The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gundam Unicorn

Six Days of Gundam Unicorn, Part Five: Black Unicorn

“Just like every Gundam pilot there’s ever been, I truly believe you were chosen by it. This was the only possible outcome for any of you; whether that be good or bad, who knows? The rest is up to you. Don’t let the situation get the better of you. Be brave enough to fight off despair. If you’re a Gundam pilot…a Newtype, you can do it.” —Captain Bright Noa

After neutralising the Delta Plus, the newly-arrived Banshee captures the Unicorn and returns it to the Ra Cailum, where Riddhe encounters and attempts to question Alberto Vist of Anaheim Electronics’ motives, only to be ignored. Meanwhile, on the Garuda, Martha requests Mineva’s assistance to coerce Banagher’s cooperation in disclosing the location of Laplace’s Box. On the Ra Cailum, Bright speaks with Banagher and comes to terms with the latter’s actions, before learning of the Federation’s covert deployment of the new Dogosse Gier-class battleship General Revil. He sends orders to the Nahel Argama, instructing them to rendezvous with the Garencieres. The Tri-Stars, Riddhe, Marida and Banagher are assigned to provide cover while the Unicorn Gundam is transferred back to the Garuda. However, combat between the Garuda and Garencieres’ forces breaks out, and in the ensuing chaos, Banagher restrains the Banshee long enough for Zimmerman to board the Garuda. Riddhe enters the Garuda’s rear docking bay and confronts Anaheim staff to rescue Mineva, but before he can do so, Zimmerman begins firing on them. Mineva takes advantage of the distraction to reach Zimmerman, who gives her a parachute. An exploding Anksha damages the docking bay and incapacitates Zimmerman. Riddhe pleads with Mineva to no avail; she leaps off the Garuda and is caught by Banagher, who activates the Unicorn’s NT-D system. After he brings Mineva to the Garencieres, Banagher forces the Banshee into the Garuda’s hangar. Marida identifies the Delta Plus as a Gundam and decimates it with the Banshee’s Armed Armor VN claw. Having regained consciousness, Zimmerman reaches out to Marida and implores that she return to the Garencieres. Realising her identity, Marida falls out of the Banshee’s cockpit unconscious. The Garencieres undergoes the next phase of its mission and attempts to link with the Nahel Argama as per the original mission. However, an engine malfunction causes the ship to fall out of its designated trajectory. Despite this, the Nahel Argama fires its tow cable, which is caught by the Unicorn; the forces exerted on the machine threaten to pull it apart. The spirits of Daguza Mackle and Gilboa Sant appear, resulting in the Unicorn’s psycoframe producing a green luminescence, helping the Garencieres achieve orbit. Both ships find themselves under heavy fire from the General Revil. Flast believes that this was orchestrated by the Federation, but Mineva notes that the Federation attack patterns imply their intent on destroying the Garencieres and the Nahel Argama. Banagher attempts to engage the forces, but the Unicorn has exhausted its fuel supply. Angelo Sauper and his YAMS-132 Rozen Zulu appears and lays waste to the Federation mobile suits. He buys enough time for Full Frontal to head straight for the General Revil and open fire with his under-barrel rocket launcher.

  • When the Banshee first appeared in the ending of episode four, crowds watching this at the cinema cheered. The beam smart gun wielded by the Banshee is more practical combat-wise compared to the beam magnum, apparently having no constraints on ammunition, and is able to slice through the Shambloo’s armour with ease. When I posted this back in 2012, this was the first time I’ve gotten a review out ahead of the writers at Random Curiosity regarding Gundam UC: previously, they were highly efficient at getting reviews out, but as of late, a change in the writers has caused a shift in their priorities.

  • Whereas the Unicorn’s beam magnum could only punch a hole about halfway into the Shamblo, the Banshee’s smart gun is powerful enough to cut the Shamblo’s claws clean off, causing the pieces to create a sort of trap for the Delta Plus.

  • In a series where the conflict’s morality is in shades of grey, it’s a little interesting to note that Anaheim Electronics appears to be sliding towards the immoral side, as their actions are largely motivated by self-interests. Martha’s words to Mineva suggest that Anaheim Electronics is more concerned with its own objectives rather than the fate of the world.

  • While Gundam Unicorn is largely a serious anime, this scene served to add a bit of comedy to things. When Captain Midas receives his orders to participate in a joint operation with the Garencieres from Captain Bright, he spews out his tea in surprise, shocking the officers.

  • Captain Bright proves his skill as a commander and leader when he tells Banagher to retain hope and continue to work towards what he believes in. Banagher’s refusal to disclose the next set of coordinates from the La+ Program results from the fact that the new location is at Magallanica, better known as the Snail, a colony building structure. He confides in the latter that Gundam pilots have a tendency to be chosen by their machine, a clever callback to Amuro Ray’s days as a Gundam pilot. It is here that Banagher makes his decision to take responsibility for his actions.

  • Half the combat sequences in this episode are focused around the rescue operation on the Garuda. Banagher stays true to his word, and tries tirelessly to break Marida’s brainwashing to prevent her from firing on the Neo Zeon forces. I’ve heard back-and-forth arguments between viewers in forums concerning the performance differences between the Unicorn and Banshee. I’ve mentioned this countless times, but to clarify, the Unicorn and Banshee are functionally identical as mobile suits. The Banshee simply has had its operating system modified for atmospheric combat and wields more aggressive weapons, giving it a slight edge over the Unicorn in an atmosphere.

  • By a curious turn of fate, episode five’s release coincided with the running dates for Otafest 2012: I did not attend in 2012 because of the MCAT. The third episode in 2011 released well before Otafest. During this time, I had prior commitments (read “LAN party” and “day trip to the mountains for hiking and grill burgers”), so I did not attend that convention and instead, purchased the HGUC 1/144 Unicorn Gundam in Destroy mode with a 1/48 Unicorn head display mount.

  • Episode five’s strongest visuals occur in the aerial combat set in the upper atmosphere around the Garuda: the cinematography involves sweeping camera angles and panning motions to highlight the scales and scope involved in this high-altitude battle.

  • It’s been a little less than two years since I wrote the article explaining why the OVA Banshee has a different loadout compared to the novel incarnation. Besides providing a discussion on this difference, it was roughly during that time that I had also found out that Unicorn would be getting a seventh episode. However, after episode five came out, I had an MCAT to write two months later, and even after that was done, I had reached my fourth year, where I would need to write an honours thesis.

  • If poorly executed, CG breaks the flow of things in anime, making things look blocky and pixelated, like the low settings in a game. Where done properly, as with Gundam Unicorn, it adds to the scene composition. CG is mainly used in the transformation sequences, giving the Gundams a very metal-like, three dimensional feeling that amplifies the scene of power associated with the NT-D, and contrasting other anime, the animation and art quality in Gundam Unicorn is so high that the CG doesn’t interrupt the flow of events.

