“Now you go and play your part. You know it in here: it’s the one place where you can decide for yourself who you are. Don’t ever lose it.” —Commander Daguza Mackle
The Earth Federation and ECOAS execute their assault on Palau, with the intention of rescuing Banagher and the Unicorn. Saboteurs destroy Palau’s connecting bridges, while the Nahel Argama unleashes its Hyper-Mega Particle Cannon, pushing the asteroids towards each other to damage much of the Sleeves’ forces. Any Sleeves unit getting out is ambushed by ECOAS units hiding in the rocks. Riddhe springs Audrey from detention so they can go to Earth and talk to his father, Ronan, but not before trying to convince a surprised Micott about their intentions. Banagher finds the Unicorn Gundam and tries to escape, defeating Marida in the process. She is eventually captured and Alberto Vist is allowed to escort her to an Anaheim Electronics facility on Earth. Banagher and Daguza proceed to the remains of Laplace with the intention of activating Laplace’s Box, but hear the original broadcast of the Earth Federation establishment ceremony. The Sleeves are not far behind and the EFSF/ECOAS units fight them. The Sinanju appears and Daguza sacrifices his life to buy Banagher some time to activate the Unicorn’s Destroy Mode. The fight sheds parts of the Laplace colony and sends them into the atmosphere. Banagher continues to pursue Full Frontal during the re-entry, but a beam magnum shot meant for the Sinanju hits Gilboa Sant instead. As Banagher and the Nahel Argama enter the atmosphere, Audrey arrives at the Marcenas estate.
- Micott’s mistrust of anyone associated with Zeon is such that she intended to alert the bridge when she came across Riddhe and Mineva heading to the mobile suit hanger. Mineva is able to convince Micott that she has no intention of betraying Londo Bell to the Sleeves, but Micott does not feel that Mineva is forgiven. This moment defines Micott’s character and contrasts those of other female Gundam characters, who are typically more stubborn.
- This is the Nahael Argama’s single most powerful weapon, the hyper mega-particle cannon. It is fixed under the central catapult and requires the vessel’s full output in order to fire. While the cannon is charging, the vessel is unable to use its other weapons or perform of any sort. Once the cannon is fired, the seven-minute preview closes off. This preview was released back on February 18, 2011, a time so far away that I’d forgotten when exactly it was released. However, I recall that during this time, I was going through what was my most difficult year in university.
- Here, a prototype Stark Jegan launches its large anti-ship missiles during the recovery operation. These missiles might be massive in size and have a massive blast radius, enough to annihilate a capital ship, but they don’t appear to be nuclear. While I don’t think the local suppliers have these in stock, I would actually buy an HGUC 1/144 Prototype Stark Jegan, if only for the fact that the suit looks beautiful with its weapons loadout.
- The battle between Londo Bell and the Palau forces was the most impressive combat sequence of any kind I’ve ever seen, showing off the best that the Universal Century has to offer in full high definition. However, combat is only one of the many things that makes Gundam Unicorn a step above the other universes; the story is perfect for both newcomers like myself and old timers who know the Universal Century as well as historians know about real events.The conflict between the Federation and Sleeves is not impossible to follow; instead, events are told from both factions to let viewers catch up on what’s going on.
- Some of the Lotos deployed to recover Banagher are destroyed by Full Frontal and Angelo. During the course of this battle, a variety of Zeon mobile suits are seen, and older records show that these designs were showcased in an artbook of some sort. To give an idea of how long ago 2011 was in internet terms, many of the links from the forum where I read about Gundam Unicorn have since died.
- The Delta Plus is a transformable prototype that has a well-balanced loadout. The unit acquired by Londo Bell is assigned to Riddhe; he quickly disables several mobile suits before meeting up with Banagher. Once the fight at Palau ends, Riddhe and Mineva will use a mass driver and set course for Earth so the former can meet up with his father.
