The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Tag Archives: Hathaway Noa

Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack – A Retrospective on Gundam’s Greatest Rivalry At The Thirty-Fifth Anniversary and Memories of that Fog-Shrouded Day

“I’m not as impatient as you are; I’m willing to wait for humanity to learn and grow.” –Amuro Ray

By UC 0093, following his experiences with Earthnoids, Char Aznable has become disillusioned with humanity and is convinced the only way to accelerate progress is by rendering the Earth uninhabitable through repeated asteroid strikes. His early efforts are successful, and the Neo Zeon forces manage to drop the Fifth Luna colony onto Lhasa, Tibet. The EFSF and Londo Bell, including veteran pilot Amuro Ray and Captain Bright Noa, fail to prevent the catastrophe: Amuro duels Char during this battle and finds his Re-GZ outmatched by Char’s Sazabi. This latest incident prompts the Federation to arrange a secret treaty with Char, and to this end, Prime Minister Adenaur Paraya and his daughter, Quess, board the Ra Cailum, which is bound for Londenion. Hathaway, Bright’s son, had managed to secure a shuttle into space, and following Char’s attack, also boards the Ra Cailum, where he meets and falls in love with Quess. Meanwhile, Amuro heads off to collect his new mobile suit, the RX-93 ν Gundam. It turns out Char intends to purchase the asteroid Axis in exchange for fleet disarmament, and while Cameron Bloom relays his doubts to Bright, Char and Amuro wind up confronting one another. In the aftermath, Char takes Quess back with her, intrigued by her potential as a Newtype and pilot. When Neo Zeon forces ambush the Londo Bell fleet overseeing the disarmament at Luna II, a major battle erupts: Char’s intentions had been to seize the nuclear stockpile stored here and installing them at Axis before preparing the asteroid for collision with Earth. Londo Bell is unable to stop Axis, and give pursuit. Amidst the renewed battle, Quess, now piloting the Alpha Azieru mobile armour, ends up dying after Chan fires on her while trying to protect Hathaway, who had seized a mobile suit and flew out to Quess with the hope of recovering her. Distraught, Hathaway destroys Chan’s Re-GZ. Meanwhile, Amuro and Char duel in their mobile suits, and after Amuro gains the upper hand over the Sazabi, he tries to single-handedly push back Axis with the ν Gundam. Amplified by the intense emotions, the ν Gundam’s psychoframe resonates, causing Amuro, Char and the ν Gundam to vanish in a massive flash of light that repels Axis. This is Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (Char’s Counterattack from here on out for brevity), the first-ever Gundam theatrical film that premièred in March 1988 and has since been recognised as a cornerstone in the Gundam franchise, representing the culmination of the longstanding rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable; in particular, this rivalry had gone from professional respect to personal hatred, a consequence of the pair’s losses and experiences throughout the One Year War and subsequent battles between the Earth Federation and Zeon remnants.

