「赤い彗星」 (Akai Suisei)
“The Red Comet”
It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been eight months since the release of the first episode of Gundam series that marks the long-awaited return to the Universal Century timeline, but Sunrise sure made it well worth the wait. With each episode being an hour long and production quality that doesn’t disappoint one bit, this is more akin to a six-part movie series like Break Blade and worthy of a theatrical release if the story is broken up accordingly. Of course, I’m more than grateful that they decided not to so I don’t have to endure an even longer wait, as the story took a drastic turn for the better with the leader of the Sleeves, Full Frontal, made out to be the second coming of Char Aznable. I had mentioned back in the first episode that Char’s seiyuu, Ikeda Shuuichi, was scheduled to show up in the series, but the fact that Full Frontal is the spitting image of the leader of the Neo Zeon faction — who went out in a psychoframe explosion of light with Amuro Ray in Char’s Counterattack — makes it even more interesting. I also can’t help but see a bit of Amuro in Banagher’s appearance and sense of justice, so this sort of sets the stage for the legendary Amuro/Char rivalry that persists even through (supposed) death.
Story-wise, the progression has been revolving around Laplace’s Box, which nobody seems to have any idea what it is yet believe it has the power to destroy the Earth Federation once it’s opened. A lot of the discussion in the first episode between Banagher’s late father and head of the Vist Foundation, Cardeas Vist, and the captain of the Sleeve’s ship Garancieres, Suberoa Zinnerman, made a lot more sense in light of the developments here. This includes how the Earth Federation will frantically put their lives on the line to prevent it from falling in Zeon hands with no understanding of exactly what it is, and how Audrey — who was finally revealed to be the princess of the Zeon, Mineva Lao Zabi — continues to put her life on the line because she feels the Sleeves shouldn’t be entrusted with the key to Laplace’s Box, RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. In actuality, a lot of the mysteries were already hinted at in the previous episode itself, which for whatever reason didn’t occur to me until I went back and watched it following this one. With all the talk about how the mankind saw the evolution of Newtypes upon venturing into space to cope with its vastness, how the Vist Foundation perceives it as the wrong course for them to be used as nothing more than ace pilots in war, and how the results of opening Laplace’s Box can either pave way to the correct path or destroy mankind altogether, I’m heavily leaning towards the idea that the box itself is a figurative thing and Unicorn Gundam can “open it” by resonating the peaceful hopes of the pilot within to all of mankind — both on Earth and in space — using its completely lined psychoframe and psycommu system.
Under the assumption that a psychic phenomenon with the power to convey those thoughts and allow all of mankind to completely understand one another (similar to what Newtypes can already do in a much smaller scope), it would fit Cardeas’ vision of how the evolution of mankind into Newtypes was meant to be used. It’s also easy to see how this could destroy all of mankind if used incorrectly, either by simply causing mental damage to everyone or spreading the fires of war further. Alternatively, based on what Audrey revealed about the Earth Federation’s underhanded dealings and keeping the remnants of the Neo Zeon around as a scapegoat, the other possibility is that the demise of mankind comes about with the revelation of their corruption and how they’ve been neglected the state of spacenoids, casting a huge shadow of doubt over exactly who was to blame for all the previous wars. Whatever the case, I’m picturing that opening of Laplace’s Box is akin to the explosion of light between Amuro’s Nu Gundam and Char’s Sazabi that stopped Axis from falling onto Earth and left all combatants in awe over the state of mankind. Except here, Unicorn Gundam will be used to stop the fighting once and for all. Banagher does seem to have the right frame of mind in that war is never right regardless of who started it, but Marida did quickly put that in perspective on how that sense of righteousness doesn’t save lives either. The one thing that does seem contradictory though is the fact that Unicorn Gundam’s is equipped with a NT-D system, i.e. “Newtype Destroyer”, which the Laplace Program operating system activates to release the limiter on the mobile suit and deal specifically with Newtype threats.
