The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: UC Gundam

Operation Eternal: The Joys of Otafest 2014

“Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results.” —William James

For three days of the year, the University of Calgary undergoes a dramatic shift in atmosphere. Rather than being an academic institution home to some of the most cutting-edge research labs in the world, hallways and lecture halls are adjourned with signs of festivity. Conversations about physiological fly-throughs and optimal UI paradigms are displaced by spirited talks about anime and games. Instead of quietly illuminating corridors after hours, the evening sunlight falls into busy hallways and open areas brimming with excitement, throwing the cosplayers and convention attendees into sharp relief. This is Otafest, an anime convention that is aimed to promote Japanese popular culture and encourage community charity. This event had humble origins in 1999: since then, has become Calgary’s (and Southern Alberta’s) premier anime convention. My first time attending was last year, right when Otafest was celebrating its fifteenth anniversary. I had a wonderful time, even though my day lacked any sort of real coordination. I have since attended Otafest’s winter incarnation, Otafest Aurora, and subsequently, a pin-trading party. With an overwhelmingly positive experience, I convinced a greater number of friends to attend Otafest 2014, and, after my last exam ended late in April, I pre-ordered my tickets. Soon after, my work with the research lab began. Before this, though, I had an opportunity to dine at the Levilla Chophouse. As a gentle drizzle fell outside, I sat down to lobster bisque and the Steak Neptune, a charbroiled beef tenderloin filet topped with seared scallops and prawns. The steak brought to mind the steak I was thinking of a year ago, in The Matrix, and that evening turned out to be most pleasant. With a week left to Otafest, I fixed some of the bugs in my iOS version of the physiology software, and over the past week, I’ve been working on importing the brain model from the lab’s in-house physiology software suite into Unity.

  • Why was this one called “Operation Eternal”?  Project Eternal is an initiative that appears to be working on introducing new angels in the Otafest world, with June-sensei being one of the first to be showcased. June is Seph and Aurora’s old instructor from their high school days. I only became aware of the June pin after the pin trading party, and decided that this was a challenge I would undertake, giving rise to the cryptonym “Operation Eternal”.

  • I know that readers might just be looking for images of me attending the convention, but I don’t have enough images to populate this post: as with Otafest Aurora 2013, I was having too much fun to be photographing things. With that said, I did manage to get photographs of what matters (i.e. myself with Yuu Asakawa, Brad Swaille and Chris Cason, plus some of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica cosplayers). Otafest 2014 was timed perfectly with Gundam Unicorn‘s finale. News has reached my ears that people are already beginning to upload images of the final episode online, and while I’m normally very accepting of spoilers, this finale is one of the few exceptions where I’m refusing to see any spoilers. If current trends hold, I think that I should have access to the episode over the next two days, and I’ll be able to get a review out a few days after that.

Of course, this isn’t a talk about my work, and so, on Friday, I committed my first prototype to the repository. As I was working to ensure the first prototype could work out of the box, the first of the attendees began arriving, forming an immensely long line for registration. Cosplayers became more frequent, and soon, my friends would arrive for registration. All of us had pre-ordered, and I picked up my wristband on Thursday evening. While I was waiting, I purchased three Otafest pins, looking to trade them. Registration proved prompt, so we made it to the opening ceremonies in time to get good seats. As I entered the lecture hall, I recalled the fact that not more than a month ago, I sat just a few rows below, jotting down notes about magma compositions and differentiations between stony and iron asteroids. On the first day of Otafest, though, the lecture hall held a different atmosphere: relaxed and excited. The opening ceremony saw the clarification of convention rules, exciting new events, and the special guests. The emcees delivering this presentation did so with a humorous flair, and after the events finished, I had the fortune of acquiring one of the “Angel of Time” pins via trade. I would leave shortly after, preparing for the second day.

  • The beauty of Otafest’s timing is that I had something highly engaging to participate in while waiting for the Gundam Unicorn finale to come out. Pictured above is the Prairie Chicken statue. This picturesque spot is more informally known as “Cosplay Hill”; on the days where Otafest is held, it is packed with people. The page quote above refers to my end thoughts with Otafest 2014: the event’s success is motivated by the team of staff and volunteers, whose enthusiasm and passion make Otafest the top-notch event that it is.