Long counted as one of the greatest rivalries in Gundam, Char and Amuro’s conflicting beliefs are fuelled by dramatically different interpretation of their experiences throughout the One Year War and Gryps War, as well as the personal losses both have sustained in their bid to uphold their goals and protect what’s dear to them: Lalah’s death proved to be too large of a wound to overcome for both. However, different perspectives mean that Amuro and Char both handle things differently. For Amuro, Lalah’s death initially drove him into a deep guilt, but after he overcomes this, he vows to fight with the aim of protecting what he can. This is why Amuro is willing to give humanity the chance to learn their own strengths as he as. Conversely, Char’s beliefs about humanity are galvinised in the aftermath of Lalah’s death, and disillusioned with how people could not seize opportunity even when it was presented to them, Char resolved to destroy the Earth and force a migration into space. The clashing ideals are best described as “when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object”: this old paradox fully captures the extent of Char and Amuro’s rivalry by the time of Char’s Counterattack, and so determined are the two to overcome the other’s beliefs, that the pair immediately engage in a fist fight when they first meet again. Through this rivalry, Char’s Counterattack speaks to the inherent dangers of ideals progressing too far; there’s no more room for negotiation or reconciliation, and when polar opposites come into contact, conflict is the result. The dangers of polarisation is quite visible in contemporary politics, as people increasingly adopt an “us versus them” mentality and refuse to acknowledge that those holding contrary opinions, more often than not, still want the same outcomes, even if the means are different. In Char’s Counterattack, both Char and Amuro desire for an end to the conflict and the opportunity to simply be with people important to them, but because of opposite ideals, there is no chance for reconciliation. In the paradox with an unmovable object and unstoppable force, philosophers often posit that the premise is flawed because it assumes both can simultaneously exist. Char’s Counterattack resolves this paradox with the opposite conclusion and indicates that after a certain point, neither can coexist – regardless of one’s original intentions, when beliefs become too far removed from their initial state, they effectively cease to be. In this way, Char’s Counterattack can be seen as a tragedy, a portrayal of what allowing oneself to become consumed by an idea may look like, and one which cautions viewers to re-examine their own beliefs, as well as the impact said beliefs may have on those around oneself. However, speaking to the strength of writing in Gundam, Amuro and Char’s fate can also be a blessing; by vanishing and moving on to the next plane of existence, the pair are liberated from their duties in this world and finally allowed to rest, placing their aspirations and ideals in the next generation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Char’s Counterattack is set in UC 0093, some fourteen years after the original Mobile Suit Gundam and six years after Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Since the One Year War, Zeon’s dissolved into remnants, and the EFSF had established the Titans to stamp out said remnants. Their methods, however, prove to be questionable, and Char ends up joining forces with Kamille Bidan and the AEUG to stop the Titans. In this time, Amuro’s grown from being a naïveté into someone with a strong set of convictions and skill as a pilot. Char, on the other hand, became increasingly disillusioned after seeing humanity continue to throw away potential, and coupled with his losses, he becomes convinced that humanity must be forced into space.

  • Thus, Char’s Counterattack opens with Char and Neo Zeon forces fending off Londo Bell in order to defend Luna 5 while it plummets to the surface. Char’s Counterattack, being the culmination of Amuro and Char’s stories, acted as a capstone of sorts for the Universal Century. The film, released in 1988, requires some familiarity and background with the precursor events, such as Lalah Sune’s death and Char’s temporary alliance with moderate Federation forces – they motivate the events of the film.

  • Char’s Counterattack turns 35 this year, and to commemorate this occasion, a special vinyl album was released. Retailing for 4840 Yen, this album features all of tracks from the soundtrack, which was composed by Shigeaki Saegusa and had been an integral part of Char’s Counterattack – contrasting the campy music of the original Mobile Suit GundamChar’s Counterattack‘s incidental music is melancholy, conveying an air of finality about it. When I first watched Char’s Counterattack a decade earlier, I found myself thoroughly impressed with the music.

  • I’d originally picked up Char’s Counterattack out of curiosity: back then, Gundam Unicorn‘s penultimate episode had just aired, and in this episode, a glimpse of the Axis Shock event was shown, piquing my curiosity. A few months earlier, I purchased the MG RX-93 ν Gundam Ver Ka., which released at the end of 2012 and featured the “Invoke Mode” gimmick, which exposed the ν Gundam’s psychoframe: the build had intrigued me, and after successfully completing the MG 00 Raiser Seven Sword/G, I became curious to try my hand at what would become my third MG.

  • The MG ν Gundam would represent a challenge: the perfect-grade style hands and ABS frame made the kit feel a little flimsy, but once assembled, it became an impressive-looking model. The funnels don’t stay on all that well, so I’ve opted to display this model without them, but even then, the kit towers over its 00 counterparts, and the exposed psychoframe gives the model an impressive presence on the shelf, being a more subtle version of the Unicorn’s transformation mechanism. Here, Amuro and Chan speak with an engineer about the psychoframe: as a new technology, the psychoframe was intended to improve mobile suit performance, although its emergent properties make it a difficult technology to control.