Carpe Diem, a phrase from Odes by the Latin poet Horace, is part of the longer phrase “Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero“, which encourages individuals to “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow”. While youth misinterpret this as “you only live once” (a poorly-received concept that is not endorsed by the Canadian rapper who popularised it!), leading to reckless behaviours. The original phrase simply means to make the most of one’s present circumstance with the aim of making one’s future better, and focus on taking action today for said future. Youth culture may have corrupted an age-old concept, but this is thankfully not the case in the fifth episode to Gundam Unicorn. After being captured and taken on board the Ra Cailum, Banagher meets with Captain Bright Noa for the first time. Contrasting the cold treatment he receives at the hands of the Anaheim Electronics staff, Captain Bright shares a meaningful conversation with Banagher, learning that while the latter is not willing to disclose the location of the next coordinate, he is fighting for a purpose: to protect Audrey. These words of encouragement from Bright serve to remind Banagher of his raison d’être, subsequently giving Banagher a renewed sense of motivation to carry out his duties. As the Garuda transfer progresses, Banagher is able to rescue Audrey and Marida in one fell stroke without taking any lives. By making the most of his situation, Banagher contributes to the operations meant to keep Laplace’s Box out of the Vist Foundation’s reach, and in doing so, he is able to rescue the people who have helped give him perspective beyond what he was accustomed to. In particular, resolve has allowed Banagher and Audrey to finally reach an understanding with one another: insofar, viewers have not seen Audrey smile yet, but the fact that Banagher has brought out this side in her suggests at their trust in one another now. By choosing to solve things to the best of his ability while refusing to compromise his principles, Banagher demonstrates that he is worthy of being the Unicorn’s pilot, reflecting on the principles behind the original meaning in the phrase Carpe Diem.

  • Having an extra few images in each post means that this time around, I have enough space to really showcase Audrey’s smile, a rare but much welcomed moment in Gundam Unicorn. Watching Banagher complete his responsibilities in episode five emphasise his newfound resolve to see his tasks through. Of course, with Audrey choosing Banagher over Riddhe, Unicorn also explores (lightly) the effects of unrequited love. Having experienced the same last month, I can say that it is an immensely unpleasant experience, but even so, Riddhe’s reaction seems a little over-the-top.

  • Banagher gracefully catches the falling Mineva with the Unicorn, contrasting the more impromptu rescue he executed when the two had first met. Mineva found that she was able to call out to Banagher, reflecting on the unusual connection between the two; the latter expresses his happiness that he was able to hear her voice, and finds a new resolve in carrying out his responsibility.

  • The Delta Plus is wrecked in a brutal fashion when Marida goes after it upon realising its resemblance to a Gundam. Riddhe was targeting Banagher for having taken Mineva from him, but in a turn of events, is rendered combat ineffective by the Banshee’s VN Claw.

  • Captain Zimmerman is able to bring Marida back, completing the Garencieres’ mission on the Garuda. Having rescued Mineva and Marida, Banagher demonstrates his capacity as a Gundam pilot; in fact, despite being largely unarmed the entire time, he is able to successfully carry out his objectives.

  • Episode five is a continuous series of events where the excitement increase by orders of magnitude with every passing moment. I consider this scene to be one of the most awe-inspiring moments in Gundam Unicorn: as a result of the emotions resonating within the psycoframe, Banagher is able to draw out the very same phenomenon that was produced in Char’s Counterattack, albeit at a much smaller, controlled scale. The accompanying music for this scene is spectacular; this can be said for the entirety of the third OST, which features, amongst other solid compositions, a five-movement symphonic suite that must be heard to be believed.

  • If one thought that it was time to break out the campaign following the Nahel Argama’s completion of its mission, they were mistaken. When I first watched the episode, it was in raw format without any subtitles or dubs. Thus, I was chilled by the General Revil’s arrival. I later rewatched the episode in English dub, and realised that its objective was to neutralise anyone associated with Laplace’s Box to preserve the Federation’s interests. When they show up, Banagher makes to defend the Garencieres, but is prevented from doing so, as the Unicorn has exhausted its fuel supply. This is yet another nice touch that reflects on the realism found in UC.

  • Before the Revil can make Swiss Cheese out of the Nahel Argama and the Garencieres, Full Frontal and Angelo arrive to, surprisingly enough, save the day. Angelo is piloting the shiny new YAMS-132 Rozen Zulu, a mobile suit based on the concept of the experimental Newtype mobile suit AMX-103 Hamma Hamma. It was designed as an Anti-Newtype warfare mobile suit and is a heavily modified Geara Zulu equipped with INCOM Claws, a pair of wire-guided weapons equipped with a mega beam cannon of adjustable output.

  • I’ve casually noticed that Angelo is shooting to disarm and disable rather than to kill. During the period of intense beam spamming, it appears that not one suit had its Minovsky reactor destroyed. In a matter of seconds, over 20 ReZELS are disabled, and Angelo politely bows to indicate that Full Frontal is ready to complete his own objective.

  • The Dogosse Gier-class battleships were originally used by the Titans in Zeta Gundam. At over 600 metres long, they are among the largest warships fielded by the Earth Federation and sported the highest number of weapons and mobile suit carrying capacity of any Earth Federation warship. The General Revil is the second vessel in this line and was deployed as the flagship of the Federation fleet, carrying four battalions’ (48) worth of mobile suits and a 1,500-strong workforce.

  • Full Frontal fires on the General Revil. Check out his expression: it totally reflects his excitement to fire that weapon. Truth be told, the size of the weapon does not appear to be capable of destroying a 600-metre long vessel, although the warhead might have unique properties. That will remain a matter to be seen in episode six, which is set for release in Spring 2013. The fifth installment in an OVA characterised by high quality in almost all regards did not disappoint at all. With well-choreographed combat sequences and careful exposition of the plot, the fifth episode was absolutely brilliant, and the cliffhanger leaves viewers in great anticipation of the next episode.

In a series where the only major fault against it is its release schedule, Gundam Unicorn continues to deliver a powerful experience with its flawless integration of storyline and action. If episode three was about the Unicorn’s symbolic downfall, then episode five sees the Unicorn rise back into space. Previously, the Unicorn was seen as a machine capable of great destruction; Banagher is hesitant to use it for fear of taking lives unnecessarily after Gilboa and Daguza’s deaths, but after trying to turn this around in episode four, Banagher finally masters the Unicorn’s power. Throughout episode five, Banagher is able to successfully use the Unicorn to save lives, and even where his own is threatened by the Garuda’s defenses and the Banshee, Banagher’s determination to fulfil his duty without killing someone never wavers. This kind of moral character is precisely what makes Banagher worthy of the Unicorn, as he will intend to use such powers only to help others. Near the episode’s end, this determination and resolve manifests as a green light, similar to that of the Nu Gundam’s in Char’s Counterattack, allowing Banagher to haul the Garencieres back into space. The machine intended to destroy Newtypes (according to Full Frontal, anyways) has demonstrated that it is more than capable of being used to set in motion those events that can also build the future. All of this action is set in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, where the skies meet space; the aerial choreography is beautiful, and the rescue operation was a delight to watch. Gundam Unicorn never seems to miss a beat, although as with episode four, ending again on a cliffhanger meant that a long wait will result to the next episode: what Full Frontal’s rocket launcher would do would have to wait ten months. Episode five was released in May 2012, and owing to technical matters, episode six was pushed back to March 2013. Originally, Gundam Unicorn was intended to be six episodes long, but Kazuhiro Furuhashi requested an additional episode’s worth of space to satisfactorily conclude the series, and so, a seventh episode was announced. While this announcement was welcomed, the release date to this finale was unknown at the time, and thus, audiences were left with an incredible episode that answered some questions, raised new questions and built anticipation for the remaining two episodes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six Days of Gundam Unicorn, Part Three: The Spectre of Laplace

