“No matter how deep the despair is, hope always rises out of it. You are light. You can even use sadness as fuel to light the way.” —Marida Cruz
Readers looking for the screenshots will need to do a small bit of scrolling, or ctrl-f “Screenshots and commentary”: there’s quite a bit of reading before the screenshots are reached. To kick things off, the opening quote is taken from near the finale’s ending, painting Gundam Unicorn as an optimistic series about human nature. Suggesting that people will always continue to find a way, the core message in Gundam Unicorn might be seen as standing directly against the message in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which emphasised the notion that despair was inevitably born from hope. However, despair and hope are yin and yang: neither can exist without the other, and so, while there can be no despair without hope, there is also no hope without despair. Contrasting Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Gundam Unicorn demonstrates the power of the human will, suggesting it is strong enough to endure and move forward to embrace the future. Gundam Unicorn‘s closing act and swan song weighs in at 90 minutes, composed of a superb combination of pulse-pounding mobile suit combat paired with immensely emotional moments; from the episode’s opening at the Cheyenne base in Colorado, to the Mineva’s final speech, the finale acted as a fitting conclusion to the Gundam Unicorn OVA series. Every moment, combat or dialogue, was so powerful it raised the hairs on my neck and left me on the edge of my seat. The last anime to have successfully done this was Girls und Panzer, putting the Gundam Unicorn finale alongside Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises as something that has elicited such a reaction from me in recent times.
While the ending was by no means flawless, the final outcome is consistent with Gundam Unicorn‘s major theme of possibility and breaking away from the status quo, making it a fitting conclusion to the series. Even then, possibility was only one of the main elements: Mineva’s final speech suggest that possibility can only be capitalised upon if people understand one another. Understanding was the core theme to Gundam 00: and its execution in the Awakening of the Trailblazer movie ultimately produced one of the more controversial endings in the Gundam franchise. Gundam Unicorn‘s finale, pushes the limits for what is reasonable and in fact, there are a handful of elements that are reminiscent of Awakening of the Trailblazer (such as the Unicorn’s supernatural performance and how its psychoframe takes on an ELS-like appearance). Nonetheless, through a fine balance in its presentation, this finale ultimately succeeds in wrapping up Gundam Unicorn, leaving viewers with just enough to piece together what is going on without yielding too many details. Throughout this episode, aside from the concept of possibility, there were many other overarching themes that were also explored, ranging from the futility of existence to yet another warning about how seemingly small lies can still have significant consequences.
Major themes in the finale
Besides possibility and understanding, two main issues comes to mind in this finale. The first is the idea that the entire Laplace Conflict was over something trivial, propagated by a falsehood. Nonetheless, while the target, Laplace’s Box, might have been trivial, the fact was that lives were lost over it. Laplace’s Box has long been known to have held the Vist Foundation and Anaheim Electronics together with the Federation, acting as the leverage to maintain the status quo via fear. However, when the Box’s contents were revealed, it turns out that the only difference was that the original UN Charter was simply to promote greater Newtype involvement in the government. This statement is benign in and of itself and means exactly what it says. However, by concealing the original charter and allowing the Federation government to re-write it, Syam Vist created a system ruled by fear, based on a lie. Recall the classical children’s song, “There Was Once an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”: the song shows that culmination of things like lies eventually create an end result that greatly exaggerates the original state. In most variations of the song, after swallowing a horse, the old lady succumbs to the Grim Reaper, acting as a caution to children about how things like dishonesty, if allowed to propagate, ultimately end up causing more harm than good. This is no different in Gundam Unicorn, where the Earth Sphere Federation was bullied into accepting a lie to save themselves, and in doing so, allowed factions like Zeon to rise up. The Federation, in short, created their own worst enemy, and fought them in wars that devastated the human race, because of this lie. Had honesty and truth prevailed early on, much conflict could have been avoided, but because it was not, the Federation and Zeon would both pay the price. However, for all the damage that had arisen from this lie, Syam Vist nonetheless believed that the time was ripe to turn over a new leaf and allow the world to hear the truth, illustrating that, however unforgivable some lies are, it is never really too late to let the truth have its day: this truth, regardless of how difficult to accept it may be, would allow people to move forward in a way that is precluded by the alternative of allowing the lie to persist.
Syam Vist’s choice in choosing Banagher and Mineva as worthy possessors of the Box, along Ronan Marcenas’ dialogue, illustrate the inevitability that the new generation will eventually assume control of the world, and for the previous generation, this is the time to step back and allow the new generation to run it as they see fit. Through Syam Vist and Ronan Marcenas’ dialogues, it becomes apparent that the whole of the Universal Century was built on ideas held by the previous generations; progress and possibility were stifled because the cost of revealing the truth was perceived to be much too great. In the end, after the revelation that the Box had been of little value, Banagher and Mineva go on ahead to forge into the future with the aims of bettering it. For its realism, Gundam Unicorn illustrates that even in a world governed by a desire for stability and a general trend to avoid changes, sometimes, all it takes is a determined individual to act as the dramatic example that shakes people out of apathy. Banagher Links, having undertaken the mantle of bearing the forerunner’s duties, finds that he wears the responsibility surprisingly well. In accepting this duty, he is acting as the first of his generation to push a path into the future, striving towards a world where an understanding amongst human beings and Newtypes can be accomplished. This notion brings to mind historical accounts related to the naïveté of youth; the former are usually at the frontlines whenever dissidence is involved, whereas adults typically stay back and adopt a more moderate perspective. This ends up producing a double-edged sword; on one hand, the youth act with good intentions, while the adults act based on their experiences, and as such, youth actions are usually of limited impact, since those in charge may not necessarily agree with dissenting ideas, especially where they conflict with their own. On the other hand, Gundam Unicorn is suggesting that, in a world ruled by complacency and a desire for the status quo, more hotheads might be precisely what the world needs to get the ball rolling towards making the better futures that our forerunners had envisioned when founding our nations.
