「宇宙（そら）と地球（ほし）と」 (Sora to Hoshi to)
“Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows”
The wide arrays of iconic mecha are broady perceived as leading Gundam to its current success. In reality, the franchise is as much about the human side of the equation as the mecha and suffice to say, Gundam Unicorn (UC) delivered one of the most enthralling character studies in recent memories. Aptly named “Sora to Hoshi to” (“The Sky and the Stars”), Episode Six marks the return of our heroes to space and continues right where we left off as the clash of the supposedly allied battleships, Nahel Argama and General Revil was interrupted by the suspiciously timely arrival of The Sleeves. There is certainly a story of conspiracies playing out here but what’s clear is that the crucible of events is unfolding in a very human disposition that is highly relatable and somewhat melancholic. Especially with a story that is so prominently shaped by the operatic history of the Universal Century timeline – one where the writer, Fukui Harutoshi doesn’t bend over backwards to make things apparent – character development is sometimes eclipsed by the grandeur of its world-building and the political drama that ensues. The narratives of why the characters acted they way they did are critical in Gundam UC and such interpretation needs to accommodate their sense of factional solidarity, where achievements of their own are embellished while the opponents are unanimously vilified.
This is particularly true of flawed heroes, as exemplified so conspicuously by Full Frontal (Ikeda Shuichi – He’s Char alright!), the charismatic leader of The Sleeves who is spearheading the Third Neo Zeon War three years after “Char’s Counterattack”. Similar to his spiritual predecessor, verdicts of “The Second Coming of Char” differ wildly. For the hard-line Zeon sympathizers such as Angelo Sauper (Kakihara Tetsuya), he is a larger-than-life revolutionary who against all odds, strives for the self-governance right of the Spacenoids. For the Earth Federation who is adamant on maintaining authority over the space colonies, he is an extremist who cast virtually the entire human race into a state of terror, bloodshed and duplicity. The atrocity committed by the Zeon movement is well known and a case can certainly be made that Full Frontal, like Char Aznable, is indeed a terrorist. I’m sure far too many remember what happened during the madness of the One Year War when weapons of mass destruction were deployed indiscriminately and millions perished as a result. But that doesn’t mean it’s all peaches-an-cream with the Earth Federation or even those alleged pacifists such as Banagher Links (Uchiyama Kouki). In fact, the subject of oppression is at the heart of the many tragedies throughout Universal Century and the dark side of the Earth Federation cannot be totally expunged. From the so-called “Earth-Born Elitism” in Gundam 0079 to the yet-to-be-revealed conspiracy behind the Laplace’s Box in Gundam UC, it’s certainly not difficult to recount the dreadful events in the sort of bleak details that would make many of the Earth Federation supporters anxious.
Perhaps with the magnificent wisdom of hindsight, we might be able to figure out who’s right or wrong. But one of the many things I love about Gundam UC is that the line between hero and villain is razor thin and the revelation of Full Frontal’s master plan certainly doesn’t make the debate any easier. The Side Co-Prosperity Sphere (SCS) is a grand idea, on paper anyway – it’s all about the creation of a political coalition between the space colonies and the subsequent imposition of economic sanctions on the Earth Federation. There’s certainly a fascinating dynamic of role reversal that is being explored here. Historically speaking, sanctions played a key part in the Earth Federation’s multi-decade effort to extend influence over the Spacenoids. The formation of the SCS, however, symbolized a shift of economic supremacy in the space colonies’ favor. Such a development would ultimately set the stage for an exodus of Earthnoids into space – indeed, in line with the Newtype Theory and Zeon Zum Deikun’s teachings. Of course, nothing is ever as straightforward in wartime and the current political reality would never allow the SCS to see the light of day. It’s hardly surprising this is where the Laplace’s Box comes into the picture and while the nature of the artifact has been intentionally left vague, we know for sure it contains certain dark secrets about the Earth Federation that could lead to its demise.
Observers of the Universal Century, like Mineva Lao Zabi (Fujimura Ayumi), have certainly seen this movie before. Full Frontal’s plan is a double-edged sword – a perfect storm waiting to happen or a game changer that finally puts a halt to the years of terrible hardship. The quick retorts that she presented unmistakably argue in favor of her own idealistic views, but she correctly points out that such unilateral initiatives would only provoke rebellion, thereby repeating an endless cycle of war and terror. History often tells us a whole lot and unfortunately, that of Universal Century doesn’t give credence to the pacifist’s generous verdict on its people. The great irony is that personal ambition will always stands at odds with a win-win solution and indeed, the tussle on Nahel Argama only underscores the chronic tension that exists between Neo Zeon and the Earth Federation. No doubt, Banagher is not blind to the fierce ideological disputes that prevail now, but he’s willing to give humankind the benefit of the doubt, and his optimism isn’t without plausible reasons. If I had to pick a favorite moment of this episode, it would be the heartfelt exchange of words between Marida Cruz (Kaida Yuuko) and Suberoa Zinnerman (Tezuka Hideaki). Bent upon vengeance, Zinnerman has every right to hate the Earth Federation who mercilessly slaughtered his family during the Side 3 occupation. But deep down he knows he’s walking a path of damnation, one where he might even hurt those he cares about in the present. That he loves Marida is utterly beyond doubt and his profound remarks, “Follow your heart, this is my final order” signals Zinnerman’s willingness to let go of the past and embrace the future, one where Marida can be happy. If such a tormented soul can see the light at the end of the tunnel, there might hope that humanity can co-exist peacefully and Banagher is clearly clinging on to that glimmer.
There is no single narrative that makes sense of this all but one fact is not in doubt – the way the pieces of the puzzle are being fit together is truly impressive. Why the show works for me, as discussed, is the characters, and how much I’ve come to care about every single one of them. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t too crazy about Banagher in the earlier episodes, but to say he has grown on me in a big way since then would be an understatement. Then there’s Riddhe Marcenas (Namikawa Daisuke) who exists as one of the most fascinating element in the mix and where his ultimate loyalty lies is still to be determined. The clash between Banagher and his newly empowered rival is bound to resurface sooner or later and the final scene certainly got my adrenaline pumping as the souped-up versions of the Unicorn Gundam and Banshee collide in space, just before we hit the ending credits. It’s going to be a race against the clock for the Nahel Argama and Neo Zeon’s Rewloola, as both battleships head towards Industrial 7 to secure the Laplace’s Box. Both sides have clearly made up their minds on what they need to do and things are certainly heating up in every way as the marvelously complex saga of Gundam UC enters its most dramatic stage.
- I had better stock up on ice cream now that I know that’s Marida’s favorite food. I wonder what flavor she likes, Strawberry?
- The Psycho-field phenomenon of the Unicorn Gundam has been confirmed to be similar to that of the Nu Gundam’s and we know what happened to Amuro Ray when he overloaded the Psychoframe construct
- The latest ending theme (RE: I Am by Aimer) is composed by none other than Sawano Hiroyuki, who is of course the lead composer of the soundtrack. A truly magnificent song, hardly surprising considering the spectacular work he has done for the OST
ED6: 「RE: I Am」 by Aimer