“Now you go and play your part. You know it in here: it’s the one place where you can decide for yourself who you are. Don’t ever lose it.” —Commander Daguza Mackle

The Earth Federation and ECOAS execute their assault on Palau, with the intention of rescuing Banagher and the Unicorn. Saboteurs destroy Palau’s connecting bridges, while the Nahel Argama unleashes its Hyper-Mega Particle Cannon, pushing the asteroids towards each other to damage much of the Sleeves’ forces. Any Sleeves unit getting out is ambushed by ECOAS units hiding in the rocks. Riddhe springs Audrey from detention so they can go to Earth and talk to his father, Ronan, but not before trying to convince a surprised Micott about their intentions. Banagher finds the Unicorn Gundam and tries to escape, defeating Marida in the process. She is eventually captured and Alberto Vist is allowed to escort her to an Anaheim Electronics facility on Earth. Banagher and Daguza proceed to the remains of Laplace with the intention of activating Laplace’s Box, but hear the original broadcast of the Earth Federation establishment ceremony. The Sleeves are not far behind and the EFSF/ECOAS units fight them. The Sinanju appears and Daguza sacrifices his life to buy Banagher some time to activate the Unicorn’s Destroy Mode. The fight sheds parts of the Laplace colony and sends them into the atmosphere. Banagher continues to pursue Full Frontal during the re-entry, but a beam magnum shot meant for the Sinanju hits Gilboa Sant instead. As Banagher and the Nahel Argama enter the atmosphere, Audrey arrives at the Marcenas estate.

  • Micott’s mistrust of anyone associated with Zeon is such that she intended to alert the bridge when she came across Riddhe and Mineva heading to the mobile suit hanger. Mineva is able to convince Micott that she has no intention of betraying Londo Bell to the Sleeves, but Micott does not feel that Mineva is forgiven. This moment defines Micott’s character and contrasts those of other female Gundam characters, who are typically more stubborn.

  • This is the Nahael Argama’s single most powerful weapon, the hyper mega-particle cannon. It is fixed under the central catapult and requires the vessel’s full output in order to fire. While the cannon is charging, the vessel is unable to use its other weapons or perform  of any sort. Once the cannon is fired, the seven-minute preview closes off. This preview was released back on February 18, 2011, a time so far away that I’d forgotten when exactly it was released. However, I recall that during this time, I was going through what was my most difficult year in university.

  • Here, a prototype Stark Jegan launches its large anti-ship missiles during the recovery operation. These missiles might be massive in size and have a massive blast radius, enough to annihilate a capital ship, but they don’t appear to be nuclear. While I don’t think the local suppliers have these in stock, I would actually buy an HGUC 1/144 Prototype Stark Jegan, if only for the fact that the suit looks beautiful with its weapons loadout.

  • The battle between Londo Bell and the Palau forces was the most impressive combat sequence of any kind I’ve ever seen, showing off the best that the Universal Century has to offer in full high definition. However, combat is only one of the many things that makes Gundam Unicorn a step above the other universes; the story is perfect for both newcomers like myself and old timers who know the Universal Century as well as historians know about real events.The conflict between the Federation and Sleeves is not impossible to follow; instead, events are told from both factions to let viewers catch up on what’s going on.

  • Some of the Lotos deployed to recover Banagher are destroyed by Full Frontal and Angelo. During the course of this battle, a variety of Zeon mobile suits are seen, and older records show that these designs were showcased in an artbook of some sort. To give an idea of how long ago 2011 was in internet terms, many of the links from the forum where I read about Gundam Unicorn have since died.

  • The Delta Plus is a transformable prototype that has a well-balanced loadout. The unit acquired by Londo Bell is assigned to Riddhe; he quickly disables several mobile suits before meeting up with Banagher. Once the fight at Palau ends, Riddhe and Mineva will use a mass driver and set course for Earth so the former can meet up with his father.

  • As a testament to how long I’ve been following Gundam Unicorn for, I can now spell “Kshatriya” without any difficulty. Forum discussions have been shallow enough to complain about why the series is titled Gundam Unicorn when there are other titles to chose from, and back when this anime adaptation was first announced, complaints were leveled at the fact that there didn’t seem to be a lead machine in the series. In its Unicorn mode, the RX-0 looks more like a pure-white Federation suit, being only lightly armed.

  • Zinnerman observes the progress of the battle between the Kshatriya and the Unicorn with Full Frontal, whose remarks here offer insight into why the UC project (which has nothing to do with the U of C: I will mention this in a special post after the series ends) exists. The Unicorn was the main symbol of the UC Project’s primary objective of wiping out Zeonism in the Earth Sphere. Incorporating the NT-D (Newtype Destroyer system), the Unicorn can automatically engage and destroy Newtypes. Originally built by Anaheim Electronics, the Vist Foundation appropriated the prototypes and the Unicorn took on a new role as the symbol of possibility, being made key to finding Laplace’s Box.

  • The Unicorn curbstomps the Kshatriya, settling the score from their previous battle. The Unicorn makes to kill Marida, but Banagher overrides the NT-D, and in a telepathic space, comes to learn about Marida’s past and reach an understanding with her, signifying his first step towards his growth as a Newtype. With her past now in mind, Full Frontal’s decision to treat her as bait reflects on his own character and how he is willing to resort to extreme measures to accomplish his goals.

  • Following the events at Industrial Seven, Micott appears much more sombre, and appears to have feelings for Banagher, becoming depressed after their lives are thrown into chaos as Zeon, the Federation and Vist Foundation begin fighting for control of Laplace’s Box. Even if she and Takuya are only secondary characters, catching glimpses of the two characters growing and maturing in later episodes will prove to be quite satisfying.

