I’ve covered similar ground before, but I feel this bears renewed discussion. By the second episode, I was thrilled by Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn because I felt it did mobile suit combat as well as it possibly could get, and this meant being free from many of the complaints I (and other viewers) have about Gundam and robot shows. One of these things is the moral debate that often happens while the participants are in actual combat.
Cinematic duels, particularly sword fights take advantage of the proximity and pauses between passes to stage debates and/or exchanges of wit. Star Wars is probably the most important work in this tradition as far as Gundam is concerned: Vader attempts to convert Luke into the Dark Side in The Empire Strikes Back, while Luke attempts to convert Vader back in the Light Side in Return of the Jedi. I find it hardly surprising that Gundam has taken this and ran with it, scaling up using mobile suits and their communications systems.
Just as in episode 04, Banagher wasn’t fighting. He was in a battle, but he wasn’t in it to fight. What’s important to note here, and in this episode Banagher identifies and accepts his purpose as the pilot of the Beast of Possibility – is that he’s here to save the people who choose to fight.
Bright Noa gives him confidence, as the pilot that the Gundam chose. But what really made it real for Banagher was when Mineva (having rejected Riddhe’s offer of a life of compromise), threw herself into the air, falling fast and straight to the ground, feeling the massive pull of the Earth’s gravity – called out his name. Mineva performed one of the most powerful leaps of faith in anime here.
And as Bright predicted, because Banagher is a Newtype, he heard her call. He was able to disengage himself from Marida’s confused and angry attacks from the Banshee and caught Mineva in another fine example of the romantic mid-air catches in robot anime. He told her as much, how he heard her, and that he knew – what his power and presence was for. With this she went back to save Marida, because Zinnerman and her must never fight.
And thus we see Gundams grapple with each other anew. In a sense I feel a lost opportunity. The most powerful Gundams could’ve really fought, but didn’t. It would’ve been a better fight than what we saw between Uraki Kou and Anavel Gato in Stardust Memory, but no, it wasn’t a fight. It was a powerful warrior taming a magical beast is more analogous – but it didn’t resolve this way either.
Banagher didn’t turn Marida back. The important thing he did was be that possibility. He dragged the Banshee back in the Garuda’s hangar, where Zinnerman was. It was he, with his courage and conviction that reached into the heart and past the tortured mind of Ple 12. Will she be the first and only Cyber Newtype who will know happiness in life? It’s too early to say, but we know she didn’t die here, and I thought she was clearly doomed before the credits rolled.
In the previous post I’ve spoken about the tension between the pacifistic lead character who happens to pilot the most powerful weapon in the show, and how Gundam Unicorn is the best example of this. I am not a fan of this convention, but it is an important one in Gundam. I’ll let this comment say it best:
I’m also not a fan of the pacifistic pilot, and yet I’d argue that some of the best Gundam series have this convention. Turn A Gundam is a fantastic series in which the main character kills only one character in the entire-run (compared to Banagher’s six kills thus far)
I think its precisely due to these god-mechs that Banagher and Loran wield that the writers go for the pacifistic characters. UC doesn’t look down on killing your opponents; in fact its glorifies the ace pilot and the common soldier, something Fukui has been known for since his WWII what-if novel ‘Lorelei’, or his contemporary military thriller ‘Aegis’. Characters like Marida, Daguza and Zimmerman all espouse their reason for fighting; those entering a weapon of war have to be prepared to take life. It’s you or them.
But characters like Loran or Banagher are not the common soldier. Banagher can kill a grunt by grazing him with his beam-rifle. Both characters face terrible consequences if they give into the machine; for Loran creating immeasurable destruction with the moonlight butterfly, and for Banagher giving in to the NTD and potentially killing friends, as he did with Gilboa. When characters possess these kind of powers simply murdering grunts and fighting with force becomes lopsided, it lacks drama and is questionable morally. What both series do instead is have the main characters find non-combative solutions to conflict; from the mundane of using your weapon as a washing machine, to the exciting set-pieces of storing nuclear weapons, catching your love interest in mid-air, or brokering an alliance between two factions, pulling their ships together. I can honestly say Banagher pulling the Garencieres out of the gravity well is one of the my favourite Gundam-moments, and there isn’t one beam-rifle fired.
What do you get when you have a blatantly non-pacifistic lead pilot? There are extremes; on the one hand you get a horror like Shinn Asuka, and on the other hand you get the sublime Flit Asuno.
And with Banagher and the Gundam Unicorn electing to provide non-combat feats and intensity, it’s left to other characters and mobile suits to provide the things I actually watch Gundam for!
In this episode I thought I’d be shortchanged. While the complexity played by the Londo Bell Tri-Stars is something I appreciate (as I will discuss in a succeeding post), the restraint required in their operation did not lend to intense destruction as was seen in the previous episode. What provided the much needed and anticipated MS battle action was the show-stealing turn of the Sleeves: Angelo Sauper and Full Frontal.
The Rozen Zulu’s stomping of the Zeta+’s is quite similar as to how the Byalant tore apart the Zeon remnants. The difference here was how the Torrington battle involved older suits (and in the Zeon’s case, antiques), Full Frontal’s counterattack on the The General Revil’s MS Teams involved state-of-the-art machines. The assault by Angelo does not resemble the carnage usually associated with overpowered Gundams as can be seen with the likes of Heero Yuy, Tieria Erde, etc. wiping out large numbers in a single beam attack, or its variation in Kira Yamato who fires multiple beams in a single attack to wipe out masses of enemies (or disarm them, whatever). It is consistent with how the Byalant, and earlier, Marida Cruz’s Kshatriya took out multiple opponents – which in turn is consistent with how Amuro Ray did in the Battle of Solomon in the OYW, Char Aznable in the Zeong in A Baoa Qu back in the OYW, Uraki Kou and Anavel Gato respectively in the 2nd Battle of Solomon – all amazing runs where a single unit shoots down many.
It’s a treat here because I can feel that the Zeta+’s aren’t chumps, just as the Jegans from the Nahel Argama weren’t when Marida ripped into them. It was really the pendulum swinging towards the Zeonic strategy of fielding a mass-killing machine against the Federation inclination to deploy mass-produced units. None of the machines were weak in this case, the Rozen Zulu just had some nasty surprises, to think Full Frontal’s Sinanju didn’t have work to do until it faced down The General Revil flagship itself.
It was that moment in the theater where nostalgia, the popular red suit, and the scene-stealing cliffhanger came together in the theater where I had the privilege to watch this episode. The crowd went nuts, affirmed by the number of people I saw wearing Sinanju hoodies after the show. It was a great way to finish the installment, letting us take the earnest attempt to make Banagher who he is, without shortchanging us with what we came to watch Gundam for.
Posts on Gundam Unicorn Episode 05:
- The Purpose of Possibility: What Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Does for the Universal Century Narrative (Post One of Three)
- When Fighting Isn’t Combat: Banagher Links Continues to Evangelize From The Cockpit While The Rest of The Show Provides The Actual Action (Post Two of Three) [You are reading this]
- The Most Complicated of Set Pieces: The Battle of The Stratosphere (Post Three of Three)