“Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is man and not materials that counts.” —Mao Zedong
In the aftermath of the Dawn Rebellion, Degwin Zabi arranges for the Federation to withdraw their military assets from Side Three to avoid future incidents. After being reprimanded for failing to look after Garma, Dozel orders Char to Earth, but grants his request to be a mobile suit pilot. On Earth, Char works as a construction worker and meets Lalah Sune, working for a shady figure. He saves her life and grants her request, taking her into space. Meanwhile, Tem Ray pushes forwards with the RX-78 program to develop a Federation mobile suit. When the Federation learns that Trenov Y. Minovsky plans to defect, they stage an extraction operation that is foiled by Zeon, who deploys their mobile suits to great effect against the Federation RX-77 Guncannons, eliminating them and killing Minovsky in the process. Back at Side Seven, Amuro Ray begins to wonder why his father is sent on frequent business trips and begins reading into his father’s research, learning about the development of the RX-78 mobile suit even as the first shots of the One Year War begin, when Zeon declares itself as an independent Principality and mounts an invasion of the moon. The progression of history in The Origin differs from that of the original Universal Century in some key areas: for instance, the One Year War began originally when Zeon gassed four colonies at the start of UC 0079, and Minovsky dies much later. However, in spite of these differences, The Origin‘s final episode proved to be a solid addition to Gundam origin, primarily following the first deployment of mobile suits against Federation forces.
The main draw in the fourth The Origin OVA is its depiction of the natural progression of humanoid weaponry resulted in the Universal Century from construction vehicles and arming them, in a manner not unlike the development of the earliest fighter aircraft in World War One, which consisted of pilots bringing pistols and grenades with them into the air. Soon after, machine guns were bolted onto the aircraft, and with the development of an interrupter mechanism to prevent the guns from shooting up the propellers, the earliest dedicated fighter aircraft were born. Mobile suits share a similar background, initially being armed mobile workers that saw great strides after the development of a suitable power supply (a Minovsky reactor) and the AMBAC system, which provided unparalleled balance and coordination needed to give the weapon human-like dexterity. The Origin captures the development of fictional military hardware in a plausible manner, allowing mobile suits to gain credence as a weapon, and their first combat operation against Federation forces draws yet another parallel with the introduction of tanks in warfare. Although the first deployment of tanks at the Battle of Flers–Courcelette in September 1916 is widely regarded as a failure, German soldiers initially lacked the means to effectively engage them, falling into disarray when they arrived on the battlefield. Unable to penetrate them with their rifle rounds and grenades, Germans claimed that tanks turned warfare into a slaughter, and it was not until later that they began devising means of confronting these vehicles, using six grenades in a cluster to blow tracks off. The Zeon mobile suits, though far more effective and reliable than Mark I tanks, have a similar effect on Federation Forces, overwhelming them and prompting them to continue development into the mobile suit programme.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The fourth episode to The Origin comes out nearly a year and a half after the release of the first episode back in March 2015. I was quite excited about the announcement, which encompassed four episodes, and so, imagined this one to be the last release for The Origin. Here, Garma, Zenna and Char participate in a ticker-tape parade after their successful strike against the Federation garrison. The Federation seems to be an inept bureaucracy by this point, lagging behind the Zeons.
- After Char is dismissed, Zenna is called to Dozle’s study. Subtle details in the animation, such as Dozle trying to straighten his hair out, already hints at what will subsequently happen: Dozle asks out Zenna here, who is completely taken aback. Viewers already familiar with the Universal Century will already know the outcome, as Zenna later marries Dozle and they have one daughter, Mineva, who will go on to play a substantial role in Gundam Unicorn.
- At a casino, Char watches his higher-ups lose in roulette. Another client appears, winning consecutive matches before the casino staff switch the dealers, causing the same client to lose a large sum of money. Standing behind this man is Lalah, who Char feels is a little unusual. I’m no gambler, and remark that I’ve got no idea of how to play Poker, so whenever casinos are featured in a particular work I’m watching (especially something like Casino Royale), I don’t particularly understand what plays are being made.