  • Char’s Counterattack also introduces Hathaway Noa, Bright Noa’s son, as well as Quess Paraya, a young girl with strong Newtype powers. The love dodecahedron in Char’s Counterattack has been a point of discussion for many a viewer, but in this discussion, I’ve chosen to primarily focus on the Char and Amuro rivalry, the mobile suits and ideologies, as well as reminisce on the world a decade earlier. Back then, Char’s Counterattack had just turned a quarter-century old, and I was gearing up for my undergraduate thesis defense.

  • After I had submitted my written thesis, I turned my attention towards preparations for the oral exam, and as memory serves, things had been going very smoothly. As means of a break, I watched Char’s Counterattack to see the original film that my then-new MG had made an appearance in. At around this time, I’d also gotten into DOOM: back then, a combination of curiosity through Pure Pwnage, Accursed Farms releasing “DOOM Guy’s Mind” as an April Fool’s joke, and the fact that my Dell XPS 420 couldn’t run other games, I decided to give DOOM a whirl, playing the game in between reviewing for the thesis defense and my remaining exams.

  • In this way, the time between submitting my paper and the exam passed in the blink of an eye. I vividly recall the Saturday leading up to the defense itself: that Friday, half of my classmates (mostly in the Biomedical Sciences stream) had defended. The folks in the Bioinformatics stream (myself included) had an extra week to prepare, but I had joked to my friends and classmates that with how we were as students, the week felt more like torment than additional preparation time. One of my bioinformatics friends had a brilliant idea to hang out in an evening dubbed “spaghetti and scrubs”.

  • With nothing better to do besides playing DOOM, I accepted this invite and spent a merry evening with friends making sausage spaghetti, eating said spaghetti and watching Scrubs. From the floor her unit was on, one can normally see the city centre, but on that evening, fog had enveloped the area wholly, obscuring everything and giving the area a distinctly Phobos-like vibe. Back then, one of my best friends, a computer science major, had been going through some tricky times, and a few weeks earlier, I had invited him to hang out with some of my health science peers so he could unwind and regroup.

  • To my pleasant surprise, my friend from computer science and friend from health science immediately hit it off; in fact, they began seeing one another shortly after and eventual became married after graduation. A chance encounter at my suggestion had resulted in this happy outcome, and because of the timing of things, I cannot help but recall those days when listening to the Char’s Counterattack soundtrack. In a cruel bit of irony, precisely a year after the Spaghetti and Scrubs party, the young woman I’d met in Japanese class (whom I developed a crush on, and ironically, whom my friend in health science had thought I’d been seeing) made her relationship with someone she’d met on her exchange programme “Facebook official”.

  • I was devastated from this news, and my friend from computer science had been there to walk me through those tricky moments in the days following. That summer, I ended up directing all of my energies towards working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain to make my mind off things, and the rest is something I’ll recount in greater detail another time. I understand that this particular set of anecdotes is not remotely related to Char’s Counterattack, but this is one of the occasional hazards of reading this blog: I am free to write in my own style and are not bound by any set of constraints.

  • For me, being able to reflect on old experiences (and perhaps provide some comparisons with a given anime) is a helpful exercise; I am able to apply my current experiences and mindset to look back on the things I previously did and decide if there was anything I can stand to learn from the past. As it turns out, writing out my thoughts serves to help me organise them better, and this is why I tend to reminisce here. The equivalent moment in Char’s Counterattack comes when Amuro and Char confront one another for the first time in years at Londenion.

  • The comment about love and hatred being two sides of the same coin definitely holds true, as they both involve intense emotions and consume one’s thoughts in the same way. Unsurprisingly, these emotions both impact the same regions of the brain, and so, when Char and Amuro fight, they are motivated by the same feelings of anger and resentment following Lalah’s death. Once the treaty at Londenion is signed, the stage is set for Char’s Counterattack‘s main act, and Char ends up whisking Quess away, having felt her latent ability as a Newtype.

