“What if we were to turn over the box, only to cause even more people to lose their lives? Could you take responsibility for that? How would you explain to all those families their loved ones had to die because you didn’t know?” —Commander Daguza Mackle
The transformed Unicorn Gundam overpowers the Kshatriya and Marida is ordered to retreat. The Unicorn is picked up by the Londo Bell ship Nahel Argama. Banagher is questioned by Daguza Mackle about how he came to possess the Unicorn Gundam but is interrupted by the Sleeves’ surprise attack. Full Frontal, the leader of Neo Zeon, demands that the Nahel Argama hand over any items related to Laplace’s Box, including the Unicorn. Daguza tries to ensure safe passage by holding Audrey – revealed to be Zeon Princess Mineva Lao Zabi – hostage, but Frontal refuses to accept they have the real Mineva. With no other choice, Banagher sorties in the Unicorn against the Sinanju; he fights well, but is captured when blindsided by the Kshatriya. Banagher is taken to meet Frontal at the Sleeves asteroid base of Palau. After discussing the nature of Zeon with Marida, who is placed in charge of watching over Banagher, a crew member from the Nahel Argama disguised as a bum bumps into Banagher and passes him a map and a transmitter, telling him to get to the 14th space gate or risk being killed in the coming battle. Banagher laments over how the colony will become a battlefield soon.
- The Unicorn overwhelms the Kshatriya before the latter is forced to withdraw, revealing its mega-particle cannons. The pacing of mobile suit combat is rather different in UC, with the mobile suits feeling heavier and more powerful compared to their AD counterparts; even the beam sabres sound more powerful, with their distinct hum reminiscent to those of light-sabres. One of the strong points about Gundam Unicorn (and the Universal Century) is that melee weapons are reserved for close-quarters combat, meaning that from a cinematics perspective, they are only brought out when things get more emotional or chaotic.
- I recall the first time I saw this scene, back on October 24, 2010 at the Computer Science labs when the seven minute preview first came out. At the time, I was a second-year undergraduate student, quite unaware of the challenges that awaited me during that semester and the even greater challenges in the following semester. The seven-minute previews are a Gundam Unicorn staple, released a few weeks before the actual episode itself aired.
- Takuya is very keen when it comes to Mobile suits. He is highly knowledgable about the details of the One Year War and declares it to be fate that the Nahael Argama is carrying the Unicorn. This interest sharply contrasts the nature of war: it’s one thing to read about it at home during peacetime, but another to be involved in one.
- Riddhe finds that Audrey resembles an actor in their universe and is initially unaware of her identity as Mineva Zabi. While she was born into the Zabi royal family, she does not endorse their ideas and works to bring about peace. She plays a minor role in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam, and her role is much greater in Gundam Unicorn, although Gundam F91, being set some twenty seven years after the events in Gundam Unicorn, doesn’t disclose what her fate is.
- Following Banagher’s recovery, Daguza Mackle questions him about the Unicorn and cites that it is a capital offence for a civilian to operate military equipment. Commander Daguza is a member of the ECOAS team, well-known for its combat efficiency: in fact, he single handedly disables the Kshatriya during the Battle of Industrial 7, which I forgot to mention last time.
- Full Frontal is a genetic clone of Char Aznable, with his memories retrieved from the psycho-frame of a previous mobile suit. Like Char, Full Frontal is charismatic and is a skilled pilot, desiring to bring about the destruction of the Federation through manipulation of events rather than brute force.
- The Sinanju is Full Frontal’s custom mobile suit, designed to resemble the late Char Aznable’s Sazabi. While lacking funnels, its thruster arrangement confers exceptional mobility, and the primary beam rifle boasts a direct connection to the Sinanju’s reactor core, providing it with unnatural range and power. I built a HGUC 1/144 model of this a few winters ago, and I love the beam rifle’s versatility: an under-barrel grenade launcher can be fit to it, and later on, a rocket launcher.
- Banagher returns Riddhe’s good luck charm, a pennant bearing a biplane, as the latter proceeds to the mobile suit deck. He’s an accomplished pilot, and for those who’ve read the novel, is one of the only secondary characters in a Gundam series to pilot a lead machine.
- Full Frontal engages the Nahael Argama and its entire complement of mobile suits as a one-man team, bearing testament to just how accomplished of a pilot he is: in fact, he is designated as the Red Comet, an honorary title bestowed upon the original Char. Things are done with a much greater degree of realism in Gundam Unicorn: the Sinanju’s beam shot pierces the ReZEL’s armour before blowing the leg off, rather than causing the entire unit to explode in a purple cloud (as mobile suits and damaged components are wont to do in Gundam SEED or Gundam 00).
