The Most Complicated of Set Pieces: The Battle of The Stratosphere (The Third of Three Posts on Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Episode 05)

[TV-J] Kidou Senshi Gundam UC Unicorn - 05 [BD 1920x1080 h264 AAC(5.1ch JP,EN) Sub(JP,EN,FR,SP,CH)].mp4_snapshot_34.50_[2012.05.28_06.49.36]

This is the framework, the formula – if you will, of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn set piece battle:

  1. An operation is initiated – implying or overtly according to some level of planning.
  2. It’s met with the opposing response – resistance is under control.
  3. Something unaccounted for joins the battle – wrecking the plan.
  4. 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.

[TV-J] Kidou Senshi Gundam UC Unicorn - 05 [BD 1920x1080 h264 AAC(5.1ch JP,EN) Sub(JP,EN,FR,SP,CH)].mp4_snapshot_43.35_[2012.05.28_07.00.30]

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:

[TV-J] Kidou Senshi Gundam UC Unicorn - 05 [BD 1920x1080 h264 AAC(5.1ch JP,EN) Sub(JP,EN,FR,SP,CH)].mp4_snapshot_20.09_[2012.06.03_07.12.22]

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.

[TV-J] Kidou Senshi Gundam UC Unicorn - 05 [BD 1920x1080 h264 AAC(5.1ch JP,EN) Sub(JP,EN,FR,SP,CH)].mp4_snapshot_45.39_[2012.05.28_07.03.05]

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.

[TV-J] Kidou Senshi Gundam UC Unicorn - 05 [BD 1920x1080 h264 AAC(5.1ch JP,EN) Sub(JP,EN,FR,SP,CH)].mp4_snapshot_48.12_[2012.05.28_07.07.08]

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)

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Posts on Gundam Unicorn Episode 05:

  1. The Purpose of Possibility: What Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Does for the Universal Century Narrative (Post One of Three)
  2. 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)
  3. The Most Complicated of Set Pieces: The Battle of The Stratosphere (Post Three of Three) [You are reading this]

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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24 Responses to The Most Complicated of Set Pieces: The Battle of The Stratosphere (The Third of Three Posts on Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Episode 05)

  1. Pingback: The Purpose of Possibility: What Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Does for the Universal Century Narrative (The First of Three Posts on Mobile Suit Unicorn 05) | We Remember Love

  2. Pingback: When Fighting Isn’t Combat: Banagher Links Continues to Evangelize From The Cockpit While The Rest of The Show Provides The Actual Action (The Second of Three Posts on Mobile Suit Unicorn 05) | We Remember Love

  3. Shinmarizu says:

    No, you were most certainly not alone in forgetting about Full Frontal, and then promptly cheering when he and Angelo stole the spotlight making that grand entrance.
    Also agree about the beginning of the operation with the Grancieres breaking through cloud cover. In the theater, that’s the most likely moment for the theater audience to start being really quiet, so the movie can make its magic.

    • I knew it. Thanks for validating. Unicorn truly made good use of clouds and differing altitude levels. It’s quite unfortunate that this is less obvious in the space battles — which makes other shows ditch it altogether and have combatants fight in a mostly flat horizon in space.

  4. KrimzonStriker says:

    I’m not a science major by any stretch but based on my limited understanding of the subject and my perspective on the metaphorical connotation, if we’re going to count time to the list of enemies wouldn’t it be apt to also list its accompanying factor, that is gravity? Especially when taking into the literal context the setting of an atmospheric battle like this, along with Banagher and the Unicorn’s last minute rescue of pulling them free from the planet’s hold, and then combine that with the metaphoric theme about souls being weighed down by gravity, though more eloquently that the souls are really being weighed down by history in this case, from the personal family conflicts of Riddhe, Mineva, and Banagher which ties to the general history of mankind throughout the Universal Century.

    • Do say more, as I’m struggling to understand what you’re trying to say.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        It’s the metaphorical point about ‘souls being weighed down by gravity’ playing out in real time this episode that I was trying to highlight. This goes back to your previous points about time, or the weight of history, being the real enemy in the UC continuity. Basically, this whole battle was the perfect representation of that, what with the character drama of the Federation/Zeon conflict and the obligations ones family legacy leaves with the Marcenas, the Vists, and the Zabi’s. This entire episode basically blew all those things out of the water, brought elements of the Federation and Zeon together, and helped most of the characters shed their personal reservations about the past to make the decision to pursue the future themselves, as both Banagher and Mineva have done in order to pursue the Laplace Box.

        So essentially, I was trying to say gravity+time=weight of history and how eloquently that metaphor plays out this episode, especially when Banagher pulled them out of the atmosphere like that. Sorry if I made it seem more confusing then I intended.

  5. reidjou4342 says:

    Full Frontal takes care of business. This is the strength of men who fight for freedom…and whatever ulterior motive du jour Char-clones have in this show. Who can say? He’s still my favorite Char, the one who bails out the Gundam and the whiny kid what drives the thing.