- A young girl from Mumbai, Char and Lalah meet again formally at a dock. This is where things begin, later resulting in Char rescuing her and assigning her as a pilot. While with a friendly disposition, she holds Char in high regard and is willing to fight for him, culminating in Lalah’s death after she takes a blow from Amuro Ray meant for Char during a heated battle. Amuro Ray himself had noticed that Lalah was unique, and her death transforms the rivalry between Amuro and Char.
- Lalah laments the fact that her only family photo is of a poor quality and is initially distrustful of Char, but Char later offers to help her create a digital image and use software to boost its quality. Scanning an image is relatively easy, as is cleaning it up using photo editing software. Owing to my background, I’ve been sent to help deal with technological issues pertaining to computers and their peripherals, as well as in accomplishing tasks that seem minor.
- Despite being smaller than his opponents, Char is more than a match for them physically. His death glare is sufficient to send adults recoiling in horror, being comparable to those that Sam Granger and John Clark occasionally field during their operations in order to dissuade local toughs from bothering their work. After Char intervenes and prevents the fellow in the image from striking her for ostensibly disobeying him, a frigate arrives and sinks his boat before firing on the adjacent area. In the chaos, Char makes off with Lalah.
- Back at the construction site, the fellow from earlier has arrived to take back Lalah, but is decapitated by his bodyguard by means of a chakram, who has taken up a new offer. Char picks up a shovel and fights him, during which Lalah subconsciously calls out to him, allowing him to dodge the chakram and impale the bodyguard using the remains of the shovel. This scene is one of the more explicit depictions of violence I’ve seen in Gundam, although lacking any of the disturbing implications seen in other anime.
- Even with the assassin dispatched, another party joins the fray. From the casino, they order Lalah be handed over, seemingly aware that she has capabilities that could help them profit. However, while the casino group begins marching on the construction site to find Lalah, Char powers up his mobile worker and destroys most of the party’s equipment, driving them off.
- Federation brass share with Tem a plan by Minovsky to defect from Zeon. A fair portion of the fourth episode is thus set on the moon as this occurs, which has been colonised by the time of the Universal Century. I’ve never actually seen the moon cities in Gundam before until this OVA, having only heard about it in the passing during Gundam Unicorn, where Alberto Vist suggests that the Nahel Argama bring the Unicorn to Anaheim Electronics headquarters on Von Braun rather than Luna II.
- Documentation on Tem Ray is not particularly illuminating; The Origin paints him as a skillful but also rigid engineer with a very set vision for his RX-78 program. His interactions with Amuro, coupled with Amuro’s remark that “not even his own father hit him” in Mobile Suit Gundam, suggests that he is more conservative and disciplinarian in nature. Here, he wonders why Amuro had Fraw Bow over without any pants on.
- The mass produced RX-77-01 Guncannons are the forerunners of the RGM-79 GM series of production mobile suits, which were produced using information derived from the Gundam project. The manufacturers consider the RX-78 unnecessary and are eager to demonstrate the Guncannons in battle. However, these units are designed based on combat footage of the YMS-03 Waff, the first mobile suit to utilise a miniturised Minovsky Reactor.
- During the operation to transfer Minovsky into Federation hands, a small detachment of mobile suits, led by Ramba Ral, arrives to regain custody of Minovsky. The Federation decide to deploy twelve elite pilots into combat against four Zeon suits, boldly claiming that it will be taking a sledgehammer to deal with a fly, although they fail to account for a fifth mobile suit painted in red.
- During the Battle of Mare Smythii, Char draws first blood by shooting down one of the Federation fighter craft escorting the Guncannon carrier. Their destruction prompts Miguel Gaia, Ortega and Grade Mash, three other mobile suit operators, to disparage Char. Openly expressing distaste for Char and how he managed to become a mobile suit pilot. These pilots later become the Black Tri-Stars, a mobile suit team legendary for their aggression and efficacy in combat.
