The Infinite Zenith

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, A Review and Reflection on the First Act, Messages of Regression in Society

“Did you ever consider that I wanted both sides to lose? Bullets change governments far surer than votes.” –Simeon Weisz, Lord of War

Twelve years after Amuro Ray and Char Aznable confronted one another before disappearing in the event later known as the Axis Shock, the Federation began tightening its policies and deporting more people, dubbed Illegals, into space. Meanwhile, Hathaway Noa, Bright Noa’s son, has become an anti-government terrorist known only as Mafty Navue Erin. Striking at high-ranking Federation politicians and officials with the hope of breaking nepotism and weakening the government into a position where they can forcibly create a policy advancing human migration into space to save the planet, Hathaway and Mafty participate in strikes against the government using mobile suits, and although their actions do not have the same indiscriminate madness of traditional terrorists, nonetheless cause civilian casualties. On a flight from the moon to Hong Kong, Hathaway manages to secure a seat with Federation politicians and thwarts a terrorist attack from a group claiming to be Mafty, impressing Federation captain Kenneth Sleg. Their flight is diverted to Davao, a city in the Philippines, and here, Hathaway encounters the enigmatic Gigi Andalucia again. She arranges for Hathaway to lodge with her and is surprised that Gigi has deduced his identity as Mafty. Hoping to evade the Federation, Hathaway arranges for a diversionary strike against Davao, hoping to take out several key politicians and escape during the chaos. However, when the attack begins, Hathaway feels compelled to save Gigi, which in turns delays his extraction and return to a nearby Mafty base. Swift response from the Federation’s new model Gundam, the Penelope, further complicates things. Hathaway’s involvement and Gigi’s remarks lead Sleg to suspect that Hathaway might be involved with Mafty despite his outward appearances. Hathaway does end up returning to a Mafty base and retrieves the Ξ Gundam, fending off the Federation forces and their pilot, Lane Aim in order to cover their evacuation. He decides to set his sights on Oenbelli next and intends lend a hand to the anti-Federation forces here. Thus begins Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, a film trilogy that explores the sequel to what Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original story for Char’s Counterattack entailed. Titled Beltorchika’s Children, this original version had Hathaway accidentally killing Quess, and consumed with guilt, Hathaway would eventually join the terrorist group, Mafty, after seeing the excesses of the Federation. The trilogy was announced after Gundam Narrative broadcast, and originally set to release in July 2020, the first part ultimately released in Japan on June 11, after being delayed eleven months by the ongoing global health crisis.

Resembling Gundam Narrative in its aesthetic and atmospherics, a sense of melancholy permeates Hathaway’s Flash. This is because this film series conveys a sense of tragedy; it is no secret that Hathaway is Mafty, and the captain Kenneth Sleg seems aware of the fact that Hathaway isn’t what he outwardly presents to be. Mafty’s reputation precedes the whole of the series; because it is implied that Hathaway is involved in a variety of plots to assassinate key Federation officials with the goal of weakening the government and forcing humanity, it is clear that for Hathaway and Mafty, there will be no negotiations or discussions. However, despite his outward confidence and stoic manner, Hathaway is still haunted by his inability to save Quess during the events of Char’s Counterattack; to this day, enigmatic women seem to hold sway over Hathaway’s heart, and despite his efforts to brush off Gigi Andalucia’s flirtations, finds himself inexplicably drawn to her in spite of himself. This unusual combination of pursuing a path of destruction in a misguided aim of bettering the world and lingering doubts sets the table for tragedy. Hathaway’s conviction in his own cause is shown as wavering several times throughout the course of Hathaway’s Flash; when his allies begin attacking Davao to create a diversion for his escape, Hathaway ends up trying to protect Gigi instead and results in Mafty pilot Gahman Nobil being captured by the Federation. Upon boarding the Ξ Gundam for the first time, he silently curses his fate at having met Gigi, whose mysterious presence made his heart flutter despite himself. Where ambition and longing collide, Hathaway’s path forwards seems predestined to failure. This is a recurring theme in Gundam, and Martha Vist Carbine had, in fact, mentioned this during the events of Gundam Unicorn; women are be instruments of both great change and great catastrophe during troubled times, creating possibility in the hearts of strong men and consuming weaker men, driving them towards acts of destruction. Hathaway appears to be trending towards the latter, and while he is shown to be a capable, competent leader capable of motivating those around him and inspiring countless more, the unusual dynamics he has with Gigi could prove to his downfall.

Hathaway’s Flash also foreshadows Hathaway’s tragedy through how the film has introduced the eponymous lead machine – traditionally, Gundams are mobile suits associated with justice, possibility and responsibility. Their pilots possess a strong sense of morality, determined to do what they believe is right, respecting the power that they wield and using their machines to affect positive change. However, when a Gundam pilot is made to fight another Gundam, the symbolism shifts: a Gundam in the hands of an enemy thus signifies that the foe’s conviction is no less than that of the pilot’s, and that they see themselves as the hero, designated to carry humanity forwards with their vision. Clashes between Gundams thus become a metaphor for two unyielding forces coming to a head, and the pilot with the stronger conviction triumphs to parallel how certain ways of thinking are more resilient. Kira Yamato fought Rau le Creuset and his Providence in the Freedom, defeating him and showing that nihilism was ultimately doomed to fail against those who resolved to make the most of what they had. Setsuna F. Seiei draws Ribbons Almark despite the Reborns’ superior firepower and ultimately defeats Ribbons with his Exia, reminding viewers that people are meant to choose their own futures rather than blindly follow others. However, in Hathaway’s Flash, the Gundams themselves fight one another immediately, spend most of their time shrouded in darkness, and moreover, are bulky, cumbersome units loaded with weapons. These machines are clearly made for destruction, lacking the sleek and elegant design of earlier Gundams. In this way, Hathaway’s Flash means to shows that with the passage of time, the concept of Gundam itself has become corrupted. The Federation uses Gundams to forcibly crush opposition, while those who stand up to the government have appropriated its power for themselves and aim to cause destruction in equal measure. Where Penelope and Ξ fight, Hathaway’s Flash suggests that the gradual perversion of an idea breeds only destruction, suffering and loss. Twelve years after Char’s Counterattack, both the Federation and their opponents have lost sight of what they stand for, and where two violently opposing forces fight without any idea of what their end goal is, the inevitable result is tragedy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Universal Century – the last time was with Gundam Narrative, which released in 2018 in Japan and became available overseas in June 2019. Hathaway’s Flash opens on board a special chartered flight to Hong Kong. Hathaway’s Flash‘s principal actors are introduced in the opening: besides Hathaway himself, Gigi and Kenneth Sleg are also present. Their conversation foreshadows the instability of this world, which is placed in sharp contrast with the various amenities of commercial space travel: small details in the flight show that despite the political turmoil in the Universal Century, technology has advanced steadily.

  • In a moment reminiscent of Dark Knight, masked intruders board the flight and immediately demand the passenger manifest. They claim to be a part of Mafty, a name that refers to both the terror organisation and its enigmatic leader, who fancies themselves to be the next coming of Char Aznable and acts with the aim of forcing space migration. However, unlike Char’s impassioned madness and grand scheme of dropping Axis on Earth to force said migration, Mafty instead takes a different route: assassinating the political cabal composing the Federation’s leadership and using these deaths as a bargaining chip for their ends. While the passengers are immediately frightened by their arrival, Gigi seems unusually calm in the situation.

  • The terrorists show they mean business by executing one of the ministers on board, but Hathaway ends up creating an opening, allowing him and Kenneth to eliminate the terrorists. Kenneth is impressed with Hathaway’s combat training – according to the documents, after Char’s Counterattack, Hathaway briefly entered military service and subsequently took a post-secondary degree in plant science, working with Amada Mansun with the aim of eventually becoming a botanical and agricultural inspector. Seeing this progression in his career provides key answers for why Hathaway joins Mafty: pursuit of the sciences opens one’s eyes to reality and strips away idealism. In secondary school, for example, I wondered why a cancer cure was not already possible, but after taking medical science courses, it became clear that owing to cancer’s nature, eliminating it is a desperately tricky proposition, since the very act of breathing could technically cause cancer (free oxygen radicals from respiration can damage DNA, resulting in uncontrolled cell growth).

  • It is therefore the case that the tragedies Hathaway experienced during the Second Neo Zeon War, coupled with his education and background, would lead him to see the Federation as irredeemably corrupt, a system that could not be fixed with diplomacy or discussion. Whatever his beliefs might be, Hathaway has a helluva poker face: here, he plays the part of the reluctant hero who happened to be in the right place at the right time and speaks with high ranking Federation officials, even though viewers know that Hathaway would have no qualms orchestrating an operation to kill them later on.

  • While Hathaway’s fieldcraft is stellar, Gigi seemingly sees right through him and concludes that he must be Mafty himself. Hathaway betrays nothing to her, but internally, he is shocked that the conclusion could come so easily to her. There certainly is an allure about Gigi, and her piercing blue eyes give the impression that she’s able to see right through deception. Because this is mentioned often enough in Hathaway’s Flash, it would be reasonable to say that Gigi might be a nascent Newtype, evolved humans with increased mental awareness.

  • After Gigi leaves, Hathaway is left to deal with his conflicting thoughts about her. Members of the military have a few questions for Hathaway surrounding the incident, and then subsequently arrange for his accommodations in Davao until he can be on his way. The Federation’s treatment of Hathaway here is important, as it shows the difference between how the elite live, and how ordinary people live: the elites have access to unimaginable luxury and bottomless wallets, all covered by the taxpayers. Their facilities are well-appointed and clean, with mirror-smooth reflective surfaces to denote how clean they are.

  • Given her interactions towards Hathaway, and with the possibility that she’s a Newtype, I would suppose that Gigi is genuinely interested in Hathaway and his role as Mafty. She certainly does seem to enjoy getting very close to him despite his cold manner towards her advances, and expresses curiosity about Mafty’s methods and intentions. Her character description shows that she’s connected to some immensely powerful individuals, and moreover, doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind. This creates simultaneous discomfort and allure for the folks around her, and Kenneth certainly has taken a liking to her.

  • For Gigi, her frustration is the fact that Hathaway seems so disinterested in her: it seems that Gigi is used to using her charms regularly to sway those around her and isn’t accustomed to failing. Hathaway regards her bluntly, and in fact, I see a bit of myself in Hathaway where this is concerned: Hathaway’s actions stem from Quess’ death years earlier, and I imagine that he deliberately distances himself from people who might cause him heartbreak.

  • Hathaway’s Flash spends a great deal of time on its principal and supporting cast, marking the first time I’ve seen the characters spend so much time in a civilian setting: other Gundam series focus almost entirely on the Gundams themselves and the conflicts surrounding them, so to see something like Hathaway and Gigi at odds with their accommodation arrangements was a breath of fresh air. The visuals in Hathaway’s Flash are similarly impressive, and the view of Davao outside of the window looks absolutely stunning here.

  • The classic anime staple of “walking in on someone who’s changing” even makes an appearance in Hathaway’s Flash: hoping to make use of the private pool that her suite provides, Gigi’s given no thought to the implications staying with someone else and swiftly changes into her swimsuit while Hathaway decides to step out for a walk. The nature of Gundam characters means that unlike the average romance comedy or slice of life, one can never be too certain if Hathaway had been on the money about Gigi trying to elicit a reaction from Hathaway or if she’d been genuinely careless.

  • Gundam‘s always been a series where fanservice consists of variants of timeless mobile suits and cameos, so to have Hathway’s Flash portray such a moment was not done to amuse viewers; instead, it’s to show how ordinary things that are a big deal in other genres don’t bother Hathaway at all. In the aftermath, perhaps irate that Hathaway doesn’t see her that way, Gigi disappears back into her room and irately tells him to knock himself out with his walk. Hathaway does seem to lack tact in this area: he remarks that they’re no couple, and I imagine Gigi is more annoyed than embarrassed.