Personal thoughts on the finale
With some of the more technical aspects considered, the time has come to look at the positives and negatives that characterise this finale. In the same manner as one of my favourite Gundam model kit reviewers, I’ll begin with the some shortcomings in the episode. The first thing that comes to mind would be Full Frontal’s presence in the finale. Lacking any development beyond being Char’s ghost, Full Frontal’s ultimate raison d’être is never resolved. This outcome suggests that Frontal is quite literally a ghost, a fragment of Char’s old will, lessening the weight of his objectives. This could reflect for why his final duel with Banagher and Riddhe was less climatic than originally anticipated. Elements from other final duels were dispensed with in favour of providing more exposition surrounding the major events that occurred in the Universal Century, and while it does succeed in providing a fair amount of background surrounding earlier events (the remastered scenes from Char’s Counterattack and Mobile Suit Gundam are brilliant), it does leave Frontal as feeling more underdeveloped than he could have been. Naturally, there are possible explanations for why this could be the case: the first one that comes to mind is the deliberate aim of painting Full Frontal as ultimately being little more than a ghost of Char. Evidence for this claim may be found during the psychofield phenomena, where Frontal met with the spirits of the original Char Aznable and Lalah. Subsequently, Frontal’s willpower appears to crumble, along with the remains of the Neo Zeong. After Char’s spirit appears, Frontal does not appear to have any more reason to exist. The Neo Zeong’s ultimate fate suggests that humanity’s constructs are only as strong as their wielder’s will. The other aspect that may be problematic for some audiences is the over-reliance on the psychoframe’s power to rectify things; this was a similar limitation in Gundam 00. This matter is particularly challenging because it assumes that being a Newtype (or Innovator) permits for one to take in the thoughts around them, which removes doubt and ambiguity. The fact is that, even if humans know of someone else’s motivations, they may or may not be willing to accept their ideas or compromise.
Full Frontal’s characterisation and fate, plus the decidedly optimistic endings, are only the shortcomings about the finale, and ultimately, the entire series. Even then, there is a reasonably well-reasoned account for why this might be the case, so it’s not a critical matter, and when the biggest negatives are only small negatives, it speaks volumes to just how masterfully the finale was executed. Right from the episode’s opening, excitement mounts as mobile suit combat begins. Most of the battles showcased the pilots at their finest, whether it be Commander Conrad’s defense of the Nahel Argama, or Marida’s efforts in holding Riddhe back for Banagher to punch through enemy lines. Marida’s sortie would result in her death, and after seeing her character gain so much development over the series, it was disheartening to see her path end here. Nonetheless, her death was not in vain; she becomes a source of guidance for the characters and offers wisdom to everyone. These moments also mark Banagher’s first time deploying the Unicorn’s shields as remote-controlled weapons. The Unicorn itself might not have had any funnels, but by now, Banagher’s Newtype powers have finally been realised, and these shields are used liberally, to great effect, throughout the episode’s remainder. Riddhe’s role in these events cannot be ignored, either: abandoning madness for reason, it takes Marida’s death by his hand for him to turn around. Once Riddhe’s internal conflicts are sorted out, he proves himself to be a worthy Newtype, lending his powers to help Banagher resist Full Frontal and repel the colony laser. While Riddhe no longer bears the innocent appearance he did in the first few episodes, the vengeful aura that clung to him in the previous episode is gone; other viewers may disagree, but through his actions, Riddhe has indeed found redemption, and this is marked by a glorious transformation of the Banshee’s psychoframe from its typical golden hue to the green that was seen on the Unicorn. Together, Banagher and Riddhe are able to deflect the laser blast from Gryps 2, allowing Mineva to give her speech to the world pertaining to the truth. During these last moments, subtle details, such as Takyua and Micott holding hands, and Otto inviting Zinnerman out for drinks after the dust settled, add to the sense that characters did indeed grow and change during the Laplace conflict, finding newfound respect for one another as fellow human beings. Lastly (and perhaps controversially), more so than any other anime out there (even Puella Magi Madoka Magica), Gundam Unicorn is sufficiently well-thought out such that elements can be treated to a proper (if more informal) literary analysis because of how Gundam Unicorn always takes the bigger picture into consideration. The characters’ experiences, words and actions yield lessons and morals that have roots in real world society. Whether it be the consequences of human advancement and the imbalances civilisation has imparted on Earth following the Industrial Revolution, or the cycles of revenge and injustice that drive wars, the matters characters talk about parallel real-world events. By comparison, other anime that lead to what some consider meaningful discussion are limited in scope: the character’s experiences in relation to something only affect them and a small group of individuals, but the implications of said experiences on society as a whole are not considered. The entire point of an analysis is to understand how different factors of society are represented by the characters: while other anime may fall somewhat short, Gundam Unicorn excels in this department, taking the care to tie in how the character’s actions and beliefs have an impact on the world around them.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This is quite possibly the largest single post I’ve ever written: with almost 8300 words in total and 75 images, this final reflection will be an amalgamation of my thoughts on the episode and the entire Gundam Unicorn series. Writing the paragraphs took roughly two hours, including proofreading. Gathering the images took nearly three hours, and captioning them required an additional four hours, so writing this post required a total of nine hours over a week.