- Equipped with lower calibre weapons and rockets, the Guncannons arrive and organise themselves to fire on the Zaku mobile suits. Despite landing what appears to be direct hits, the mobile suits emerge from the dust clouds unscathed and begin a devastating assault on the Guncannons. Despite outwardly resembling mobile suits more so than the original Guncannon, their loadout appears more suited for dealing with conventional weaponry, such as capital ships and fighter craft.
- Lacking the same heavy-calibre weapons as the Zakus, the Guncannons are defeated one after another. One of my friends, an expert on all things Universal Century, speculates that the Guncannons lack the AMBAC system, which prevents them from executing melee attacks. The Zakus capitalise on this, closing the distance and absorbing all fire in order to knock down and disable the Guncannons.
- Some of the Guncannons seem similarly armed to the Titans of Titanfall, possessing a smaller caliber cannon and a shoulder-mounted ordnance pod firing rockets. The mobile suits evade them, and here, Ramba Ral’s MS-04 Bugu charges into combat, firing its 100mm machine gun. Firing shots nearly the size of main battle tank rounds, the sheer volume of shells mobile suits could put down range made them particularly lethal, and even the advanced Chobham armour modern NATO tanks use might not be able to resist firepower of that volume.
- One of the Zakus use a heat-hawk to brutally beat down one of the remaining Guncannons, and in the ensuing carnage, Minovsky is killed as a falling Guncannon crushes him. The battle over, Tem observes that the Guncannons are plainly no match for the Zakus and is approved to continue development into the RX-78 project, officially dubbing it a Gundam. The original RX-78 was the first mobile suit to feature beam weaponry: its primary armament was a rifle capable of firing rounds as powerful as those of a battleship and could rend a mobile suit with a single shot, as Char later finds out when encountering the RX-78 for the first time.
- While Ramba Ral and the others engage the Guncannons, Char himself hangs out in the back, destroying the carrier while evading its anti-air fire.
- The battle draws to an end with total losses for the Federation forces. It seems almost a tradition that I am able to enjoy a meal out on days where I’ve watched The Origin: with the first episode, it was a family dinner, and on the second episode, I had a ginger-beef poutine. This time, I sat down to a dinner of Russian-style beef on spaghetti with fried pumpkin and carrot, accompanied with garlic bread and tomato soup. A hearty dinner is perfect for a chilly autumn evening, and although this month has been warmer than average, it’s beginning to cool down now.
- A Zeon official negotiates with the administrator of the Grenada city here as the Principality of Zeon prepares for all-out war. I gathered that her name was Catherine, and that she’s working with Kycilia Zabi.
- In contrast with Amuro’s sloven ways, Tem is organised and meticulous: this is evidenced in how he keeps his room, and it is here that Amuro discovers the true nature of his father’s work. Schematics for the RX-78 can be seen in the background, and its leg design carries over to the RX-93 ν Gundam. Delving into some of the blueprints, Amuro spends long hours in front of his computer while the world around him braces for the inevitable.
- The Principality of Zeon is formed in UC 0078, adopting a political agenda similar to that of the Third Reich. While they are designed to be an antagonist faction that makes it very distinct as to who’s who, some folks seem to sympathise with Zeon for reasons beyond fathoming. While there are certainly reasonable characters in Zeon, the Zabi family’s directions lead Zeon to commit numerous atrocities, and as of late, it seems that Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s Settlement Defense Front is organised along similar lines as Zeon.
- Consequently, as a result of his sleep patterns, Amuro falls asleep in class, and here, is teased by none other than Kai Shinden. I usually try to maintain a half-respectable sleep pattern, hitting the hay at no later than 23:00 local time and waking up at 07:00. In this manner, I am assured at least seven to eight hours of sleep, which keeps me going for the day. Of course, by around 17:00, I’m usually quite tired and ready to call it a day.