  • The lecture halls where the voice actor panel and opening ceremonies were held are visible in the image’s right side. There is a sculpture in the middle of this hallway, called the “Zipper” (not visible, on account of Haruhi and Kyon covering it) that undergraduate students have various superstitions about. I’m in the camp that believes touching it prior to a final is a curse; I touched it prior to my first midterm in first year and promptly got wiped out by the exam. Every subsequent exam that I would write, I avoided the Zipper. While there’s probably no correlation, my performance was much more consistent with my usual standards after that.

The weather forecast had predicted thundershowers for Saturday, although upon waking up, the skies had been as pleasant as they were the day before. Making my way to the University of Calgary, I was able to make reservations for the Maid Café, which my friends had expressed interest in attending the previous year. This promise was made a year ago: at the previous Otafest, a lack of knowledge on my part meant that by the time we tried to reserve, all of the tickets had been distributed. Fortunately, with knowledge of how things worked, I was able to obtain tickets for all of the party (a grand total of seven members). With that done, I made my way to the vendor hall in the same manner as I had last year. Back then, I had nothing in mind, but this time, there was a single item I was aiming to purchase: the HGUC 1/144 Full Armour Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode). The Unicorn Mode was available last year, I decided against buying it, as it wasn’t the Unicorn Gundam’s ultimate form. I would not be disappointed: after circling around some of the vendors, I encountered a vendor who had the model in stock. The transaction was made, and I rendezvoused with the main party. We decided to walk around the campus; during this time, I was able to make three more successful pin trades, acquiring rare pins in the process. As with last year, the food trucks were available: this time, I opted for Tao Rex‘s bratwurst on a bun, as that could be finished more easily. The rationale for this was to be on time for the voice actor Q&A panel, featuring Yū Asakawa, Brad Swaille and Chris Cason. The venue this time was my old primatology lecture hall, although morphological differences between Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys fell from thought (for reference, New World Monkeys have prehensile tails), as my attention turned to the voice actors’ responses to the audience’s queries.

  • On the warmer days, the fountain at the centre of campus comes to life, providing an oasis not too far away from the Prairie Chicken statue. It’s a rather peaceful place to be, especially during the summer months, when there are fewer students on campus. However,  the fountain is only active during the summer months of the year, and for the most part, the fountain is dry.

  • It was a surprising when I learnt that there are actually sakura blossoms on campus grounds (and I’ve been a student here for five years now). Throughout May and early June, it’s quite possible to partake in hanami on campus. By July, the blossoms are gone, and it’s just greenery everywhere.

The next hour saw some of the most amusing answers from the voice actors as they replied to questions from the audience, who were treated to entertaining and informative stories and answers. Yū Asakawa’s English proved excellent, and she answered questions expertly. Our group dispersed to pursue independent activities, and then reconvened at the Maid Café for a milk tea, tiramisu and dance from the maids. Once this concluded, my friends decided to visit the vendors: having informed them of the lines, they had set aside a two hour slot to explore the vendors. The hours elapsed on short order, and soon, it was time to attend the most anticipated event: the voice actor autograph session. This proved incredibly taxing, and even though I’d arrived fourty minutes prior to the event to secure a spot, the line was already massive. However, the wait yielded returns: my K-On! Artbook now bears signatures from all three of the voice actors. Returning to the office space to pick up the stuff I’d left up there, I returned home, closing off Otafest 2014. By now, it should be immediately apparent that I only have good things to say about Otafest. Even though I myself don’t cosplay, I find absolute enjoyment in sharing a friendly environment with fellow anime fans. This year, owing to superb coordination and communication (thanks, Nokia Lumia 520!), my friends and I were able to visit a vast majority all of the events and venues, more so than last year, illustrating the difference that preparedness and open-mindedness makes in a convention. All in all, I attended two of the three event days: today, I took time off to rest following the previous few days’ excitement, and spent the evening at a local Japanese restaurant, where tonkatsu, beef yakiniku, takoyaki and tempura were amongst the things I enjoyed during dinner, acting as a fitting close to a weekend celebrating Japanese culture. I end with the remark that, while I’m not sure whether I’ll be available to attend in a year’s time, I am certain that next year’s attendees will experience an event that will be equally (if not more) spectacular, thanks to the efforts put in by the staff and volunteers. ありがとう、皆さん!

