It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.
–Eternity, Arthur Rimbaud
Jona Basta, Michele and Rita Bernal were friends who foresaw the devastating outcome of Operation British and became dubbed the “Miracle Children” for their part in helping reduce casualties with their prediction. They were subsequently sent to a Newtype research facility, where it became clear that Jona and Michele did not exhibit the traits of a true Newtype. Rita was ultimately sent off for further study, while Michele returned to Luio & Co, and Jona ended up joining the EFSF navy as a pilot. Some seventeen years later, in UC 0097, the enigmatic Phenex Gundam, brother unit to the Unicorn and Banshee, makes a return. A year earlier, the Laplace Conflict revealed that the original UN Charter had encompassed the existence and rights for Newtypes, but the world’s policy remained unchanged. The tremendous power that the Unicorn and Banshee demonstrated was seen as a threat, and the two Gundams were dismantled. However, the reappearance of the Phenex prompts the Federation’s Intelligence Bureau to capture it, secretly collaborating with the Sleeves remnants to capture the Phenex. two years previously, the Phenex was lost during a test when its psychoframe resonated and it destroyed the Shallot, an Irish-class battleship supervising the test. Because the Unicorn and Banshee were purportedly dismantled, the Phenex remains the only Gundam with a functional psychoframe that could be studied. Jona is sent to participate in the operation Phoenix Hunt with the Narrative Gundam, but lets the Phenex escape. Later, when following the Phenex’s psycommu signal into the Metis Colony, Jona encounters Zoltan Akkanen, a Sleeves remnants clone who, like Full Frontal, was created from Char’s memory. Zoltan’s instability leads him to engage Jona, and the Phenex intervenes. The Narrative begins resonating and makes to engage the Phenex, taking control of the II Neo Zeong Zoltan had called in, but the process is stopped when Rita’s spirit helps Jona come to his senses. Back on board the Damascus, Captain Averaev forces Michele explain the details of Operation Phoenix to the crew. It turns out that her interest in Newtypes stemmed from the promise of eternal life that it could bring. In order to draw the Phenex out, Michele provided the Sleeves remnants with the II Neo Zeong and hoped that the Narrative would resonate with it. However, the failure to recapture the Phenex casts doubt in the Phoenix Hunt programme, and the superiors order the operation stopped. Zoltan, learning that his usefulness has ended, seizes the II Neo Zeong and intends to destroy the colonies, feeling that people are incapable of change and will only cause further harm by exploiting Newtypes as a military asset. Jona sorties in the Narrative to engage Zoltan, but the II Neo Zeong overwhelms him. Michele, realising that she’d been indebted to Rita for giving her a chance to live, decides to sacrifice herself to save Jona, who escapes the destruction of the Narrative Gundam. Boarding the Phenex, he destroys the II Neo Zeong and stops Zoltan’s spirit from triggering a runaway fusion reaction in the Helium-3 storage facility. In the aftermath of the battle, Banagher Links appears to rescue him, and the two watch as the Phenex departs.
In its hundred-minute run, Gundam Narrative deals with the aftermath of the Laplace Conflict, which shows that humanity ultimately did not develop or progress considerably in the year since Laplace’s Box was opened. Instead, fear of the possibility that the Unicorn and Banshee represented led authorities to suspend all research into the psychoframe technology, which has come to represent forbidden knowledge in the Universal Century. The ability to cheat death and achieve eternal life, physically manipulate the world on a hitherto unprecedented scale and even turn back time itself is seen as transgressions that violate the very laws of nature. In the pursuit of knowledge, and by pushing technology and science further than it had ever been pushed, the unknowable can occur. Historically, humanity has always struggled with the duality of science and technology – improved knowledge has led to advances in quality of life and standards of living, but has also introduced new dæmons on the world. When fission was discovered, humanity could grasp a cleaner power source that produced negligible emissions, but the same technology has also birthed atomic weapons capable of horrifying destruction. Similarly, fears that highly sophisticated AI may destroy humanity exist and temper excitement in the great benefits their applications bring. This is a theme that Mary Shelley similarly covered in Frankenstein, whose titular character created a monster that haunts him, representing his guilt and horror at having succeeded. In Gundam Narrative, psychoframe technology is forbidden knowledge: while offering limitless possibility, the potential for destruction and chaos is equally great, and while characters can see the good that is possible with the technology, fears of it being applied for harm are equally present. This endless conflict is ultimately why despite the potential and possibility for change exists, there is always going to be concern for what might arise if knowledge is abused – this is why the world has not changed too dramatically since the Laplace Conflict in the Universal Century, and Gundam Narrative closes without a clear idea of which perspective it champions, leaving audiences to draw their own conclusions about the implications of ceaselessly advancing knowledge on human civilisation.