- As a testament to how long I’ve been following Gundam Unicorn for, I can now spell “Kshatriya” without any difficulty. Forum discussions have been shallow enough to complain about why the series is titled Gundam Unicorn when there are other titles to chose from, and back when this anime adaptation was first announced, complaints were leveled at the fact that there didn’t seem to be a lead machine in the series. In its Unicorn mode, the RX-0 looks more like a pure-white Federation suit, being only lightly armed.
- Zinnerman observes the progress of the battle between the Kshatriya and the Unicorn with Full Frontal, whose remarks here offer insight into why the UC project (which has nothing to do with the U of C: I will mention this in a special post after the series ends) exists. The Unicorn was the main symbol of the UC Project’s primary objective of wiping out Zeonism in the Earth Sphere. Incorporating the NT-D (Newtype Destroyer system), the Unicorn can automatically engage and destroy Newtypes. Originally built by Anaheim Electronics, the Vist Foundation appropriated the prototypes and the Unicorn took on a new role as the symbol of possibility, being made key to finding Laplace’s Box.
- The Unicorn curbstomps the Kshatriya, settling the score from their previous battle. The Unicorn makes to kill Marida, but Banagher overrides the NT-D, and in a telepathic space, comes to learn about Marida’s past and reach an understanding with her, signifying his first step towards his growth as a Newtype. With her past now in mind, Full Frontal’s decision to treat her as bait reflects on his own character and how he is willing to resort to extreme measures to accomplish his goals.
- Following the events at Industrial Seven, Micott appears much more sombre, and appears to have feelings for Banagher, becoming depressed after their lives are thrown into chaos as Zeon, the Federation and Vist Foundation begin fighting for control of Laplace’s Box. Even if she and Takuya are only secondary characters, catching glimpses of the two characters growing and maturing in later episodes will prove to be quite satisfying.
Responsibility is the core to episode three, although it comes across as somewhat of a surprise to see discussions skate over this aspect, perhaps subtly hinting at the general trends towards both not understanding what responsibility entails, and eschewing responsibility for one’s actions. Unfortunately, this is becoming worryingly common in present society: as people make mistakes, rather than admitting that they erred, individuals may prefer to let someone else take the fall so that their own reputations are preserved. The unwillingness to discuss what constitutes responsibility is a troubling indicator of what youth may believe these days, that actions have no consequences and it is up to someone else to clean up after one’s messes. To this end, the third episode in Gundam Unicorn deals with Commander Daguza’s interpretation of responsibility, or the obligation to carry out a duty expected of them as a moral commitment. Concepts pertaining to responsibility are taught at a young age; children are shown what it means for people uphold their society, and those who fail to carry out these duties might be seen as indulging on society’s understanding. Gundam Unicorn presents responsibility as a commitment to a cause or people: Commander Daguza’s words might initially sound harsh or unreasonable to Banagher, who feels that he’s no soldier and that responsibility shouldn’t entail taking lives. However, there is more meaning behind Daguza’s words: because of Banagher’s choice to step into the Unicorn Gundam, for better or worse, Banagher does hold the fate of many in his hands (every shot the Unicorn fires has the potential to save or take a life). By choosing to become the Unicorn’s pilot, Banagher’s commitment is to see Cardeas Vist’s visions of revealing the secrets of Laplace’s Box to the world to its completion and to help Audrey to the best of his ability. Daguza is not fully aware of these details, but nonethless is able to appreciate the significance of Banagher’s decisions. To Daguza, Banagher must uphold his end of the deal and finish what he’s started by continuing to deploy in the Unicorn and bring the pieces of the puzzle together. When Banagher attempts to argue his way out, Daguza points out that Banagher would merely be running away from his duties, given that he has already committed (however unwillingly) to being the Unicorn’s pilot. Thus, Commander Daguza can be seen as a mentor figure for Banagher, informing him that responsibility doesn’t mean taking lives, but rather, fulfilling the obligations that are associated with taking up a particular role. This leaves a particularly strong imprint on Banagher following Daguza’s death, and subsequently leads Banagher down the path he chooses in later episodes, acting as a reminder about how responsibility in seeing a task through means finishing something to the best of their ability with the intent and hope that things will turn out for the better.
