The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Six Days of Gundam Unicorn, Part Four: At the Bottom of the Gravity Well

“It’s too sad to live for hatred and anger!” —Banagher Links

The Zeon Remnant forces attack the Federation Capitol Building at Dakar in a feint operation to allow the Garencieres to descend to Earth safely. Banagher is revealed to have been rescued from death by the Garencieres crew mid-descent. Marida is transported to a Federation facility in North America, where Martha Vist Carbine manipulates her using the wreck of an old Mass-Production Qubeley, which she had piloted in the past. Audrey is held at the Marcenas estate. Riddhe escapes after his father, Ronan, tells him the truth about Laplace’s Box. Audrey briefly escapes captivity long enough to have a insightful conversation with an old man in a local diner, which strengthens her resolve. Bright Noa is ordered to take Riddhe on board the Ra Cailum under his command, as well as capture the Garencieres. After being called in from around the world, the Zeon Remnant forces band together and assault Torrington Base en masse. The Shamblo’s pilot, Loni Garvey, falls victim to the malfunctioning on-board psycommu system, becoming a channel for her dead father’s bloodlust and begins indiscriminately massacring the population of a local city, despite being ordered to avoid causing collateral damage. Banagher, appalled by the resulting destruction, confronts Zinnerman about his hypocritical rationalizing of the situation and flies out in the Unicorn Gundam to put a stop to Loni’s rampage. After failing to reason with her, he activates the NT-D in a last-ditch effort to stop her without resorting to lethal force. Incensed by Banagher’s refusal to kill Loni, Riddhe decides to kill her himself, much to Banagher’s dismay, and orders him at gunpoint to hand over the Unicorn Gundam according to Captain Bright’s orders. As he threatens Banagher, the two witness a mysterious black-colored Unicorn Gundam being dropped into the battlefield.

  • There really is a lot of history in Gundam UC, a constant reminder of the complexities in the Universal Century. During the One Week Battle of the One Year War, Zeon forces moved a depopulated colony from Side 2 and attempted to use it to wipe out Jaburo, a Federation base that was invulnerable to even nuclear strikes. However, they missed and hit Sydney, Australia, instead. The colony exploded with 60 GT (60 000 MT) of force and completely annihilated Eastern Australia. Contrasting the original scene, which depicted the colony dropping on New York, the flashback depicts Sydney as it is now: the Sydney Opera House can be seen on the lower right of the image.

  • A RGM-86R GM III uses a beam spear to disable a MSM-04G Juaggu, a heavy amphibious mobile suit derived off the MSM-04 Acguy. It is designed to provide medium-range fire support for other mobile suits on the front lines, and has sufficiently heavy armour to repel a beam sabre cutting into its cannons.

  • Riddhe’s feelings for Audrey aren’t explored in full detail relative to the other elements. However, the fact that Riddhe suggests that both he and her are born into their family’s curse might be what instigates these emotions, borne of a sense of familiarity and longing.

  • Banagher and Zimmerman discuss their views on the world after the Garencieres crashes in the desert. Zimmerman feels that humanity lost a vital part of themselves when they advanced into the Industrial Age, and that the increasing complexity of society was what drove much of the strife the world faced. With the migration of humanity into space came the development of new ideologies; and the disparities between the new ideals and existing ones lead to conflict. Naturally, this holds true even in the present era. While we may not have advanced into space just yet, human civilisation is characterised by conflicting ideals, and the belief that armed resolutions are the only possible solution because the ‘other side’ is always unwilling to back down and compromise. Whether it was in European Imperialism or the Cold War, conflict always results from incompatible ideologies, because what one party finds to be functional may be detrimental to the other party.

  • Riddhe is reassigned to the Ra Cailum. At this point in the Laplace conflict, rather than carrying a Gundam, the Tri-Star mobile suit team is stationed on board. Piloting the RGM-96X Jestas, Daryl McGuinness, Nigel Garrett and Watts Stepney are superb pilots and were originally candidates to operate the Unicorn Gundam. Shifts in priorities meant they would be reassigned to be the Jesta’s pilot. A mass produced suit, the Jesta was originally intended to act as support units for the Unicorn Gundam and boasts superior performance compared to Jegans and ReZELs.