Besides dealing with one view on forbidden knowledge, Gundam Narrative also extends on the concept of a Newtype with the aim of speaking to human nature in a more visceral way – Zeon Deikun postulated that human evolution would accelerate to adapt to the voids of space. The Universal Century portrays Newtypes as having precognition skills and the ability to communicate telepathically with other Newtypes, making them exceptional pilots. With the introduction of psycommu technology, Newtypes could manipulate physical objects, as well. The introduction of this abstract series of capabilities into Gundam creates invariable comparisons between a Newtype and Force-users from Star Wars. While the capabilities of Force is similarly discussed, ultimately, the Force and being a Newtype are means to an end: Gundam Narrative builds upon but also deliberately leaves details vague. From a storytelling perspective, Newtypes and the Force are meant to be tangible representations of human intent. In particular, it’s what one chooses to do that ultimately matters. The Jedi use the Force for compassion, understanding and mediation, the Sith use it to increase their own power and control through fear. In Gundam Narrative, the power conferred by a psychoframe can be used to shorten a conflict and empathetically connect with others, or it can be used to inflict harm upon others by performing feats that are otherwise impossible. Gundam Narrative reminds viewers that one’s choices, rather than whatever power they may possess, is what is most relevant: in light of this, Gundam Narrative hints at the idea that forbidden knowledge, in the hands of those who would intend to do good and have selfless aspirations, can greatly advance humanity, and at the end of the day, the hope for a better world will always be something meaningful.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Gundam Narrative was announced back in April 2018, and released in theatres during November 2018. Ahead of the screenings, a 24-minute preview was uploaded to YouTube to drive excitement: the film opens with a flashback to the moments leading up to the colony drop event at the end of Operation British. For six months, this was the most of Gundam Narrative that I saw, and as a successor to Gundam Unicorn, my curiosity was piqued. While screenings were held in Singapore and Malaysia earlier this year, I’m actually surprised as to how limited the discussion to Gundam Narrative is, and even though it’s been three weeks since Gundam Narrative‘s home release, I am surprised that this post is probably the only proper full-length talk on the movie around with a respectable collection of screenshots.
- In the present day, Michele Luio is a special advisor to Luio & Co., a large manufacturing company with its headquarters in Hong Kong. Luio & Co. were mentioned in Gundam Unicorn, providing fortune-telling services to politicians as a part of her roles in keeping the EFSF close at hand. The Hong Kong seen in Gundam Narrative is a far cry from the one seen in Char’s Counterattack, whereas the latter appeared run-down and destitute, New Hong Kong in Gundam Narrative is modern and clean. Despite lacking any of the landmarks of Hong Kong, such as the IFC and the Hong Kong Bank of China, the streets are shown to resemble those of Wan Chai.
- Michele is presented as being driven by a near obsession with the power that the psychoframe possesses: her descriptions suggest that the psychowave the Unicorn emitted during the final moments of the Laplace Conflict are said to have dismantled the generator cores to the Federation mobile suits sent to disable Magallanica, rather than disabled them. The psychowaves appear to give the Unicorn series the ability to manipulate time itself, and this is why Michele desires to take possession of the Phenex.
- As Operation Phoenix gears up, Jona is deployed as a part of the task force to intercept a convoy carrying Martha Vist Carbine, who was previously involved with the Laplace Conflict and still being held in EFSF custody. He operates a MSK-008 Dijeh for this assignment, a mobile suit designed for ground operations that was based off the Rick Dias, and possesses features that are common in Zeon mobile suits because Zeon engineers contributed to its design. Michele intends to capture Martha for the wealth of knowledge she still has on the Phenex: one can surmise that Martha answered Michele’s questions in a satisfactory manner.
- A few weeks later, Federation forces are out pursuing the elusive Phenex. The Phenex was the third of the Unicorn-type Gundams, possessing the same technical specifications and combat performance. However, it is equipped with a pair of Armed Armour DE shields, and these offer the Phenex superior acceleration and mobility even compared to the Unicorn and Banshee: the Shezarr squadron are completely ineffective in hitting the Phenex, whose manoeuvrability is such that it moves like a dancer more than a mobile suit.
- The Shezarr squadron is made up of six pilots, commanded by Iago Haakana, who leads his squadron into combat despite his own unease about Operation Phoenix. While they manage to corner the Phenex and deploy a net to ensnare it, the Phenex escapes, promoting the squadron to wonder how any pilot could survive those movements. During the course of Gundam Narrative, numerous characters are introduced, but the film’s run-time of f minutes means that beyond Jona, Michele, Rita and Zoltan, it’s difficult to recall the names of the other characters, even if their roles are non-trivial.
- In Gundam Unicorn, the Jesta was a limited mass production suit with higher performance than a Jegan. Intended to be used as a support suit for the Unicorn, three Jestas were operated by the Londo Bell Tri-Star team. A year later, Jestas have become more common: the Shezarr pilots each operate Jestas of their own. These modified Jestas sport an upgraded backpack unit that resembles the Stark Jegan’s, and possesses additional hard points to mount booster packs.
- Even with only the twenty-four minute preview, it became clear that the Phenex is a ghost machine, having no human pilot. The unnaturally long operational time of the Phenex and flashbacks foreshadow that the Phenex actually has no pilot, and the fact that it’s been loose for two years means that it ran out of fuel long ago. Close-ups show the psychoframe of the Phenex glowing even though the NT-D is disabled, giving credence to the idea that the Phenex is willing itself to move through the void of space.