Responsibility is the core to episode three, although it comes across as somewhat of a surprise to see discussions skate over this aspect, perhaps subtly hinting at the general trends towards both not understanding what responsibility entails, and eschewing responsibility for one’s actions. Unfortunately, this is becoming worryingly common in present society: as people make mistakes, rather than admitting that they erred, individuals may prefer to let someone else take the fall so that their own reputations are preserved. The unwillingness to discuss what constitutes responsibility is a troubling indicator of what youth may believe these days, that actions have no consequences and it is up to someone else to clean up after one’s messes. To this end, the third episode in Gundam Unicorn deals with Commander Daguza’s interpretation of responsibility, or the obligation to carry out a duty expected of them as a moral commitment. Concepts pertaining to responsibility are taught at a young age; children are shown what it means for people uphold their society, and those who fail to carry out these duties might be seen as indulging on society’s understanding. Gundam Unicorn presents responsibility as a commitment to a cause or people: Commander Daguza’s words might initially sound harsh or unreasonable to Banagher, who feels that he’s no soldier and that responsibility shouldn’t entail taking lives. However, there is more meaning behind Daguza’s words: because of Banagher’s choice to step into the Unicorn Gundam, for better or worse, Banagher does hold the fate of many in his hands (every shot the Unicorn fires has the potential to save or take a life). By choosing to become the Unicorn’s pilot, Banagher’s commitment is to see Cardeas Vist’s visions of revealing the secrets of Laplace’s Box to the world to its completion and to help Audrey to the best of his ability. Daguza is not fully aware of these details, but nonethless is able to appreciate the significance of Banagher’s decisions. To Daguza, Banagher must uphold his end of the deal and finish what he’s started by continuing to deploy in the Unicorn and bring the pieces of the puzzle together. When Banagher attempts to argue his way out, Daguza points out that Banagher would merely be running away from his duties, given that he has already committed (however unwillingly) to being the Unicorn’s pilot. Thus, Commander Daguza can be seen as a mentor figure for Banagher, informing him that responsibility doesn’t mean taking lives, but rather, fulfilling the obligations that are associated with taking up a particular role. This leaves a particularly strong imprint on Banagher following Daguza’s death, and subsequently leads Banagher down the path he chooses in later episodes, acting as a reminder about how responsibility in seeing a task through means finishing something to the best of their ability with the intent and hope that things will turn out for the better.

  • While Daguza was initially presented as a single-minded soldier, he eventually receives greater character development and comes across as a father-like character for Banagher, reminding him of the responsibilities that he must take for choosing this path, despite not being a soldier. he becomes far easier to relate to, likening his purpose to being an important but common part of a bigger system, and that he merely does what is expected of him.

  • It is worth mentioning again that it is remarkably difficult to determine who the antagonists really are, as everyone has their own motivations for taking up arms and fighting. Members of both factions are presented as ordinary humans who have families, values and ideals, with Gilboa Sant and Daguza Mackle being two of the more noteworthy individuals

  • Banagher accepts the task of piloting the Unicorn to the Laplace wreckage; upon reaching the destination, the speech made by the prime minister is played. Full Frontal and his forces show up, pinning the Londo Bell/ ECOAS forces down near the wreckage. Despite Banagher trying to engage them, he is unable to pilot effectively. Daguza notices this, and feels that the Unicorn may be a test of an individual’s character. Understanding the nature of the La+ system, Daguza tells Banagher to follow his heart, before disembarking the Unicorn and attempting to buy Banagher some time before being killed by Full Frontal.

  • In December 2011, I purchased the HGUC 1/144 Sinanju. The model was particularly impressive as far as details go, being almost like a 1/144 Master Grade. The seals (we English-speakers tend to call them “stickers”) were a nightmare to apply, and in the end, I used a toothpick to maneuver everything into place. The end model was impressive, and I especially liked the fact that it came with almost all of the Sinanju’s weapons (the only thing missing was the under-barrel rocket launcher from episode five). This made the model feel complete, whereas the HGUC Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) felt a little bare, as it was lacking beam sabres and the hyper bazooka.

  • When the NT-D activates, the entire scene is set to MAD-NUG, a track that would be found on the second OST. It’s not heroic, but has darker motifs, signifying the ominous and dangerous power the Unicorn wields. The Unicorn displays a lot more of its power during this fight, managing to physically tear off one of the Sinanju’s legs and using a beam sabre rivaling the 00 Raiser’s to cut through debris.

  • Banagher goes on a rampage following Daguza’s death and shows us what the Unicorn’s capabilities are; up until this point, he was engaging opponents to disable them, but Full Frontal’s actions draw out Banagher’s satsui no hadou (lit. “surge of murderous intent”, inspired by Street Fighter). He relentlessly pursues the Sinanju, disables one other Gaera Zulu and rips Angelo’s unit into pieces. My first ever Gundam was Gundam 00, a series where mobile suits explode even if struck in non-vital areas, and unarmed combat between mobile suits is basically non-existent.

  • The consequences of acting while blinded by anger can be devastating: contrasting Harry Potter, where the Unforgivable Curses are only effective if one intends to cause and enjoy causing pain, shots fired from the Unicorn will kill regardless of whether or not they were fired out of righteous anger. This is the case with Muggle weapons, which are powered by the emotionless laws of physics rather than emotion. As such, Muggle weapons have the potential to be far more deadly than anything Wizards and Witches wield, as they can kill indiscriminately.

  • In all honesty, this battle reminded me of when Setsuna faced off against Ali Al Saachez back in Gundam 00 episode 14 of season two. Both characters came on the verge of madness as they were blinded by rage, although this is where the similarities end. Whereas Setsuna stopped short of killing Ali Al Saachez by Marina’s song, nothing stops Banagher from firing a shot that misses Frontal and hits Gilboa’s unit instead. With the death of two important characters, Banagher will likely suffer from a degree of guilt and regret from all this. Whether or not he overcomes the bitterness and hatred from these events is uncertain, consuming the innocence in his heart. This has implications on what the contents of Laplace’s box might be capable of.

  • Mineva and Riddhe arrive at the Marcenas estate in the ending credits, while the Unicorn is swept up by the Earth’s gravitational pull and is recovered by the Garencieres. The third episode ended up being as much as about the purely epic combat sequences as it was about human nature; in particular, Daguza’s conversations with Banagher suggest that the destruction of the Laplace station may have been a staged attack in order to consolidate the Federation’s rule over space. When all is said and done, this is not too dissimilar to real-world politics, which is often muddy. Unfortunately, those who observe such consequential events usually are no longer around to give their opinions on it when sufficient time has passed. Therefore, it seems appropriate that those in the present should not be acting on behalf of the past, but instead, uphold their responsibility by understanding what has happened and moving forward.

  • Words may be able to describe thoughts well, are limited in their capacity to really convey things visually, such as the combined Londo Bell/ECOAS assault on Palau, or the fight between the Unicorn and Sinanju. Owing to this series’ superior quality, watching it at anything less than 720p could be considered to be tantamount to that most heinous of crimes, such as playing visual novels on a computer equipped with an ungodly powerful GPU like mine.