  •  Before we go on to discuss how awesome the battle sequences are, I would like to bring out a screen cap of what Amuro Ray appears as in 1080p glory. After this episode aired back in Fall 2012, I expressed a wish to see a remastered version of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and announcements pertaining to Mobile Suit Gundam Origin elevated my hopes, but recent news has shown that this isn’t a re-telling, but rather, a four-episode OVA about Char and Sayla Mass’ origins, set for release next year in Spring 2015.

  • The Zeon Remnants forces gather to mount a brutal assault on Torrington base to ensure the safe activation of the Unicorn’s NT-D in the hopes of breaking the seal on the La+ program. When I say brutal, several instances come to mind, including an AMX-109 Capule crushing and exploding the head of a RAG-79 Aqua GM, and the MSM-08 Zogok ripping a RMS-179/RGM-79R GM II into shreds using a heat blade (shown above). This is easily the most extreme battle between mobile suits I’ve seen; back in the days of Gundam 00, I mentioned that physically tearing suits apart was something I might have expected out of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I suppose UC Gundam just takes things one step further.

  • The Federation Forces are totally overwhelmed by the Zeon attack. It bears testament to just how aged hardware that the Federation continues to deploy: we see more conventional weapons like tanks and fighter jets being deployed, although those are easily wiped out by the Zeon forces, including a Zaku customised for long range sniping.

  • A while back, I was shown a Gundam video where mobile suits equipped with a 105mm machine gun could seemingly punch apart main battle tanks, but lacked effectiveness against mobile suits. The American M1A2 Abrams currently use the M829A3, a Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding-Sabot penetrator that makes use of depleted uranium to punch through enemy armour. In its current iteration, it is capable of defeating reactive armour to improve effectiveness, and while a tank could hypothetically take out a Zaku owing to the latter’s weak armour, the advantage the Zaku would have is probably in being able to fire a larger volume of relatively high caliber rounds against a slow moving target.

  • Despite being an older suit, the MS-05L Zaku Sniper demonstrates its effectiveness at Torrington base. I especially loved the interior shots, showing the unit as having a superior cockpit to even Gundam SEED Destiny‘s Strike Freedom, with flat panel displays and electronics that confer enough precision to make the Zaku Sniper highly lethal. Another detail I enjoyed was its quick-change barrel, which gave the weapon a feeling not dissimilar to those of present-day bolt-action rifles.

While episode four is probably the most action-packed episode in Gundam Unicorn thus far, when laser fire is not filling the screen, the price humanity paid for progress and the dynamics between revenge and forgiveness are bought to the table. These elements are explored when Banagher and Zinnerman share a conversation about the kind of suffering Zeon experienced at the Federation hands, as well as how no amount of revenge will bring back the lives that were lost, and how humanity’s reckless advancement led to a society that lost touch with the citizens. Earlier on, Audrey shares a similar conversation with a diner’s owner, reaching mutual understanding of the relationships between Zeon and the Federation. The original Zeon had intended to bring harmony back to the people, and the Federation had tried to build a stable system for people, but these visions were sullied by ambitions and idealogical differences from both the Zeon and Federation leaders, leading to a ceaseless cycle of revenge and hatred. Through their conversation, Banagher wonders if humanity can really change, and through their journey to find the means to put the Garencieres back into service, he comes to an understanding with Zinnerman. This discussion helps Banagher move on from the deaths of Commander Daguza and Gilboa, and when the assault on Torrington begins, despite misreading Zinnerman’s words, Banagher nonetheless sorties to stop Loni’s rampage, through reason rather than force. With this newfound understanding of setting aside the past and striving for a future where mutual cooperation displaces hatred, Banagher tries to convince Loni that revenge is a curse that only breeds suffering. In spite of Yonem Kirk’s death and the Shambloo’s malfunctioning Pyscommu system complicating his efforts, Banagher comes very close to getting through: in her final moments, Banagher is able to rescue her from her own sadness. The conversation between Loni and Banagher emphasises the nature of vengeance: Loni believes that the Federation must be punished in accordance for the suffering the Zeons experienced and is intent on maximising the suffering that she believes the Federation must endure. However, Banagher counteracts this, saying that those close to the individuals she winds up killing may seek revenge against her in an unending cycle. This cycle is only broken when one side can forgive the other, and bring an end to the never-ending number of atrocities the Federation and Zeons have committed against one another over the years. How forgiveness is attained is never explicitly stated, but Banagher does mention that there is more to life than revenge, suggesting that he’s now willing to work towards the future that Cardeas Vist envisioned with his full effort. Moreover, Banagher’s actions at Torrington show that while he has accepted responsibility for his role in the search for Laplace’s Box, he has remained faithful to his beliefs about taking lives in battle. Failing to save Loni, however, illustrates the harsh reality as Banagher is left with contemplating the unfairness that is a fact of life.