  • Hathaway arranges to meet other members of Mafty in town in a clandestine fashion, asking them to relay back to the team that he’ll need a diversion in order to escape. The two who meet him are young and certainly don’t have the grizzled look of a resistance fighter: Mafty’s ideals appear to appeal to a wide range of people from all walks of life, and truth be told, the young man and woman that Hathaway speaks with feel more like his colleagues at university rather than fellow Mafty associates. A large number of viewers from Southeast Asia, specifically from Indonesia and the Philippines, were pleased that Hathaway’s Flash featured their parts of the world in such detail.

  • Because Gundam is predominantly set in space and the Sides, there is hardly a chance to see how Earth is. Previous works suggested that the world is wreathed in pollution and is on the verge of an ecological disaster – Char’s Counterattack and Mobile Suit Gundam did indeed present the world as being a grim place to live, with yellow-grey skies and a film of haze covering everywhere, but as of Unicorn, the world doesn’t seem all that bad in some places: the world still has blue skies. Here, Hathaway discusses his plans with Mihesssia Hence and field agent Kenji Mitsuda, fellow Mafty members.

  • However, it is clear that the Federation’s use of force is unwarranted – by UC 105, the Federation has set up an organisation to deport individuals vocal about the government into space, even implementing a special task force to periodically root out dissidents. My thoughts on expression of dissent has always been moderation: in any democratic system, using appropriate channels to offer reasonable arguments and using one’s ability to vote is the appropriate measure (as opposed to violence). Gundam does away with the idea of nations so things like foreign interference are abstracted away – in reality, governments routinely interfere with other nations in the name of democracy for their own gain, and introducing this into Gundam would add complexity that may take away from Tomino’s primary aims.

  • With his arrangements made, Hathaway returns to his suite and dines alone (presumably to avoid Federation surveillance), at least until Gigi and Kenneth show up. Despite Gigi’s attempts to make Hathaway jealous, he betrays nothing, and turns down an invitation to go dancing at the hotel’s club. Before leaving with Gigi, Kenneth sits down and shares a brief conversation with Hathaway. The Universal Century is fond of featuring mysterious women that, as Kenneth suggests, have the power to reign back powerful men. From Lalah and Quess, to Rita and Mineva, their roles indicate in a war, perhaps the hearts of men, and their resolve, matter more than the weapons they wield. Thinking back to Rita and Gundam Narrative from two years earlier means recalling that at this point two years earlier, I’d just picked up a new Magic Trackpad to replace a failed Magic Mouse.

  • Hathaway has dozed off, but his plan comes to life when pilot Gahman Nobil deploys to carry out the diversion: he capitalises on the fact that so many Federation big shots are present and shoots out the hotel where they’re staying before preparing to engage the Federation mobile suits that have taken off to deal with him. The fact that Mafty has access to mobile suits holds two implications: that they have enough support to garner the resources needed to acquire such equipment, and that there exists a manufacturer willing to sell to terrorists.

  • The report of nearby explosions awaken Hathaway, who realises he’s behind schedule and needs to hightail it to the extraction point: knowing that the Federation politicians are here means that the hotels will be a target, and while he’d asked his pilots to be mindful of which floor he’s staying on, the power of a mobile suit’s primary armament means that collateral damage is inevitable. That Mafty uses these approaches indicates the organisation, despite their conviction in their ideals, are still relatively untrained and lack the resources or know-how for more precise methods that nation states have access to.

  • A more sophisticated organisation would go with a combination of active measures and wet teams to strike at critical events without harming bystanders: while Mafty might allege to be acting in the planet’s interests and have gained approval from those dissatisfied with the Federation’s policies, their open approach only fuels the Federation’s determination to defeat them. J.K. Rowling briefly mentioned this in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Voldemort’s rise to power is one shrouded in shadow, and while he hasn’t openly overthrown the Ministry of Magic, the uncertain possibility of him being in control means people can’t be sure who to trust. Had Voldemort openly seized power, enough people would’ve resisted and destroyed his forces before he could achieve anything notable.

  • Politics is a game of deception and manipulation rather than force, which is something that Gigi understands as being Mafty’s weakness: for every successful assassination and operation, those who oppose Mafty gain the justification to ramp up military spending and the erosion of liberties. Terror groups invariably fail for this reason: even if their aims are commendable, their methods will only cause governments to tighten their grip. For the purposes of my posts, the terrorist group Hathaway leads will be referred to as Mafty, and I will refer to Hathaway by his original name rather than his pseudonym.

  • In the elevator, Hathaway encounters two other guests: a man and a woman who appear quite close, leading Gigi to get close and question Hathaway about their earlier conversation. Hathaway’s body language suggest he’s uncomfortable with what Gigi is doing, and cues in the scene suggest that, contrary to his cold reception towards Gigi, he is enamoured. Meanwhile, Gigi feels that her intuition is on the money: while Gahman circles outside and prepares to fire on the hotel in an example of danger close, Gigi deduces that Hathaway is the sort of person who is willing to take great risks for his cause.

  • One of my favourite things to do in any given Gundam post is discussing the mobile suits and their traits. Mafty has access to the Me02R-F02 Messer, which is derived off Zeon’s Geara Doga and the Sazabi. Manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, the Messer is a heavily armoured mobile suit that nonetheless sports high mobility and is able to equip a variety of armaments, making it suited for Mafty’s operations. While Gahman is fighting the Federation forces, he deliberately turns his back on the ground, reasoning the Federation pilots wouldn’t risk hitting the populated area below.

  • However, the Federation pilots continue firing, surprising Gahman and showing viewers how little human life matters to the Federation. On the ground, Hathaway decides to stay with Gigi rather than make his exfil, surprising Emerelda Zubin, the Mafty operative who’s supposed to help with his exfil. With a bold and decisive personality, Emerelda is a skilled pilot in her own right, but off the battlefield, treats her allies as her own siblings. She is shocked that Hathaway has been sidetracked; one would’ve expected him to compartmentalise his emotions and focus on the mission given his background and mindset, but Gigi appears to have created an exception to this rule.

  • Mobile suit combat in Hathaway’s Flash is limited, reminiscent of those early episodes of Gundam: The Origin that portrayed the young Casval Rem Deikun’s transformation into Char Aznable. However, what is shown in Hathaway’s Flash is, as one of my friends puts it, a kaiju battle, featuring slow, lumbering motions and an emphasis on destruction in their surroundings as these mobile suits duke it out on the ground. From a symbolic standpoint, this shows the disconnect between the combatants inside their mobile suits and bystanders on the ground: so focused are the pilots on their fight that they  have no time to consider how much collateral damage is being caused, mirroring how militaries and terrorists alike never stop to consider what side-effects their actions have, so long as they win.

  • Details like plasma rounds melting stanchions on the ground and buildings crumbling as mobile suits land on them accentuate the size and mass of these weapons. The Universal Century has always excelled in showing the sheer mass and size of mobile suits; Gundam Unicorn had done a particularly fine job during the first fight between Marida Cruz’s Kshatriya and a Federation Stark Jegan. The weight of every swing, and the momentum that needs to be bled off prior to each turn conveyed the idea that mobile suits are heavy, sturdy machines. The bulky Messer, and its Federation counterpart, the FD-03 Gustav Karl (named after the M2 recoilless rifle) are both cumbersome looking machines designed for survivability and mobility.

  • Gigi becomes overwhelmed by the battle around her, prompting Hathaway to hold her close. In the end, despite Gahman’s best efforts, he is shot down and taken as a prisoner of war. Meanwhile, Kenneth has arrived on the scene to sort things out, and Gigi runs off into his arms, prompting Hathaway to flashback to a moment twelve years earlier. The fistfight between Char and Amuro here is about as personal as it gets, and really demonstrated how divergent the pair’s thinking is: whereas Amuro embodies hope for a better future, Char became a symbol of despair.

  • Being young and impressionable, Quess took an immediate liking to Char’s ideas after observing their fistfight and subsequently defected to Neo Zeon as a pilot. Char’s interest in Quess was purely for her combat potential as a Newtype. Quess’ defection left a hole in Hathaway’s heart, and in Tomino’s novel, is the leading reason behind his guilt and desire to build the world that Quess had yearned for. In Hathaway’s Flash, whether it’s a continuation from Char’s Counterattack or Beltorchika’s Children is left ambiguous, but what is clear is that, even now, he hasn’t healed from Quess’ death twelve years earlier; the flashback to Char’s Counterattack is a sign that Hathaway sees Gigi as similar to Quess.

  • Assuming this to hold true, it means that in spite of himself, Hathaway is falling for Gigi. These are merely my thoughts, of course, and while I am fond of writing about Gundam series, I am aware that the Gundam universe is very extensive: because there is so much going on, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to learn that I’ve gotten my facts incorrect, or unintentionally make a massive subjective leap in my assessment somewhere. With this in mind, one of my best friends, whom I’ve known for over twenty-five years, is my go-to resource for all things Gundam: his knowledge on the mobile suits for every universe is encyclopaedic, and his insights are unparalleled when it comes to what every Gundam series is going for.

  • As such, when I write about Gundam, I often bounce ideas off him, and some of the insights here are credited to him. It is superbly enjoyable to be able to speak with folks who really know their Gundam, and in the process, I learn a few things, as well. Of course, said friend is most interested in the political and mechanical aspects of Gundam: for things like character dynamics, outside of the motivation that drives the different pilots, our discussion is more limited. Things like Gigi being cool with sharing her coffee directly with Hathaway, in what’s referred to as an indirect kiss, is something that we wouldn’t normally cover, and in general, I don’t mind hearing from viewers what they made of things, so long as discussion remains civilised.

  • The next day, Kenneth takes both Hathaway and Gigi to the nearby Federation base where he is stationed. Before breakfast, Gigi kits herself in clothes from the base’s store. Hathaway only notes that “it ain’t bad, given what you had to work with”, prompting her to remark he’s difficult. Hathaway does have the slightest bit of tsundere in him, and I don’t really blame him: I similarly have never been good with complimenting people for their appearances, and usually, when I offer my praise, it’s in response to what people have accomplished. This is fine for professional settings, but is disadvantageous for things like relationships.

  • Kenneth’s clearly taken a liking to Gigi, reminding Hathaway of how Char and his charisma was able to charm Quess twelve years earlier. He wonders if she’d like to stick around and act as a Goddess of Safety for them, noting that soldiers tend to be quite superstitious. Unsurprisingly, the navy is almost always the most superstitions: the beliefs that seafarers have had stem from centuries of braving the unpredictable open ocean, and even now, some superstitions persist. However, from the superstitions I’ve read about, women at sea were once counted as bad luck, so the ghost of a woman clad in white seen on the high seas would be especially terrifying. Gigi’s presence resembles the yuki-onna, a yokai who led travellers astray in snowstorms with her great beauty.

  • Assuming that this analogy holds true in Hathaway’s Flash, Hathaway’s fate is sealed, and Hathaway himself conjectures that he will be sacrificed in some way. For now, however, Hathaway remains in charge. After the Federation interviews him about what’d happened on the flight to Hong Kong, they let Hathaway go, feeling confident that Mafty will lose public favour over time if their actions continue to result in the loss of life. While the Federation may have become quite corrupt and unyielding, there is truth in the statement: regardless of how noble a cause is, the moment its proponents see fit to disrupt society, destroy property and take lives, their very own supporters have invalidated it.

  • After the interview concludes, Hathaway signs the discharge papers and learns from Kenneth that had he been a soldier, Kenneth would’ve had no qualms asking Hathaway to be the Penelope’s pilot. Hathaway himself publicly considers the events of the Second Neo Zeon War a fluke, downplaying his skills as a pilot. When Kenneth asks about Gigi, Hathaway mentions that it’s better to leave without seeing her again. For me, this removed any doubts about the fact that Gigi is interesting to him, enough to distract him from his original goals.

  • Hathaway heads to the local ferry terminal and drops off his luggage for someone from Mafty to pick up. To the Federation, who are monitoring transportation into and out of Davao, it would appear as though Hathaway had arrived, purchased his ticket and then left the island. Hathaway’s fieldcraft isn’t half bad, but unlike The Campus’ most experience operators, Hathaway isn’t able to compartmentalise his mission, which has threatened things on a few occasions in this film alone.