- At the age of twenty-five, Jona is now an ensign with the EFSF navy. He is given a special normal-suit embedded with psychoframe material to enhance his connection to the Narrative Gundam, and his appearance is a surprise to the Federation forces, who were unaware that they’d be getting a Gundam to help with their operation. The Narrative Gundam is one of the more unusually-named Gundams I can recall, and the name “narrative” is used to describe the Gundam’s role in a story about possibility, having nothing to do with its colloquial usage in social media or news.
- When it first appears, the Narrative Gundam is in its A-packs configuration; besides boosters, the A-packs setup allows the Narrative to carry a variety of equipment parts to restrain and capture the Phenix. The RC-9 Narrative Gundam itself was originally designed and built by Anaheim Electronics, intended to be a testbed for the RX-93 ν Gundam, and as such, did not require the same external armour pieces of a standard Gundam. Throughout Gundam Narrative, Luio & Co. provide the Narrative with interchangeable parts.
- The tails on the Armed Armour DE shields resemble General Borcuse’s Hykelion from Break Blade, which similarly had a secret weapon dubbed the “scorpion tail” concealed under the Hykelion’s cloak: these were used to stab through enemy golem units. Break Blade was made into a six-instalment OVA between 2010 and 2011: I picked up the anime during the summer of 2011, and felt that the format was somewhat similar to Gundam Unicorn. Like the Hykelion, the Phenex’s tails can be used as piercing weapons in addition to acting as stablisers.
- Special equipment known as the psycho-capture system allows the Narrative to temporarily disable the Phenex, using technology similar to the jammers found on Angelo Sauper’s Rozen Zulu. However, when Jona hesitates, the Phenex escapes capture, disappearing into the depths of space and leaving Michele furious at having come so close to achieving their goal. The music of Gundam Narrative is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, who provided the awe-inspiring incidental pieces for Gundam Unicorn, as well. Overall, I found Narrative‘s soundtrack to be a little weaker, recycling motifs from Unicorn and favouring an electronic element over orchestral ones.
- Mineva Zabi makes a return in Gundam Narrative, retaining her regal composure and calmly speaks with a Zeon politician. It is not lost on me that five years have passed since Gundam Unicorn‘s finale aired, which means that five years have also passed since I worked on the Giant Walkthrough Brain. This is probably a mere coincidence, but I find it intriguing that five years since the Giant Walkthrough Brain, there have been a fair number of parallels between this year and the summer of five years previously.
- Captain Averaev commands the Damascus, a Clop-class cruiser. His appearance suggests that he is an older officer who’d seen combat previously, and the Clop-class is an older design: these are essentially stripped-down versions of the Ra Cailum that Bright Noa commands, and in Gundam Unicorn, Full Frontal is mentioned to have single-handedly defeated two of these on his own, suggesting that the Clop-class have some degree of resilience in combat despite their limitations.
- On board the Damascus, Michele chastises Jona for having let the Phenex get away. During the combat, Jona had heard Rita’s voice as clear as day and hesitated to engage, feeling that shooting to kill would’ve defeated the purpose of their mission. Throughout Gundam Narrative, Rita’s remarks on whether or not the soul could exist haunts Jona, who greatly regrets not being able to save her from being taken away years previously.
- The depth of my knowledge in Gundam is nowhere near as sophisticated as those of dedicated fans, and admittedly, after watching Gundam Narrative, I did have a few lingering questions. I ended up speaking with a friend whose encyclopaedic knowledge of Gundam is unparalleled in order to clarify certain details for this post. Besides being able to identify almost every mobile suit and its variants, plus combat characteristics, said friend has an appreciation for the thematic aspects of Gundam that extend well beyond politics: he argues that meaning in a fictional work is better defined by the morals characters learn, rather than any allegories and analogues of real-world political systems.
- Erika Yugo briefs Sleeves remnants soldiers on the Phenex, which disappeared and then resurfaced shortly after Mineva made the Laplace declaration. Feeling it’s impossible for the Phenex to be operating independently, she gives no indicator that Luio & Co. have been driving things from behind the scenes. However, believing that they have an edge with the psycho-monitor, a technology Full Frontal employed to track down the Unicorn previously, Zoltan is prepared to deal with a confrontation with the Federation, since it’s likely they’ll be fighting special units rather than the regular forces.
- At the same time that Erika is briefing the Sleeves remnants, Michele explains to Captain Averaev their use of a psycho-monitor, before thanking him for the EFSF’s assistance. Both Narrative and Unicorn present civilian interference in military affairs as having detrimental consequences, speaking to the negative effects of the military-industrial complex. Both Luio & Co. and Anaheim Electronics have enough influence to impact policy, which creates the instability that civilians and soldiers alike must deal with.
- During a training exercise, Jona tests the Narrative Gundam’s B-packs configuration, which replaces the bulky support unit for pair of wire-guided assault units. Jona’s experience as a pilot appears lacking: the Shezarr pilots quickly paint him in an exercise, and remark that his skills aren’t up to scratch for someone who is supposed to be enhanced. After leaving the Newtype research facility, Jona enlisted with the Federation forces and has a very unremarkable career, although he was chosen to specifically work with Luio & Co. on the Phoenix Hunt assignment. While Jona remains distant with Michele for having abandoned her, Michele still remembers and so, requested that he operate the Narrative.