Six Days of Gundam Unicorn, Part Six: Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows

“This is how the world progresses, one tiny bit at a time … if you hold onto your dreams, if you never give up, if you don’t become close-minded, I know your chance will come, and when it does, don’t hesitate. Get into the Gundam.” —Marida Cruz

Full Frontal and Angelo Sauper comes in to rescue the Nahel Argama and the Garencieres as the EFSF flagship General Revil bears down on them. The Londo Bell Tri-Stars chase down the Garencieres, which suddenly blows up as a decoy to buy time for the Sleeves to take over the Nahel Argama. In explaining the takeover, Full Frontal says it was an opportunity to finally open Laplace’s Box, reveals his memories of the events of Char’s Counterattack and his reasons for continuing to oppose the Earth Federation; implying very strongly that he is in fact Char Aznable. He leaves Angelo in charge of the vessel as it heads back to Industrial 7 along with the Rewloola. Angelo has the Nahel Argama crewman send out an SOS beacon, prompting the Federation’s Luna II base to send a Salamis cruiser in pursuit. Captain Otto defies Angelo’s orders to destroy the warship. An ECOAS team led by Conroy Haagensen assaults the Nahel Argama and gradually fights the Neo-Zeon troops back to the MS hangar deck. Banagher activates the Unicorn to aid in the attack, but Full Frontal faces him and threatens him with death if he doesn’t join the Neo-Zeon’s cause, since Mineva already knows where the Box is. With Mineva’s help, Marida reactivates the Kshatriya to prevent Angelo from destroying the Nahel Argama but declares not joining Full Frontal’s plan to use the Box to launch another war with the Federation. As Marida seeks Zinnerman’s permission to fight the Sleeves, he decides to finally let her go and live her own life. Angelo and Full Frontal fly back to the Rewloola in Angelo’s Rozen Zulu. Back on Earth, Martha Vist threatens Bright Noa and Londo Bell with being left out of the pursuit operation if they do not co-operate with her. She also barges into a meeting of Ronan Marcenas and several EFSF politicians to announce her intentions to prevent the Box’s opening. Upon entering the region near Industrial 7, Banagher flies out in the Full-Armor Unicorn Gundam to get closer to opening the Box. A surprise awaits him though – the Unicorn Banshee Norn, piloted by Riddhe Marcenas, who was earlier briefed by Alberto Vist about the origins of the Vist Foundation.

  • The first six minutes of the episode is a continuation of what we saw in the previous episode: the under-barrel rocket launcher Full Frontal carries turns out to be of a moderately low yield, intended to act as a distraction above other functions. The fight sequence was spectacular, with Full Frontal netting countless headshots against the Federation forces and here, pulls off something equally as impressive, firing a shot at what appears to be nothing: a few seconds later, an explosion appears in the distance.

  • The Tri-Stars are sent to deal with the Garencieres following the events from the previous episode, but the freighter self-destructs. Contrasting the other episodes, Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows heavily emphasises all the parties’ motivations, rather than enthralling combat sequences. However, the producers manage to keep this episode interesting through the dialogue and exposition.

  • I immediately picked up and watched Char’s Counterattack following this episode to gain more insight into what was going on. This is the last of the Gundam Unicorn posts I’ve ported from my old website, and it strikes me as somewhat surprising that the Gundam Unicorn posts were written in a tone that hadn’t changed much over the past four years, while I found myself quite dissatisfied with the original text for my Five Centimeters per Second post and changed almost all of them when I ported those posts here back in November.