  • While at the ferry terminal, a Mafty broadcast overwrites the previous programs being shown. Mysterious broadcasts have long been a headache for television companies: poorly-secured signals can be defeated by setting up a transmitter near the original broadcast point or a headend and impersonating the signal by reading out uplink parameters. Today, signals are more difficult to hijack because they also carry a sort of key to ensure that the recipient only receives what was intended. As such, it stands to reason that Mafty’s also got a few electrical engineers and signals communications people on their payroll.

  • After leaving the terminal, Hathaway arrives on a lonely beach a ways away and sits down. It’s a gorgeous looking day, and again, the superb visuals are apparent in Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve found that of late, many productions are beginning to approach Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of quality; with artwork and animation becoming increasingly consistent in their quality, anime films are likely to be immersive if they can get their story and characters right. As Hathaway settles into thought, a small sailboat soon pulls up and its operator asks Hathaway to board.

  • Hathaway thus links up with Emerelda and sets off for the next leg of his journey, while Kenji takes his place to ensure that his original travel plans are seemingly fulfilled. While riding the boat to Mafty’s Pacific base. Here, Hathaway feels much more in his element, dealing with a group of dedicated (if misguided) band of individuals who are confident that they are working the world to make the world a better place. While I’d come into Hathaway’s Flash knowing that Mafty boils down to a terror group, seeing the people within the organisation humanises them somewhat, and I became intrigued to see what their goals were.

  • Gigi outlines her accommodations to Kenneth, who is disappointed that she’s planning on leaving so soon. At this point in time, Gigi’s given up none of her secrets, save the fact that she’s very well connected and has an intuition that can seemingly foretell the future. However, Kenneth isn’t so sure, and suspects that something is off about Hathaway. Hathaway had suspected that even if she hadn’t said anything, Gigi might give away Hathaway’s identity inadvertently. Since Kenneth had stated he would capture Mafty himself, this sets the stage for the conflict in Hathaway’s Flash, which is a battle of the minds as much as it is a conflict between Gundams.

  • Upon arriving at the hidden Mafty base, concealed in the ruins of Side 2, Hathaway is brief on their latest operation: to retrieve a container from space containing supplies and a high value asset. This operation is risky, entailing the use of a rocket to get Hathaway up into the container so he can secure the asset, while in midair, to ensure that prowling Federation forces don’t get to the supply drop first: ever since the attack at Davao, the Federation’s been on high alert, and Kenneth’s been itching to have a go at Mafty with Lane Aim and their latest toy, the Penelope Gundam.

  • Mihesssia reminds me a great deal of Iroduku: The World in Colours‘ Kurumi Kawai. Seeing the people behind Mafty makes it clear that while they are terrorists, they are people nonetheless – reading about Mafty and coming at them from a purely abstract concept, it was easy to count them as faceless terrorists disrupting the peace, and I came into Hathaway’s Flash expecting the story to be about wiping Mafty from the face of the solar system. However, because Hathaway’s Flash takes the pains of humanising Mafty’s members (Mihesssia wouldn’t look out of place in a slice-of-life anime), viewers suddenly gain the sense that every death will be strongly felt.

  • At the Federation command centre, officers monitor the developing situation and notice irregularities, prompting them to send Lane and the Penelope out. At this point, Kenneth has made it very clear that he intends to beat Mafty himself – besides his charisma, Kenneth is a former mobile suit pilot and therefore, well aware of the tactics needed to meet them in combat. His prowess throws off Mafty’s members, who are surprised at how the change in command has made their operations all the more difficult. My friend had suggested a disinterest in Hathaway’s Flash, in part because the film adaptation changed things like character appearance, and having seen the first movie, as well as the original artwork, I get where he’s coming from.

  • It appears that Bright Noa had let Banagher off the hook fairly easily when he’d spoken to him about the Unicorn’s key; Kenneth is nowhere nearly as patient as Bright was, and after Gahman refuses to speak during an interrogation, Kenneth knocks him out and has him act as a hostage on their operation, accompanying Lane into battle. Despite Lane’s natural talent, which resulted in his being assigned to the Penelope, Lane has little combat experience and tends to let the moment get the better of him.

  • Emerelda is nervous about the operation, but there isn’t a moment to lose: kicking off their operation is a rocket launch: Mafty’s engineers have mounted a Galcezon to a rocket propulsion system and two solid-fuel boosters, which provides them the power needed to rendezvous with the cargo container in orbit. This scene speaks to how far animation has come: the launch itself surpasses the details seen Makoto Shinkai’s presentation of a rocket launch at Tanegashima Space Center in Five Centimetres per Second, a film dating back to 2007. Both the smoke and exhaust from Hathaway’s Flash are an order of magnitude more impressive in this scene, really capturing the scale and energy of Mafty’s operations. I remark here that a cursory Google search for Five Centimetres per Second continues to return results for the misconception that the film was about loneliness when in fact, it was about how our lives can feel as though we don’t have control over where we end up, similarly to the fluttering of cherry blossoms.

  • Folks who have read the novel One More Side or A Sky Longing for Memories artbook will find that the whole of the internet is mistaken about things. However, this isn’t a talk about Five Centimetres per Second, and back in Hathaway’s Flash, the emotional tenour during launch is quite tangible: the worry and doubt that Mafty’s members express, especially Emerelda, express, indicates that a fair portion of their number are playing things by ear and not always trained for the tasks they undertake, nor do they always take the optimal approach for sorting out their problems. However, what Mafty’s members do have is camaraderie: their words to one another prior to a mission does much to help everyone keep focused.

  • The act of aligning her Messer to match the container’s velocity is taxing on Emerelda, but after some effort, she is able to make the contact, allowing Hathaway to enter and take control of the prize: the Ξ Gundam. Manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, the Ξ Gundam was derived off the Zeta Project and built in conjunction with the Penelope: both mobile suits are massive, upwards of thirty-two percent larger than the RX-0 Unicorn, but despite their impressive silhouette, both mobile suits are highly manoeuvrable and capable of sustained flight thanks to their Minovsky Flight systems.

  • Upon spotting the Ξ Gundam for the first time, his immediate remark is that it’s a knockoff inferior to his Penelope. However, the Ξ Gundam quickly proves that there’s a reason its designation is higher; being a newer design, the Ξ Gundam sports an integrated flight system, lowering the suit’s mass (compared to the Penelope, which requires additional gear). While the Federation is better equipped with respect to having trained, skilled staff for operations, Lane is similarly inexperienced as a pilot; against someone like Hathaway, he is unable to keep up and utilise the Penelope’s powers fully.

  • Because the Ξ Gundam (read “Xi” and pronounced ksi) and Penelope are both descendants of the Zeta project, they resemble heavily armed air-superiority units rather than conventional mobile suits. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere, gravity and physical constraints the environment poses means that any lengthy battles here would feel more like a dogfight between two pilots, as opposed to the high-speed sword-play that is seen in the vacuum of space. Gravity is why the Universal Century deploys Base Jabbers, thermonuclear flight platforms that offer mobile suits limited flight in an atmosphere. Early Base Jabbers are cumbersome, but by Unicorn, they’ve become more versatile.

  • Gundam 00 got around this limitation by starting the AEU and Union with transformable mobile suits as their mainstay, allowing them to operate in an atmosphere for extended periods of time, and the GN Drive’s unusual properties eliminate the need to worry about gravity. One of the joys about Gundam is watching how the different universes address common problems, and newer series like 00 and SEED have both impressed from this standpoint. Back in Hathaway’s Flash, use of Minovsky Particles to assist flight is reminiscent of how GN particles were used for flight, although it’s clear that the technology is a work in progress, on account of how bulky both the Penelope and Ξ Gundam are.

  • The Penelope and Ξ Gundam are similar in their armaments; both Gundams carry mega beam cannons, a beam rifle, beam sabres and a novel weapon referred as Funnel missiles. These missiles use a psycommu to guide them, and when fired in bursts, can quickly overwhelm enemy mobile suits in spite of their low yield. During the course of battle, Hathaway also swats a few Gustav Karls out of the air before he realises that Gahman is inside the Penelope, as well.

  • By UC 105, the meaning of Gundam has clearly eroded from the earlier days. Bright had stated to Banagher that every Gundam pilot had been a worthy individual chosen by their machines to make a difference before Banagher participated in the Garuda transfer to retrieve Mineva from the Vist Foundation’s hands. Pilots like Amuro Ray and Kamille Bidan have shaped history with a combination of their skill and resolve to do what’s right, regardless of whether or not they’d wanted the responsibility.

  • Banagher was quite reluctant to take on this role, but as he began understanding the sorts of things that Mineva and Daguza were speaking off, he would accept that it would be necessary to get into the cockpit and do what he could, eventually becoming a legend in his own right by stopping Gryps II from obliterating Industrial Seven. By comparison, Lane pilots the Penelope simply because in test flights, he is the most promising, and Hathaway himself simply bought the Ξ Gundam from Anaheim Electronics, who had been all too willing for his business. We’ve not seen Captain Noa yet, but I imagine he’d be disappointed to see what Gundams had become by UC 105.

  • The fact that two Gundams are fighting one another further speaks to the immorality present in the Universal Century: Anaheim Electronics evidently has no qualms about building Gundam-type machines and selling them to opposite sides of the war. In one corner, we have a corrupt and decadent government with a bloated military, and in the other is a terror organisation. On paper, neither faction have the moral right to possess what the Gundam represents: the very fact that this is precisely the case speaks to the despair that Tomino aimed to convey through Hathaway’s Flash. Anaheim’s decision is not as sophisticated as Lord of War‘s Simeon Weisz: while Weisz had been playing politics through arms dealing, Anaheim Electronics simply wants to maximise their quarterly earnings.

  • It does feel like that Hathaway is a poor judge of character: he goads Lane and wonders if the latter is such a poor pilot that he will only sortie with a hostage in tow, only to retract his statements when Lane allows Gahman to walk. However, Lane was not doing this out of honour: Hathaway had pressed the right buttons, and Lane’s pride as a Gundam pilot is bent quickly when Hathaway suggests he lacks the integrity to fight like a man. With Gahman back with Hathaway, both pilots prepare to have a proper throw-down with nothing held back.

  • Lane thus finds himself eating crow when Hathaway begins fighting him in earnest: between his own inexperience and the fact that the Ξ Gundam has slight edge in performance in the atmosphere, he is unable to deal any damage to the Ξ Gundam, and Hathaway manages to dodge his shots. I’m not sure if the two Gundams would be more evenly matched in space, but given the extensive presence of mobile suits and equipment built for atmospheric operation in Hathaway’s Flash, I cannot help but feel that between this and the main machine’s lineage, Hathaway’s Flash will largely be set on Earth, which is a bit of a departure from the space environments that Gundam series tends to make full use of.

  • Hiroyuki Sawano returns to score Hathaway’s Flash‘s soundtrack. I was introduced to his music through Gundam Unicorn and found the soundtrack to be absolutely brilliant. Sawano, like Kenji Kawai (Gundam 00Ip ManHigurashiMaquia and Dark Water), has a very distinct sound: his compositions make extensive use of percussion and string to convey a sense of scale, but outside of Gundam Unicorn, his signature style can be easily spotted. Hathaway’s Flash, while possessing a generally enjoyable set of background songs, lacks the same iconic motifs as the Unicorn Gundam that made Gundam Unicorn‘s soundtrack so iconic.

  • In the end, Lane is shot down after he takes a shot at the Ξ Gundam, sees a massive explosion and assumes he’s won the dogfight. He is left open and unprepared for Hathaway’s counterattack; when multiple missiles impact the Penelope, Lane is knocked into the ocean. Hathaway spares him and proceeds to the next step of their operation, and by the time Lane comes to, Hathaway and Mafty are long gone.

  • Lane is unable to believe that he lost this engagement, and after exiting the Penelope, he looks around, desperate for any sign that he’d successfully shot down Hathaway and the Ξ Gundam. I imagine this will be a turning point in Lane’s career as a pilot, and what happens next will likely be a part of the second film, whose release date remains unknown. One thing I particularly liked was the fact that Hathaway’s Flash will be available on Netflix, making it highly accessible for everyone who wishes to check it out. This is an excellent decision, since it maximises the films reach, and selling a license to streaming services also provides a boost in return (versus not doing so at all).