- The psycho-monitor soon detects a signal emanating from Metis Colony, a facility dedicated towards higher education. While Averaev protests that he does not have permission to deploy a mobile suit squadron into the colony’s interior, Michele pulls a few strings and grants them permission. Quite separately, the Sleeves forces have also deployed and entered the colony, which is comparatively quiet at present because term has ended and most of the students have gone on break.
- Zoltan pilots the Sinanju Stein, a prototype mobile suit designed to test the psychoframe. Originally, this was the original form of the Sinanju before the Sleeves stole the unit and used it to create Full Frontal’s Sinanju, but Gundam Narrative revises this – there were actually two units, and the second unit was acquired by the Sleeves remnants. Compared to the Sinanju, which was modified for Full Frontal’s style of combat, the Sinanju Stein lacks the Sinanju’s high-performance thrusters and uses a bulkier rifle. While inside the colony, Zoltan decides to engage the Narrative against orders: this is a live colony and there are inhabitants still inside it, hence the restrictions weapon usage.
- After a hole is punched in the colony thanks to Zoltan calling in the II Neo Zeong, the Phenex appears. The page quote is from Arthur Rimbaud’s “Eternity”, which speaks of the impermanence of life in an existence that is endless. This poem is referenced in the light novel, being a recurring theme about how human existence is finite and ultimately, inconsequential. While this sounds pessimistic, from another point of view, the finite nature of human existence is a blessing, as suffering is also finite. Further, this also gives weight to moments that we do experience: we treasure them precisely because they are ephemeral.
- Rita’s question about whether or not heaven and the soul exists is echoed several times in Gundam Narrative. She decides that heaven might not be real, but is certain that the soul beyond the bioelectrical impulses in the brain must exist. The question, seemingly an open one, suggests that Rita had always been an inquisitive and carefree individual: this is reinforced by the fact that if given the choice, she would wish to be a bird, signifying her desire to be free.
- While Rita longs to be free, Jona is tormented by the fact that Michele had lied to him and in the process, cost Rita her life. The researchers, unable to tell who the real Newtype was, decided to play a sort of Prisoner’s Dilemma game with Jona, Michele and Rita: they falsely claim that the real Newtype will be spared, while the other two will be executed. Michele ultimately was discharged, while Rita was hauled off to be dismantled.
- Whether or not the soul exists is something that is the subject of no small debate amongst theologians and philosophers. Modern science describes our consciousness as the sum of billions of neurons interacting together to create a system of immeasurable complexity, but the notion that memories and the essence of a being can endure in the absence of an energy supply (cellular respiration producing the energy needed to drive neurological processes) is not supported by contemporary models. Having said this, there are some phenomenon that simply cannot be described by any craft that we possess, and while some postulate that quantum mechanics might be involved, research in this area is so limited that it’s difficult to say for sure what’s happening.
- Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative extend on the idea that the psychoframe; made up of billions of nano-scale processors that can capture human intent and translate that into movement, the pyschoframe’s architecture mirrors the brain and therefore, it is able to replicate the complexities of the human mind. Over time, psychoframe can even “store” the consciousness of its operators. The emergent properties from transplanting the human consciousnesses into a machine are completely unforeseen, and in Char’s Counterattack, this manifested in the form of a warm green light that emanated from the ν Gundam that projected enough force to push Axis back into space. Banagher uses the Unicorn’s power to absorb a colony laser in Gundam Unicorn.
- Michele had always longed to come back for Jona and Rita, but circumstance drove them apart. Jona eventually joined the Federation forces, while Rita was made into an experimental subject and tested the experimental Phenex. The psychoframe resonance between the Phenex and Narrative brings back the pain of these memories in Jona and amplifies them: he takes control of the II Neo Zeong, whose systems begin to run wild and threaten to destroy the colony.
- At the last moment, the Phenex approaches Jona and calms him. The friend whom I spoke with about Gundam Narrative speculates that the Neo Zeong’s systems were built in particular to amplify negative emotions, and while I initially thought that the psychoframe amplified what already was (per Marida Cruz’s assertions in Gundam Unicorn‘s finale), the fact is that the psychoframe from the II Neo Zeong emits a red hue, far removed from the green that is emitted whenever a positive phenomenon occurs. This dichotomy between understanding and hatred is apparent in the choice of colours, and brings to mind the colours of lightsabres in Star Wars. Originally, lightsaber colours were simply a consequence of the crystals used to focus the blade, and that the blood-red blades Sith Lords used simply came from them picking synthetic crystals because natural crystals were not available to them.
- The new canon foists upon us the idea that the red blades of the Sith come from the tainting of crystals through their corrupt use of the Force, and that lightsabers were specifically powered by Kyber Crystals. I cannot say that I am fond of the new writing, but to delve further into this is to deviate from Gundam Narrative. Back on board the Damascus, Michele sheds tears at having lost the Phenex yet again, and Captain Averaev requests that Michele fully disclose what her intentions are, as well as what the Phoenix Hunt was really about.