- While Daguza was initially presented as a single-minded soldier, he eventually receives greater character development and comes across as a father-like character for Banagher, reminding him of the responsibilities that he must take for choosing this path, despite not being a soldier. he becomes far easier to relate to, likening his purpose to being an important but common part of a bigger system, and that he merely does what is expected of him.
- It is worth mentioning again that it is remarkably difficult to determine who the antagonists really are, as everyone has their own motivations for taking up arms and fighting. Members of both factions are presented as ordinary humans who have families, values and ideals, with Gilboa Sant and Daguza Mackle being two of the more noteworthy individuals
- Banagher accepts the task of piloting the Unicorn to the Laplace wreckage; upon reaching the destination, the speech made by the prime minister is played. Full Frontal and his forces show up, pinning the Londo Bell/ ECOAS forces down near the wreckage. Despite Banagher trying to engage them, he is unable to pilot effectively. Daguza notices this, and feels that the Unicorn may be a test of an individual’s character. Understanding the nature of the La+ system, Daguza tells Banagher to follow his heart, before disembarking the Unicorn and attempting to buy Banagher some time before being killed by Full Frontal.
- In December 2011, I purchased the HGUC 1/144 Sinanju. The model was particularly impressive as far as details go, being almost like a 1/144 Master Grade. The seals (we English-speakers tend to call them “stickers”) were a nightmare to apply, and in the end, I used a toothpick to maneuver everything into place. The end model was impressive, and I especially liked the fact that it came with almost all of the Sinanju’s weapons (the only thing missing was the under-barrel rocket launcher from episode five). This made the model feel complete, whereas the HGUC Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) felt a little bare, as it was lacking beam sabres and the hyper bazooka.
- When the NT-D activates, the entire scene is set to MAD-NUG, a track that would be found on the second OST. It’s not heroic, but has darker motifs, signifying the ominous and dangerous power the Unicorn wields. The Unicorn displays a lot more of its power during this fight, managing to physically tear off one of the Sinanju’s legs and using a beam sabre rivaling the 00 Raiser’s to cut through debris.
- Banagher goes on a rampage following Daguza’s death and shows us what the Unicorn’s capabilities are; up until this point, he was engaging opponents to disable them, but Full Frontal’s actions draw out Banagher’s satsui no hadou (lit. “surge of murderous intent”, inspired by Street Fighter). He relentlessly pursues the Sinanju, disables one other Gaera Zulu and rips Angelo’s unit into pieces. My first ever Gundam was Gundam 00, a series where mobile suits explode even if struck in non-vital areas, and unarmed combat between mobile suits is basically non-existent.
- The consequences of acting while blinded by anger can be devastating: contrasting Harry Potter, where the Unforgivable Curses are only effective if one intends to cause and enjoy causing pain, shots fired from the Unicorn will kill regardless of whether or not they were fired out of righteous anger. This is the case with Muggle weapons, which are powered by the emotionless laws of physics rather than emotion. As such, Muggle weapons have the potential to be far more deadly than anything Wizards and Witches wield, as they can kill indiscriminately.
- In all honesty, this battle reminded me of when Setsuna faced off against Ali Al Saachez back in Gundam 00 episode 14 of season two. Both characters came on the verge of madness as they were blinded by rage, although this is where the similarities end. Whereas Setsuna stopped short of killing Ali Al Saachez by Marina’s song, nothing stops Banagher from firing a shot that misses Frontal and hits Gilboa’s unit instead. With the death of two important characters, Banagher will likely suffer from a degree of guilt and regret from all this. Whether or not he overcomes the bitterness and hatred from these events is uncertain, consuming the innocence in his heart. This has implications on what the contents of Laplace’s box might be capable of.