  • The approach is one I’d wish ACTAS would take for Girls und Panzer: delays on Das Finale‘s third act are unbelievable. I have a hard time believing the argument that the long gaps between theatrical screenings and home release stem from a want of maximising profits from the die-hard fans, who are willing to watch the movie several times. I have yet to see any evidence suggesting that the Girls und Panzer model, with location and timed exclusives to said die-hard fans, brings in the majority of their revenue. A Netflix release, on the other hand, would benefit Girls und Panzer greatly. Back at base, Hathaway is given a hero’s welcome after successfully completing his assignment: while some of their supplies were lost, they were able to retrieve most of things, and the Ξ Gundam is now secured.

  • If I had to guess, this is Kelia Dace, Hathaway’s girlfriend who greatly admires him: the two seem close, and moreover, Hathaway seems much more comfortable around her than someone like Gigi. With this post very nearly in the books, I remark that writing something like this on short notice was a bit of an exhausting process, and with the spring season wrapping up, there’s going to be a busy few weeks ahead as I get Super CubYakunara Mug Cup Mo86 EIGHTY SIX and Higehiro sorted out. Gundam SEED‘s second half is also on my horizon – I finished Gundam SEED on Thursday and wrapped up Hathaway’s Flash on Friday, but I figured I’d get the latter written about first while thoughts of the film are still fresh in my head.

  • Overall, I enjoyed Hathaway’s Flash for its introduction into the latest animated adaptation of one of Tomino’s novels. The fact that this is a three-part film means that there will be sufficient space to explore everything that needs to be explored; while my friend did express concern that three parts means that the story might become bloated as did happen with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit, which added new elements which were never in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel, The Hobbit‘s movies averaged two hours and thirty eight minutes each, while Hathaway’s Flash‘s first part is an hour and thirty five minutes. I imagine that the decision to have three parts for Hathaway’s Flash was precisely so mobile suit combat could be shown in greater detail; assuming this to be the case for the second and third films, I wouldn’t have any objections to things.

Tomino has stated that Hathaway’s Flash is especially relevant today: Hathaway presents himself as a charismatic leader with a clear idea of what his objectives are, but at heart, is perhaps no more mature than he had been when he’d first met Quess. The world seen in Hathaway’s Flash has evidently learned nothing after the Axis Shock event, or from producing the monsters in the Unicorn, Banshee and Phenex. There are parallels in reality; society today is in many ways, taking steps backwards as the lessons of the past are forgotten. People insist on deleting figures from history for their past deplorable actions rather than using them as an example of how not to act. Emotions and social standing matter more than evidence and truth. This sets the world on a perilous precipice – as people increasingly refuse to listen to facts and lose their history, they become prone to making the same mistakes, potentially creating tragedies and atrocities even worse than those of their predecessors. Much as how the real world is losing perspective by backing things like cancel culture and Twitter politics “experts” who have more followers than common sense, Hathaway’s Flash is showing that both Mafty and the Federation are sowing the seeds for more suffering and chaos as a result of having lost the lessons from Char’s Counterattack and Gundam Unicorn that should have never been forgetting. As a consequence, Hathaway’s Flash has gotten off to a fine start – the first film focuses on the more human aspects of Hathaway, his connection with Mafty and how Gigi has begun sowing seeds of doubt in his heart. The human side of Gundam has always been enjoyable: humanising Hathaway and helping viewers to become familiar with who he has become since Char’s Counterattack, means that his hubris and ruin will be all the more poignant or cathartic, depending on one’s perspectives. This in turn creates a sense of anticipation for what Hathaway’s Flash will present to viewers next in its two remaining films. The first part had been worth the wait, and while uncharacteristic of a Gundam film in that mobile suit combat is quite limited, the preamble sets the stage for what follows; I’m rather looking forwards to seeing what happens next, and one cannot fault me if I say that I am also looking forwards most to seeing Ξ and the Penelope fight again.

Broken Blade: A Review and Reflection

“The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he comes from, and if he really was evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, or he would not rather have stayed there…in peace? War will make corpses of us all.” –Faramir, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

In a world where humans are born with the innate ability to manipulate quartz, Rygart Arrow is an un-sorcerer incapable of this power. He works on the family farm until the threat of warfare prompts King Hodr and Sigyn to invite Rygart to Binoten, Krishna’s capital. Here, Rygart learns that the neighbouring Kingdom of Athens intends to invade Krishna for their quartz reserves and intend to execute the royal family, including Sigyn. Their former friend, Zess, is part of an advance force to scout of Binoten’s defenses. Hodr also shows Rygart a mysterious Golem from an ancient era, and when Rygart demonstrates the ability to operate it, he becomes the Golem’s acting pilot. The horrors of warfare prompt him to leave, but General Baldr convinces Rygart to take responsibility for his actions. Rygart decides to stay, and continues piloting the Delphine into combat despite his lack of experience. The Delphine’s performance prompts Athens to send General Borcuse out: Borcuse is a talented strategist known for his brutality, and despite being under house arrest, Athens believes his methods will the most suitable for swiftly ending the war. As the outlook worsens for Krishna, they assign Girge (Baldr’s son) to Rygart’s squad, and Rygart continues training to familiarise himself with the Delphine. Meanwhile, General Borcuse has reached the Krishna border and single-handedly destroys much of the Krishna forces there, including General True. Baldr manages to rally his forces, and with Rygart’s help, forces Borcuse to retreat. Rygart later returns to his village against orders and finds that General Borcuse had slaughtered the inhabitants slaughtered. He engages Borcuse and is defeated: Borcuse believes that the Delphine’s exceptional engineering is behind its combat record, and orders it taken back to Athens, but is forced to retreat again when Krishna’s forces arrive. Borcuse’s subordinates, Io and Nike decide to strike, but Girge intervenes. He manages to defeat Bike, and sacrifices himself to save Rygart. His pride wounded, Borcuse decides to press an attack on Binoten, and although his forces manage to overwhelm the capital’s defenses, Borcuse himself is killed in a final confrontation with Rygart, whose Delphine is equipped with a crude but effective weapon. In the aftermath, Athens begins to withdraw, and Rygart learns that his younger brother is alive. Originally a manga that began running in 2006, Broken Blade was adapted into a six-part film in 2010-2011: the movies are is considered to be a faithful adaptation of the manga with the exception of the finale, which was re-written in a way as to offer more closure, whereas the manga is ongoing.

Broken Blade resembles Gundam Unicorn greatly: both series feature a reluctant pilot who gradually comes to take responsibility for entering the cockpit of an uncommonly powerful mecha. In Break Blade, Rygart finds himself pushed into war when Krishna, outmatched by the Golems Athens fields, is forced to fight for its survival. With its superior engineering and unique OS, the Delphine is a piece of hardware from an earlier time that far surpasses contemporary mecha, only responding to Rygart because he is an un-sorcerer. Because of this, Rygart’s inability to manipulate quartz suddenly renders him in a position to make a meaningful contribution towards saving Krishna and Sigyn. In spite of the horrors of war, such as witnessing an enemy pilot commit suicide rather than be captured and learning that General Baldr’s own son cracked under train and killed blue forces during an exercise, Rygart’s conviction is shaken. However, seeing first-hand the lives that stand to be saved and hearing Baldr’s wisdom ultimately convinces Rygart to rise to the occasion, and while Rygart never improves substantially as a pilot, his unorthodox methods result in the death of Borcuse, a key player in Athens’ military. The anime movies show that by choosing the more difficult route, which entails personal sacrifice, witnessing atrocity and and the loss of innocence, Rygart was able to spare Krishna of a bloodier war and the death of the royal family. Broken Blade thus shows that sacrifices made in the present are not always in vain; when Rygart accepts responsibility for his role in the conflict and steps into battle, he sees first-hand the horror and desolation of war, driving him to act in a way so as to reduce future bloodshed. Further to this, Rygart lacks any real understandings surrounding the complexities of warfare; his motivations for fighting stem from simply protecting his friends from the conflict. As such, while Rygart comes across as immature and inexperienced, his insights demonstrates how a naïve mind can underline the futility and pointlessness behind why wars are fought. Gundam Unicorn‘s themes, while considerably more broad and expansive, covered similar territory: Banagher similarly chooses to act as the Unicorn’s pilot and play his part in stopping Full Frontal from potentially creating a worse status quo for the Universal Century even if it means getting blood on his hands from the conflict.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Broken Blade is also known as Break Blade, I think that going with the official title would be more appropriate. I open this post with Rygart Arrow (Sōichirō Hoshi, from Gundam SEED‘s Kira Yamato and Higurashi‘s Keiichi Maebara) getting his first look at Binoten, capital of Krishna. The composition of this moment set the precedence for the sort of aesthetics that would define Broken Blade: the arid deserts, deep blue sky and vastness of constructs all serve to indicate to viewers that Broken Blade would be going big in its artistic style. The first movie caught my attention the same way Sora no Woto did with its landscapes – the two things that both series share in common are their incredibly detailed settings.

  • Upon reuniting, Sigyn, the current queen of Krisha and wife of King Hodr, holds Rygart at gunpoint. This is, of course, just Sigyn’s way of expressing herself. Sigyn, Holdr, Rygart and Zess had once been classmates, but went their separate ways after. Sigyn had feelings for Rygart, who reciprocated but felt that he would never be able to accommodate for Sigyn’s love of mechanical engineering and books with his background. Broken Blade‘s story deals both with the Athens invasion, Rygart’s attempts to stop the war and save Zess, and also deal with his own feelings pertaining Sigyn (Chiawa Saitō, Gundam 00‘s Louise Halevy and Francesca Luccini of Strike Witches).

  • Because this post is more of a reminiscence post, as opposed to a standard discussion, I’ll be using some of the figure captions to reflect on corresponding moments from when I’d first watched Broken Blade: the anime began its life as a movie adaptation of the manga that ran from 2010 to 2011. I’m actually not too sure how I came across the series: the first installment released in May 2010, a time when I was taking theory-based lessons for my operator’s license. Having spent most of the summer on a theory-driven course and practical lessons, I ended up delaying until the next year to take the road test itself.

  • I ended up practising most of May, and then in June, I took the road test. Aside from messing up parallel parking once and making a poor judgement call at a yield sign, the exam was very smooth. Watching Rygart learn the ropes behind the Delphine’s operation brought to mind my initial days with operating a vehicle: while I became sufficiently skilled just in time for the exam, I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving until a year later, when I’d driven out to the mountains for a much-needed vacation after the MCAT ended.

  • While viewers are natually inclined to root for Rygart because the story is seen from his viewpoint, it turns out the commander of the Artemis Squadron is Zess (Hiroshi Kamiya, Gundam 00‘s Tieria Erde); Zess had been friends with Rygart since his time at the academy, meeting after driving off some bullies. A top student, Zess also became acquainted with Hodr and Sigyn. In the present, he commands the Artemis squadron and desires to bring the two countries back from the brink of war swiftly to spare his old friends from the brunt of the fighting.

  • Despite being a decade old, Broken Blade looks amazing: the artwork and animation both impress. Landscapes look photorealistic at times, and capturing the aridity of the region surrounding Krishna to really immerse viewers in this distinct fantasy universe. The Golems themselves were animated to a very high standard: from scratches and chips on armour, to cracking and shattering of quartz components, every fight is visceral and brutal.

  • One unexpected piece about Broken Blade was the inclusion of moments that accentuate just how shapely Sigyn (and later, Cleo) is. The ending of the first film indicates that while Hodr loves Sigyn, she doesn’t reciprocate and holds feelings for Rygart. This allows the story to explore Sigyn’s relationship with Rygart more openly without introducing unnecessary conflict. Indeed, the bulk of the conflict in Broken Blade, outside of clashing national interests, lies with Rygart and his reluctance to participate in warfare.

  • Because neither Zess or Rygart desire war, Zess’ initial inclination is to try and talk it out with Rygart: neither are fully aware of the situation that politicians have created. However, when the brash General True arrives and begins firing on Zess, Zess immediately retreats, and Rygart duels with Lee instead. In the chaos, Lee’s Golem is damaged, but while Rygart attempts to talk the pilot from killing Lee outright, Lee instead kills the pilot. Rygart subsequently disables her Golem, but she commits suicide, fearing that the Krishna will subject her to torture.