- Michele reveals that Luio & Co. had deliberately provided the Sleeves remnants with the II Neo Zeong, which had been confiscated, to draw the Phenex out for her own ends, but this ended up backfiring, since the Neo Zeong had been built with knowledge that seemed beyond what exists in the world. Michele had been motivated by a desire to cheat death and achieve immortality because she had been tired of living in a world where people had to hurt one another to survive, but seeing the cost her dreams have accrued leads her to change her mind. This conversation here drives Michele and Jona’s growth: Michele comes to accept that the ends do not justify the means, and Jona realises that Michele had never given up on her promise.
- With the secrecy of the operation of utmost importance, Luio & Co. close off the Phoenix Hunt and strikes a deal with the Republic of Zeon’s Monaghan Bakharov, a politician who intends to restore the Republic of Zeon’s glory. In exchange for keeping Zeon out of the operation, the Federation will be allowed to kill anyone attached to the project. Monaghan indicates that Erika is to be spared, but Zoltan overhears Erika’s conversation, summarily killing her and decides to take matters into his own hands. I initially felt that Zoltan’s role was ill-developed, but said friend suggested a different perspective: rather than treating Zoltan as presenting a character-versus-character conflict, regarding his contributions as being more of a character-versus-nature conflict was appropriate.
- Finally taking control of the II Neo Zeong, Zoltan begins engaging the EFSF forces that have deployed from the Dogosse Giar-class General Revil to carry out the mop-up operation. He orders the Sleeves ship to hide behind the Helium-3 tanks, reasoning the Federation will not risk damage to their resources, before making to engage the Jegans that begin firing him. Using the II Neo Zeong’s wired funnel bits to effortlessly eliminate the Jegans, Zoltan’s combat approach is more brutal than Full Frontal’s – the differences between Full Frontal’s combat approach in Gundam Unicorn and Zoltan’s in Gundam Narrative bring to mind the differences between Thanos in Infinity War and Endgame.
- Whereas Infinity War‘s Thanos is calm and introspective, only using as much force as necessary to subdue opponents because he genuinely wanted the snap to randomly decide who got willed away from existence, Endgame‘s Thanos lacks the Infinity Stones and resorts to a more combative approach to seize the Stones. As as result, Thanos in Endgame is shown as fighting with a much greater ferocity, fighting toe-to-toe with a Stormbreaker-equipped Thor, Iron Man’s Mark 85 suit and even overcoming Captain America, who is wielding Mjolnir. In particular, watching Thanos crack and destroy Captain ‘s shield with his sword was terrifying. The fight in Endgame was a sight to see, allowing audiences to truly appreciate just how dangerous of an opponent the Mad Titan was even without the Infinity Stones.
- Zoltan is similar to Endgame‘s Thanos in this regard: unrestrained and lacking the same contemplative manner that made Full Frontal fight with efficiency, Zoltan runs wild on the battlefield, making full use of the II Neo Zeong’s weapons more liberally than Frontal ever did. The end result for viewers is a better idea of what the Neo Zeong was capable of – the scale of the destruction it can cause is immense, and Gundam Narrative shows that Full Frontal never really made full use of the Neo Zeong’s weapons against a fleet in his fight against the Banshee and Unicorn.
- When the General Revil’s commander orders the vessel to target the Helium-3 tanks, the resulting explosion from the tanks destroys the Sleeves’ ship, killing those on board. Zoltan retaliates, using the II Neo Zeong’s psychoframe to accelerate and compress a single Helium-3 tank to the point where enough pressure allows the Helium-3 to spontaneously undergo a fusion reaction. The intensity of the reaction vapourises the General Revil instantly along witha large portion of the task force sent to destroy the Sleeves forces.
- The friend who lent time towards helping realise this post remarked that the reason why people are so reluctant to cover the human aspects of Gundam and fixate on the politics or technologies themselves is because they fear looking into the mirror and relating how the lessons of Gundam apply to their own lives. In the end, politics and the mobile suits themselves are the catalysts that shape the world and its conditions to make the story worthwhile, rather than being the focal points, and so, I’ve found it rather more fruitful to focus on the aspects that Yoshiyuki Tomino aimed to portray with the Gundam series.
- The fusion reaction that Zoltan triggers is nowhere near as impressive as Naga Sadow’s use of Sith techniques to tear the core out of a star and trigger a supernova to destroy the Galactic Republic’s fleet. Although Naga Sadow’s feat was augmented by Force crystals, its scale vastly exceeds what Zoltan can pull off. However, the threat posed by Zoltan is nontrivial. Forcing all of the stored Helium-3 to undergo fusion would create an explosion powerful enough to torch an entire Side and create a debris field that would make a colony drop look like picnic – in response to this, the Phenex reappears to engage Zoltan, who has seized a number of Jegans and are remotely controlling them in the same manner that Full Frontal had.