- The seven minute preview to the finale was released on April 25, nearly a month ago. It was the morning of one of my exams, and I had arrived early to sort out a few things with one of my courses. By around eleven, one of my friends dropped by the lab, and I showed him this preview, as well. Opening with Martha Vist Carbine and Ronan Marcenas being escorted to an underground bunker, the episode’s opening is spent covering a variety of scenes.
- Gryps 2 is a colony laser that was built by the autonomous task force, Titans, and was powered by a network of solar panels. Used extensively during the Gryps conflict, the facility was later abandoned, although between UC 0087 and UC 0096, it was rebuilt and becomes operational in time for the events of Gundam Unicorn.
- Fourteen months ago, audiences were left with a cliffhanger as Banagher and Riddhe clashed swords to RE:I AM. The ending song itself released on the first day of Spring, when they announced the NSERC results, and Left 4 Dead 2 went on sale for 75 percent off. This year, events haven’t lined up on the same day, although good news happened anyways: the ending song, StarRingChild, came out after a glorious Otafest ended, and I pre-ordered my tickets after QEII scholarship results were announced. The battle resumes several minutes into the preview, finally presenting to the world the progression of a battle that Banagher has little desire to fight, but the audience doubtlessly has every desire to watch this confrontation.
- An AMX-107 Bawoo engages a ReZEL Commander type here in close-quarters combat after the Bawoo Nutter (the lower, unmanned portion) fires its payload unsuccessfully at the ReZEL. The first half of the finale is a long sequence of battles involving a bewilderingly diverse group of Zeon mobile suits that far surpasses what any remnant group is expected to have.
- Upon hearing more of Riddhe’s dialogues later, it would be quite unfair to say that Riddhe was purely motivated by Mineva’s rejection: his conversation with Ronan yielded several new revelations, and Riddhe takes it upon himself to preserve a system for the world’s sake, even if it costs him his life.
- It’s reached my ears that the Full Armour Unicorn will be getting a traditional colours HGUC release, as well. With the episode now under my belt, I suddenly realise that the state represented by the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn (Destroy mode) model actually never appears anywhere in the finale: when the Unicorn has all of its weapons, it’s in regular Destroy mode, and only achieves the green psyhcoframe later on in the episode, when it only has its shields.
- Commander Conroy pilots an ECOAS-colours Jeagan and mans a mega-particle cannon, successfully sinking numerous mobile suits during the course of the battle. Even after the weapon is destroyed by Angelo, Conroy demonstrates exceptional piloting skills.
- Despite being twisted by single-mindedness that is far removed from Walt Whitman, Angelo’s (English) dialogue brings to mind “O Captain! My Captain!”, written to mourn and honour Abraham Lincoln. His devotion to Full Frontal transcends madness, and he shoots down both Federation and Zeon suits alike in his attempts to best the Unicorn Gundam.
- A Stark Jegan is bisected by Angelo here. In the beginning, there were many rumours surrounding the finale; among these rumours included the claim that no CG would be used in the finale. It turns out that this was correct: the Gundam’s transformation sequences appear to be done traditionally, but in spite of this, visual quality was not compromised, and the finale proved to be on par with the other episodes in most places. Other places simply surpassed the previous episodes with respect to visual impact.
- My anticipation for the finale grew to the extent where I memorised all of the lines from the English trailer. I watched all of Gundam Unicorn in English simply because it was easier to listen to the dialogue and watch the visuals on screen, rather than try to read everything while simultaneously watching the visuals.
- As far as the whole “dub vs. sub” debate goes, I’m a pragmatist, so I typically pick what works better. In most cases, the original Japanese voices sound better than their English equivalents, although there are exactly two cases I’ve experienced where the English dubbed version is of excellent quality: Gundam Unicorn and Azumanga Daioh.
- With Banagher’s Newtype powers at their height, much of the episode involves psychofield-related phenomena, giving the Unicorn access to abilities some might consider to be unnatural. Elsewhere, I’ve heard that some are comparing the Newtype powers to Dragon Ball Z, which is a strange comparison. Given that I haven’t seen the latter since I was six, I cannot comment whether or not that holds true.
- Despite the Kshatriya not being in top condition, Marida manages to hold off the Banshee and becomes the first person in the series to damage a Gundam substantially, when she makes use of the Kshatriya Repair’s missiles to blow off the Banshee’s right leg. As the last big Gundam post for the next while, I’ve included an array of references to other Gundam works, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, a children’s song, and some YouTube channels in this talk to liven things up a little (even with the understanding that this is probably the only talk in existence to talk about Gundam and Madoka Magica in a side-to-side manner).