  • Rygart starts his journey as a highly unskilled pilot whose exploits are only made possible by his incredibly advanced Golem. Broken Blade‘s animation was sufficiently impressive such that one of my friends, a Gundam fan whose knowledge of the franchise is only rivaled by fans from Japan and the writers themselves, commented that Broken Blade was comparable to Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans in premise and technology, but ultimately, has better fight choreography and less teen drama.

  • For both my friend and myself, the Golem combat was probably the most enjoyable aspect of Broken Blade, since it represented such a departure from the high-speed combat of Gundam. Instead, strictly ground-based combat results in battles that, per my friend’s wording, resemble medieval sieges, with robots in place of armoured knights. My friend was particularly impressed with how detailed the Golems themselves were, and enjoyed watching the engagements, feeling the pressure guns to resemble crossbows and the way swords are mounted on each Golem.

  • Being a veteran of many wars, General Baldr imparts his wisdom upon Rygart: after witnessing the horrors of warfare for the first time, first-hand, Rygart decides to stand down, feeling it too much to handle. Earlier, Baldr warns Rygart that taking an opponent alive is far more difficult than striking them down, and here, he implores Rygart to stay and take responsibility for what he’s started. Rygart initially refuses, but upon seeing Hodr resigned to his fate and accepting Rygart’s decision anyways, Rygart decides to stick around and formally becomes the pilot of the Delphine.

  • While Rygart trains to become familiar with the Delphine’s unusual systems, I am reminded of first learning to drive. As every pilot experiences, no amount of theory and simulation can quite match the exhilaration and fear of getting behind the wheel for the first time: even at 40 kilometres per hour, the world moves by very quickly, and one feels like they aren’t always in control of their vehicle. Experience and learning the techniques will soon curb this uncertainty: for me, I drilled endlessly in an open parking lot to get the hang of a vehicle’s acceleration and braking, as well as its turn radius.

  • The trickiest thing about driving initially is being confident that the vehicle will stop and go precisely at one’s command. The general rule is to always look in the direction one intends to head towards, and in situations of doubt, cover the brake. Stopping safely is achieved by slowly and steadily applying force to the brakes. Once a good grasp of the vehicle mechanics is learnt, I would suggest learning the basics of parking: angle parking, hill parking and parallel parking all demand a strong understanding of where one’s vehicle is and its intended direction. Here, Rygart leaps into the air after disengaging the heavy armour Sigyn had equipped the Delphine with: Broken Blade is so-named after the fact that the Delphine has a single horn similar to that of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, albeit a broken one.

  • The Delphine’s abilities allow Rygart to kill one of the Artemis-class Golems and disable Zess swiftly. However, against Cleo, whose heart is filled with determination to defeat the Delphine, Rygart is outmatched. She knocks him down and squres off against Baldr’s Golems, defeating a handful before Baldr fights Cleo to a draw, prompting her squad-mates to order her retreat. Narvi manages to snipe her mid-retreat, blowing off a leg and leading to Cleo’s capture. The page quote was sourced from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – the first three movies had a much more complex nuance about warfare, but once Borcuse is introduced, right and wrong become much more black and white in nature.

  • Necessity forces Athens to redact its charges against the brutal General Borcuse, whose war crimes in a previous war led to his arrest. With its world-building, characters and inclusion of a powerful mecha surpassing its peers, Broken Blade resembles Gundam Unicorn in many areas. At the time I watched Broken Blade, only three of the Gundam Unicorn movies had been released, whereas all of the Broken Blade films were available. If memory serves, I finished the series off in May 2011, a time when I had been starting summer research. At that point, I’d fallen out of practise with hill parking and parallel parking, so I ended up taking some supplementary lessons prior to taking the road test.

  • My first road test would have been ten years ago, and I remember being quite nervous despite having spent the morning going through the exam route. In the end, I lost points for taking an extra attempt at parallel parking and for waiting too long at a yield sign, but other than that, I ended up doing okay. I thus surrendered my old Class VII, received an interim license and was told I’d get my physical license two weeks later. Broken Blade reminds me of this experience, since Rygart’s initial ineptitude with the Delphine paralleled my own difficulty in getting a vehicle to go precisely where I wanted it to go.

  • Sigyn believes that Cleo would be more open about the Artemis’ mechanics if she were treated as a guest rather than a prisoner of war: rather than send her to the brig, Sigyn arranges for Cleo to lodge with her, but this initially turns out to be a bad decision. Cleo overpowers Sigyn and takes her sidearm, with the aim of shooting Rygart in the head and escaping, but when it turns out Sigyn, like Captain Keyes, doesn’t keep it loaded, Cleo is swiftly recaptured and returned to Sigyn’s quarters without incident.

  • The pistols in Broken Blade are scaled-down versions of the pressure guns that Golems use in combat: they use a quartz-powered mechanism to accelerate projectiles at a great velocity, and different types of pressure guns are shown to exist. Rygart’s inability to manipulate quartz means that he is unable to fire a pressure gun of any calibre, and while operating the Delphine, his primary loadout will consist of standard melee weapons, as well as heavier gear that Sigyn custom-designs for the Delphine. My friend remarks that the Delphine’s advanced technology is such that a Gundam-like beam rifle would not seem out of place, although I note that giving the Delphine something like a beam rifle would shift the balance so dramatically that Rygart could’ve engaged and defeated the entire Athens army on his own.

  • Baldr’s son, Girge is introduced as the situation in Krishna deteriorates: while a brilliant Golem pilot, Girge is considered unstable after an incident where he unexpectedly killed a friendly pilot and then proceeded to disable every Golem in the exercise without harming their pilots. Girge was subsequently incarcerated, but is brought back out to help Krishna out. His unusual personality stems from a lifetime of attempting to meet the expectations of those around him, and in practise, he’s very reserved, although he speaks poorly of those he deems weaker than himself.

  • When Borcuse’s unit is introduced, they decimate General True (who dies at Nike’s hands when she crushes his Golem, splitting it in two). Later, Baldr encounters Borcuse’s forces and approves for a strike force to engage Borcuse’s units, but when they are slaughtered, Baldr is forced to reconsider. He manages to rally his men’s spirits from fear to anger: Borcuse notes that Baldr is very by-the-book, and as a pilot, Baldr is highly skilled: despite piloting a Golem inferior in performance to anything Athens possesses, he manages to hold his own against the speedier Artemis, as seen when he engages Cleo in a one-on-one.

  • It becomes apparent that Krishna’s Fefnir-class Golem, itself being the latest model, is completely outmatched by Athens’ top Golems. Against the Artemis-class and their superior firepower, most Fefnirs can be destroyed in two shots: the Artemis lacks armour, but can move fast enough to avoid being hit. Borcuse’s elite Golem squad can similarly demolish Fefnir-class Golems trivially, although against standard Athens units, the Fefnir fares a little better. However, when operated by skilled pilots, the lumbering Fefnir are able to keep up even against superior opponents.

  • Narvi is one of the best pilots available in the Krishna forces: besides sporting a great deal of respect for General True and being a brash pilot, she’s also confident and bold on the battlefield, preferring to be in the middle of the combat as a result of her desire to prove her mettle. Marina Inoue voices Narvi: after Broken Blade, Inoue would also voice Infinite Stratos‘ Laura Bodewig and Sakura Kagamihara of Yuru Camp△.

  • Over time, Cleo begins to realise that Krishna’s people are no different than those of Athens’, and develops a friendship with Sigyn. One of the themes in Broken Blade is that warfare amongst humanity often results in combatants forgetting their opponent is human, and as a result, creates atrocities of unimaginable scale. This is a recurring element in Gundam, especially in the Universal Century and Cosmic Era: the cycle of revenge and hatred requires an extraordinary occurrence to break, and even then, lingering feelings of resentment often trigger new conflict.

  • Borcuse’s Hykelion is one of the most powerful Golems in the whole of Broken Blade: this highly customised unit’s greatest weapon are a pair of scorpion tail-like jointed weapons that can be used as arms to seize weapons or pierce an enemy’s armour. Borcuse conceals his Golem in a vast cloak and prefers luring his enemies into closing the distance before unleashing the scorpion tails to devastate them. Against Rygart, Borcuse is more curious than antagonistic, intending to test out the Delphine’s and Rygart’s capabilities.

  • Having slaughtered an entire village just to goad Rygart into attacking (and therefore showing off what the Delphine’s capabilities are), Borcuse fights Rygart under a blood-red sunset. It soon becomes clear to Borcuse that the Delphine’s performance was a result of its exceptional hardware: Rygart is still inexperienced and brash, charging towards his opponents and counting on the Delphine’s durability to carry the day. Broken Blade excels at showing that a superior machine has its limits when going up against a superior pilot; bored of Rygart’s lack of skill, Borcuse disables the Delphine and orders it returned to Athens.

  • Some four years after I received by probationary operator’s license, I would go and obtain my full operator’s license: this license is required for obtaining commercial licenses and also lifts restrictions imposed on the probationary license. Most of my friends were not particularly keen on the full license because it involved parallel parking: during the early summer, I took the vehicle out to the same open lots in a nearby industrial park to practise parallel parking, and a few weeks later, I took the exam. This time around, I was completely at ease with operating a range of vehicles and completed every section of the driving test without difficulty: the examiner remarked it was a perfect exam.

  • Before Borcuse’s men can cut the cockpit hatch away, Rygart manages to regain consciousness and escapes with cover fire from allied forces. However, Borcuse’s squad gives chase and takes them out of the fight. Girge arrives and briefly duels Rygart, but switches his attention to Borcuse’s squad: he destroys Nike’s Golem and kicks Rygart away into a canyon, saving him at the last second from the advancing Athens forces at the cost of his own life. Owing to the pacing in Broken Blade, Girge remained one of those characters who would’ve benefited greatly from additional screen time to build his background and motivation out further.

  • Surprised at having been outwitted, Borcuse ignores orders from Athens to await the remainder of the invasion force and heads straight for Binoten with the aim of capturing it single-handedly. In the aftermath of the battle, Rygart comes to terms with Girge’s death, and having seen so much death at Borcuse’s hands, the final battle becomes personal for Rygart. When he returns to Binoten, he arrives just ahead of Borcuse, whose forces begin an onslaught on the capital. Even without the main force, Borcuse begins overwhelming the city’s defenses. Sigyn and Cleo say goodbye here.

  • In their final showdown, Rygart is driven purely by hatred and anger: as the two exchange blows, Borcuse finds himself completely perplexed at Rygart’s choice of actions during the fighting and deduces that he’s one of the un-sorcerers. Having never trained for such an eventuality, Rygart’s lack of experience in conventional warfare is what allows him to surprise Borcuse and deal damage to the Hykelion where no other pilot had previously succeeded. When Sigyn arrives with a massive shuriken, Borcuse laughs it off as a barbaric weapon and manages to evade most of the attacks, but ends up sustaining a hit that disables the shuriken. Rygart ultimately kills Borcuse, and with his death, the remaining Athens forces begin to withdraw.

  • Rygart, meanwhile, reunites with his younger brother, bringing the anime movie to an end. The manga is still ongoing, and the anime needed to fudge a few things in order to wrap things up neatly. With this being said, I still find the ending quite satisfactory, and overall, Broken Blade is a series I can recommend to people, earning an A- (3.7 of 4, or 8.5 of 10) in my books. With a compelling story and animation that stands up even a decade later, plus strong world building, Broken Blade is a fun series to watch. In ten years, the series has aged very gracefully, and my praises for Broken Blade do not appear to have been impacted by nostalgia: this is a solid option for fans of mecha series looking for something a little different, and the only knock I have against the series is that it could’ve done with one more episode, the same way Gundam Unicorn did, to flesh out character development further.