- While the scale of Gundam Narrative (both the battles and the storyline itself) is much smaller than that of Gundam Unicorn, the combat sequences remain impressive. Here, the II Neo Zeong has engaged its psycho-shard system to fully allow Zoltan to manipulate his surroundings with his will alone. While I supposed that the psycho-shard system was designed to destroy enemy weapons in Gundam Unicorn, it turns out that the utility of this function is to greatly enhance an individual’s physical control over their surroundings. Full Frontal had merely used it to disable Banagher and Riddhe’s weapons systems during their final showdown.
- While the Narrative Gundam had been packed away for transport, Michele convinces Jona to sortie to engage the II Neo Zeong. Here, the Narrative is equipped with its C-packs, which loads psychoframe directly onto the unit. Despite being an outdated suit, the Narrative remains effective because of the additional gear that Luio & Co. provide for it. Thus, despite lacking the same dedicated weapons as the Unicorn, the Narrative is able to hold out against the II Neo Zeong’s overwhelming firepower for a period and even does some damage of its own.
- A review that was published to Anime News Network in December, shortly after the film’s release in November 2018, stated that Gundam Narrative attempted to do too much with its shorter runtime, and the dependency on prior knowledge from Gundam Unicorn would diminish the experience for those unfamiliar with the Laplace Conflict. These remarks are, incidentally, the same thoughts that I have about Infinity War and Endgame: these two movies are technically excellent movies that masterfully incorporate elements from previous films to drive its plot forwards, but for first-time viewers without an idea of the context regarding the Infinity Stones and Thanos, the films do come across as overwhelming.
- Ultimately, the reviewer at Anime News Network finds that while Gundam Narrative might be a bit difficult to follow for those who did not watch Gundam Unicorn, they do recommend the film for folks who have seen Gundam Unicorn. This is a fair assessment of Gundam Narrative and is ultimately how many would likely feel after watching Gundam Narrative. Coming in with my background (and assistance from a friend), I’ve come to enjoy the contributions that Gundam Narrative adds to the discussion surrounding Newtypes and psychoframe technology, even if some of the aspects were unclear.
- The reason why I’ve mentioned the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this talk in Gundam Narrative is because of the similarity the two radically different universes share – both had predecessors that began in a more realistic manner and shifted towards the fantastical at the end. Iron Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier both remained quite grounded and were presented as events that could plausibly happen. Similarly, Gundam Unicorn‘s first few episodes featured more realistic mobile suit combat and placed a focus on the military details. However, introduction of the Infinity Stones had the same effect as the psychoframe did, and by their series’ respective ends, the feats and events that occur resemble magic rather than science. This does not diminish my experience of either Gundam or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it is to my understanding that what is tantamount to magic did lessen the experience for some viewers.
- Captain Suberoa Zinnerman makes an appearance in Gundam Narrative, operating another freighter and working with Banagher, who has remained with the Mineva faction, which exists in secret to act as a sort of check-and-balance against the more nationalistic Zeon proponents like Monaghan Bakharov. Zimmerman no longer bears the same grudge against the Federation that he once did, and works with Mineva to ensure that the old conflicts do not flare up again. Sensing that something is wrong after one of the Helium-3 tanks undergoes fusion, Banagher takes off to engage the threat.
- Jona is pushed to his limits after Zoltan uses the remote bits to take control of the Federation Suits. Despite putting his own life in danger, Jona refuses to return fire even as the hijacked Jegans open fire on him. Discussions on Gundam can become as heated as the mobile suit battles themselves, and the last time I wrote about the events of Laplace’s Box five years previously, some folks sparked off a flame war when they shared my talk on Gundam Unicorn to Tango-Victor-Tango. I learned of this through my site metrics and followed the link that led to a vociferous discussion where during the course of this debate, one of the forum-goers began attacking this blog rather than the argument at hand.
- Ultimately, Michele sacrifices her life for Jona, realising that what she had longed for all this time was to give something back to Rita after Rita had sacrificed herself. She pilots the transport directly between a beam meant for Jona. Her assistant, Brick, had revealed earlier that Michele had something she wanted to prove to Jona, as well: that if the psycho-frame and Newtype phenomenon had worked the way she postulated, then death would not be the end. She would therefore kill two birds with one stone, allowing Jona to live and continue fighting to end what the living had created, as well as reunite with Rita.
- Devastated with Michele’s death, Jona loses the will to continue fighting, wondering what the point of anything is if suffering is what lies ahead, but Michele’s spirit spurs him on. The most vocal detractor purported that I believe that “‘effort’ (which seems to mean ‘word count of the post’) makes an argument more valid” and then went on to compare my style as being equivalent to “[spending] twelve pages explaining why 1 + 1 actually = 3, [I’m] still wrong even though [I] put more ‘effort’ into it” before immediately contradicting themselves by saying “this sort of criticism [isn’t] objective”, but nonetheless needing it to prove that my methods were invalid. I note that my posts are lengthy not because of this reason (which is, incidentally, a disingenuous claim), but because I find it enjoyable to cover a range of topics in movies.