  • After Char persuades Quess into helping the Neo Zeon cause, he assigns Gyunei Guss to look after her and get her familiar with mobile suits. Gyunei is a Cyber Newtype, an artificially enhanced individual with exceptional combat prowess. However, Gyunei suffers from an inferiority complex and constantly strives to prove himself, worrying people only respect him for his capabilities. When he meets Quess, Gyunei becomes infatuated with her. The secondary characters in Char’s Counterattack only appear in the film and have limited exposition, but their presence in the story doesn’t particularly complicate things.

  • In fact, I feel that one of Char’s Counterattack‘s strengths is the fact that even if one didn’t have sufficient familiarity with the Universal Century, it is still possible to follow the story and understand why the characters act in the manner that they do, thanks to flashbacks and exposition provided in the film itself. By UC 0093, Char’s become the de facto leader of the Neo Zeon forces, and although he keeps up the appearance of a politician, he’s primarily interested in his own machinations to realise his vision of the world’s destruction. While claiming to care about humanity’s future, Char’s motivations are actually quite shallow and petty: ever since Lalah’s death, Char’s sought vengeance on Amuro, who had unintentionally dealt her the killing blow.

  • The death of Lalah permanently impacted both Char and Amuro, and while viewers might find it petty that neither Char nor Amuro have gotten over Lalah’s death, I remark on how after the events of nine years earlier, my own outcomes wherever relationships are concerned haven’t ever recovered. It is the case that getting past losses like these can be difficult, and in Char’s Counterattack, both Char and Amuro, despite having new people in their lives (Nanai and Chan, respectively), are still guilt-stricken about Lalah’s death, preventing them from fully living in the present. I am not going to begrudge either, having found no solution in the past decade as to how to best go about handling this, and will only remark that when dealing with losses surrounding matters of the heart, people should take as much time as they need to make peace with their pasts.

  • The swan thus becomes a haunting symbol in Char’s Counterattack, representing the ethereal Lalah and the commonality in both Amuro and Char’s difficulty in letting go of the past to the point where they become mortal foes. Here, after Quess clashes with Nanai and Gyunei, she seeks solace in Char’s company, who sees an opportunity to get her accustomed to the feelings that permeate a battlefield. The fear and aggression on the battlefield terrifies Quess, who becomes convinced that she needs to eliminates these things.

  • During a combat encounter, Gyunei ends up destroying the ReGZ and kills Kayra Su. The ReGZ (Refined Gundam Zeta) was supposed to be a cut-down version of the Zeta Gundam meant for mass production, possessing a simpler transformation system and a backpack system that increased its versatility. Its performance surpasses most machines, but lacking a psycommu of its own, the ReGZ was not equipped to deal with more advanced Zeon machines. Amuro had found the ReGZ outmatched by Char’s Sazabi earlier, and here against Gyunei, Kayra is overwhelmed. Although Amuro tries to defuse the situation, the ν Gundam’s fin funnels kick in and escalates things.

  • Despite only making an appearance here in Char’s Counterattack, Chan Agi was one of my favourite characters for her attitudes surrounding the hitherto-untested psychoframe, specifically worrying about its viability in combat, and to this end, she carries a T-shaped sample of it with her. Her relationship with Amuro was an interesting one, and while the pair reciprocate their feelings, it’s clear that Amuro’s still stuck in the past. Char was similarly stuck in the past, as well – although he’s in a relationship with Nanai, he hasn’t gotten over Lalah, either. The fact that Char and Amuro were more similar than they’d cared to admit is one of the reasons why their rivalry becomes so heated.

  • Thanks to Cameron Bloom’s confiding in Captain Bright, Londo Bell is able to anticipate that Char is up to something. They realise that Char’s purchase of Axis was for another colony drop, and rush off to stop this from happening, resulting in a titanic battle as the Federation Forces try to prevent an impact event. Here, I will remark that in this discussion of Char’s Counterattack, I’ve omitted a lot of details surrounding more subtle elements in the film – Char’s Counterattack is a very busy movie, and there’s a lot going on, so I’ve elected to only cover a few moments. Critics are right in that the additional details can make the film somewhat difficult to follow, even for Universal Century fans. However, on the flipside, all of these elements make the ending all the more poignant.