  • A while back at TV Tropes, an anonymous editor was bold enough to claim that the Shamblo was something the Unicorn and Delta Plus together could not stop. I imagine they might have been referring to the novel, since in the OVA, Banagher is focused on stopping Loni through the minimal use of force, and as such, the full extent of how well the Unicorn could hold out against the Shamblo is never seen. The subsequent scenes are set to the song titled “Mobile Armour” on the soundtrack, a powerful piece that acts as a powerful indicator of just how effective music can be in setting off the mood in a scene.

  • Bright Noa is a loyal and dedicated soldier both in war and peace. He enforces strict military discipline and regulations, yet he never hesitates to make the morally right decision for the better of all, even if he has to disobey orders from his superiors. Fans were most pleased with his return in Unicorn: he is considered to be one of the most successful field commanders in UC Gundam timeline, as he has led his ships and fleets victorious in the One Year War, The AEUG-Titans/Gryps War, The First Neo Zeon War, and The Second Neo Zeon War.

  • Not content to merely shut down the Federation suits defending Torrington base, the Zeon remnant suits brutally ensure that all of the suits are completely disabled. Besides the Unicorn and Delta Plus, the Jestas are the newest suits on the battlefield, and upon arrival, they quickly wipe out most of the outdated Zeon suits. Nigel comments that the Zeon forces are insane for attacking in older suits, suggesting that weapons outdated even by a few years go obsolete in the Gundam universe.

  • The RX-160S Byalant Custom is a Federation mobile suit designed for self-sustained atmospheric flight and is a direct upgrade of the original. Its capabilities were achieved through the incorporation of powerful thrusters in its shoulders, waist and back with two large-capacity fuel tanks in its back to keep the thrusters fueled. Its unique hand design prevent it from using any standardised weapons: instead, it is equipped with beam sabres and a pair of mega-particle cannons in its arms. During the battle at Torrington base, a single Byalant Custom was able to decimate entire squadrons of Zeon mobile suits without any assistance, and is piloted by Robin Diez. Viewers were completely blown away by the Byalant’s performance and felt that its appearance may have surpassed the confrontation between the Unicorn and the Shambloo.

  • Banagher confronts Loni about the choice of her actions: the latter claims that it is a duty for her to carry out her parent’s wishes, although Banagher is able to sense that she is being enslaved by the Shamblo’s own psycommu system; Yonem Kirks is able to make this interpretation, as well, and feels the mobile armour itself may be thirsting for revenge. I know the whole point of episode four is the confrontation with the Shamblo Mobile Armour, so I’ll quickly provide some background. Designated the AMA-X7, the Shamblo is a massive amphibious mobile armour developed by Zeon remnants with the technical support of the supporters of Neo Zeon. It possesses three mega-particle diffusion cannons and ten reflector bits which render it impervious to beam weaponry, and is deployed to allow rapid advancement on a battlefield. Riddhe arrives at the battlefield in his Delta plus to assist Banagher; while he also realises that Loni is enslaved by the machine and her past, he believes that taking out the Shamblo is the only means of ending her blood curse and the carnage.

  • Banagher’s attempts to release Loni from the dark emotions in the Shamblo are reminiscent of Setsuna’s use of the Quantum System and Trans-Am burst. The effects and objectives are similar enough, too; both are trying to communicate with someone rather than fighting them in the hopes of resolving the conflict peacefully. Right before confronting Loni, Banagher expresses his wish to the Unicorn that its purpose is to understand the wishes of others and why sadness may arise, rather than being a machine built for destruction.