- Rather than looking at my content and then figuring out counterexamples to illustrate that I was off or that there’s more to consider, by adopting a pseudo-academic stance and using such a poor analogy, the individual in question implies that my opinions are objectively wrong because they did not align with theirs. Naturally, I could say the same, but this isn’t too productive, since all opinions are subjective. Instead, I would suggest that the individual first begin by figuring out what I was saying: “the lies and cover-ups that brought about Laplace’s Box created a problem that became increasingly difficult to address as time wore on, and Gundam Unicorn uses supernatural phenomenon, in the shape of the psychofield, in order to get over this particular barrier to show what lay ahead”.
- Knowing what I intended with the post, it then becomes a simple matter of finding another solution to show how and why the Newtype phenomenon was not necessary in conveying the themes of Gundam Unicorn – this is what proper discussion looks like, and there’s certainly no need to regress to petty arguments, which to me, shows that the detractors of my article actually had nothing meaningful to say. Back in Gundam Narrative, the Narrative Gundam is destroyed, and Jona makes use of a core fighter to reach the Phenex. When he enters the cockpit, he finds it empty, confirming suspicions that Rita had long been deceased and has become a spirit with the power to control the Phenex. His combined acting as a conduit for the Phenex’s NT-D and Rita’s presence allows the Phenex to activate its Destroy Mode for the first time since the incident two years previously.
- With the NT-D active, the II Neo Zeong proves to be no match for the Phenex, which subsequently destroys the II Neo Zeong’s psycho-shard system and disables its remaining weaponry. The speed of these actions were great enough so that I wasn’t able to acquire screenshots with good composition, and this is something curious parties will simply have to watch. The final fight between the Phenex and the II Neo Zeong is rather one-sided: while capable of great destruction, the II Neo Zeong is unlikely to be able to track the movements of the Phenex, which can allegedly accelerate to speeds approaching that of light despite the clear impossibility of such a feat.
- Jona’s emotional baggage and the Narrative’s configuration are closely related: as Gundam Narrative progresses, the transition from the A-packs to B-packs and then C-packs shows a decrease in hardware. The A-packs is essentially a mobile armour, while the C-packs simply has additional psychoframe. Over the course of Gundam Narrative, as Jona comes to terms with Michele’s actions and his own past, his internal burdens lighten, as well. Jona also sheds the heavy psychosuit before entering the Phenex’s cockpit, leaving the last vestiges of his doubts and concerns behind. The Narrative is ultimately destroyed, marking one of the few cases where a lead Gundam was defeated totally, and Jona escapes in a core fighter. Zoltan makes to destroy the core fighter, but a familiar weapon makes a return: Banagher manages to destroy the wire bit with a well-placed shot, giving Jona time to board the Phenex.
- While the II Neo Zeong was destroyed, Zoltan is not finished yet, and makes to engage the Phenex with beam axes. The performance gap between the Sinanju Stein and Phenex are obvious: there is no fight as the Phenex impales and destroys Zoltan outright: Jona is assisted by the spirits of Michele and Rita, who briefly appear. After his death, Zoltan’s spirit performs one final act of defiance, insistent that people cannot change and cannot accept possibility: he triggers fusion of the remaining Helium-3 tanks. However, before the reaction can go critical, the Phenex engages its own psychofield and calms the reactions, suppressing them and preventing catastrophe.
- Ultimately, this act would be counted as deus ex machina in any other realm, and the only reason why it would even be passable is precisely because Gundam Unicorn had already previously established the mysteries of Newtypes and the psychofield’s unknown properties. Viewers are made to accept that Newtypes are similar to Force users, and in conjunction with a technology that is essentially the equivalent of the Infinity Stones, Newtypes are capable of feats otherwise known to be impossible. The psychoframe does have parallels with the Infinity Stones: besides similarly being referred to as singularities, their feats are similar, affording Gundams the ability to turn will into physical energy (Power stone), traverse incredible distances quickly (Space stone) and even store the consciousness and will of beings (Mind and Soul stones). The more outrageous feats the psychoframe have been seen to pull off include creating compelling illusions (Reality stone) and even undo events locally (Time stone).
- I admit that for this month, my posting frequency has been very limited, and preparing this post was one of the reasons why: it took a bit of effort to get the party started, but once I developed momentum in writing about Gundam Narrative, the writing process became much easier. Between this lengthy post and taking the time to review this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submissions, plus keeping up with Battlefield V‘s Tides of War, time for writing about other things has been reduced. This has been exacerbated by the fact that I’ve been having a little too much fun with the complementary Oculus Quest I received from attending F8.
- In particular, SUPERHOT VR has been a blast, and the wireless experience that the Quest confers takes this game to a whole new level, offering a truly immersive experience that is unparalleled. While I’m having a ball of a time with SUPERHOT VR, I’ve also finished Valkyria Chronicles 4 and can finally begin making my way into Metro: Exodus. It has not escaped me that today also happens to mark the première of both Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s second instalment, as well as the Aobuta movie, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl). My grievances with anime movies and their release patterns are well-known at this point: the reality is that, as I am unwilling to drop several thousand dollars to fly over to Japan for the sake of two movies, I won’t be writing about these for quite some time.