- Later in the day, Kai and his friends insinuate that Amuro and Fraw are in that kind of relationship, resulting in the world’s most hilarious expression from Fraw. Fraw Bow (sometimes Frau Bow in romanisations) is a friend of Amuro’s — she looks after him while his father is away, but their relationship never reaches such a stage in Mobile Suit Gundam as Amuro continues fighting against Zeon.
- As relationships between Zeon and the Federation further deteriorate, hostilities erupt. Musai-class light cruisers exchange fire with Federation cruisers. While originally outfitted with conventional projectile weaponry, both Zeon and Federation cruisers field mega-particle cannons The Origin: over time, beam weapons render armour useless, so mobile suit development gradually shifts towards a greater emphasis on speed over armour.
- Overwhelmed with her own helplessness as the Federation and Zeon forces go to war, Fraw Bow bursts into tears after entering Amuro’s room and seeing him reading through weapons manuals. Unbeknownst to either Amuro or Fraw, both will play a role in the One Year War, and it is suggested that his talents for mechanical engineering allowed him to become familiar with the Gundam despite it being his first combat deployment.
- A Megellan-class battleship explodes after taking fire from Zeon battlecruisers. Depicted as being quite fragile, the battleships in Gundam generally feel more fragile than their counterparts in Halo, lacking the energy shielding that larger vessels have. However, mega-particle cannons might have similar effects on armour as the plasma weaponry that the Covenant uses. Consequently, it would be interesting to see whether or not Zeon cruisers could fight toe-to-toe with UNSC capital ships.
- Char’s Zaku is seen with a standard 100mm machine gun here, firing at Federation cruisers. With the Battle of Loum unfought as of yet, Char has not made a name for himself in combat, but nonetheless resolves to excel as a mobile suit pilot and eventually, take his revenge on the Zabi family for their actions.
- Lalah gazes out at the stars from the lunar surface and remarks that their twinkling is beautiful. Char corrects Lalah, stating that, lacking an atmosphere, stars won’t twinkle. The effect is formally known as astronomical scintillation, arising comes from moving air refracts the starlight in random directions, giving the sense that their magnitude is fluctuating. Following Lalah’s remarks, I wondered briefly whether or not The Origin would dispense with physics, but thankfully, it has not, and the moment is probably to suggest that at this point, Lalah is still a bit of a naïf.
- The fourth OVA ends with Char streaking off into battle as a red comet. Overall, The Origin was a fantastic adventure, and news that it will be continued was most welcome. The fifth episode will be titled “Clash- Battle of Loum” and the sixth will be “Birth of the Red Comet”. For the time being, though, this post draws to an end: I’m quite excited that The Origin will be continuing, and look forwards to seeing where things go. Further to this, unlike Girls und Panzer: The Final Chapter, I will very likely be able to watch and write about The Origin‘s final two episodes in a timely fashion.
The only negative point that readily comes to mind about the fourth The Origin OVA lies in how abruptly it ends: while a fantastic portrayal of ever advancing mobile suits and the growing hostilities between Zeon and the Federation, the amount of space combat was admittedly insufficient. In fact, one of my friends remarked that four OVAs seemed inadequate to cover material leading up to the One Year War, and would only accept the fourth OVA as the last installment if an official source stated thus. Mere hours later, we learned that there will in fact, be a continuation. Split into two parts, with one being released in autumn 2017, and the final in 2018, the upcoming episodes will deal with the Battle of Loum in much greater detail and Char’s journey to becoming the Red Comet. While the dates are a long ways off, the announcement is most welcome, for there will be additional installments that bring the events of the Universal Century to life using the visual styles Gundam Unicorn established. To see pivotal battles, including the One Week Battle and Operation British, in high detail, would be a chilling but instructive experience for Universal Century fans, and I look forwards to gaining more exposure to the most intricate universe in the Gundam franchise. This news also means that, for completion’s sake, I will try to stick around long enough to blog about the two remaining OVAs in The Origin.