Aside from the episode’s keystone topic of responsibility, the third episode also explores how in warfare, the sides aren’t necessarily black and white: the parties perceived as the “bad guys” may have justifiable reasons for fighting, and the “good guys” may often use questionable methods to yield results. In this case, the Garencieres team are presented as humans who simply have a reason to participate in the conflict, and Banagher’s realisation that Marida is the Kshatriya’s pilot leads him to reach an understanding with her. For Banagher, the Sleeves are not necessarily composed of a single-minded people bent on warfare. Similarly, while Banagher initially views the Federation as a bureaucracy acting for its own political interests, his interactions with Captain Otto and Commander Daguza eventually leave a more positive impression, showing how despite being “cogs in a machine” (as Daguza puts it), the Federation forces are ordinary people doing their jobs. Gundam Unicorn excels in humanising both sides of the conflict, which means that for Banagher, it becomes difficult to suddenly train a weapon on a mobile suit belonging to the other side and fire. Because of this development, Daguza and Gilboa’s deaths at the end of the episode come across as particularly tragic, and indeed, this will weigh on Banagher’s conscience in the future. Aside from raising the right questions about conflict and depicting Banagher’s gradually increasing role in the hunt for Laplace’s Box, episode three is an incredible sight for the eyes, beginning with a concerted assault on Palau to recover the Unicorn, followed by a moving duel with the Kshatriya or Banagher’s fury-induced fight with Full Frontal over the Laplace wreckage. These scenes were simultaneously engaging but frightening to watch, giving viewers some idea of the kind of horrors the Unicorn can pull off under the right circumstances, whether it was taking control of Kshatriya’s funnels, physically tearing the Sinanju’s left leg off, shredding Angelo’s Geara Zulu in the span of seconds or producing a beam sabre the same size of the one produced by Gundam 00‘s lead machine, the 00 Raiser. During the course of this fight, one song in the background was particularly powerful. Known as “MAD-NUG” on the soundtrack, it is a piece that conveys the kind of power behind the Unicorn’s destroy mode, and is named thus as the inverse to “Gundam”: the idea of a Gundam is to symbolise hope on the battlefield for the side who possesses it, so inverting the spelling can be seen as inverting the meaning. The opposite of hope is despair and terror. When the destroy mode is activated, the Gundam has the potential to devastate an enemy, striking fear into their hearts, but even frightening those who possess the Gundam. Episode three ends with the mobile suits and the Garencieres re-entering in the earth’s atmosphere. During atmospheric re-entry, atmospheric drag and aerodynamic heating causes exposed surfaces to glow red-hot, while making it near-impossible to control the vehicle in the process. Viewers watch as the suits fall, seemingly helplessly, into the atmosphere, reflecting on how for the present, control over the entire Laplace conflict has slipped from both sides involved. This time, the wait for the next episode would be shorter, with only four months separating episodes three and four.

Six Days of Gundam Unicorn, Part Two: The Red Comet

“What if we were to turn over the box, only to cause even more people to lose their lives? Could you take responsibility for that? How would you explain to all those families their loved ones had to die because you didn’t know?” —Commander Daguza Mackle

The transformed Unicorn Gundam overpowers the Kshatriya and Marida is ordered to retreat. The Unicorn is picked up by the Londo Bell ship Nahel Argama. Banagher is questioned by Daguza Mackle about how he came to possess the Unicorn Gundam but is interrupted by the Sleeves’ surprise attack. Full Frontal, the leader of Neo Zeon, demands that the Nahel Argama hand over any items related to Laplace’s Box, including the Unicorn. Daguza tries to ensure safe passage by holding Audrey – revealed to be Zeon Princess Mineva Lao Zabi – hostage, but Frontal refuses to accept they have the real Mineva. With no other choice, Banagher sorties in the Unicorn against the Sinanju; he fights well, but is captured when blindsided by the Kshatriya. Banagher is taken to meet Frontal at the Sleeves asteroid base of Palau. After discussing the nature of Zeon with Marida, who is placed in charge of watching over Banagher, a crew member from the Nahel Argama disguised as a bum bumps into Banagher and passes him a map and a transmitter, telling him to get to the 14th space gate or risk being killed in the coming battle. Banagher laments over how the colony will become a battlefield soon.

  • The Unicorn overwhelms the Kshatriya before the latter is forced to withdraw, revealing its mega-particle cannons. The pacing of mobile suit combat is rather different in UC, with the mobile suits feeling heavier and more powerful compared to their AD counterparts; even the beam sabres sound more powerful, with their distinct hum reminiscent to those of light-sabres. One of the strong points about Gundam Unicorn (and the Universal Century) is that melee weapons are reserved for close-quarters combat, meaning that from a cinematics perspective, they are only brought out when things get more emotional or chaotic.

  • I recall the first time I saw this scene, back on October 24, 2010 at the Computer Science labs when the seven minute preview first came out. At the time, I was a second-year undergraduate student, quite unaware of the challenges that awaited me during that semester and the even greater challenges in the following semester.  The seven-minute previews are a Gundam Unicorn staple, released a few weeks before the actual episode itself aired.

  • Takuya is very keen when it comes to Mobile suits. He is highly knowledgable about the details of the One Year War and declares it to be fate that the Nahael Argama is carrying the Unicorn. This interest sharply contrasts the nature of war: it’s one thing to read about it at home during peacetime, but another to be involved in one.

  • Riddhe finds that Audrey resembles an actor in their universe and is initially unaware of her identity as Mineva Zabi. While she was born into the Zabi royal family, she does not endorse their ideas and works to bring about peace. She plays a minor role in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam  and Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam, and her role is much greater in Gundam Unicorn, although Gundam F91, being set some twenty seven years after the events in Gundam Unicorn, doesn’t disclose what her fate is.

  • Following Banagher’s recovery, Daguza Mackle questions him about the Unicorn and cites that it is a capital offence for a civilian to operate military equipment. Commander Daguza is a member of the ECOAS team, well-known for its combat efficiency: in fact, he single handedly disables the Kshatriya during the Battle of Industrial 7, which I forgot to mention last time.

  • Full Frontal is a genetic clone of Char Aznable, with his memories retrieved from the psycho-frame of a previous mobile suit. Like Char, Full Frontal is charismatic and is a skilled pilot, desiring to bring about the destruction of the Federation through manipulation of events rather than brute force.

  • The Sinanju is Full Frontal’s custom mobile suit, designed to resemble the late Char Aznable’s Sazabi. While lacking funnels, its thruster arrangement confers exceptional mobility, and the primary beam rifle boasts a direct connection to the Sinanju’s reactor core, providing it with unnatural range and power. I built a HGUC 1/144 model of this a few winters ago, and I love the beam rifle’s versatility: an under-barrel grenade launcher can be fit to it, and later on, a rocket launcher.

  • Banagher returns Riddhe’s good luck charm, a pennant bearing a biplane, as the latter proceeds to the mobile suit deck. He’s an accomplished pilot, and for those who’ve read the novel, is one of the only secondary characters in a Gundam series to pilot a lead machine.

  • Full Frontal engages the Nahael Argama and its entire complement of mobile suits as a one-man team, bearing testament to just how accomplished of a pilot he is: in fact, he is designated as the Red Comet, an honorary title bestowed upon the original Char. Things are done with a much greater degree of realism in Gundam Unicorn: the Sinanju’s beam shot pierces the ReZEL’s armour before blowing the leg off, rather than causing the entire unit to explode in a purple cloud (as mobile suits and damaged components are wont to do in Gundam SEED or Gundam 00).