- Thus, for the time being, I will enjoy Metro: Exodus and the Oculus Quest: I will discuss the films once they available and focus my attention on things available in the present, since there’s naught I can do about the films and their availability. Back in Gundam Narrative, the ending to the film greatly resembles Gundam Unicorn with the emphasis on psychofields and the positive energy they can confer. I’ve become rather fond of Michele’s character for her progression: she begins the film as being thoroughly unlikable, but dealing with the psychoframe and being forced to confront her past changes her outlook on things. In death, she finds peace and is reunited with Rita.
- Tielle’s “Cage” begins playing as the Phenex stills the Helium-3 reaction. Cage is a brilliant song that was originally written as the theme song for the life-sized RX-0 Unicorn Gundam model in Japan, and its composition has made it one of my most favourite songs of late, speaking of whether or not the world is worth saving from itself. Callbacks to Gundam Unicorn are frequent in Gundam Narrative: once the Phenex has halted the criticality event, Banagher retrieves Jona. In the psychofield, the original RX-0 Unicorn can be seen, as well.
- Ever since the Unicorn was decommissioned, Banagher has since been piloting the ARX-014S Silver Bullet Suppressor, a variation of the Silver Bullet: this series of mobile suits were intended to test quasi-psycommu systems and have solid performance. However, because Banagher continues to use the Unicorn’s beam magnum, the Silver Bullet Suppressor has been outfitted with a unique rack that allows the mobile suit to rapidly change out the unit’s arms, which become damaged from the beam magnum’s sheer recoil. While questions have been cast about the Silver Bullet Suppressor’s design, the beam magnum remains a choice weapon for Banagher, allowing him to target distant objects with precision and firepower: despite their power, even beam mega-launchers lack the range to hit distant targets with any reliability, and the beam magnum happened to be the weapon that suited Banagher’s objectives.
- Looking at the Phenex in Destroy Mode here, I’m reminded of an alternate ending to Gundam Unicorn that I’ve only heard about, where Banagher sortied in the Full Armour Unicorn Plan B, where the Unicorn was equipped with parts from the Banshee and Phenex and engaged in a different fight with Full Frontal’s Neo Zeong. This post has been a ways in the coming: I’ve been chipping at it since early June, and tonight, after picking up a new Magic Trackpad at a store near the edge of town (to replace a Magic Mouse that unexpectedly stopped working), I spent time with the family at a Chinese restaurant where the evening’s centerpiece was a seafood yi mein that had fish, calamari and shrimp.
- Jona and Banagher watches as the Phenex soars off into the cosmos: Banagher remarks that it’s impossible to catch up with it now, and this marks the ending of Gundam Narrative, with the Phenex’s ultimate fate left ambiguous. Having Banagher make a return was a very nice touch – it turns out that following the events of Unicorn, Banagher did end up returning to the world of the living, giving some closure to his fate. However, his role in events after UC 0097 are less clear, and Gundam Narrative can only offer some insight as to what his fates are after UC 0100. Hathaway’s Flash appears to be the next Gundam series on the horizon, and there are unconfirmed statements saying that Unicorn itself might be getting a continuation in an unknown form.
- With this, I’m very nearly done writing about Gundam Narrative, although unlike Gundam Unicorn five years previously, I am a little more reluctant to give this one a recommendation: on one hand, it is a fun watch that anyone who appreciated Gundam Unicorn will enjoy, but at the same time, the narrative is a bit more confusing. With this being said, I enjoyed it, and found that it was worth the wait – after seeing the preview in November, I’d longed to see the story in full. Overall, it appears that impressions of Gundam Narrative elsewhere are fairly consistent with my thoughts on it, and with the general absence of discussions out there, I’m guessing that Gundam Narrative has not generated the same level of engagement as Gundam Unicorn. With this one in the books, upcoming posts, besides this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, will be talks on K-On! and Yama no Susume: Omoide no Present.
Gundam Narrative is very much dependent on a familiarity with Gundam Unicorn for its themes to be clear: while both Jona and Michele mature over the course of Gundam Narrative (Jona accepts that Michele had cared about him after all this time, and Michele comes to understand that Rita’s sacrifice gave her a chance to live life in place of being dismantled in the name of science), numerous other characters’ backgrounds are minimal, whereas Gundam Unicorn takes the time to better explore secondary characters like Marida Cruz and Suberoa Zinnerman. Zoltan was not explored to the same extent as Full Frontal did, and unless one accepts him as more of an abstract representation of hatred and resentment (rather like a force of nature), his place in Gundam Narrative can seem unnecessary. Despite lacking the time to create the same compelling characters as Gundam Unicorn did, Gundam Narrative ended up validating the themes initially presented in Gundam Unicorn, that possibility will always exist alongside the capacity for great good. The messages remain cautiously optimistic, dealing more with human nature than with politics through the Newtype phenomenon: weaker characters do not result in diminished thematic elements. Likewise, while Gundam Narrative does not have the same fluidity and detail in the animation as did Gundam Unicorn, the overall quality of the artwork and animation, especially during combat sequences, remains of a high standard – Gundam Narrative was a visual treat to watch. Despite its limitations in characters and dependence on Gundam Unicorn to provide context, Gundam Narrative is a welcome addition to the Universal Century for covering themes of forbidden knowledge and presenting a plausible portrayal of the world after Laplace’s Box was opened.