- Audrey reveals herself to be Mineva Zabi, an heir to the Zabi empire. Daguza seizes the moment to try and negotiate with Full Frontal using her as a hostage, although the latter decides that since the Mineva’s identity could not be confirmed, he would disregard their terms. Banagher’s naïveté is demonstrated here when he tries to convince her to stand down: while he despises conflict, he does not yet understand the consequences of seemingly simple solutions. In this case, handing the box over to the Sleeves would likely result in the deaths of countless Federation citizens.
Despite the episode title bearing the late Char Aznable’s designation, the thematic elements in the second episode to Gundam Unicorn primarily deal with Banagher Links and his current tendencies to rush headlong into things without much thought, acting on his ideals and intuition rather than reason and trained instinct. As a result, Banagher finds himself in more difficulty because in the real world, things are hardly ever as simple as they may initially appear. Shortly after leaving Industrial 7, the Nahel Argama comes under fire from the Sinanju and Full Frontal’s mobile suit wing. Here, while his wingmen standby and observe the battle’s progress, Full Frontal demonstrates that his skill with a mobile suit means that he is well-suited to bear the mantle of The Red Comet. Effortlessly disabling the Nahel Argama’s mobile suit squadrons and nullifying its anti-air weapons, Full Frontal requests that Londo Bell return two important items: Audrey and the Unicorn. Upon hearing this, Banagher asks why it is not possible to simply comply with Frontal’s demands. The ECOAS commander, Daguza Mackle, replies that the implications extend beyond their current situation, and that Frontal’s acquisition of the Unicorn may result in more unnecessary death and conflict. Banagher’s reaction, though natural for a youth, illustrates his naïveté; at the age of sixteen, Banagher’s sentiments mirror those of his age group, a time where one believes that they understand the world and are ready to face it head on. However, in most cases, solutions have caveats, and while one solution looks enticing, it may bear long-term consequences that make it undesirable. Part of being an adult means having enough experience to be able to consider these options, and pick the solution that works out best in the long run, while minimising damages in the short term. Ultimately, the difficult nature of Frontal’s ultimatum mean that the Nahel Argama do not comply, and shortly after, the combat resumes. This time, Banagher decides to take to the battlefield himself, reasoning that taking out the Sinanju ought to be enough to stop the fighting. While admirable, this decision depicts the consequences of impulsive action: after burning through the Unicorn’s beam magnum rounds, Banagher tries to rush the Sinanju. This results to his capture, prompting the Nahel Argama to rescue him and the Unicorn. For Banagher’s shortsightedness, resources and lives must now be committed to recovering the key to Laplace’s Box, reflecting on the fact that failure to think things through will have detrimental consequences.
- After rushing the Sinanju to buy Riddhe some space, Captain Norm Basilicock is cut down by Full Frontal. His ReZEL Commander Type explodes, and a small container unit flies off its back; initially, I though Norm had escaped, but that isn’t the case here. Surpassing a conventional ReZEL in performance, the Commander types offer superior maneuverability and is typically equipped with a mega-beam launcher, which offers more firepower compared to the standard beam rifle.
- Since Full Frontal resumes his assault on the Argama, Banagher decides to buy them a little time by sortieing in the Unicorn, despite protests from the bridge. He is shown to have a degree of natural talent and some degree of piloting experience using the workloaders for his job, but piloting the Unicorn is a different experience altogether. It is important to note that Banagher chooses to pilot solely for Mineva’s sake, and this motivation never wavers even as the series proceeds forward.
- The beam magnum wielded by the Unicorn produces a shot of the same magnitude as a mega-particle cannon, capable of ripping through asteroids but also draining an entire e-pac per shot. To allow for continuous usage, specialized magazines are used. As a clever callback to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the sound of the Unicorn’s beam magnum is the same as that of the RX-78 II’s beam rifle. When the Unicorn was first announced, fans expressed disbelief that the RX-0 lacked the features typical for a lead Gundam, instead sporting a pure white finish, a visor similar to those present on the Londo Bell units and a single horn in place of the V-fin.
- Despite missing the mobile suit, the beam magnum rounds tear it in half, prompting Angelo to fire and “desecrate the Captain’s battlefield”. Angelo’s devotion to Full Frontal borders on the sort of thing that would please fujoshi, but the novels provide quite a good explanation of why this is the case. Those viewing the OVAs won’t have such an explanation yet, although the finale will probably cover this. Until then, his mannerisms come across as hilarious, especially the lines delivered by his English voice actor.