- Conroy puts up yet another impressive showing in fighting off a AMX-101E Schuzrum-Galluss that manages to take down several allied mobile suits, before detonating a series of mines to damage one of the Nahel Argama’s catapult hatches before taking on Conroy. Despite Conroy’s quick thinking, the armour is too strong for blasters; timely intervention from the Unicorn finally dislodges the blue Zeon mobile suit from the Nahel Argama.
- In Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the finale’s premier was an extravagant event, feeling like a mini-convention in its own right, with plenty of Gundam Unicorn merchandise and exclusives available, along with cosplayers. My own screening of the finale was much more low-key, taking place in the afternoon of May 19, a day after Otafest had ended.
- Otafest 2014 turned out to be a perfect convention experience, and its coincidental timing with the Gundam Unicorn finale meant that my own private viewing of the finale felt very much like an extension to the convention itself. During Otafest, I was able to purchase the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn (Destroy Mode); I had predicted that, since the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn (Unicorn Mode) was available at last year’s Otafest despite having a later release time, it stood to reason that the Destroy Mode model would have been available. My prediction turned out to be on the mark, and one of the vendors did indeed have the kit available for purchase.
- The Unicorn finds itself disabled after Angelo deploys its Psycho Jammer, which inhibits the Unicorn’s NT-D and shuts it down. I was quite interested in seeing how the Psycho Jammer in action, and the OVA delivered that rather nicely. The incom claws’ lasers, while powerful enough to melt through most mass-production suits with ease, do not have much of an impact on the Unicorn’s shields, even when their I-fields were disabled.
- The Banshee’s Psychoframe projects images of Takuya, Micott, Mihiro, Zinnerman, Mineva and Alberta into his cockpit, each expressing concern for Riddhe’s well-being. Despite being a Newtype himself, Riddhe’s consciousness has not been adapted for handling such volumes of information, and he rejects them, considering them as hallucinations.
- On the morning of May 19, I was able to acquire my copy of the episode, ahead of the Blu-Ray release in June. However, I was also set to go on a shopping trip of sorts to purchase summer attire and a beautiful new wristwatch to replace my aging Roots watch, which I’ve had for the past twelve years. Thus, watching the episode would go on hold for a few more hours, but having waited for this long, a few more hours would ultimately be trivial.
- Overwhelmed by the Banshee’s psycommu, Riddhe fires on Marida with the Banshee’s beam magnum out of a desperate bid to stop the visions, outright vaporising the Kshatriya. In the finale’s most emotional moment, the resulting psychofield allows Marida’s final thoughts to propagate across the battlefield. Even though I had known that Marida’s path might end in the OVA, a part of me was hoping that this was not the case.
- Reality is hardly fair, though; the intensity of emotion following Marida’s death is such that the Unicorn is able to reactivate its NT-D and rejoin the battle. Research on psychoframe technology was said to have been halted owing to too many unknowns following the events in Char’s Counterattack, although research had resumed to produce the Unicorn. It is likely that, after the events in Gundam Unicorn, psychoframe research eventually produced the bio-computer used in the F91 Gundam.
- Marida’s final words to Zinnerman are those of gratefulness: she addresses Zinnerman as her father, reinforcing the two’s father-daughter bond. Following Mineva’s words in the previous episode, Zinnerman is finally able to let go of his past. He spends most of the episode assisting Captain Otto in the Nahel Argama’s last mission in Gundam Unicorn, working with the other Nahel Argama officers to prevent Full Frontal from securing the Box.
- For their shortcomings, the original novels did a superb job exploring Angelo’s background: during the One Year War, Angelo’s father was murdered by rioting Federation soldiers and Angelo himself barely managed to survive along with his mother, who was broken in spirit and committed suicide soon after. After stealing away from a foster home, he met Full Frontal and has since served him with utmost devotion. As such, his nightmare is the day Full Frontal refuses to acknowledge him.
- The events in the novel paint a more satisfactory picture of what happened in this scene: Banagher is able to understand Angelo’s past, but the latter’s jealousy of Banagher leads him to try and commit suicide with the Rozen Zulu’s incom claw. In the OVA, the Unicorn turns the incom claw against the Rozen Zulu, disabling it, although Banagher’s control of the Unicorn means he is able to prevent the Psycommu from outright killing Angelo.
- Alberto reacts to news of Marida’s death. He expresses genuine concern for her after she saved his life during the third episode, and following this point, begins doubting the moral worth of his cause, becoming more hesitant to step into the conflict surrounding Laplace’s Box. This stands in stark contrast to his personality in the series’ early stages, when he is much more interested in the operation to find Laplace’s Box. Thus, while I saw Alberto as an unpleasant character throughout the series, I nonetheless found myself sympathising with him in the finale.
- The Nahel Argama’s hyper-megaparticle cannon makes a glorious return in the finale to devastate the Zeon fleet. With the shopping done, I made a stop for a light lunch of chicken fingers and fries before hitting a bookstore at the mall. Last year, there were quite a few books that I bought over the summer, although I’ve accumulated a backlog since then and still have yet to go through everything, so this time, I chose to buy nothing.
- Last time we saw firepower of this magnitude, the Nahel Argama was pushing the two halves of the Palau colony together. This time, Zeon battle cruisers are sunk: in Gundam Unicorn, after being hit by laser fire, metal elements actually melt and deform, only exploding if vital components are hit afterwards, again, standing in contrast to other universes, where things explode on the slightest provocation.