While thematically similar to Gundam Unicorn, Broken Blade differentiates itself in its unique setting. The world-building in Broken Blade is excellent, from the application of quartz in everyday life to military application, and its significance as an industrial resource to the point where nations are willing to spill blood to secure it. Quartz is so integrated into life that from things as simple as a coffee machine, right up to military hardware, all utilise quartz in some way. The Golems themselves are thoughtfully presented in Broken Blade: owing to their engineering and construction, they are incapable of sustained flight, and this prompts Golem combat to play out in a completely different manner than in something like Gundam Unicorn. The quartz-based technology leads to chaotic and bloody combat sequences between Golems, where engagements are fought with pressure guns at range and melee combat at close quarters. The physical nature of each engagement sees bullets chip away armour, blades cracking from use and entire Golems crumbling into scraps when defeated. Coupled with the stand-out portrayal of the rocky, arid terrain surrounding Binoten and vivid skies, the world that Rygart lives in is a tough one, but also one where the inhabitants have found a way to survive. Broken Blade excels in presenting these smaller details along with Rygart’s journey as a pilot and his determination in saving Sigyn, Hodr and Zess from a complex war that none want to be a part of. Altogether, Despite its age, Broken Blade is something that I can recommend to viewers who are fans of mecha series with a fantasy piece to it: Broken Blade represents an engaging journey that I certainly enjoyed, being a series with engaging world-building and characters, exceptional visuals and riveting combat sequences.

Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative: Remarks On the Outcome of Possibility, A Review and Reflection

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.

Kantai Collection: The Movie- Review and Reflection

 “Where the hell have you been?”
“Enjoying death. 007 reporting for duty.”

—M and James Bond, Skyfall

While the Kan-musume celebrate their recent victory at Ironbottom Sound, Fubuki notices a strange voice emanating from the ocean. This observation is mirrored by other Kan-musume, although Secretary Nagato has another matter on her hands; Kisaragi has seemingly returned back from the dead. It is revealed that Kan-musume and the Abyssals share an unusual relationship – Kan-musume become Abyssals when sunk, while destroyed Abyssals are reborn as Kan-musume. Kaga herself retains her memories as an Abyssal, remarking on the intense obsessions Abyssals experience, but notes that the cycle can be broken if Abyssals are eliminated, forcing them to be reborn as Kan-musume. Mutsuki is saddened to learn of this truth and resolves to remain by Kisaragi’s side even as Kisaragi undergoes a slow transformation into an Abyssal vessel. The area surrounding Ironbottom sound has also taken on an unusual character; the ocean waters have become crimson and slowly degrades the Kan-musume‘s equipment. As this region is expanding, Nagato organises an offensive to stop the phenomenon. As Fubuki is seemingly immune to this degrading, she’s assigned to punch through the frontlines and reach the portal at the centre of Ironbottom Sound. The intense combat forces most of the Kan-musume to retreat, leaving Yamato, Mutsuki and Fubuki to press forwards. When Yamato and Mutsuki sustain heavy damage, Kisaragi arrives to save them. This provides Fubuki the opening she needs to enter the portal; she reaches the other side and comes face-to-face with her Abyssal form, learning that Kan-musume and Abyssals formed from the spirits of sunken World War Two vessels. The optimistic, hopeful elements and feelings of hatred and regret split into separate beings: the original Fubuki had sunk here during the Battle of Cape Esperance in October 1942. Since then, the separation has resulted in the cycle of fighting between the Kan-musume and Abyssals. The Abyssal form of Fubuki compels Fubuki to give in to her darkness, but Fubuki refuses, being driven on by her determination to push forward as a symbol of hope. The strength of these feelings destroys the remaining Abyssals in the area, including the Abyssal Kisaragi. Fubuki reunites with her friends, launching with new Kan-musume on a training exercise, while Mutsuki meets up with Kisaagi, who has returned as a Kan-musume in full.

Unlike its predecessor, Kantai Collection: The Movie focuses on the origin of the Abyssals and explores what drives the war between them and the Kan-musume. With this particular aspect now in the open, it should dispel any misconceptions that Kantai Collection is an exercise in propaganda: simply put, the vessels of the IJN and the USN were both constructed with a particular goal in mind, and sinking is the ultimate form of death for a ship. Sinking in battle, then, is to die with strong lingering emotions, which subsequently separate into their negative (the Abyssals) and positive incarnations (the Kan-musume). These elements, while not particularly novel or impressive (the concept of cycles is rather similar to the Witches and Magical Girls of Puella Magi Madoka Magica), provide a reasonable explanation for what drives the conflict in Kantai Collection: some rationale is preferable to no rationale, and the movie’s done a passable job of doing so. Like its predecessor, however, Kantai Collection: The Movie falls into the trap of introducing an attempt at philosophical elements late in its presentation. In Kantai Collection: The Movie, there is an effort to present anti-Nihilism messages. The negative feelings that Abyssals embody attempt to overpower Fubuki and suggest that effort is meaningless in death, but when Fubuki learns of her original vessel’s own role in the IJN, she decides to choose a path that entails making something meaningful even if there is no meaning. While optimistic and certainly not the worst conceivable ending for Kantai Collection: The Movie, the messages also were added much later in the movie, precluding exploration of the thematic elements in adequate detail as to explain what makes it worthwhile for the Kan-musume to keep fighting (conversely, the Abyssal’s motivations are simple enough; they fight for revenge, aiming to bring suffering to a world that had constructed their suffering).

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I originally had eighty five screenshots ready for this post, but in the name of conciseness, I pared the number down to thirty. As such, while I may have the internet’s first collection of high quality screenshots, it is inevitable that a more comprehensive set of screenshots will become available in the upcoming days. My choice to reduce the number of screenshots means that moments such as the Mikawa Fleet battle are not featured in this discussion, which opens with Mutsuki anxious to see Kisaragi now that she’s returned to the Kan-musume.

  • Immediately apparent in Kantai Collection: The Movie is the visual fidelity and the incredible use of colours and lighting in its environments. Kisaragi and Mutsuki embrace after their separation, and after looking around, it seems that if one loses a ship in combat, it is possible to re-roll that ship and start again. Kisaragi’s return prompts the page quote, although beyond seemingly coming back from the dead, there’s very little in Kantai Collection: The Movie that is similar to 2012’s Skyfall.

  • Hiei, Kongo, Nagato, Mutsu, Akagi and Kaga see Kisaragi off after she debriefs with them. They note the gravity of the situation and after discussion, consider Kisaragi’s return as classified. It’s quite some time since the likes of Kantai Collection‘s characters graced this blog with their presence: the movie was released in November 2016 and only became available on home release since August 30.

  • Here, Yuudachi enjoys a gelato amidst the celebrations; she’s best known for appending ~poi to almost all of her dialogue. Approximating to “maybe” or “perhaps”, its use in Japanese is to denote a certain degree of uncertainty, and for English-speakers, is most similar to the interjection “like”, which, while originating with the Valley Girl stereotype of the 1980s, has permeated spoken English to a considerable extent. Developers have noted Yuudachi’s speech patterns is meant to mirror the fact that the original Yuudachi’s role in Battle of Guadalcanal remains unclear, as the ship’s credited kills were never clearly recorded amidst the chaos of battle.

  • During the celebrations, Yamato is seen manning the carving station and is exasperated when the other Kan-musume calls her the Hotel Yamato. A useless bit of trivial that has nothing to do with Kantai Collection – I’m big on carving stations at buffets and will always drop by for prime rib au jus. In Kantai Collection‘s game incarnation, the Yamato is immensely resource intensive but has enough firepower to lessen the odds of failure. Players consider this a reasonable trade-off and will field the Yamato-class when engaged in difficult battles.

  • Fun and games are short-lived in Kantai Collection: The Movie once Fubuki begins discussing the unusual voices she’s been hearing with her friends. A quick glance at the history books finds that Ironbottom Sound, the Allied name for Savo Sound, is a stretch of ocean where dozens of Allied and Japanese vessels were sunk during the Second World War. Sailors will observe silence as they sail through these waters, and the real Yuudachi, Fubuki and Hiei met there ends here. As a major ship graveyard, it forms the perfect focal point for the source of disruption in Kantai Collection: The Movie.

  • The South Pacific seems the perfect place for narratives, even of the sort seen in Kantai Collection. A great many texts I read for literature class during my secondary education are set in tropical islands, as well, including Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game (1924) and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). The differences in time periods between the two serve to underline the prevailing attitudes in society of the period; The Most Dangerous Game speaks of the justifiably of murder for survival, a question born from the First World War, while in Lord of the Flies, one of the great ironies is that the sailor who ends up landing on the island is disgusted that a group of British boys have devolved from civilised thought, while himself is part of a greater war that speaks of the gradually increasing tensions in the world following the end of the Second World War.

  • The next morning, aberrations begin appearing in Kisaragi. She blanks out and opens fire on base facilities. The oddities in Kisaragi’s return, coupled with the appearance of a scale-like buildup on her arms and the fact that she can only remember Mutsuki shows that Kisaragi has not returned in full. These observations perplex Fubuki and the others, while the higher-ups, including Nagato and Kaga, appear to know something about this phenomenon.

  • In the game, Kisaragi sports a very vain personality, whereas in the anime, she’s more mature, fulfilling an elder sister role for Mutsuki. After sinking in the third episode, the anime suggested that she was reborn as an Abyssal, with the film clearing things up considerably. She’s much more withdrawn and sad in Kantai Collection: The Movie; retaining her old memories, she feels that things are different and is fearful that she might attack the others.

  • After receiving clearance, Kaga explains that she was once an Abyssal vessel, consumed with longing and hatred. She retains vivid memories of these experiences, and her story finally clarifies what the Abyssals’ origins are. It’s actually surprisingly similar to the dynamics of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, although there are distinctions: Kantai Collection presents the transition between Abyssals and Kan-musume as being a natural cycle, while in Madoka Magica, the transformation is seemingly one-way prior to Madoka’s intervention. Mutsuki resolves to protect and look after Kisaragi, and Kaga notes that the cycle can be broken if they eliminate the Abyssals, offering a glimmer of hope.

  • While Nagato, Yamato and the others consider their next actions in light of an expanding area, Fanservice in Kantai Collection: The Movie is very limited, and beyond a moment of one of the Kan-musume trying to strip Fubuki here with the goal of getting her to relax, Kantai Collection is remarkably disciplined where fanservice goes. This moment also underlines by lack of familiarity with Kantai Collection‘s full lineup: I can’t recognise the two Kan-musume with Fubuki here. In the game, there are at least 150 ships, and unlike Battlefield, where it is possible to unlock everything with enough patience and determination, Kantai Collection players only have enough free slots to store up to 100 vessels.

  • Akagi and Kaga decide to have a word with Fubuki after learning that Fubuki is immune to the damaging effects encountered in the section of ocean near Ironbottom sound. Players of the game expressed their disappointment that Fubuki was given such a substantial role in the anime and movie, when she is otherwise quite unremarkable in the game. The first season hinted at her role in future events when the other Kan-musume were surprised at the brass’ decision to transfer Fubuki to the front line despite her lack of experience, so the movie is merely following up on this.

  • Kisaragi suffers a minor breakdown upon seeing the extent that she’s transforming into an Abyssal. She begins wearing a hoodie to cover her horns, and in a manner reminiscent of Lady MacBeth’s slipping sanity in Shakespeare’s MacBeth, where she scrubs at non-existent bloodstains in guilt at having driven her husband to murder King Duncan. In spite of everything that has happened, Mutsuki stays by her side and does her utmost to assuage Kisaragi’s fears.

  • Yamato and Fubuki share a conversation in the deep breath before the plunge: Nagato has authorised a mission to investigate the waters of Ironbottom Sound. While an unlikely friendship (the Yamato and Fubuki never fought together in World War II), it’s a dynamic I’ve grown rather fond of. In the months after Kantai Collection‘s anime began airing, numerous blog posts appeared claiming that Kantai Collection had “unfortunate implications”. While I’ve never been a fan of Imperial Japan’s actions in history, the Kantai Collection franchise as a whole is not intended to garner sympathy or support for the IJN: the addition of the Iowa and Bismark show that Kantai Collection is about personifying ships in general for entertainment purposes.

  • Inclusion of USN vessels, and with the film offering an account of what the Abyssals are mean that there is now sufficient evidence to suggest that folks who believe Kantai Collection to be IJN propaganda are overthinking things. Back in Kantai Collection: The Movie, Nagato briefs the participating Kan-musume on their upcoming assignment.