  • The Neon Zeon forces rescue the Nahel Argama only because the Unicorn is present, and the two sides do not cooperate for a common interest even under trying circumstances. Indeed, this episode’s central focus is on the human aspect pertaining to conflicts, particularly, how perceived injustices from past events may preclude the possibility of cooperation.

  • I do not find myself agreeing with Zeon sympathisers; while Gundam Unicorn excels at being able to paint all sides of the conflict in a fair light, I subtly support the Federation, given that Zeon’s existence has become dependent on their leader’s intent, and moreover, Zeon intentionally draws parallels with the Third Reich to illustrate the dangers of blindly following leaders whose intents and goals end up being more harmful than beneficial.

  • Full Frontal announces his plan for a Side Co-prosperity Sphere. Conceptually, it is a more modest approach against Char Aznable’s original plan to depopulate the earth via a nuclear winter, reflecting on Full Frontal’s role as a symbol for self-governance amongst the spacenoids. Mineva’s counterarguments against such a plan would only provoke rebellion, thereby repeating an endless cycle of war and terror, while Full Frontal believes that such a dramatic option is the only means to halt the years of terrible hardship experienced by both spacenoids and earthnoids.

  • While detractors question Riddhe’s signifiance in this series, more optimistic parties tout his role as a vital character, representing the lion in the Lady and the Unicorn. Riddhe is seemingly entrenched in the chaotic neutral camp as a result of his unreciprocated love, but the role he will serve has yet to fully be determined.

  • Marida’s character is fully brought-out through her interactions with Banagher and Zinnerman, revealing a side that viewers can easily sympathise with. Subsequently, the exchange between Zinnerman and Marida reveals the true extent of Zinnerman’s hatred for the Federation, and his willingness to finally move on when he gives Marida one final order: follow your heart.

  • Viewers get a glimpse of Full Frontal’s new mobile armour, which resembles the MSN-02 Zeong, on board the Rewloola; Zinnerman comments on how the unit has no legs, mirroring Char’s reaction to the Zeong. The dialogue between Full Frontal and Zinnerman suggest that the former retains all of the memories that Char Aznable once had, although discussions about whether or not Full Frontal can be thought of as the “real” Char has gotten nowhere, and I personally do not believe that this distinction is particularly significant in the grand scheme of things.

  • Hostilities between the Sleeves and Nahel Argama’s crew finally break out in Full Frontal’s absence. The Federation forces manage to drive off the Sleeves, and Captain Midas delivers a brilliant verbal beat down on Angelo, commenting on how the Sleeves are terrorists and how their short-term alliance has effectively ended.

The depths of Full Frontal’s beliefs and aims are finally revealed in episode six, painting him truly as being Char’s ghost. Viewing himself only as a vessel whose existence is to carry out the people’s hopes and will, Full Frontal unveils his plans for a Side Co-prosperity sphere, a construct with a name not dissimilar to Imperial Japan’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (Dai-tou-a Kyoueiken). Under this system, the colonies in space are unified by a political and economic coalition, with the intent of excluding the Earth Sphere in the hopes of starving the planet dry and forcing a migration into space. Lead by a leader whose charisma could motivate an entire people, this would eventually allow Newtypes to become a reality and fulfil Zeon Zum Deikun’s original aims, although the plan also opened itself to the potential of creating a crisis on Earth. Necessity is correctly referred to as the mother of invention, and Full Frontal’s plan, had it gone through, would have probably created enough hunger and dissent on Earth for the peoples to find a new means of survival, potentially leading to another war. As such, rather like Char Aznable, Full Frontal demonstrates a lack of empathy for humanity and is unaware that his machinations won’t really solve the problems between the Earthnoids and Spacenoids in the long term. Moreover, Princess Mineva (Audrey) points out that this plan, rather like Full Frontal himself, is only a shadow of what the original Char Aznable was capable of conceiving, recalling Char’s impassioned hatred against how humanity’s souls were still bound by gravity, and resorted to dropping asteroids onto Earth to render the planet uninhabitable. Listening to Full Frontal’s monologue provides insight into his motivation and purpose: he’s a multi-faceted character who embodies hope for a better future from the Zeon perspective, while the Federation perceives him as a mere terrorist whose aims are to disrupt the peace. Banagher wonders if there’s any point to such a system, when it would be preferable to create the future together using human hands; while admirable in sentiment, historically, there have been situations where futures created by the people wind up backfiring such as the French Revolution, where after disposing of the French Monarchy, Maximilien Robespierre initiated a Reign of Terror, leading to the executions of thousands in 1793. This produces a dichotomy: on one hand, there is a future created by a single, strong leader under a grand vision, and on the other, a future that people build together. The lessons of history have shown that both methods have yielded results, although the systems are also subject to failure; where such failures occur, catastrophic consequences arise, and lives are lost. This raises the question: can Full Frontal and the Zeon remnants really be viewed as the “bad guys”? Similarly, can the Earth Federation necessarily be considered to be the “good guys”? The answer is not readily apparent amongst the intrinsic narrative, and in fact, the correct answer is that no one is truly right or wrong until how they choose to carry out their visions are known.