  • At the time of its deployment, the RX-93 ν Gundam was the single most advanced mobile suit available to the Federation: designed by Amuro himself, the ν Gundam is the culmination of his learnings and incorporates highly sophisticated features that render it highly versatile in combat. Its default load-out includes head-mounted Vulcans for point defense, a beam rifle, two beam sabres and a hyper-bazooka. The ν Gundam also equips six Fin Funnels that each possess their own generators, allowing them a superior operational time compared to classic funnels and giving Amuro the means of engaging multiple targets simultaneously, overwhelming individual targets and providing a measure of defense. During the final battle, Amuro is able to single-handedly engage the Neo Zeon forces and effortlessly fends off even Quess’ α Azieru with relative ease.

  • Amidst the chaos of combat, Hathaway manages to commandeer a Jegan and pilots it out to Quess with the intention of bringing her back. Char’s Counterattack establishes one of Hathaway’s biggest weakness: he tends to think with his heart rather and as a result of this, begins to see the Federation as an impediment to progress. After the events of Char’s Counterattack, Hathaway ends up joining the Federation forces and completes training with them, before moving on to studying botany and eventually founding the terror organisation Mafty. Although convinced he could save Quess, Hathaway is ultimately denied when Chan arrives and fires on the α Azieru, killing Quess.

  • In return, Hathaway opens fire on the already-damaged ReGZ. Chan’s spirit is released, and in death, her consciousness ascends to a different plane as her mobile suit becomes enveloped by a bright light. Char’s Counterattack introduced some of the Universal Century’s most outrageous and wild phenomenon through the psychoframe, and I always got the impression that by unveiling this technology in a film meant to act as the Universal century’s capstone, Char’s Counterattack was signalling that this was the end of one age, leaving things open to future authors to explore further.

  • Some fans have not taken too kindly to the use of psychoframe and its associated supernatural attributes because it ultimately represents deus ex machina – unknown properties means that psychoframe could potentially be abused to effortlessly resolve plot points simply because there was no clearly-defined limit to how human will could be converted to physical energy. Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative both attempt to reconcile use of the psychoframe and explain what eventually became of this overwhelming, otherworldly technology.

  • The highlight of Char’s Counterattack is when Amuro and Char, equipped with their cutting-edge mobile suits, clash for the final time. The Sazabi is the Neo Zeon counterpart of the ν Gundam, being equipped with a psychoframe and funnels that make it superior to every Federation suit of its time. Despite its large size, use of a lightweight armour and the inclusion of multiple thrusters gives the suit incredible mobility. It is curious to note that here, Char and Amuro duel one another with mobile suits that are supposed to represent the culmination of their knowledge and skill, and yet, in Char’s case, his motivations and goals become increasingly small-minded even as Amuro tries to make an effort to move on and fight for the future.

  • In the end, Amuro and the ν Gundam win out – Amuro casts the Sazabi’s wreckage onto the surface of Axis and captures Char’s cockpit. While Char and Amuro fight, Captain Bright and the Ra Cailum have managed to infiltrate Axis and installed explosives, allowing them to blow the asteroid apart. Despite their efforts, the rear end of Axis is still on a collision course with Earth. Determined to save the lives of those on Earth and prove Char wrong, Amuro decides to use the ν Gundam in an attempt to push Axis back. During this time, Char’s attempts to justify his actions become increasingly immature, revealing someone who has completely lost his way ever since he’d lost Lalah and completed his initial goal of taking revenge on the Zabi family.

  • On the other hand, Amuro may have been impacted by his losses, including Lalah, but he channels all of this sorrow and despondence into trying to build a world where warfare isn’t a problem, so future generations won’t have to experience what he did. The clash in ideology is a reminder that benevolence wins out over revenge: Amuro had joined the One Year War out of a desire to protect those around him, standing in complete contrast with Char. In this way, Amuro is able to maintain the moral high ground throughout Char’s Counterattack.