  • When the Shamblo brings Loni’s mind to the brink of no-return following Kirk’s death, Riddhe tries to convince Banagher that shooting down the Shamblo is the only way to prevent any more casualties. With one shot left in the beam magnum, he consents to take the shot, but at the last moment, Loni overcomes the Shamblo’s psycommu. It is here that Banagher realises that he was able to save Loni and refuses to fire on the Shamblo, driven by a wish to stop war from claiming another individual, and while his feelings reach through, he ultimately is unable to save her.

  • This fact is unknown to Riddhe, who seizes the beam magnum and fires the shot that stops the Shamblo. The shot vaporises its cockpit and ends the mobile armour’s rampage in Torrington, although the recoil of the shot also takes out the Delta Plus’ right arm. He then receives orders to remove Banagher from the Unicorn and relinquish it to the Federation.

  • Despite its overwhelming power, the beam magnum is only able to punch a hole in the Shamblo, and its reactor does not go off afterwards. Riddhe’s actions may reflect on his training as a soldier, but firing first and asking questions later does have its consequences, and as such, Banagher’s efforts were in vain.

  • In my original post, I’d deliberately left out Marida’s capture and brainwashing by Martha Vist Carbine; Martha shows a great deal of interest in Laplace’s box and appears to be intent on obtaining it to serve her own ends. Having captured Marida, she modifies her mind and makes her the pilot of the RX-0 Unicorn Banshee. This action suggests that Anaheim Electronics itself may be preparing to oppose the Federation to obtain the box and preserve both AE and the Vist Foundation’s interests, which remained unknown at the time of writing.

As in the spirit of its predecessors, episode four represents a masterful balance between world-building and action sequences. The episode is able to get the viewers thinking about the implications of the conversations held in the show and their pertinence to the real world, but when the chips are down and mobile suits start deploying, no expense is spared in choreographing the combat. Old time fans will marvel at the sheer number of now-antiquated mobile suits hailing back to the One Year War and smile at seeing them in combat again, although both new and old fans alike will be sure to enjoy the chaotic combat on multiple fronts, ranging from the appearance of the Ra Cailum’s new elite Tri-Stars team, to the RX-160S Byalant Custom’s exceptional combat efficiency and Yonem Kirk’s sharpshooting using the Zaku II Sniper. After the Shambloo is deployed to Torrington and physically tears apart a small aircraft carrier, it’s non-stop action to the episode’s end. This episode showcases many suits from the older ages, and even in the episode’s opening at Dakar, RGM-86R GM IIIs and a MSM-04G Juaggu can be seen in combat. The presence of older suits in Gundam Unicorn is a welcoming factor, bringing to mind how weapons are in service for decades in the real world. The American armed forces, for instance, still field their M1A2 main battle tanks and F/A-18s in combat. Entering service in 1980 and 1983, respectively, these military implements have been around for nearly three decades and are still operational, having seen constant upgrades to ensure they can fulfil their roles. In Gundam, roughly sixteen years separate the One Year War from the events that occur in Gundam Unicorn, and as per their real-world analogues, they can still cause a fair amount of damage. While Gundam is a franchise where military hardware becomes obsolete as quickly as computers, Gundam Unicorn still portrays pilots as the deciding factor, rather than the weapon itself. The battle at Torrington showcases this: the more skillful Zeon pilots are able to decimate newer MSA-005K Guncannon Detectors and RMV-1 Guntank IIs using the older MS-08TX/S Efreet Schneids and MS-06K Zaku Cannons, reflecting on how newer isn’t always better. This is in contrast to some other Gundam series, where in the space of three years, even Gundams become obsolete and are unable to keep up with mass production suits, despite the pilots having similar skill levels. The confrontation between Loni and Banagher acts as the focal point for the episode’s second half; as noted previously, Banagher is able to save Loni from herself, although Riddhe’s brash actions prevent undermine all of this and sets the stage for the rift between him and Banagher. Before even this can sink in, however, the Unicorn Banshee arrives on scene, and the audience is left with an immediate desire to follow up on the next episode. Episode four released in November 2011, and owing to delays in the production process, episode five would show up not four, but six months later, airing in May 2012.

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