- The Banshee places a severe amount of strain on Riddhe, who writhes in pain following Marida’s death. Up until now, I’ve made no mention of the music at all, but the fourth OST was released on May 21. The first disk consists of tracks from the finale, while the second disk is a “best of” compilation. On the first disk, every track is astoundingly good. It is the perfect soundtrack: normally, I pick and choose the tracks I like for my playlists, but with this soundtrack, I included all of the songs in my anime music playlist.
- Back on earth, the Tri-Stars disable the forces defending the Cheyenne facility after Captain Bright orders a search of the facility for illegal activities. The Tri-Stars effortlessly secure the airspace against mobile suits who were instructed to shoot to kill, putting on yet another impressive showing. Contrary to what discussions at forums are stating, the Tri-Stars are using the minimum amount of force needed to secure the area after the facility’s forces demonstrate hostility.
- The base jabber (included with the Master Grade Full Armour Unicorn) makes an appearance. From what I’ve heard, the Master Grade Full Armour Unicorn is a nightmare to transform and pose, whereas its HGUC counterpart is significantly more stable; while the HGUC does not come with a hyper beam javelin or the base jabber, it is more stable (less frustration in posing it) than the Master Grade and costs much less, ultimately making it the better deal.
- Despite Full Frontal declaring a race to Laplace’s Box, Banagher and Mineva do manage to arrive ahead of him. In the anime blogging community, there is somewhat of a race to get posts out to optimize search engine performance in some cases. Infinite Mirai is a one-man project, so sometimes, getting large posts out (such as this one) is difficult. I’ve had requests from guest bloggers previously, although since I’m still waiting for their writing samples, this blog will remain a one-man project for the present.
- Zinnerman remarks that it’s the adult’s turn to protect the children, alluding to how much Banagher and Mineva have done for them since the series’ inception. I understand that since Christopher Nolan’s movie in 2010, people have been using the term “inception” interchangeably with “recursion”. However, this is wrong. “Inception” means “the beginning of”, rather than “process of repeating items in a self-similar way”.
- The average movie-goer isn’t a software developer, computer scientist or linguist, so this mistake might be forgivable. However, thanks to the propagative powers of social media, it appears that the incorrect usage has stuck, and reversing the effects of social media is no trivial matter. One would argue that retrieving Laplace’s Box or solving the NP-Complete problem might be easier.
- Captain Bright finally arrives at the underground Cheyenne facility, where he discovers the true extent to which the conspirators are willing to go to defend their own interests. At the time of writing, as with the Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion movie review I posted a ways back, I think this is the only proper review of the finale out there online, featuring a full-length discussion and screenshots (the screenshot post at GundamGuy doesn’t count, since there is no content pertaining to the author’s impressions of the finale, and my screenshots are of a higher quality).
- Full Frontal prepares to sortie in the Neo Zeong, a monstrosity that is some 116 metres in height, 59 meters in width and marks a return to the outdated concepts behind the original Zeong. This mobile armour ultimately reflects on Full Frontal’s own narrow-mindedness, representing a desperation to cling to old ideals and the notion that brute force is the only solution for problems.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, I present, Laplace’s Box. As Banagher laments, far too many lives have been lost in trying to claim an artefact that, in the end, is only valuable as a bargaining chip and otherwise, only holds symbolic value because of a single line: that should Newtypes exist, they should be given an increased role in politics. This statement is actually quite vague, and was interpreted as giving Zeon full autonomy over humanity. Such an interpretation gave the Federation an excuse to wage war against Zeon.
- Mineva and Banagher meet Syam Vist and Gael Chan for the first time in the depths of Magallanica. Here, the last pieces of the Laplace puzzle are pieced together, and while Syam does his recollection, Riddhe provides his own account of what he had heard from Ronan. Riddhe’s conversation with Ronan occurred back in episode four, attributing to his decisions in episodes five and six. While some discussions find it difficult to forgive him, oftentimes, people tend to forget that they also make rash decisions that have detrimental consequences. While in reality, said decisions probably won’t have the same severity as Riddhe’s, the fact is that such things can happen, especially under times of stress.
- Full Frontal arrives to seize Laplace’s Box for his own ends, although, in a manner reminiscent of Aeolia Schoenberg from Gundam 00, Syam Vist foresaw that outside forces would interfere with the Box’s transfer and installed a security system that is subsequently used to push Full Frontal back.
- While I typically don’t mind spoilers, Gundam Unicorn is probably the sole exception: it’s something that I’ve been following for the past four years, and as such, I wished to experience its full impact without having a priori knowledge of how the episode went. Thus, I abstained entirely from reading any websites or forum posts with such discussion. In the end, this resulted in an exceptional experience with the finale.
- The Neo Zeong begins ransacking Magallanica’s interior after Syam refuses to yield the box to him. Its weapons include numerous mega-particle cannons, a Psycho-shard generator for disrupting enemy beam weapons, and has thirty wire-controlled bits that can be used to take control of enemy mobile suits. Its profile gives it a maximum weight of 324.3 metric tons, with a typical weight of 153.8 metric tons. These numbers are surprisingly small for an entity with such a great volume: an M1A2 weighs roughly 61.326 metric tons despite being significantly smaller (being 9 meters in length compared to the Neo Zeong’s height of 116.0 meters), although metallurgy would have doubtlessly come a long way since the present day, yielding stronger, lighter alloys.