- The Unicorn’s entire frame expands to reveal the psycho-frame when the NT-D is activated by the presence of a Newtype. When the NT-D is active, the pilots consciousness merges with the machine, increasing its responsiveness in combat, although it places a great strain on the pilot’s mind and body. As a failsafe, the NT-D system disengages after 300 seconds of sustained use.
- Riddhe and Audrey share a conversation about their respective backgrounds; Riddhe wished they would have met under different circumstances, and later resolves to assist bringing her to Earth, where she may meet up with Ronan Marcenas and arrange for further discussions in an effort to prevent war from happening.
- Banagher meets Full Frontal on person following his capture. Frontal presents himself to be a well-mannered individual, offering Banagher tea and offers Banagher the choice to further the Sleeves’ cause rather than forcing him to do anything against his will. In doing so, while Frontal still comes across as a manipulative and calculating antagonist, this meeting reveals that, again, the enemy is nonetheless human and drives home the point that there isn’t a single right side to the war, as he acknowledges Banagher’s perspective on things. Angelo Sauper contrasts his superior’s attitude, flat out manhandling Banagher when the latter refuses to show respect for Frontal.
- In preparation for the operation to retrieve Banagher and the Unicorn from Palau, Londo Bell and ECOAS, the Nahel Argama’s damages are repaired, and its mobile suit complement is bolstered by several new Jegans and the Delta Plus. Plans to use the vessel’s hyper mega-particle cannon are also discussed.
- During dinner with the Sant family, Tikva claims that the Federation does not comply with the Geneva convention with respect to how it handles POWs, but Banagher counters that both sides of the war have committed atrocities, and that neither side is true justified in their actions. Marida then takes him to a small alter, telling him that for the populations in the colonies (spacenoids), Zeon became their new God and source of hope.
- The next episode will be centred around the recovery of the Unicorn, and attempts to understand more about the La+ Program, which seems to share a strong connection with the box. I was highly impressed with the way the story played out, and of course, the battle between Banagher and Frontal. The duality of the sides of warfare was also well-explored, reminding audiences that the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in war are strictly defined by which perspective one decides to approach the war from. In this case, it is difficult to definitively classify either the Federation or the Sleeves as the antagonists: this is evident in Full Frontal’s mannerisms. While he desires the defeat of the Federation, he nonetheless is a rational individual who follows his objectives based on what the people wish for.
Not all is lost, though: following his capture, Banagher is bought in front of Full Frontal, sharing a conversation about whether or not war is ever justified and gaining perspective from the Sleeves’ side of things. The Kshatriya’s pilot, Marida Cruz, also alludes to one of the overarching elements in Gundam Unicorn: the innate human need for guidance, and how the Zeon peoples took to a new God once they left the earth behind. This theme is significant throughout the entirety of Gundam Unicorn and is first introduced here. Marida tells Banagher that idealism alone is not enough in the real world to prevent conflict and save lives, further reinforcing that problems worth solving are hardly ever trivial in nature, and that sometimes, difficult problems can only be solved with difficult solutions. Aside from all of this content, which encourages the viewer to consider their own world-views on conflict and warfare, the second episode turned out to be an incredibly rich experience from the visuals side of things. Around half of the episode is devoted to the spectacular combat between the Nahel Argama and the Sinanju, highlighting the sheer difference in skill between Full Frontal and ordinary pilots, as well as the Unicorn’s power. Shortly after deploying, the Unicorn fires off its first round from the beam magnum: the shot decimates an asteroid on contact, and cuts a mobile suit in half without contacting it directly. Despite Banagher being a complete novice, the Unicorn is powerful enough to hold off the Sinanju and its vastly superior pilot, hinting at the awe-inspiring and frightening capabilities of this machine. As with the first episode, episode two carries on the series’ masterful blending of explanation and explosions. Through the dialogue, the main character’s personalities are brought to the spotlight, ranging from Audrey’s regal grace, to Full Frontal’s eloquence and Daguza’s dedication to his job. These breathe life to all of the characters, giving their roles meaning and helping the viewers understand what’s going on. Released in October 2010, upon watching this one, I found myself impressed with seeing some of the first major combat sequences in Gundam Unicorn, and suddenly was anticipating the third episode’s release in March 2011 greatly.