In any case, while the prospect of having something of that magnitude happening piques my interest beyond words can say, the likelihood of it succeeding is pretty slim given that this series slots into the middle of the UC timeline and there are sequels such as Gundam F91 and Victory Gundam that show conflicts continue to arise. Be that as it may, I’m really captivated by how Banagher carries on his father’s beliefs that humans possess a light to guide them — a God — that shows us the “possibility” to transcend our current state and makes us strive for a better existence. In the current state of the universe, ending the strife would be the most obvious improvement and ironically, Banagher continues to find himself fighting in an attempt to achieve that. The idea of fighting for peace has been a prominent theme in a lot of Gundam protagonists, but I somehow find Banagher’s outlook to be one of the easier ones to connect with. I like how he has a level head and serves as a voice of reason to adults who are so caught up in war. A lot of times, he may only be spouting out idealistic views, but they’re actually a breath of fresh air in light of many military personnel who have lost sight of them.
One exception is Riddhe Marcenas (Namikawa Daisuke), who’s shown that he can be pretty reckless piloting his RGZ-95 ReZEL against Full Frontal in his Sazabi successor, the extremely agile Sinanju, and has a grudge against the Neo Zeon since he’s the son of the politically influential Marcenas family, but is able to think for himself after talking to Mineva about the cruel workings of politics on future generations. He may not be the best pilot whose commander sacrificed himself to save, but will undoubtedly play a bigger role in the story to come. On the other side of the fence, Daguza Mackle (Touchi Hiroki) of the elite Earth Federation’s special forces team, ECOAS (Earth, Colony, Asteroid), is proving to be someone somewhat receptive to Banagher’s protests, and also showed poise in using Mineva as a hostage and having her play the part to potentially save lives by keeping the communication line to Full Frontal open. It looked like it would have worked too, if the Anaheim Electronics executive Alberto Vist (Takagi Wataru, star of Gundam X) didn’t start blabbing away. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Banagher himself handles falling into the hands of the Sleeves and learning about the other view on the war from Full Frontal and Marida’s perspectives. This time, the Earth Federation is made out to be the aggressors as well, staging an assault on the Sleeve’s asteroid fortress of Palau even though it looks more like a suicide mission for those involved.
Visually, this episode was a real treat. The sight of the Sinanju flying circles around the Nahel Argama and shooting down its cannons with pinpoint accuracy had me wondering what the second coming of Char would’ve been capable of if it were equipped with Funnels as well. The same goes for Unicorn Gundam, though I was completely blown away by its Beam Magnum rifle that was unloading mega particle cannon size blasts. While that did make it seem like the power was in the rifle and the magazine cartridges more than the Gundam itself, the revelation that it has an I-Field in its shield did make it feel like more of a successor of sorts to the Nu Gundam. Aside from the red glow emitted from the psychoframe in Destroy Mode, the relatively basic design of Unicorn also seems to suggest as much. Marida’s Kshatriya, successor of the Quin-Mantha, didn’t see too much action in comparison, but it’s probably worth noting that Banagher still isn’t aware that she pilots it. As for the characters themselves, I was completely mesmerized by Audrey both in terms of her attractiveness and her composure. There’s definitely a refined way she carries herself — even when she’s being held hostage — which only seems to lower its guard when Banagher treats her like a girl rather than some political figure. In addition to the mobile suit battles, their interactions and potential relationship are something that I want to see more a lot more of in the upcoming episodes.
While that hasn’t been announced yet, I’m sure as hell hoping it won’t be another eight months. Edit: Episode three is coming out March 5th, 2011, so it’s just over four months this time!
* I find it interesting that Banagher’s name in katakana 「バナージ」 can be rearranged to spell “Bajeena” 「バジーナ」 really easily. Char’s alias Quattro Bajeena may not be used anymore, but it looks like his Hyaku Shiki (far right) still is.
* There’s still no sequence, but we have a really catchy ending theme by Kylee.