  • Contrasting most forum-goers, I do not spend my time getting hung up over the small stuff, preferring to focus on the bigger picture. Now, while I was porting this episode’s content from my old website, I came across a chance article at Cracked.com, which seems to be a response to ZenPencil’s “Artist vs Critics” post a ways back. I myself have some thoughts on that matter, although that will be left as an exercise for the future. The points raised (though insufficient in detail and poorly written) correctly points out that most reviewers who output negative reviews do not understand why some works appeal to a particular group of people.

  • This act is the episode’s climax, with Mineva denouncing the Sleeves’ intents, and Zinnerman coming to terms with his past. Continuing on from earlier, the biggest offenders in the realm of anime reviews are those who feel that anime of a certain genre are “harming the industry” and “lack intellectual value”, especially when dealing with anime such as SoniAni: Super Sonico The Animation and K-On!. Writing with an excessively formal tone and pulling words from a Thesaurus to intimidate their readers, these “reviewers” strive to drive off individuals from series they did not personally like, believing that their approach to anime is the only correct one.

  • Banagher steps into the conflict: whereas he was hesitant before about piloting the Unicorn, his experiences with it has led him to realise that the Gundam represents not destruction, but possibility, the series’ tag line. His character has undergone a similar transformation: no longer a pacifist bound by unrealistic ideals, Banagher is willing to give humanity the benefit of the doubt and allow them the opportunity to understand one another. Thus, his optimism and motivations are now sufficiently mature for him to be a worthy possessor of Laplaces’ Box.

  • I think this is the first time viewers get to see Marida smile; the execution of her character growth is yet another instance of how Gundam Unicorn is able to drive character development forward and humanise them. While Marida might’ve been seen as a cold, efficient operator for the Garancieres after one episode, by episode six, she’s become a fully-fledged character with a tragic background, who, despite being a Cyber-Newtype, is as human as everyone else in the series.

  • Captain Midas delivers a brilliant speech to the Nahel Argama’s crew while they prepare for the final race to Industrial Seven. The evening this episode came out, I was finalising my honours thesis, and this speech reminded me of the things I still needed to do before I could graduate. Midas rightly states that their actions now will be for their children and grandchildren to evaluate, and that it is imperative to finish this operation without losing their lives unnecessarily.

  • My favourite subtle element in episode six is the clearly shifting relationship between Micott and Takuya, implying that they’ve become closer as a result of all that has happened since episode three. In the finale, I look forwards to seeing how everything fits together for Micott and Takuya: if memory serves, the events in Gundam Unicorn happen over a period of a week or so. If this is the case, it would subtly hint that warfare, for all of its horrors and atrocities, can bring people together, giving them the strength to rise above their challenges and find peace once again.

  • The events in Gundam Unicorn come full circle, and now, Industrial Seven marks the spot where Laplace’s Box is located. Initially, after Cardeas Vist’s actions in the first episode, it was quite clear that Industrial Seven could be the only suitable home for Laplace’s Box. Given that the Unicorn Gundam is considered the key to the Box, Full Frontal’s bold declaration of a race is somewhat nullified by the fact that the Unicorn is probably required to actually open it.

