Mobile Suit Gundam AGE showed me many things, and is still showing more – things I did not expect it to do or pull off – but more importantly, and perhaps most importantly, it just showed me what Gundam is really about as a franchise, after 30 years; beyond all reasonable doubt.
This is no new thing. We’ve seen the Gundam protagonist to spare the lives of enemies since who knows when? But who’s the first to make it a point to do so? Was it Amuro himself? When exactly? Was it the mature Amuro when Char counterattacked? If so, the writing was really, really on the wall.
The Gundam is the ultimate machine for creating peace out of chaos, that God-like thing that dominates others through the skill of its pacifist pilot. That final battle between all the powers that be is the very pulpit wherein the Gundam and its pilot will preach its doctrine of peace.
Once the franchise “broke free” of the constraints of the Universal Century, the first order of business was to make the battles less lethal by design. The whole mechanism of the Gundam Fight makes battles ritualized and gentlemanly. It made casualty an accident, a truer tragedy. Only the truly evil may then desire the death of their adversary. The second order of business was to name the main character “Heero” and transform him from a cold-blooded killing machine to a paragon of pacifism. Gundam has never really looked back. What it did was progressively make the most powerful mobile suit in its TV anime more and more capable of settling the main conflict peacefully – its weapons: beam rifles, funnels, beam sabers, particles are used to disarm the adversary at the very least, and speak directly into one’s thoughts at the most.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE revealed the AGE-FX, and it has very powerful funnels – that it uses to precisely and safely remove the cockpit of the adversary, and thereafter shield it from aimed or stray gunfire.
It is the biggest inauthenticity imaginable. My hate for it is intense. I am here not to bury this show, as it is a show that has shown good and at times exceptional quality, and will continue to do so until the end. I am here to eulogize the passing of my hopes and aspirations for the future of Gundam stories, and accept that the best of what I love about this franchise belongs firmly in its past, and the only things that I can truly look forward to are reproductions of its violent, glorious past.
Here is the anatomy of the inauthenticity: a decapitation is extremely violent, and deadly. It is a sure kill. Headshots are decisive hits. The Gundam AGE-FX C-Funnels are enabled by the X-Rounder powers, and the skill of Kio Asuno to make the cleanest of decapitations, preserving the life of the adversary and yet displaying the thrilling spectacle of violence that is decapitation. But it is only deadly in the metaphorical sense, or rather, synecdoche – as Kio is killing violence itself; he’s chopping its fucking head off.
It’s how this whole franchise washes its hands of the killing and violence that got it here; the death, blood, and destruction that strung me along for hundreds of episodes. This is beyond Gundam AGE. This is Gundam Unicorn as well, the re-presentation of what the Gundam has always been about, and what it is for. I can only dearly wish that Banagher Links and the RX-0 does not do it so rudely and crudely as Kio Asuno and the AGE-FX does it, as deplorably as Setsuna F. Seiei in his 00 Raiser and QanT did it, as ridiculously as Kira~¶ Yamato in his Strike Freedom did it.
The shows let so many characters act like violent heroes and ruthless adversaries, paying little mind to casualties and even wishing to cause casualty. Captain Grodek, Flit Asuno, the many examples from the UC OVAs – South Burning, Anavel Gato, the members of the Londo Bell Tri-Stars, and so forth. These characters are assets to the franchise even as they get treated as blights, as sins to be cleansed. Critical deaths, heroic sacrifices, all these unacceptable things that galvanize the leads in their magic Gundams and wash the sins they do indeed.
Gundam is a show that teaches peace! It is a show that actually condemns the same violence it portrays graphically and gloriously for hundreds of episodes. Really, it does. Look at the commitment it puts in the culmination of its stories.
Flit and Grodek are the bones thrown at the fans who yearn for characters like Cima and Gato; for characters like Haman Karn, for Char Aznable himself.
But they are, in the end footnotes, they are points of view to be corrected. I am the spoiled viewer who threatens to stop watching the shows because of this bullshit, thinking that the war cannot be waged without an audience to watch it. But I’ll be BRIGHTSLAPPED back into submission. I want to be piloting a Gundam, and it makes sure there are more than enough variants for me to sulk lustfully into. I’ll take my lumps and gaze back into the tears of time.
[There is no panel this week. There are no images. There are no jokes. Gundam is serious fucking business. You are all welcome to discuss the rather amazing Asuno family reunion in the comments. As I said, there’s so much to love in Gundam AGE, and even in this episode. But as a viewer I am selfish and care deeply about my own aspirations for the show and franchise, and so this post.]