  • As Axis continues plummeting, the Sazabi and ν Gundam’s psychoframes begin resonating with one another. Both Federation and Zeon pilots perceptibly feel a sudden desire to protect the planet and appear to help Amuro out. A green light begins filling the battlefield, and viewers, alongside the characters, begin to wonder what on earth is happening here. The scene is dominated by silence, with no incidental music to hint to viewers how they should be feeling as the psychoframes start behaving erratically as a result of the human wills concentrated in such a small area.

  • One subtle, but significant, moment is when the extreme heat begins causing Federation and Zeon suits to malfunction. Symbolising how some things transcends ideology, when one Geara Doga begins to be pushed back, a Jegan pilot grabs him: both pilots are on opposite sides of the war, but ultimately share in common the same desire to protect their home world. The moment becomes increasingly desperate until a vast green light engulfs the space and begins pushing Axis back. At this moment, Aurora begins to play and the melancholy of the moment really kicks in: although tragedy was averted, both Amuro and Char would ultimately give their lives for what they believed in. When Char’s Counterattack concluded, I finally understood the grudges and feelings of regret that would be left behind, providing a stronger context for the events of Gundam Unicorn.

  • Char’s Counterattack, despite its multiple unresolved points, had left a tangible and indelible feeling in me. The song Aurora would also come to represent the feelings I felt at the end of my undergraduate programme: at this point ten years ago, there’d been less than a week to my defense exam, and I joked to my best friend, a Gundam fan and the only person to have understood the reference, that stress from anticipating the exam might’ve caused an Axis Shock. When the exam itself arrived, I walked in with a cold determination, resolving to just get things done. In the present, hearing Aurora still reminds me of the melancholy and beauty in finishing my honours degree in health science: it had been a major milestone in my life, and achieving a degree paved the way for everything that followed, but at the same time, I would be parting way with all of my classmates. In revisiting Char’s Counterattack a decade later, it is striking that all of these memories come back to me in such a vivid fashion, mirroring how strongly one’s experiences can shape who they become.

Although intended to round out the Char and Amuro era of the Universal Century, Char’s Counterattack would introduce new concepts that would subsequently be explored in Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative. The idea of forbidden technology, taking the form of the psychoframe, is a centrepiece in Char’s Counterattack. Described as a special microprocessor that can convert human thoughts into physical power, the psychoframe is already characterised as having unknown characteristics and opens the Universal Century to the idea of Newtype ghosts and other remarkable, otherworldly phenomenon. This in turn allowed the Universal Century to branch out beyond the horrors and desolation of warfare, the impact on conflict on people and the advancement of technology in relation to the demands of conflict: introducing the psychoframe symbolises the danger of placing faith in technology that isn’t fully tested, and the consequence of this becomes clear at the end of Char’s Counterattack as both disappear from existence. The potential and possibility behind psychoframe becomes something that provides further avenue of exploration, as the technology is supposed to be both a tool that might bring people one step closer towards the longstanding dream of space colonisation, but at the same time, because so much is unknown, the destructive potential is also massive: in Gundam Narrative, Zoltan Akkanen uses the II Neo Zeong’s psycho-shard system to trigger a spontaneous fusion event with the aim of creating enough debris and subsequent impact events to permanently scar the Earth, an unexpected use-case when considering it was originally meant to enhance a pilot’s reaction time and mobile suit performance. This particular topic is one of the long-lasting legacies of Char’s Counterattack, and owing to the fact that Char and Amuro both piloted the original psychoframe mobile suits, no discussion of their application in the Universal Century is complete without an understanding of where the technology was initially used, as well as how further developments have essentially resulted in the opening of a Pandora’s Box with regard to psychoframes. Char’s Counterattack, then, can be seen as a passing of the torch: Amuro and Char’s stories, vis-a-vis directly impacting the conflict between the Earth Sphere Federation and Zeon, are over, but their legacies mean that the Universal Century’s fate is left to future generations (and writers). In the present, it does appear that the tricky nature surrounding psychoframe means that any desire to use the technology is blunted, suggesting that humanity still has a ways to go before they realise its dream. In the meantime, the open-ended nature of Char’s Counterattack means that, even thirty-five years on, there remains plenty of opportunity to explore the Universal Century and bring its stories to new viewers.

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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