Archive for January 27th, 2009

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Innovations

Ribbons is going to Innovate you all over the place.

As Gundam 00 winds its way towards its end–much to my dismay, as I will have to wait at least another two or three years before Sunrise decides it wants to create another installment in the Gundam franchise to get a newer, fresher Gundam take (using the interim time to catch up on the older series)–the puzzle that has been Gundam 00 is starting to, finally, look much more complete, especially as the Newtypes move into the final phases of Aeolia Schenberg’s plan.

Did I say “Newtype”? I meant Innovator, sorry.

I’m sure, in some deep recess of my mind, I’ve noted the similarity between Universal Century’s heroes and AD’s villains–made obvious, I suppose, by the fact that Ribbons Almark voice actor is Furuya Tohru (using a pseudonym–Sougetsu Noboru), better known as Amuro Ray–but I’m not for sure the full impact of this has truly sunk in. I’m sure this is a totally unoriginal observation–or not, depending on how mad people are at Gundam 00 for not being “Gundam” enough (or, alternatively, being too “Gundam”)–but it took Ribbons mentioning that he’d piloted the 0 Gundam, years ago, the same Gundam unit that had a profound effect on Setsuns F. Seiei, the very effect that would lead him to the position of Celestial Being’s Gundam Meister.

The in-show ramifications are rather obvious–as a result of the early encounter with 0 Gundam, which Ribbons described as a “field test,” Setsuna’s infatuation with Gundam led him to believe that it was Gundam that would bring about world peace. Setsuna insists that there’s no God in this world, but there is for him: Gundam, and, in some kind of weird twist of fate or irony, he believes himself to be the literal Gundam Jesus, the savior who will bring about world peace through his own personal Logos, Gundam.

Never mind that, even from very early on, we’re treated to Setsuna not as a strong, brave man–but as a defenseless kid, who’s been manipulated into killing his own parents. He presents himself as stoic and unshakable, because he’s trying to convince himself that he’s stoic and unshakable, not others. This all changes when he finds that the 0 Gundam, the symbol of the mystical power of the Gundam to end conflict, was piloted by none other than Ribbons, the leader of the Innovators who are acting contrary to Celestial Being–and with the fervor of the devout when faced with a challenge to their faith, he quickly takes action and corners Ali Al-Saarchez, the man who made him as he is today, before being stopped by the 00 Riser Trans-Am’s broadcast of Marina’s song with the orphaned children. I don’t think I moved, blinked, or thought throughout that whole ED sequence–I think I just stared, rendered speechless by the last seven minutes that, more or less, upheaved everything in Gundam 00.

To conjure up an old adage and bastardize it for the 21st century: Gundams don’t kill people, people kill people. Setsuna has now been forced to accept the collorary to that statement: Gundams don’t save people. Ribbons makes it clear to Setsuna that the Gundam is not an instrument of salvation, of peace-bringing–but a weapon. But, as before, if Gundams don’t save people, then people save people. The Gundam itself is not the Messiah, but, rather,  an instrument for people to bring about peace. A Gundam can be used for ill, just as it can also be used for good.

"In the beginning was the Gundamd, and the Gundam was with God, and the Gundam was God." (Note: this makes as much sense as the real John 1:1, i.e. none)

Perhaps even more subversive is the message encoded in the similarities of the Newtypes of Universal Century and the Innovators of A.D. In Universal Century, Newtypes are the “next step” in human evolution, a new race that will enable humanity to reach for the stars, and bring an end to conflict. Of course, this is UC Gundam, so it’s all muddled up, but I’ve always felt that the Newtypes were cast in a positive light (aside from the few Newtype villains, such as Haman Karn) with an implication that, once Newtypes were the majority, conflict would be eradicated.

But in 00, the Innovators–who have the same telepathic powers of the Newtypes, and who have names like Anew Returner and Bring Stability, names that clearly do not reflect their personalities–are cast as the villains, those who are trying to get in the way of the natural course of things. It is the Innovators who pull the strings behind the A-Laws (who feel suspiciously similar to the Titans in Zeta Gundam) who are sowing conflict across the world in the name of “world unification”. Celestial Being is opposing them as best they can, but only by playing at the A-Laws’ game and trying to stay one step ahead of them.

The 0 Gundam’s design similarity to the original RX-78 and its piloting by Ribbons, the leader of the Innovators, bear a trans-Gundam, or trans-anime, or even trans-national message: military machines and superhumans are not going to bring about peace in our time. And yet the 00 Raiser Trans-Am is the most powerful weapon in the entire series (I am set and ready to have a debate over Moonlight Butterfly vs. 00 Raiser Trans-Am at some point in time, just so you know), not because it kills, but because it unites–the Innovators can communicate telepathically with one another, as can Marie and Allelujah Haptism and the other super-soldier experiments, but the 00 Raiser Trans-Am gives everyone this power. It levels the playing field with the Innovators. The Gundam accomplishes what the Innovators cannot: uniting humanity.

Yes, it’s a paradox. Yes, Gundam is still an instrument of death, of chaos, of schism. But it can also be an instrument of life, of order, and of unification. Or can it? The new ED sequence is rife with Gundams, half-dismantled, growing moss and becoming part of the landscape. There’s still ten episodes to go in Gundam 00 until we reach the conclusion, and I lack the precognition necessary to know the ending beforehand. Even with a conclusion that results in true, peaceful world unification, knowing Mizushima, and Gundam, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be an easily-won peace, nor a low-maintainance peace. Peace is far too complex for that.

Gundam 00 is breaking my mind in ways the other Gundams never did, it seems. Maybe I’m imagining it–or maybe it just resonates with me, the way Zeta, or Wing, or SEED, or Turn-A resonates with others, and defines, for them, what Gundam means to them. In my case, it would seem to be a consummation, rather than a revelation–the affirmation that Gundam still has the power to affect people, 30 years and many, many merchandising campaigns later.

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NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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