- Releasing somewhere in June 2014, the HGUC 1/144 Neo Zeong is a monstrosity that matches the HGUC GP03 Dendrobium in size and price: the former will go for 27000 Yen (roughly 290 CAD), while the latter sold for 28000 Yen (300 CAD) when it released back in 2002. I can’t imagine anyone but the most dedicated of Gunpla builders actually purchasing the model, given that there are a host of other things one could do with 290 dollars.
- Gael Chan pilots an ARX-014 Silver Bullet, a quasi-psycommu mobile suit derived off the ARX-014 Döven Wolf. Despite Gael’s efforts to hold off the Neo Zeong using the Incom weapons and wired hands, the Silver Bullet is totally outmatched. Before Full Frontal can finish him, Banagher remotely activates the Unicorn Gundam, making use of his pysho-waves to remotely move the shields and deflect the Neo Zeong’s fire.
- This image gives a sense of scale between a conventional mobile suit and the Neo Zeong, bringing to mind the tale of Goliath in the Bible’s Book of Samuel. The original account saw David, king of Israel, defeat Goliath, who represented enemies of God. Originally, Goliath was only “four cubits and a span” (roughly 6’9 in height), but later versions scaled him up, and popular media makes him a being of gargantuan proportions. Presently, David and Goliath is told as a story to suggest that large, seemingly unbeatable challenges still can be overcome.
- The final confrontation resumes back in the vacuum of space, after the Neo Zeong uses its cannons to produce a laser show and force its way through Magallanica. Despite the damage sustained, it appears that Industrial Seven itself is still in okay condition.
- This is the moment everyone’s been waiting for: the Unicorn and Banshee team up to engage the Neo Zeong, whose I-field is strong enough to completely negate the beam magnum rounds from both Gundams. Throughout the finale, the music is absolutely astounding in terms of quality, and even though the tracks are strangely named (for instance, the first song on the OST is named 2009522or311), the pieces are amazing, conveying the sense of urgency, power and grandeur in each of the moments that they accompany.
- The particle beams from the Neo Zeong don’t resemble the narrow, focused beams that have been the norm in Gundam Unicorn; instead, the blasts fired look like concentrated magma blasts. Earlier, the Banshee was pushed out of Industrial Seven by the brute force from these cannons. Despite deflecting the beams, the sheer amount of energy from the beams melts the colony walls behind the Banshee and forces it back into space. Even then, while the shoulder-mounted mega-particle cannons on the Neo Zeong pack a major punch, Banagher and Riddhe will pack the Neo Zeong’s suitcase.
- Unlike traditional funnels, the Unicorn’s shields lack a propulsion system and are only armed with a pair of beam Gatling guns each for limited firepower, but project a powerful enough I-Field to defect full-powered shots from the Neo Zeong and can move independently thanks to the inclusion of a psychoframe. While the inclusion of three shields is not particularly impressive from a visual standpoint, three mobile, I-field equipped shields offer the Unicorn near-total protection from beam weapons, justifying the designation of the Unicorn as “Full Armour”.
- Upon activating its Psycho-shard system, every weapon on the Unicorn and Banshee overheat and explode, leaving both units unarmed. One of the most impressive moments here is watching the Banshee’s 60 mm Vulcan cannons melt and explode, and then noticing that this does not happen on the Unicorn. We recall that earlier, Banagher expended the Unicorn’s 60 mm rounds on missiles, potshots against Zeon mobile suits and Angelo’s Psycommu jammers. This attention to detail is but one of the reasons why Gundam Unicorn is worth watching.
- With their weapons gone, Banagher and Riddhe rush the Neo Zeong head on; the mobile armour’s massive claws ultimately prove to be inconsequential as the Unicorn tears through the Neo Zeong’s armour (which is tough enough to survive direct hits from missiles) as if it was composed of tofu. This aspect brings back the sort of brutality I might expect from another mecha series, such as Neo Genesis Evanganlion, and although it might be a little unconventional, it was nonetheless a thrill to watch.
- The sheer energy from Banagher’s emotions produce a psychofield that takes him and Full Frontal on a trip down memory lane. This is the part where I’ll dare to rock the boat and bring an unusual comparison to bear. In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the emotional energy released from magical girls who succumb to despair (apparently, the transition from hope to despair is a thermodynamically favourable process) is captured as an energy supply for the incubators, but the precise mechanism is never explored. In Gundam Unicorn, pure emotional energy from the human consciousness is converted by the psychoframe into physical energy, capable of controlling a mobile suit with greater precision or even produce psychofields; unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, elements in the Gundam universe are more grounded in science.
- In episode six, footage was taken straight from Char’s Counterattack, but the animators have taken the effort to fully re-animate timeless scenes in HD for Gundam Unicorn; here, the Nu Gundam repels Axis in the climax of Char’s Counterattack. Longtime Gundam fans will rejoice at seeing these moments, which will bring back memories of seeing these moments for the first time many years ago.
