. It is also part of an overarching theme of human agency in the face of the machine; the Gundam being both God and Devil; the multiple gray faces of both sides in the conflict – stretching all the way back in the founding of the colonies.
But, what concerns me in this post is how it asserts that the military deployment of NTs will come to an end, as so much technological resources are required to deploy them and there’s now the risk that a purely technological countermeasure can be deployed against them cheaper and more easily. Right now the Gundam is unique, and the NT-D requires a NT pilot, but this may not be the case in future designs.
This now places NT’s significance in a solely thematic, i.e. Noncombatant plane – that of the idealized beings for peace, the beings who understand others and each other perfectly. When such a thing happens, they no longer have the most entertaining place in a robot show: fighters and pilots. This is why they’re doomed and how Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn is sending them off.
But does it follow that a society of a race of NTs is a peaceful one? No. The Gundam franchise will never respond to this. I seriously doubt it. However, there is a clear answer: albeit from a different story, a different show, from a different science fiction setting. The answer is no. A race of Newtypes can and did become a vast and powerful galactic empire, far away from Earth.
Char Aznable’s dream does get fulfilled, when humanity becomes – entirely by its own will and its own powers, to become the self-styled Children of the Stars. They are the lords and leaders of the Humankind Empire Abh.
The Abh are the featured race in the science fiction series of books and OVAs that I will refer to in this post as Banner of the Stars. The narrative is remarkable in that the protagonists and the perspective from which the story unfolds is that of the “bad guys,” that is of the superior, alien-like race who are genetically engineered and bred, that declares war on humanity.
The superiority of the Abh I discuss I limit only to the physiological set of attributes that exceed those of any human being not only within its own narrative but even for all but the most powerful characters in Gundam.
They are physically quicker and stronger than human. Their life span far exceed that of humans. They retain their individuality much like any human but have a great ability to cooperate and organize with others. Lastly they have an extra sense beyond that of any human that allows them to fight and pilot war vessels unlike any human.
It is very easy for me to imagine or contextualize them as a race and empire of cyber or artificial Newtypes. This is Zeon’s vision realized. What Zeon could not account for, perhaps not being a biologist, is that the non-Newtype strain of humanity doesn’t immediately stop breeding. There will be oldtypes even among spacenoids, and will continue to breed until they are killed off.
While the Abh’s war with the rest of humanity isn’t a war of genocide, under the lights of Zeon’s fruity theory of understanding there is an unexamined assumption that the next stage of humanity will relate with the previous stage of humanity as equals. But how could they possibly do so? Racism/xenophobia goes in all directions.
The Banner of the Stars story is unfinished to date, but one of the possible outcomes is a complete subjugation of humanity by the Abh. I cannot help but imagine this as saying something to whatever possibility the most optimistic of Newtypes have for their own futures. The thing is, we know it never happens in the UC even until the end of V Gundam, the most chronologically recent point in the history of the UC. Also, if we are to take Turn A Gundam as the culmination of all Gundam narratives, then there are no Newtypes in the future.
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn is the great big sendoff to the anime Jedi, the often sad killers and victims, the weeping and whining residents of the cold hells of the Universal Century.