  • Zuikaku apologises to Kaga for her earlier remarks, and in a rare moment where the two are not at the others’ throat, Kaga reassures Zuikaku, as they both have a duty to perform. The operation begins in earnest soon after, and similar to Girls und Panzer: Der Film, a large section of Kantai Collection: The Movie is dedicated to the final battle. However, for the visual quality of the combat shown on screen, I did not find the fighting in Kantai Collection: The Movie to be quite as intense or exhilarating to watch as I did for Girls und Panzer: Der Film or Captain America: Civil War.

  • I’ve now been around the block to have my own favourite Kan-musume; Kongou definitely counts as my favourite for more or less channeling Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō. Their personalities are very similar, mirroring their shared connections to England. I’ve finally decided to take a look at why Kongou calls Fubuki “Bucky”: it’s actually not an English name, but rather, similar to how shortening of names is a common practise in English. So, Fubuki simply becomes -buki, which phonetically similar to “Bucky”. This means Fubuki has nothing to do with James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes.

  • By any standard, I am a scrub as far as Kantai Collection goes, and some folks, including one Myssa Rei, would probably consider it sacrilegious that someone who’s never played the game before has their nose into the Kantai Collection universe. On my end, I’m impressed that people can put in that sort of dedication into playing Kantai Collection, spending time outside of games building spreadsheets to optimise play, and discussing endless stats on forums. Kantai Collection is also very much driven by chance; there’s always a possibility for frustration, so I hold Kantai Collection‘s player-base in a begrudging admiration for being able to play something that I wouldn’t have the patience for.

  • Having said this, I’m not sure if it would be wise to delay one’s degree or deprioritise one’s relationships for a browser-based flash game to the same extent as Myssa Rei has. There’s a ways more to life than playing flash games and as such, I don’t think becoming one of the ‘net’s most respected Kantai Collection authorities would be worth the costs – it seems to me that enjoying the pleasant summer weather in a park, such as the short walk I took yesterday in the nearby Ranche Park, is a superior use of time. Back in Kantai Collection: The Movie, Fubuki joins in the firefight against the Abyssals, firing her main weapon. This particular frame exemplifies the sort of visual effects present in the movie, and overall, I’ve got no complaints about the artwork or animation.

  • Mutsuki folds under the heavy fire, and is nearly dealt a killing blow when at the last moment, she is saved by the Abyssal form of Kisaragi. When I learned of the film’s home release date back in early July, my expectations were not particularly high. One of my friends were taken aback to learn that there was a movie at all: he’d just finished the first season at the time, and immediately asked me to send a link to a webpage with screening dates. The answer is that there are no screening dates for Kantai Collection: The Movie in our area, even in our city’s largest theatre that had previously done anime screenings – interest in the military-moé genre on this side of the world is very limited, and as far as authoritative voices on things like Girls und Panzer and Kantai Collection go in the prairie provinces of Canada go, I’m it.

  • While ostensibly an Abyssal, Kisaragi fights on the Kan-musume‘s side, returning fire and keeping the others safe long enough for Fubuki to complete her goal. Not quite as feral looking as a full Abyssal, Kisaragi retains her uniform and naval weapons, in contrast to the more organic-looking weapons of the Abyssals.

  • According to folks who’ve played the game, the portal seen in Kantai Collection: The Movie is a copy of the designs from the final map in Kantai Collection‘s PlayStation Vita game. Now that Fubuki is here for herself, staring down the opening to another world, I’m forcibly reminded of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer, where there is a similar struggle to reach a target point through heavy fighting.

  • Mutsuki is given a chance to fight alongside Kisaragi again during the darkest hours of their operation: the Abyssal counterattack has been fierce enough to heavily damage the other Kan-musume, leaving just Mutsuki, Yamato and Fubuki. Despite being surrounded, Mutsuki and Kisaragi do their utmost to fight and give Fubuki a clear shot at entering the portal. Some Abyssals can be seen here: their equipment is organic in nature, and they seem to shun ornate clothing. In spite of the film’s revelations invalidating existing fan theories about the Abyssals, I’m a little surprised that there’s not more discussions surrounding the film.

  • To give an idea of just how intense the combat was, even Yamato sustains heavy damage, losing most of her weapons in the process while trying her hardest to keep Fubuki’s path to the portal open. She makes a final stand, engaging enemies with what remains of her vast arsenal, but even Yamato folds against numbers, reminiscent of how the real Yamato was defeated not by a single equal, but rather, large numbers of dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Historians generally find that had the Yamato and Iowa engaged one another in single combat, without their escorts and air support, the resulting battle would have favoured the Iowa slightly. Despite having less armour overall and a smaller broadside output, the Iowa had a formidable fire control system, better projectile engineering, superior speed and superior damage control. In actual combat, the Iowa’s crew would have kept moving while hammering the Yamato to damage it, evading the Yamato’s shells, although any hits from the Yamato would have been devastating to the Iowa.

  • Fubuki faces a dimension similar to that of Interstellar when crossing through. The voices she’s long heard become more persuasive and persistent, until at long last, she reaches a reconstruction of a classroom hallway and meets her Abyssal counterpart. Here, Fubuki learns that, in a manner similar to how Rick and Morty’s toxic selves are excised from their body during the third season’s sixth episode, the Kan-musume and Abyssals split off from their ships after sinking. The ships’ desires to defend and hopes for a better future manifest as the Kan-musume, while their anger and resentment became the Abyssals.

  • The space that Fubuki finds herself in resembles the Witches’ Labyrinths of Madoka Magic to some extent, with sinking ship motifs in the background and a sinister colouration to further enhance the audience’s sense of unease in this area. Fubuki’s beliefs are challenged when her Abyssal counterpart asks of her as to what the point is when all they’ve known is suffering, and she faces certain death in the depths of this portal when the Abyssal Fubuki ensnares her, but her recollections give her a second wind, allowing her to break free of her chains.

  • Fubuki decides that there is a point to living even in a world where the deck is stacked against them, that there are meaningful things worth fighting for, and embraces her Abyssal self. The final fight of the movie is decided through a peaceful resolution rather than a violent confrontation, and having come to terms with her Abyssal self, the other Abyssals in the area begin disappearing. In game, Abyssals disappear after what are known as “event maps” are cleared, but here, I imagine it’s more similar to what was seen in The Avengers after the Chitauri’s flagship was hit by a nuclear warhead.

  • The fighting comes to an end – before disappearing as an Abyssal, Kisaragi shares one final moment with Mutsuki, and with this, my thoughts on the movie also reach their terminus. Overall, the movie represents an hour and a half of fun. The efforts to add in something thought-provoking fall short, but recalling my own low expectations entering the movie, I wasn’t too bothered by this particular aspect.

  • Following the events of Ironbottom Sound, the atmosphere in Kantai Collection: The Movie becomes noticeably less tense. Fubuki is gearing up to train the new arrivals, while Yuudachi is lounging around. The Kantai Collection: The Movie review was admittedly a bit trickier to write for, since I cannot draw on anything beyond my experiences with the film itself; with this in mind, one could suppose that this discussion is useful for folks who only have knowledge of Kantai Collection‘s anime form.

  • It turns out that the onigiri that Mutsuki were preparing were for Kisaragi, who has fully returned as a Kan-musume at the film’s ending.With Kantai Collection: The Movie in the books, the next major film I’ll be writing about is Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (In A Corner of This World), which is slated for home release on September 15. Dealing with life in Hiroshima and Kure in the decade leading to the dropping of the atom bomb, and the events ten in the following decade, I’ve heard the film is of an exceptional standard and greatly look forwards to writing about it. Besides In a Corner of this World, the other major posts for this month will include those for Battlefield 1, which may get more than one post owing to just how extensive the upcoming DLC are, New Game!!Sakura Quest and Gundam: The Origin‘s fifth OVA.

It’s been two years since I watched Kantai Collection – when I finished the original anime, I felt that the anime had not succeeded in inspiring me to pick up the game. The movie is much stronger than the anime with respect to world-building and in presentation of its narrative (the final battle is the result of a clearly-defined purpose, for one), but similar to the anime, hardly provides any inspiration for me to begin playing Kantai Collection. This reaction comes as a consequence of the immensely challenging set up process (I believe that setting up a game should be as simple as buying it, installing it and if needed, create a new account, before dropping into the game world), as well as for the fact that I’ve got a vast collection of games that keep me occupied. With this being said, like the anime, Kantai Collection: The Movie is a technically excellent film, featuring high quality animation and a soundtrack that is worthy of being used in a feature film such as Letters from Iwo Jima or the 2011 film, Isoroku Yamamoto. It certainly was a fun watch even if the narrative elements are not at their strongest. While I find that Kantai Collection could conclude at Kantai Collection: The Movie without any further continuation, I imagine that a second season could remain within the realm of possibility as Fubuki and the others now have a known raison d’être for fighting. For the present, we return discussion to whether or not this movie is worthwhile as a watch; my personal assessment is that Kantai Collection: The Movie is primarily for the Kantai Collection fans who enjoyed the original anime to some extent. In spite of a top-tier soundtrack and solid visuals, Kantai Collection: The Movie is not the introduction to Kantai Collection‘s world that inspires folks to give the game a shot, nor is it able to capture all of the elements that Kantai Collection‘s players have come to enjoy about the online game. With this being said, I still found the movie modestly enjoyable, although not everyone will share this particular opinion.

Garakowa: Restore the World Review and Reflection

“A lot of movies about artificial intelligence envision that AI’s will be very intelligent but missing some key emotional qualities of humans and therefore turn out to be very dangerous.” —Ray Kurzweil

Individuals wondering what AVG, McAfee or Avast is doing under the hood whenever a scheduled virus scan encounters something out of place in the system files may find Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai to be an anime film worth their while. Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai (known alternatively as Garakowa Restore the World or Vitreous Flower Destroy the World, and just Garakowa for the remainder of this discussion) is an anime movie that premiered back during October 2015. Running for sixty minutes, Garakowa follows the comings and goings of two concurrently-installed and anthropomorphic antivirus programs, Dual and Dorothy, within their simulated world known as the Box of Wisdom. They encounter another entity known only as Remo during their duties, and as Dual and Dorothy know Remo better, they learn more about the world they were created to serve, discovering the joys of friendship and the pains of separation associated with humanity, a concept hitherto foreign to them. Notions of machine learning and emergence are present in Garakowa: Dual and Dorothy are initially mechanical entities created to keep the MOTHER system free of abnormalities, although their programming is certainly complex enough so that they can approximate human emotions of happiness, horror and attachment. Through their presentation in Garakowa, the theme outwardly is that the things that constitute humanity (in other words, that make us distinctly human) likely will be mirrored in the constructs that we create.

While Garakowa’s story explicitly follows Dual, Dorothy and Remo’s time together, the story in the background, specifically, how the world reached its present state, forms the actual narrative. It turns out that humanity created the MOTHER system to help manage society, and over time, the system decided that its directives could only be satisfied by eliminating humans. By the time people became aware of this, the system had already anticipated human opposition and thwarted attempts to halt the system. So, Garakowa’s main theme deals predominantly with the dangers posed by ever-improving artificial intelligence, specifically, that humanity is not presently equipped to deal with superintelligence. Just recently, one of Google’s AIs defeated a human grandmaster at Go, a game that surpasses chess in complexity. The technical details are beyond the scope of this discussion, but the AI uses reinforcement learning in conjunction with neural networks to pick the best move based on anticipated future moves. Google’s triumph here suggests that machine learning and AI is advancing more quickly than the literature predicted, and it is speculated that super-intelligent AI could inadvertently eliminate humans in to complete its goals (for instance, the Paperclip Maximiser is a thought experiment involving an AI whose utility function was directed at collecting paperclips, it may consume all the resources available in trying to collect paperclips, including those that sustain life). Garakowa presents a world where AI whose goal function did eventually lead it to eliminate humanity, leaving behind only memories for Dual, Dorothy and Remo to explore. Altogether, Garakowa is a modestly optimistic story in suggesting that human traits might live on in our computer systems even after humanity is gone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The death-streak continues: it’s been thirteen days since my last post, although I’m coming back with a vengeance with this here post on Garakowa: the movie itself is somewhat more tricky to follow compared to a film like Love Live!, and ultimately, it appears that Garakowa places a greater emphasis on artistic elements rather than a single, unifying narrative. Despite the less-than-optimal story, there is plenty to talk about with this movie, and this is where its values appear to lie.