    And Angelo’s bow-out after wrecking those ReZELs – pure class.

    • Matt Wells says:

      Angleo was probably the break out star of the episode. He went from a creepy Garma-expy with a man-crush on Full Frontal to M’Quve and George DeSand’s foppish love child in the span of a minute.

    • Full Frontal is your favorite Char? I’m not bothered by this but I’m not sure I understand why really.

  6. Myssa Rei says:

    I think one cool thing about this episode about the Axis Shock redux (and something that I missed until someone familiar with the books pointed it out to me) was that it wasn’t JUST the spirits of Gilboa and Daguza lending Banagher their aid. See, that eye flash we see before the Unicorn glows green? It was apparently Amuro, or the resonance left he left in the atmosphere.

    • No, those were Banagher’s eyes. You can tell because of the hair (Amuro had curly hair)

      Compare it to the image of Banagher’s eyes when he see’s Marida’s past in ep 3, its exactly the same.

    • banagherlinks says:

      Yeah… I wanted to believe in that. I’m not contented so see amuro being to reduced to portrait XD. But, that will surely bang up tomino since unicorn is fukui’s.

      So unicorn gundam-full armor type will be shown next huh? I wanted the unicorn inherit Nu’s fin funnel but I guess that will too much of a stress for banagher’s mind……

    • The eyes were Banagher’s, but definitely this is both a reference and a replication of Amuro pushing the Axis asteroid. Pretty awesome.

      • Myssa says:

        No, I meant it literally that Amuro gave Banagher a hand. I wish I can give the relevant page though, as it was just told to me. Second-hand info caveats apply.

  7. banagherlinks says:

    Frankly speaking, I am more sorry to see delta plus being ripped to shreds by the banshee XD. Anyway, this episode really set back back the unicorn on its awesmoness( yeah I remember the sermon at the mount on episode 4) and stole the spotlight on age. (haters will always be haters) nice to see kai shiden here as a negotiator rather than a journalist heck, it brings back the good old times of the white base company. Bright on the other hand, lived up on the words of wisdom stuff though I’m kinda dissappointed that fukui didn’t incorporated the manning and the blessed bright slap on banagher.
    About the scene where banagher pushing the garanceires, it’s pretty nostalgic. Kinda reminds me of amuro together with Londo bell pushing the big fat space rock axis. Blaaaah…. I guess hi-nu nor the double fin funnel type nu gundam will no longer be the most badass suit in UC 😦

    • Ugh.

      The Delta Plus being ripped by Ple settles the silly argument that the Hyaku Shiki isn’t a Gundam (therefore Char Aznable piloted a Gundam LOL).

      Banagher did NOT need a Bright Slap. Banagher beat the crap out of Zinnerman which was the definitive correction/slap moment in the story. If there was such a moment prior to this, it was during Banagher’s initial despair in the desert. Forcing Bright to slap Banagher and thereby setting back all the characterization and story is galactically stupid.

      The Grancieres being pushed/pulled with the NT green light is the show remembering love for CCA. Of course it’s nostalgic.

      Lastly, the Hi-nu just isn’t the most overpowered suit in the UC. The most badass suit remains the GPO3 Dendrobium Orchis/Stamen — super weapons payload while retaining incredible mobility without requiring Newtype pilot.

  8. ces06 says:

    Thanks for the mention man, I appreciate it. I said that on a whim, but it does seem to fit the narrative of the UC, considering how the Universal Century itself started off on the wrong foot and that led to this and that and all of the awful misfortunes of the UC.

    This episode truly is one of the most awesome and best-constructed gundam battles out there. Just perfect, from the beginning to that awesome cliffhanger. Great writing, ghost! 😀

  9. banagherlinks says:

    Indeed. Ah…the dendrobium orchis actually that’s my personal choice as the most badass mobile armor. Heck, its a moving fortress. And I’m with you in saying stardust memory is a top notch in the side stories of UC. Though I insist on saying that Nu gundam double fin funnel type and Hi-nu is my personal favorites. Blah……. I still feel sorry and worried on delta plus rather than what will happen to riddhe. Being dumped twice by the zabi heir XD. About the manning I think banagher is not that immature maybe he’s the giving the banagher-slap at zinnerman XD

  10. banagherlinks says:

    Am I’m wrong to say that mankind’s nature and instincts are the greatest enemies aside from the time or period itself?

    • No, you’re not wrong, but these things you mention are present in every age. What distinguishes the Universal Century is a socio-economic, and environmental conflict. Those things, and the idealism of the Newtype.

  11. banagherlinks says:

    Yeah they did pointed it out in unicorn. I just had this when I remember zinnerman’s quote while talking with banagher in the desert. “It’s all humanities doing, indiscriminative development…..”. Great writting ghost lightning-san!! ^__^

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