- I entered the Gundam franchise in 2007 through Gundam 00, and as such, I had very little familiarity with the Universal Century until Gundam Unicorn. The extensive history in the Universal Century means that one would need to have some background to appreciate what is happening in Gundam Unicorn. Knowledge about the One Year War, the Gryps Conflict and Char’s Counterattack are required to understand the history, while additional knowledge will allow for more mobile suits and weapons to be identified. Here, a Pegasus-class carrier is destroyed by laser fire.
- This moment happens quickly, so capturing this screenshot was quite difficult, but it was worth it; while Amuro Ray never made an appearance in Gundam Unicorn beyond a portrait in Captain Bright’s office, the RX-78 2 does show up for a few moments, plunging its beam sabre into the Big Zam mobile armour. Watching these moments in HD quality makes me wonder what a remastered Mobile Suit Gundam, à la Halo Anniversary Edition, would look like.
- One episode of Futurama involves Fry, Professor Farnsworth and Bender travelling to the end of the universe in a time machine, eventually reaching the point where the last proton has decayed and the universe has achieved a true heat death. This the future that Full Frontal speaks of, questioning why humans fight so hard for what they believe in when this is the final state of the universe. Banagher fights this idea, and through further Newtype phenomenon, cause Char and Lalah’s apparitions to appear in the Neo Zeong’s cockpit.
- Lalah was Amuro’s first true love and also loyal to Char in Mobile Suit Gundam. During the heat of battle, Lalah took a fatal shot meant for Char, and her death escalated the Amuro-Char rivalry to personal levels. Her spirit occasionally haunts the two, but ultimately, Banagher’s actions paired with Char’s spirit relieves Full Frontal of his grudge. In an interview with Fukui in Gundam ACE:
When Char turns up at the end, he’s coming to reclaim something he lost. Frontal was created to resemble Char, and although his soul was supposed to be empty, something was dwelling there. That might have been that person’s ego, or it might have been the grudge that Char was holding. In the last scene of “Char’s Counterattack”, when Char’s soul is dispersed, it’s not strange to think that part of him consented to die peacefully, but another part might have been unable to consent to dying and remained in the world as a kind of grudge. Then, after having his grudge appeased by Banagher, and after reclaiming that part of himself, he was asked by Amuro “Are you sure?”, and he was finally able to move on to the next life. The novel was still partly showing restraint, but the movie project went this far, and they even got Shuichi Ikeda to perform the voice, so I think it was right to go this far.
- No longer bound by this duty, Full Frontal’s will fades away, and the Neo Zeong symbolically decays to dust as a flower would wither after its life had expired. If memory serves, some viewers were left shafted; they were expecting the Neo Zeong to explode with the Praxis Effect, but received a much more figurative representation of Full Frontal’s end. Sans understanding the symbolism in this scene, some complaining ensued.
- A guilt-striken Alberto confronts Martha, asking why she’s willing to go to such lengths to protect a cause that is ceasing to be relevant as their generation’s time has passed. He reveals that Riddhe is the Banshee’s pilot, shocking Ronan, who had authorised Gryps 2 to fire moments earlier. Too late to recall the firing order, visions of himself and Riddhe begin haunting him.
- After Full Frontal’s spirit leaves with Char and Lalah, Banagher and Riddhe set out to finish one final assignment: prevent the Gryps 2 laser from destroying Magallanica. Notice the holographic UI here and its angelic wing-like pattern. The last mobile suit that had such a UI was the 00 Qant[T].
- Captain Bright orders the firing procedure for Gryps 2 to be aborted as Ronan comes to term with the costs associated with his decision. One of the officers protest that aborting the procedure would result in a thousand casualties at Gryps 2, which is a manned station.
- Gryps 2 is surprisingly similar to the Darksaber project from the Star Wars expanded universe. The Darksaber was constructed by Duega the Hutt 12 years after the Battle of Yavin, who had intended to use it to further his own power, although stymied by poor construction methods and inferior components, the Darksaber never fired a shot, being annihilated by the Hoth’s asteroid field shortly after it was completed. On the other hand, Gryps 2 is fully functional, and fires a terrifyingly large laser beam that instantly destroys the Rewloola, burning away one of the last vestiges of the Neo Zeon war.
- The seventh movement in the finale suite, 20140517, sets the mood here as the Unicorn and Banshee conjure up three massive I-fields to negate the particles from the Gryps 2 colony laser. The elements near the end of the song sound similar to the song “Facing the Truth” in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and the song is, curiously enough, titled similarly to , the cryptonym one of my friends used in referring to Otafest 2014. Empowering and haunting, this last section in the song conveys the sense of surprise expressed as the two Gundams manage to negate the laser, and was every bit as chilling as when Homura forcibly returns Madoka to their world before rebuilding the universe in her image in Rebellion Story.
- After coming to terms with his status as a Newtype, Riddhe is able to captialise on the Banshee’s full potential; in response, its psychoframe begins emitting green light. Their combined power triumphs over a weapon powerful enough to decimate colony-sized objects, and with this achievement, Magallanica is safe enough for Mineva to begin her broadcast.
- Mineva’s speech is quite ornate and goes into depth surrounding the true nature behind Laplace’s Box; by watching it in English, I could take in everything all at once. I deliberately chose to omit images of the Unicorn’s psychoframe crystals expanding in a manner not too dissimilar to that of the ELS in Awakening of the Trailblazer; it’s a rather surprising moment and has the greatest impact when watched.
