War history has is rich with narratives of sympathizers and collaborators. Being a Filipino I am most familiar with the Makapili collaborators during the Japanese Occupation of WW2, who cooperated with the Japanese by identifying Filipino resistance members while wearing a wicker basket over their own heads so as not to be identified in turn and avoid retribution.
In the case of the Vagan invasion, the collaboration of the likes of Shanalua with the would be invaders was presumably providing them intelligence. The narrative went out of its way to make Shanalua as sympathetic as possible. In this post I’ll explore what the story did and ultimately why it doesn’t quite work.
I think by making Shanalua a tactical foil to Flit’s mentoring was enough. There was no further need to instill a moral element to her. She was a stern but patient mentor to Kio in terms of piloting – giving Kio a defensive sensibility as opposed to Flit’s all offense all the time upbringing. She rounds out the X-Rounder, so to speak. Her turning out to be a Vagan spy would create (and does so) a tension in terms of military results, which ultimately becomes a moral question anyway: she is helping Kio cause Vagan casualties. Furthermore, this creates a layer of subtlety – a means to atone for her treachery.
This is plenty rich. This is enough.
However, the story gives her this family angle – which serves well the purpose of making the sheltered and inexperienced Kio to value family and relationships, but is overkill in using the sick younger sister. What really makes this terrible is that Shanalua’s primary justification for selling out Earth is that she didn’t have enough money for medical expenses and treatment for the sick sister. Money!
It would be different I think, if it involved high tech medical science voodoo only the Vagans had, thought it would take more effort in storytelling to make this work. But no, it’s just money. While we can reasonably assume that Shanalua’s already overdrawn, mortgaged to the hilt, and having problems getting more loans due to her line of work, I can imagine a few more options in raising cash than selling out the goddamn Earth to hostile Alien Invaders.
It becomes such a shaky foundation for what is obviously meant as a touching scene, a harsh life-lesson for Kio the child soldier. But this is pretty weak. Send this shit back to Mobilie Suit Victory Gundam where it belongs.
In the early parts of the Universal Century, females who turned traitor, did it because they were weak and damaged goods. Reccoa was rejected by Quattro/Char and went straight for the great space pimp Paptimus Scirocco. Quess Paraya also did it for the Char sex factor. Gundam is a rich tradition of misogyny, but I think Mobile Suit Gundam AGE actually makes it worse.