  • Visualising computer environments has always allowed for a myriad of different approaches to be taken: The Matrix represented things with code-rain, and Garakowa depicts its world as a 3D space filled with curved connections resembling neurons. The choice to use purples and blues appears to be motivated by a wish to make this environment feel more organic, mirroring notions that future computers may utilise architectures resembling those found in nature.

  • Dual (left) and Dorothy (right) find Remo (bottom) floating in their world after carrying out removal of viruses. I was quite surprised to learn that Risa Taneda provides Dual’s voice, and Dorothy’s voiced by Ayane Sakura. So, we have Rize and Cocoa of GochiUsa coming back to play characters in a completely different world; while their roles are different, flashes of their personalities from GochiUsa appear every so often: Dual is more reserved, while Dorothy is more outspoken. Either way, it takes a considerable amount of willpower to remind myself that Dual is not Rize, and Dorothy is most certainly not Cocoa.

  • After meeting Remo and learning that she’s not a virus, Dual and Dorothy accompany her in exploring archived information about the human world, learning in the process about distinctly human concepts such as emotion and senses. Dorothy constantly asserts that such traits are not part of their directives (implicitly showing that they both have capacity for machine learning).

  • The thirty screenshots supplied for this post largely depict the world as we presently know it, and quite truthfully, the composition in Garakowa is strikingly similar to Madoka Magica with its scenery: from highly detailed cityscapes and building interiors to the chaotic, nigh-surrealist environments inside the computer environments, I contend that even if Garakowa might not  have the greatest story, its artwork merit checking out.

  • One of the reasons why I’ve been writing less thus far is because I’ve been spending a significant portion of my waking hours working on a second conference paper and on the thesis paper itself. There’s been so much writing happening lately that my inclination to write for recreational purposes has lessened somewhat.

  • Rather than being called “The Matrix” (and its associated subset of locations, including the “Industrial Hallway” and “The Source”), the world in Garakowa is known as “The Box Of Wisdom”. Because programs in The Box of Wisdom have the .exe extension, it’s surmised that the entire system Garakowa is set in is a Windows or Windows-like system: .exe files can be run on DOS, Microsoft Windows and a few other operating systems.

  • Thus begins the most visually impressive section of Garakowa, as Dorothy, Remo and Dual visit Paris during the Exhibition of 1889, the British Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan (where they view the Younger Memnon) before visiting Egypt themselves.

  • I’ve largely kept to images portraying scenes of natural splendor and great beauty, but there are some points when the girls travel to more sobering periods of human history: an M1A2 firing its main cannon, the damaged streets in Europe following the Second World War, collapsed bridges following a hurricane and a volcanic eruption can also be seen. These scenes are meant to evoke the idea that neither happiness or sadness can exist without one another.

  • Later in the movie, it’s shown that MOTHER was a program created to guide society (in a manner not dissimilar to Gundam 00‘s VEDA). Peace was eventually reached, and lacking any sort of drive to progress, humanity fell into complacency, with birth rates declining internationally and ultimately bringing about the extinction of humanity as a whole. This stands in contrast to situations where AI directly influences the end of humanity.

  • From what Remo says in a monologue, MOTHER’s goal function was the collection of all beautiful things in the world, while eradicating the negative aspects of humanity. The origins of this goal are never specified (i.e. whether or not MOTHER was initially built with a poorly-specified goal or whether or not goal mutation resulted in its actions), but both possibilities touch on yet another challenge posed by AI: that AI may resist efforts to change its internal goals after it has begun.

  • The number of possible conversation topics prompted by events in Garakowa are quite large, as extrapolation would eventually drive discussions to whether or not humans can create successful AI that do not eventually result in our species’ destruction: on one hand, an AI that cannot modify its goal function or decision function will be unlikely to adapt as readily as the human mind, but AI that do have this capability may very well reach a state where they pose a credible threat to humanity.

  • The Moai of Easter Island make an appearance under a deep blue sky as the girls continue their travels. The unspoiled beauty seen here brings to mind the Annual Darwin Lecture on campus that I attended yesterday evening: the topic was factors driving speciation and extinction, concluding on the note that the holocene extinction is not something that can be solved so easily by engineered solutions. Instead, it was suggested that policy change (implementation and enforcement) will be necessary to lessen the negative impacts of human activity on the global ecosystems (leading to an interesting discussion over a steak dinner afterwards!).

  • Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, is particularly well-known for its Romanesque Revival architecture: in Garakowa, it is intricately rendered and approaches photorealism in terms of quality. I absolutely love the music that is performed while the girls travel through recollections of the world’s memories, and Garakowa has some excellent background musical pieces, as well: the pieces on the soundtrack are absolutely amazing.

  • This area is definitely the Canadian Rockies, given the shape of the mountains and its proximity to a river valley: such geological features are prominent in Banff National Park along the Trans-Canada highway between Banff and Lake Louise, and I’ve traveled along this stretch of road with reasonable frequency, so I can say with confidence that Dual, Dorothy and Remo are canoeing along the Bow River.

  • European mountains feel different than the Canadian Rockies: this is the Matterhorn, a pyramidal peak in the Swiss Alps that is some 4.478 kilometers high. This view is quite famous, being taken from Lake Riffelsee, three kilometers east of the Matterhorn. The lake can be reached via the Rotenboden railway station and has a maximum depth of four meters.

  • While the reflection of water on these salt flats seems like a setting from a fantastical setting, such a phenomenon does indeed occur in reality: these are the Bonneville Salt Flats, and during the winter, an inch of water can accumulate on the ground from melting snow in nearby regions.

  • While it may prima facie appear to be a spelling error, folks from New Zealand spell bungee jumping with a “y” rather than the pair of “e”s that is more familiar to North Americans.

  • The brightly coloured lawn furniture the girls sit upon are a characteristic of Harvard University: installed in 2009 at Harvard Yard and the Radcliffe Quad, the chairs were intended to encourage students to linger on the grounds to study or otherwise hang out. They’re now known to visitors, who view the chairs as a characteristic of Harvard: I visited Harvard back during 2011 while visiting the Eastern Seaboard. There is no such equivalent at my university: the frigid winters and the academic calendar means that most students study and hang out indoors.

  • Tranquality and happiness soon gives way to despair and sadness as the girls learn of the trickier parts of human history, from natural disasters to warfare. Discussions elsewhere about Garakowa have been quite limited because the film’s narrative can be a little difficult to follow at times. One individual stated that they were “tired of seeing stories where superprograms decide [humanity is intrinsically evil]”, leading the discussion towards whether or not humanity as a whole can be considered to be evil.

  • I argue that whether humanity is evil or not is outside the scope of discussion in Garakowa; MOTHER does not “decide” that humanity should be eliminated in the same sense that humans make decisions. Whereas people often call upon emotional responses in addition to logic, reasoning and previous experiences in their decision-making process, computers typically make decisions based on either a decision function or heuristics. the aforementioned individual’s argument is therefore driven by the assumption that computers also make decisions based on pathos and ethos. In Garakowa, this is not the case: MOTHER simply acted on its goal function: designed to preserve the beauty in the world, MOTHER’s algorithms reach a state where it surmises that beauty is the absence of sadness, and if humanity’s actions causes sadness (in any form, by its definition), then that stands contrary to its goals.

  • Back in the Box of Wisdom, the girls share afternoon tea with one another, and later, Remo plays a short piano tune that evokes memories in Dual about her friend, Sumire: the latter had been destroyed earlier in the film after her data became corrupted by a virus, and this leads Dual to wonder about her role within the system. Their time is cut short after Remo begins to phase in and out of existence; Dual manages to reawaken her with her recollections of the piano tune from earlier.

  • Hence, whether or not humanity itself is evil or not is irrelevant in any discussion about Garakowa: the world merely reached its current state because MOTHER’s programming conflicts with human values. In this case, the antagonist is not a conscious being that we are familiar with, it is a goal function whose outcomes far surpassed our ability to manage: as humanity in Garakowa discover, sufficiently complex programs will outmatch human attempts to alter its goals.

  • Thus, with the revelation that Remo is MOTHER with a given form, Dorothy and Dual continue to carry out their own programming after concluding that MOTHER’s actions contradict their own. The logical flow does not exactly follow in an intuitive fashion here, but it does accommodate a final battle against yet another virus of gargantuan proportion, resembling Homura’s efforts against Walpurgisnacht.

  • Initially, Dorothy and Dual find that their memories are holding them back: both fall as the old programs begin consuming them. It turns out that MOTHER had deliberately repressed their abilities to carry out their functions with patches to preserve the status quo. However, once Dual and Dorothy revert to their original forms, they begin performing much more effectively against the other data.

  • The downgrade is akin to reverting to an older build that functioned more effectively. The imagery here implies that the downgrade also encompasses reduced data in storing their garment’s attributes. The effect is not unpleasant, and the final battle becomes quite entertaining to watch: Dorothy and Dual’s combined efforts succeed in reverting the system to an earlier state, destroying Remo in the process.

  • I’ve heard numerous comparisons between Remo and Meiko “Menma” Honma of AnoHana, although quite truthfully, their similarities as far as physical appearances go is quite limited in the film, and from a personality perspective, Remo and Meiko are only vaguely familiar. Most comparisons were made from a poster that was released a year ago. Admittedly, I had no idea what Garakowa would entail: when announced last year, there was no information about the premise or story.

  • Dorothy’s tears come full force as Remo fades into oblivion after Dual and Dorothy do what is necessary. As this talk comes to a close, I remark that I’ve said all that there is to be said about Garakowa: this review would have come out last week, but I was in Kelowna to help out with the latest performances of the Giant Walkthrough Brain. I left Friday evening last week and arrived later in the evening.

  • The weather in Kelowna was quite pleasant but moody both of the days. Manteo Resort had sponsored the event, so we were lodged there: the hotel has a fantastic view of Lake Okanagan, and the next morning, I walked over to the Kelowna Community theatre to help with setup. The first performance on Saturday went without a hitch, and later that evening, we had dinner with UBC Kelowna Faculty at the Bike Shop Café (a three course dinner with a  garden salad, ham-wrapped chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and herbs as the main, and chocolate cake to finish).

  • The next morning, I had a hearty breakfast (not shown: a breakfast pizza and apple crisp) before checking out and walking to the theatre. Because the equipment was still set up from the previous show, there was a bit of free time. I stopped by a poutine shop for the “Angry Hen” (a local poutine topped with grilled chicken, Frank’s Hot Sauce and bacon), then took a short walk along Okanagan lake before returning to the performance venue. The second performance proceeded as smoothly as the first did, and we were whisked away to the airport after the equipment had been taken down (leaving no time for dinner, but thankfully, potatoes and bacon are excellent slow-burning fuels!). It was a fun weekend, although being in Kelowna to help with a performance meant there was little time to do other things, although this weekend, I’ve found a bit of time to push this post out.

On the whole, Garakowa is probably not likely to be viewed as anything groundbreaking with respect to its story; the narrative, though capable of raising some excellent questions, is not adequately developed over the movie’s running time to convey a compelling message for audiences, and in fact, bears similarities to Taifuu no Noruda in structuring: Garakowa is not unlike a longer short story that depicts a progression of events, concluding with an open ending. However, although the overall story might be lacking, Garakowa nonetheless possesses above-average production values: the music and visuals remain consistent throughout the movie, and in making use of biological imagery, Garakowa‘s depiction of a virtual environment is a clever suggestion that future computers will increasingly incorporate biological patterns in their design. Thus, the end result is that Garakowa remains a modestly entertaining film that paints a familiar (if somewhat superficial) picture of the implications surrounding improvements in AI and machine learning. Moreover, the artwork and aural components remain consistently good throughout the film; the different locations that Dual, Dorothy and Remo visit are illustrated in great detail, as is the world within their simulated world. When everything is said and done, I would give Garakowa a weak recommendation: I find that this film is worth watching for the technical elements rather than for its narrative.