- Mineva and Riddhe arrive at the Marcenas estate in the ending credits, while the Unicorn is swept up by the Earth’s gravitational pull and is recovered by the Garencieres. The third episode ended up being as much as about the purely epic combat sequences as it was about human nature; in particular, Daguza’s conversations with Banagher suggest that the destruction of the Laplace station may have been a staged attack in order to consolidate the Federation’s rule over space. When all is said and done, this is not too dissimilar to real-world politics, which is often muddy. Unfortunately, those who observe such consequential events usually are no longer around to give their opinions on it when sufficient time has passed. Therefore, it seems appropriate that those in the present should not be acting on behalf of the past, but instead, uphold their responsibility by understanding what has happened and moving forward.
- Words may be able to describe thoughts well, are limited in their capacity to really convey things visually, such as the combined Londo Bell/ECOAS assault on Palau, or the fight between the Unicorn and Sinanju. Owing to this series’ superior quality, watching it at anything less than 720p could be considered to be tantamount to that most heinous of crimes, such as playing visual novels on a computer equipped with an ungodly powerful GPU like mine.
Aside from the episode’s keystone topic of responsibility, the third episode also explores how in warfare, the sides aren’t necessarily black and white: the parties perceived as the “bad guys” may have justifiable reasons for fighting, and the “good guys” may often use questionable methods to yield results. In this case, the Garencieres team are presented as humans who simply have a reason to participate in the conflict, and Banagher’s realisation that Marida is the Kshatriya’s pilot leads him to reach an understanding with her. For Banagher, the Sleeves are not necessarily composed of a single-minded people bent on warfare. Similarly, while Banagher initially views the Federation as a bureaucracy acting for its own political interests, his interactions with Captain Otto and Commander Daguza eventually leave a more positive impression, showing how despite being “cogs in a machine” (as Daguza puts it), the Federation forces are ordinary people doing their jobs. Gundam Unicorn excels in humanising both sides of the conflict, which means that for Banagher, it becomes difficult to suddenly train a weapon on a mobile suit belonging to the other side and fire. Because of this development, Daguza and Gilboa’s deaths at the end of the episode come across as particularly tragic, and indeed, this will weigh on Banagher’s conscience in the future. Aside from raising the right questions about conflict and depicting Banagher’s gradually increasing role in the hunt for Laplace’s Box, episode three is an incredible sight for the eyes, beginning with a concerted assault on Palau to recover the Unicorn, followed by a moving duel with the Kshatriya or Banagher’s fury-induced fight with Full Frontal over the Laplace wreckage. These scenes were simultaneously engaging but frightening to watch, giving viewers some idea of the kind of horrors the Unicorn can pull off under the right circumstances, whether it was taking control of Kshatriya’s funnels, physically tearing the Sinanju’s left leg off, shredding Angelo’s Geara Zulu in the span of seconds or producing a beam sabre the same size of the one produced by Gundam 00‘s lead machine, the 00 Raiser. During the course of this fight, one song in the background was particularly powerful. Known as “MAD-NUG” on the soundtrack, it is a piece that conveys the kind of power behind the Unicorn’s destroy mode, and is named thus as the inverse to “Gundam”: the idea of a Gundam is to symbolise hope on the battlefield for the side who possesses it, so inverting the spelling can be seen as inverting the meaning. The opposite of hope is despair and terror. When the destroy mode is activated, the Gundam has the potential to devastate an enemy, striking fear into their hearts, but even frightening those who possess the Gundam. Episode three ends with the mobile suits and the Garencieres re-entering in the earth’s atmosphere. During atmospheric re-entry, atmospheric drag and aerodynamic heating causes exposed surfaces to glow red-hot, while making it near-impossible to control the vehicle in the process. Viewers watch as the suits fall, seemingly helplessly, into the atmosphere, reflecting on how for the present, control over the entire Laplace conflict has slipped from both sides involved. This time, the wait for the next episode would be shorter, with only four months separating episodes three and four.