  • Audrey reveals herself to be Mineva Zabi, an heir to the Zabi empire. Daguza seizes the moment to try and negotiate with Full Frontal using her as a hostage, although the latter decides that since the Mineva’s identity could not be confirmed, he would disregard their terms. Banagher’s naïveté is demonstrated here when he tries to convince her to stand down: while he despises conflict, he does not yet understand the consequences of seemingly simple solutions. In this case, handing the box over to the Sleeves would likely result in the deaths of countless Federation citizens.

Despite the episode title bearing the late Char Aznable’s designation, the thematic elements in the second episode to Gundam Unicorn primarily deal with Banagher Links and his current tendencies to rush headlong into things without much thought, acting on his ideals and intuition rather than reason and trained instinct. As a result, Banagher finds himself in more difficulty because in the real world, things are hardly ever as simple as they may initially appear. Shortly after leaving Industrial 7, the Nahel Argama comes under fire from the Sinanju and Full Frontal’s mobile suit wing. Here, while his wingmen standby and observe the battle’s progress, Full Frontal demonstrates that his skill with a mobile suit means that he is well-suited to bear the mantle of The Red Comet. Effortlessly disabling the Nahel Argama’s mobile suit squadrons and nullifying its anti-air weapons, Full Frontal requests that Londo Bell return two important items: Audrey and the Unicorn. Upon hearing this, Banagher asks why it is not possible to simply comply with Frontal’s demands. The ECOAS commander, Daguza Mackle, replies that the implications extend beyond their current situation, and that Frontal’s acquisition of the Unicorn may result in more unnecessary death and conflict. Banagher’s reaction, though natural for a youth, illustrates his naïveté; at the age of sixteen, Banagher’s sentiments mirror those of his age group, a time where one believes that they understand the world and are ready to face it head on. However, in most cases, solutions have caveats, and while one solution looks enticing, it may bear long-term consequences that make it undesirable. Part of being an adult means having enough experience to be able to consider these options, and pick the solution that works out best in the long run, while minimising damages in the short term. Ultimately, the difficult nature of Frontal’s ultimatum mean that the Nahel Argama do not comply, and shortly after, the combat resumes. This time, Banagher decides to take to the battlefield himself, reasoning that taking out the Sinanju ought to be enough to stop the fighting. While admirable, this decision depicts the consequences of impulsive action: after burning through the Unicorn’s beam magnum rounds, Banagher tries to rush the Sinanju. This results to his capture, prompting the Nahel Argama to rescue him and the Unicorn. For Banagher’s shortsightedness, resources and lives must now be committed to recovering the key to Laplace’s Box, reflecting on the fact that failure to think things through will have detrimental consequences.

  • After rushing the Sinanju to buy Riddhe some space, Captain Norm Basilicock  is cut down by Full Frontal. His ReZEL Commander Type explodes, and a small container unit flies off its back; initially, I though Norm had escaped, but that isn’t the case here. Surpassing a conventional ReZEL in performance, the Commander types offer superior maneuverability and is typically equipped with a mega-beam launcher, which offers more firepower compared to the standard beam rifle.

  • Since Full Frontal resumes his assault on the Argama, Banagher decides to buy them a little time by sortieing in the Unicorn, despite protests from the bridge. He is shown to have a degree of natural talent and some degree of piloting experience using the workloaders for his job, but piloting the Unicorn is a different experience altogether. It is important to note that Banagher chooses to pilot solely for Mineva’s sake, and this motivation never wavers even as the series proceeds forward.

  • The beam magnum wielded by the Unicorn produces a shot of the same magnitude as a mega-particle cannon, capable of ripping through asteroids but also draining an entire e-pac per shot. To allow for continuous usage, specialized magazines are used. As a clever callback to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the sound of the Unicorn’s beam magnum is the same as that of the RX-78 II’s beam rifle. When the Unicorn was first announced, fans expressed disbelief that the RX-0 lacked the features typical for a lead Gundam, instead sporting a pure white finish, a visor similar to those present on the Londo Bell units and a single horn in place of the V-fin.

  • Despite missing the mobile suit, the beam magnum rounds tear it in half, prompting Angelo to fire and “desecrate the Captain’s battlefield”. Angelo’s devotion to Full Frontal borders on the sort of thing that would please fujoshi, but the novels provide quite a good explanation of why this is the case. Those viewing the OVAs won’t have such an explanation yet, although the finale will probably cover this. Until then, his mannerisms come across as hilarious, especially the lines delivered by his English voice actor.

  • The Unicorn’s entire frame expands to reveal the psycho-frame when the NT-D is activated by the presence of a Newtype. When the NT-D is active, the pilots consciousness merges with the machine, increasing its responsiveness in combat, although it places a great strain on the pilot’s mind and body. As a failsafe, the NT-D system disengages after 300 seconds of sustained use.

  • Riddhe and Audrey share a conversation about their respective backgrounds; Riddhe wished they would have met under different circumstances, and later resolves to assist bringing her to Earth, where she may meet up with Ronan Marcenas and arrange for further discussions in an effort to prevent war from happening.

  • Banagher meets Full Frontal on person following his capture. Frontal presents himself to be a well-mannered individual, offering Banagher tea and offers Banagher the choice to further the Sleeves’ cause rather than forcing him to do anything against his will. In doing so, while Frontal still comes across as a manipulative and calculating antagonist, this meeting reveals that, again, the enemy is nonetheless human and drives home the point that there isn’t a single right side to the war, as he acknowledges Banagher’s perspective on things. Angelo Sauper contrasts his superior’s attitude, flat out manhandling Banagher when the latter refuses to show respect for Frontal.

  • In preparation for the operation to retrieve Banagher and the Unicorn from Palau, Londo Bell and ECOAS, the Nahel Argama’s damages are repaired, and its mobile suit complement is bolstered by several new Jegans and the Delta Plus. Plans to use the vessel’s hyper mega-particle cannon are also discussed.

  • During dinner with the Sant family, Tikva claims that the Federation does not comply with the Geneva convention with respect to how it handles POWs, but Banagher counters that both sides of the war have committed atrocities, and that neither side is true justified in their actions. Marida then takes him to a small alter, telling him that for the populations in the colonies (spacenoids), Zeon became their new God and source of hope.

  • The next episode will be centred around the recovery of the Unicorn, and attempts to understand more about the La+ Program, which seems to share a strong connection with the box. I was highly impressed with the way the story played out, and of course, the battle between Banagher and Frontal. The duality of the sides of warfare was also well-explored, reminding audiences that the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in war are strictly defined by which perspective one decides to approach the war from. In this case, it is difficult to definitively classify either the Federation or the Sleeves as the antagonists: this is evident in Full Frontal’s mannerisms. While he desires the defeat of the Federation, he nonetheless is a rational individual who follows his objectives based on what the people wish for.