- Mineva’s speech is broadcast around the world, recalling yet another stylistic element from Gundam 00, whenever announcements were made to the world surrounding Celestial Being or new political reforms following the disbandment of the A-Laws. One location, a rooftop location downtown, was prominently featured in Gundam 00, during the aforementioned speeches, chalking the total number of similarities between Gundam Unicorn and Gundam 00 up to five ( the other four include: a final message about understanding, ELS-like crystals, über-powered Gundams and extremely powerful psychofields).
- Char’s Counterattack depicted Earth as a desolate desert world ravaged by colony drops, overpopulation and climate change. In Gundam Unicorn, more hospitable environments are shown; the oceans are still intact, and the air still seems reasonably clean, enough for Earth’s population to spend time at the seaside.
- In the original novels, I believe one of the Tri-Stars are shot down in combat, but in the OVA, all of them are alive and well by episode’s end. I rather enjoyed their presence; they are reminiscent of the squad in Bad Company, being highly skilled at their trade but also retain a sense of humour. The Tri-Star pilots were once candidates to pilot the Unicorn until the Vist foundation requisitioned it, but nonetheless, are able to put the Jesta to its full potential.
- It seems that Martha is finally able to let go of their own past; she is taken away for questioning at the episode’s end for her involvement in the hunt for Laplace’s Box, but appears to be able to finally let go of the injustices in her life. This is Martha’s first genuine smile in the entire series, and she complies with Captain Bright’s request without resistance.
- Angelo finds Full Frontal’s body in the remains of the Sinanju, but his reaction is somewhat ambiguous, as is Full Frontal’s ultimate fate. Both their fates are up for speculation, although what Angelo sees here should probably be left as an exercise for the viewers. The General Revil is still active, though, and deploys massive formation of mobile suits to destroy Magallanica. However, they are quietly disabled by the Unicorn.
- The moments between Takuya and Micott were very heart-warming to see: subtle signs may have been present in the previous episode that the two had become closer together, but if there was any doubt before, this moment will remove any doubt. Romance in Gundam Unicorn is done properly: it is inconspicuously integrated into the story but never tries to take centre stage.
- One wonders if a Unicorn Banshee with green psychoframe will be released as a model kit later on. As the episode’s final moments approach, forum discussions turned to whether or not Zeon’s actions were justified in the grand scheme of things, even after Riddhe explicitly notes that the Zeon-Federation conflicts were the result of Laplace’s box, rather than fault on any one side. Rather like the First World War, the causes of the One Year War are complex and cannot be attributed to any one side, but rather, the state of the society.
- Within the psychofield, Banagher shares a moment with Cardeas, who motions to Audrey and allows Banagher to be at her side. Unlike OVA specials and an infamous anime called Yosuga no Sora, which I picked up for reasons that escape even my understanding and will probably review in due course, Gundam Unicorn‘s psychofields (and Gundam 00‘s quantum fields) manage to keep things G-rated. All of the fan service in Gundam is in the form of mobile suit combat and call-backs to older series…the best way to showcase some fan service.
- The finale has concluded, and as the opening notes of StarRingChild play, the electronic synthesizer elements briefly remind me of Otafest. After my first watch-through, it’s evening, and I sit down to a homemade steak worthy of the one in The Matrix, with thoughts of the finale still on my mind. This is an ending that viewers deserve at the end of four years: I openly recommend Gundam Unicorn to all audiences for its balance between story, character growth and combat, as well as its superior graphics and audio, and last but not least, the fact that it does leave viewers with things to reflect on afterwards. This is a Gundam series that gets everything right, and the hiccoughs it does make are not enough to take away from the anime. Overall, the entire Gundam Unicorn OVA series earns a ten out of ten.
Whole-series reflection and closing remarks
A four-year journey has come to an end, and the time has now come to provide a final verdict on Gundam Unicorn as a whole. Throughout the four years, Gundam Unicorn delivered a powerhouse performance in each episode, masterfully balancing out the story with spectacularly choreographed moments. I enjoyed every moment I spent watching Gundam Unicorn, being captivated by the thought-provoking elements raised in the dialogue and superbly animated combat sequences. Every episode is immersive and brings the Gundam Unicorn universe to life, captivating audiences with breathtaking artwork while leaving them with a substantial amount to think about well after the episode is over. Through it all, a first-rate soundtrack from Hiroyuki Sawano accompanies the scenes exceptionally well, varying from more modern electronic music to orchestral pieces that convey the Unicorn Gundam’s powers. All of these elements come together to yield a masterpiece that rivals Lord of the Rings and The Dark Knight trilogies in terms of quality. Watching Gundam Unicorn should be a no-brainer for current Gundam fans (of any universe: I entered the Gundam franchise through the Anno Domini universe), and even those who are unfamiliar with Gundam will find much to enjoy from Gundam Unicorn, although for these individuals (like myself), a bit of background reading would be necessary to fully comprehend all of the nuances that go on within Gundam Unicorn. Having been with me for the past four years, Gundam Unicorn will continue to hold a special place in my heart as a reminder of all the memories and events I’ve experienced since it first began airing back in March 2010, culminating in a finale that serves as a proper send-off for a series that definitely deserves to be considered as one of the very best in the science-fiction/mecha genre, not just of this decade, but of all time.