  • Set to Symphonic Suite Fifth Movement: GUNDAM” on the third soundtrack, the Full Armour Unicorn soars onto the battlefield with its full loadout (minus the beam magnums and beam javelin). In May 2013, the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn (Unicorn Mode) was released and sold for 3150 Yen. I saw a few at Otafest 2013, although I decided against the purchase, reasoning that the HGUC Full Armour Unicorn (Destroy Mode) would release with the finale. In fact, it was released a few weeks ago and retails for 3456 Yen. The local stores did not have it when I checked a few weeks back, but they should be present at Otafest 2014.

  • In Riddhe’s hands, the Banshee effortlessly disarms and disables the Jegans and ReZELs sent to handle it. Re-christened the Banshee Norn, the unit carries the standard beam magnum with a revolve launcher and the armed armour, a massive shield that boosts the Banshee’s performance. We note that all of my speculation from the previous episode turned out to be correct: we do in fact see the Full Armour Unicorn, and Laplace’s Box is in fact located at Magallanica, or the Snail.

  • The last scene in the episode has quickly become a classic one, with Banagher and Riddhe clashing sabres as the credits roll. When I finished watching the sixth episode. I felt that it provided a reasonable degree of exposition with respect to Full Frontal’s motivations: he is attempting the same as Char, except his means are through economic warfare rather than the total annihilation of Earth. With this in mind, Laplace’s Box becomes a trump card to buy time, and the hunt for it carries all parties back to Industrial 7, where everything had originally started. Now, with all this exposition done, I fully expect the finale to be non-stop combat and awesomeness. Moreover, having taken a look at the novel’s ending, I am hoping that the OVA will end things differently, as the novel’s ending proves a little difficult to accept, even with a willing suspension of disbelief from my end.

Besides raising a challenging political question that has even the most well-read Universal Century fans going in circles, episode six also explores the interactions between the characters further. Most notably, Zinnerman’s past is marked by an undying desire to avenge his family, lost during the Federation occupation of Side 3, although after everything he’s seen during the course of Gundam Unicorn, he finally lets go of the past, telling Marida to follow her heart. He views Marida as his daughter, and thus, letting her go represents his hope for a better future, as well. Zinnerman was originally a difficult character to sympathise with, but his interactions with Marida ultimately bring out his human side, one that is not cursed by the injustices of the past. Conversely, Riddhe appears to have devolved from his original role as a friendly pilot to one haunted by what has transpired. Lacking any deeper reason to fight beyond his own personal gratification, Riddhe’s role seems almost trivial. Granted, having experienced it first hand, heartbreak and disappointment can be very debilitating, although channelling the resulting despair and anger towards destruction ultimately results in a motivation that will not hold up against Banagher’s will, who is fighting for something bigger than himself. Elsewhere, the Vist Foundation (and Martha Vist Carbine) appears to be the true antagonists: whereas Full Frontal and Banagher hold onto hopes for humanity’s future (albeit via methods that are polar opposites), the Vist Foundation is bent on maintaining the status quo at any cost. Recalling that Gundam Unicorn is about possibility, it would follow that stifling possibility for personal benefit is probably the most contrarian to Gundam Unicorn‘s central message. All of these different pieces represent interesting directions in the story, and while their significance might have not been easily understood, this episode clears up some of these elements. By providing a breather that ties up loose ends for all of the individual character’s and factional motivations, audiences are given a chance to understand what everyone’s fighting for, and how all of these narrative fit into Gundam Unicorn. With these elements now in place, the board is set for the finale. As the episode ends with Banagher and Riddhe clashing blades to Aimer’s RE:I AM, the finale’s outcome might be anybody’s guess, but one thing is for certain: set for release tomorrow, this is the long-anticipated conclusion to what has thus far been one of the most intricate and exciting instalments to the Gundam franchise.

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.