Not all is lost, though: following his capture, Banagher is bought in front of Full Frontal, sharing a conversation about whether or not war is ever justified and gaining perspective from the Sleeves’ side of things. The Kshatriya’s pilot, Marida Cruz, also alludes to one of the overarching elements in Gundam Unicorn: the innate human need for guidance, and how the Zeon peoples took to a new God once they left the earth behind. This theme is significant throughout the entirety of Gundam Unicorn and is first introduced here. Marida tells Banagher that idealism alone is not enough in the real world to prevent conflict and save lives, further reinforcing that problems worth solving are hardly ever trivial in nature, and that sometimes, difficult problems can only be solved with difficult solutions. Aside from all of this content, which encourages the viewer to consider their own world-views on conflict and warfare, the second episode turned out to be an incredibly rich experience from the visuals side of things. Around half of the episode is devoted to the spectacular combat between the Nahel Argama and the Sinanju, highlighting the sheer difference in skill between Full Frontal and ordinary pilots, as well as the Unicorn’s power. Shortly after deploying, the Unicorn fires off its first round from the beam magnum: the shot decimates an asteroid on contact, and cuts a mobile suit in half without contacting it directly. Despite Banagher being a complete novice, the Unicorn is powerful enough to hold off the Sinanju and its vastly superior pilot, hinting at the awe-inspiring and frightening capabilities of this machine. As with the first episode, episode two carries on the series’ masterful blending of explanation and explosions. Through the dialogue, the main character’s personalities are brought to the spotlight, ranging from Audrey’s regal grace, to Full Frontal’s eloquence and Daguza’s dedication to his job. These breathe life to all of the characters, giving their roles meaning and helping the viewers understand what’s going on. Released in October 2010, upon watching this one, I found myself impressed with seeing some of the first major combat sequences in Gundam Unicorn, and suddenly was anticipating the third episode’s release in March 2011 greatly.

Six Days of Gundam Unicorn, Part One: The Day of the Unicorn

“You’ve come this far, but are you confident your conviction will not waver? The weight of the burden she has to bear is immense. You’ll need the resolve to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders if you go with her. Do you have it?” —Cardeas Vist

Foreword

It’s been four years since I watched the first episode to Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, and since then, much has happened. For one, I’m no longer an undergraduate student, and I’ve learnt much over the past few years through all of my experiences. However, through all of this, Gundam Unicorn has subtly been there, airing at unique points during this time. Each episode has a specific memory attached to it, and after the finale releases, I will do a special talk on what Gundam Unicorn is for me. Of course, each episode also has its unique points for me, and that acts as the motivation for this mini-series of posts. In the countdown leading up to the finale’s release, I am writing about each of the episodes, drawing out what I saw as each episode’s main theme, and linking them to the overall picture in Gundam Unicorn, before setting out to draft out a talk about the finale, followed by a talk on the epilogue and a “whole series impression”. All of this will culminate in a final personal reflection about how Gundam Unicorn held additional significance for me; amongst other things, I will draft out what this blog’s future will be like, given that my own circumstances have now changed and the path to my future is now clear. While this is excellent for me, it also means that I’ll wind up with less time to blog.

A Neo-Zeon remnant group called the “Sleeves” travels to Side 4’s Industrial 7 colony, so that its captain, Zinnerman, can receive a “key” to something known as “Laplace’s Box” from Vist Foundation leader Cardeas Vist. The item is said to be capable of either restoring the future or destroying the world. Audrey Burns seeks to meet Vist first and convince him not to turn over Laplace’s Box, believing the Sleeves will use it to start another war. Along the way, she is rescued by 16-year-old student Banagher Links, who agrees to take her to Vist. Meanwhile, a battle breaks out between the Federation’s Londo Bell taskforce and the Sleeves. As the collateral damage rises, the colony is evacuated. Amidst the chaos, Banagher discovers the fatally-wounded Cardeas Vist in the cockpit of the Unicorn Gundam. Before his death, Vist entrusts the Gundam to Banagher, who realizes that Vist is his father. Banagher then launches in the Unicorn and confronts the Sleeves’ elite pilot, Marida Cruz, who is piloting the Kshatriya.

  • The destruction of the Laplace station is the triggering force behind all of the events in the Universal Century. Laplace’s Box becomes the MacGuffin; holding the original UC Charter, it has the power to create the world that humanity had dreamed of, but also has the potential to destroy it. Its acquisition and opening serve as the basis for the entire story, much as how the Sugar Bowl drives The Series of Unfortunate Events.

  • A Jeagan is shredded by the Kshatriya, marking the first combat scene in Gundam Unicorn; this was particularly impressive, given that the Stark Jeagan stands in contrast the grunt suits of other universes and actually stand somewhat of a chance against plot-central characters, such as Marida Cruz. This special series of posts was intended to lead up to the finale’s release on May 17, coinciding with Otafest 2014. Each episode talk will be broken up into three sections: a summary, a special topics discussion and a talk about elements in the episode.

  • Most of the content will have been ported from my old website: contrasting the Five Centimeters per Second posts, I am reasonably satisfied with my tone and content from many years ago, so most of the figure captions will be retained from their original form. Thus, the thoughts I have here are anywhere from one to four years old; I don’t have an inclination to change them too much, although I will supply addenda under new images, given that the original post had fifteen images, and these posts have twenty.

  • The art style is a revitalised version of the character designs from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, giving characters a more realistic feel. Stepping away from the fanservice in older Gundam series, the focused, no-nonsense tone in Gundam Unicorn is much welcomed, allowing the series to focus entirely on the issue at hand (in this case, a century-old conspiracy) without distractions in the form of beach episodes.

  • Instead of being a supersoldier or having previous military experience, Banagher is an ordinary high school student who is kind-hearted and constantly considers the consequences of his actions on those around him. He works part time using a workloader to clear debris from around Industrial Seven, and is implied to have had been tested as a Newtype at a younger age.

  • Banagher Links is Gundam Unicorn‘s central protagonist: having a composed and mature manner, he handles things calmly, demonstrated by his actions when saving saves Audrey, a person of great importance to Zeon. Once the workloader they are in runs out of fuel, he merely responds that he would think of something to rectify the situation.

  • Audrey’s background as royalty is reflected in her lack of familiarity with foods such as sandwiches: she mentions that she dines sitting down, using cutlery, but nonetheless, demonstrates open-mindedness by eating the hot dog. Subtle elements in characterisation may not always be immediately noteworthy, but they do give hints as to how the characters interact under more serious conditions.

  • Cardeas Vist is the head of the Vist foundation,  the organisation that has been guarding Laplace’s Box for the past century. At the start, he takes responsibility for the box and follows his grandfather’s request to give the box to the Sleeves, the remnants of the Neo-Zeon movement.

  • Despite maintaining a regal air about her most of the time, Audrey does express emotions, such as surprise and happiness, from time to time. Given that four years has elapsed since I first watched this episode, I cannot fully recall the moment that led to this scene, though.

  • My original talk ignored the combat between the Geara Zulu and some Federation ReZELs. I thoroughly love how Gundam Unicorn‘s mobile suits have beautiful, high-tech cockpits in even older suits, illustrating the level of technological innovation that went into building mobile suits. While some fans may disagree, the cockpits in Gundam Wing and Gundam SEED appear drab and low-tech in comparison, depending much more on flashing lights and CRT screens, rather than panoramic displays and touch UIs.

