This is the framework, the formula – if you will, of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn set piece battle:
- An operation is initiated – implying or overtly according to some level of planning.
- It’s met with the opposing response – resistance is under control.
- Something unaccounted for joins the battle – wrecking the plan.
- Something else unaccounted for is introduced – resolving the battle one way or another.
The surprise factor (3) is always a mobile suit or mobile armor joining the battle that causes a lot of casualties for one side: The Kshatriya and the Gundam played these roles in the beginning episodes. The Byalant played this role excellently in episode 4. It’s here where the show delivers the goods: it remembers what kind of show it is and what its viewers want… a mobile suit demonstrating its full capabilities in a full battle context. These are what these mobile suits are made for, and extra points for using non-prototype units.
We find the same framework in episode 5, and it’s remarkable how the thing plays out takes up 75% of the episode itself. In this post I’ll get into the bones of this set-piece and highlight all the goodness.
I’ll let this comment set the tone:
Everything’s coming to a beautiful close, and you can really feel it. Feds and Zeons teaming up to beat the final boss that is the Universal Century.
Who is the enemy, really? There’s an ambiguity that existed from the very beginning of the narrative – and arguably, something that lies at the very heart of the Gundam story. There are villains, but they exist on both sides of the Earthnoid vs. Spacenoid conflict. Gundam seldom hesitates to make villains of the military-industrial complex; is it Anaheim Electronics really? No. A weapons manufacturer makes for a laughably uncompelling main antagonist.
It’s the time, the era, that characterizes the whole thing. It’s not something you can really fight against, but as a story the characters can act in ways that bring it to a close. When Lalah truly awakened her Newtype powers, she told Amuro that she could see time. It’s in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam that I first heart the term “The Tears of Time,” and then in CCA I heard the song “Beyond The Time.” We know what this time is, and the narrative has a clear name for it: The Universal Century… and it’s no accident that shows are sometimes named for the year in the UC they start. Our show is set in UC 0096, effectively closing out the century (and kind of making F91, Crossbone, and Victory not count).
It is then not surprising how, the main protagonists are brought together towards this conclusion – the Gundam, fights for everyone. After all, Banagher is no soldier – he is more a knight on a quest to bring an end to the conflict; the holder of the key. Thus, despite the self-interest of the powers surrounding him – manipulating him; there are those within those powers that support him. All the captains of the ships the Gundam Unicorn has launched from share this.
This time, it’s Bright’s turn.
Beltorchika Irma informs Bright that The Vist Foundation and General Staff HQ of the EFSF have mobilized the General Revil to wipe out all elements who may know the existence of Laplace’s Box. This means the Nahel Argama – ship and crew under Bright’s command. Conspiracy or no, I can’t imagine Bright allowing anyone to do that to his people. He takes immediate and decisive action.
If the Titans were willing to strike a deal with the Neo Zeon for less than noble objectives – which Bright directly fought against in the Gryps War, he sees no problem working with Neo Zeon to save lives, at the very least. Sticking it to the man is an added incentive. This brings us to:
1. An operation is initiated.
Bright, through Luio & Co. contacts the Grancieres and agrees to support their rescue attempt of Mineva Zabi. Londo Bell cooperates in 2 ways: First by withholding from the battle as the Vist Foundation’s Garuda attempts to defend itself, and Second by ordering the Nahel Argama to assist directly in the rescue by pulling the Grancieres out of the Earth’s gravity well.
The show does a breathtaking job portraying this. One thing that battles within the atmosphere allows is to portray the fight along different altitudes – it uses the cloud cover to great effect. The Garuda and the Ra Caillum are flying near the ceiling of the atmosphere, and the Grancieres appears from the cloud cover below.
The Grancieres rises up and appears to disrupt the transport of the Unicorn to the Garuda, and is then met with the Garuda’s Anksha’s, which lead to 2. It’s met with the opposing response – resistance is under control. The Anksha’s were divided between fighting off the Grancieres and then dealing with the Unicorn suddenly bucking, then the Banshee firing lethal attacks towards it. The Londo Bell Tri-Stars stay out of it as ordered.
The operation is a success, even if requiring the dramatic feats of Zinnerman being a 1-man hostage rescue unit, Mineva jumping out of the Garuda without a parachute, Banagher and Zinnerman turning Ple back into Marida and out from the Banshee, and Banagher pulling the Grancieres out from the gravity well using Amuro-esque Newtype green glow – the psychoframe luminescence, or whatever they call that awesome thing.
3. Something unaccounted for joins the battle – wrecking the plan.
Bright accounted for the General Revil, but not for it to arrive so soon. The combined forces of the Grancieres and the Nahael Argama don’t stand a chance, and the Ra Caillum is within the atmosphere. Even worse, the Unicorn ran out of juice after all that boosting vs. the Earth’s gravity.
4. Something else unaccounted for is introduced – resolving the battle one way or another.
The Nahel Argama no longer has an MS Team, with Riddhe running away with Mineva, making it a sitting duck against the General Revil’s teams of ReZels and Jegans. Fortunately Full Frontal remembers this is all his fault and redresses his assault by providing reinforcement to the embattled Nahel Argama.
It was just himself and Angelo Sauper, but the Sinanju is a proven conundrum for capital ships to deal with, and the Rozen Zulu was Newtype machine enough to take out most of the MS Teams.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling that I’ve all but forgotten about Full Frontal at this point, even though he appeared in episode 4 even if only to spur on the Zeon remnants. But this appearance stole the show. The drama of having Zeons rescue the Feddies from themselves only add to the richness and complexity that the climax to the Universal Century is headed.
Yes, of course Full Frontal is probably up to no good… but at that moment, it was difficult not to cheer wildly upon his arrival; and in the theater, everyone did.
Bonus: One of the Relics of the Universal Century Put to Rest (and Good Riddance, no thanks to you Jerid Mesa)
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)
- The Most Complicated of Set Pieces: The Battle of The Stratosphere (Post Three of Three) [You are reading this]