In addition to the overarching themes of possibility and the innate human desire for guidance and stability, each of the Gundam Unicorn episodes have a distinct aspect that drives events. In the first episode, emphasis is directed towards the significance of timing for certain events, specifically, how being in the wrong place at the right time, or being in the right place at the wrong time can have severe implications on the future. This is how the events in Gundam Unicorn (and by extension, all of the Universal Century) starts, when a terrorist attack on the Laplace Space Station kills the Prime Minister of the Earth Federation. Moments earlier, a younger Siam Vist was performing an EVA before the blast severed his tether, sending him into the depths of space. Following the blast, Vist comes across the Universal Century Charter, and uses it to build a new world, with the Vist Foundation at its centre. For over a hundred years, the Vist Foundation and Earth Sphere Federation (ESF) hold its secrets to maintain power, leading to the One Year War and subsequent conflicts. The way these early scenes are composed suggests that Siam was an ordinary space technician before the Laplace incident, and that he came into power by sheer luck. His fortunes are tied to those of the Universal Century, and a hundred years later, Cardeas Vist, his son, decides that the time has come for the truth to be revealed. Cardeas also appreciates the significance of timing; in his meeting with Captain Zinnerman and the crew of the Garencieres, noting that the ESF feared the power of Newtypes, but time was on the ESF’s side, allowing them to become victorious over Zeon. Thanks to being able to keep the status quo, the ESF had lasted to this point, and with the hundred-year mark approaching, Cardeas believes the time is appropriate for the truth to be known. Timing also affects Gundam Unicorn‘s protagonist, Banagher Links. Through chance, Banagher encounters Mineva Zabi (introduced as Audrey Burne) and manages to save her. Likewise, his encounter with the Unicorn Gundam and last meeting with Cardeas Vist happens by chance, setting Gundam Unicorn‘s events in motion. The upshot of this is that everything that is to happen over the series began because things happened to have turned out a certain way: now that because things have turned out in this manner, the characters must now address things in the manner most appropriate given their circumstance.

  • A ReZEL takes on the Kshyatria but, despite the pilots efforts, is shut down. The NZ-666 Kshatriya is derived off the NZ-000 Quin-Mantha. Despite being a massive mobile suit, its four binders possess thrusters that increase its mobility greatly. Its primary weapons include its funnels, although it also wields beam sabres and has twelve mega-particle cannons.

  • When I was younger, I never understood much about Gundam, but always thought that the beam sabres resemble light sabres from Star Wars. Laser swords have been around for a long time; much as how Star Wars popularised them in the Western world, Gundam appears to have done the same in East Asia.

  • The Nahel Argama makes its first appearance here: after it fires the main cannons, a complement of ReZELs launch. This scene was accompanied by a militaristic piece, dubbed “E.F.S.F.” on the original soundtrack. I recall that elsewhere, someone was talking about how music in Saki was “demonising Teru Miyanaga”; having listened to the track myself, it appears that the author was missing the point. Conversely, in Gundam Unicorn, the music suits all of the moments well.

  • Otto Midas is the captain of the Nahael Argama, a EFSF vessel designed for undercover operations. Just as the Sleeves are presented as having antagonising traits, the EFSF also use questionable tactics, such as using the Argama’s main cannons to demolish Industrial Seven’s airlock to gain access. It is things like these that indicate the nature of warfare, and how it is difficult to take sides.

  • Cardeas is captured by ECOAS, a special forces team. Gundam Unicorn takes the art style of the original Universal Century and brings it into the present: the end result is that animation and art-wise, Gundam Unicorn is incredibly detailed and enjoyable to watch.

  • Riddhe Marcenas is a Federation pilot who enlisted to escape his upbringing. He is a loyal and well-spoken soldier who believes in luck; by chance, he saves Micott, Audrey and Takuya from burning wreckage, setting in motion his role in the later episodes. The light novels were written a ways before the OVAs aired, and the latter deviate from the former, being adapted into a more visual genre.

  • The battle between the Sleeves and Londo Bell inflict a massive toll on Industrial Seven, forcing an evacuation. As with other Universal Century depictions of the brutal nature of war, civilians are seen being crushed by wreckage, vaporised by stray rounds and even the detonation of a Minovsky reactor inside the colony. Initially, I thought that the combat was enough to completely destroy Industrial Seven, although later episodes will show that this is, in fact, not true.

  • Cardeas Vist is revealed to be Banagher’s father, and ultimately passes his legacy forward with the hopes that Banagher can bring about a better future for the world. Cardeas also expresses regret at being unable to spend more time with Banagher because his mother did not wish for Banagher to get involved with Laplace’s Box.

  • Following Cardeas’ death, Banagher resolves to do what he can to protect those around him, and activates the Unicorn. As with all universes, the Unicorn’s eyes light up to indicate that it has activated, although this process lacks the same audio impact as the suits from Gundam 00.

  • After pushing the Kshatriya out of the colony, the Unicorn’s NT-D is activated, transforming the suit into its Destroy mode; the suit’s face reveals a Gundam design, and the horn splits into the signature V-fin that defines a Gundam, sharply contrasting its unconventional Unicorn mode design. In the final moments of the episode, Banagher ignites a beam sabre and charges towards the Kshatriya. Gundam Unicorn was my first exposure to the Universal Century timeline, making a return to the styles that characterized the Universal Century. The political and war aspects come off a lot more serious and the series as a whole doesn’t feel swept up by current anime trends, giving rise to a significantly more mature plot and characters. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect, because there is a great deal of history with UC already, I was thinking that I might get lost with things like the Earth Federation, Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG), Zeon, and various empires including the Crossbone Vanguard and their stories. No Gundam series has ever been able to wield the same amount of history effectively; indeed, there are a lot of references to past events, such as the One Year War. However, having done a little reading, I was able to follow the story fairly easily, indicating that Unicorn can be enjoyed as a standalone anime.

The first episode in Gundam Unicorn was released all the way back in February 2010, when I was still completing my first undergraduate year. The first thing that came to my mind, upon finishing the episode, was the overall atmosphere in the episode. Marking a departure from more recent Gundam series, Gundam returns to its Univesal Century roots and focuses on improving the realism factor. Aged men lead soldiers into battle rather than youthful female commanders. Insightful conversations breathe life into an immensely detailed world with history as complex as our own. When mobile suits do battle with one another, they move slowly, purposefully, and give off a sense of power, comparing the more agile, quick-footed mobile suits from other universes. These nuances bestow a very mature feeling in Gundam Unicorn: old time fans will immediately rejoice in hearing references to older Gundam, although new fans, such as myself, will find Gundam Unicorn to represent a refreshing change of pace in Gundam. Involving a long-lost political MacGauffin, Gundam Unicorn‘s first episode sets the stage for what will come; through a solid balance between exposition and combat sequences, this episode definitely captures the viewer’s interest for will would happen next while simultaneously providing viewers with enough background such that it is easy enough to figure out what is going on.