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.

8 Responses to “Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Innovations”

  1. 1 ghostlightning 27 January 2009 at 8:20 pm

    It’s certainly refreshing to see someone connect with a show the way you’ve shared here in this post. I didn’t expect it from 00, even though it is the Gundam that finally got me to watch the other shows.

    I still don’t have my own resonant Gundam show, even though I really really like War in the Pocket and the 08th MS Team. I can only enjoy the idea that the show is still in the future, and for me to look forward to.

    • 2 OGT 28 January 2009 at 2:45 pm

      @ghostlightning: Everybody resonates with different series for different reasons, yet it still depresses me to seem to be the only person in the wide otaku-rhombus facet of the blogohedron who actually genuinely likes (and can, however poorly, defend said liking) Gundam 00. Operative word here being “seem”; I highly doubt I’m the only such creature, but most of what I hear is mystified comments on how I can actually like Gundam 00, which makes me feel somewhat…estranged, I suppose, from the hep cats who know better than I do. It makes me wonder, uncomfortably, if I don’t have exacting enough standards, and, then, whether or not I care about having exacting enough standards. My taste is such that I feel at odds with everyone at all times about all things, which might just be my perception.

      @Animanchronism: My new project will be to create a WorldCat for the Gundam-verse, to be called GunCat. This will not happen, but this is my dream.

      As far as John 1:1 goes, the actual line is “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “Word” is how most translations of the Gospel of John translate λόγος (Logos for the commoners, including me), and Jesus is frequently identified in Christology as the Logos of God. I make fun of the Gospel of John mostly because it’s the oddball Gospel: Mark, Matthew, and Luke are all synoptic and drawn from the same source; John comes in from left field, has been hitting the wineskins a bit too hard, and has just heard of these awesome people called the Gnostics who are way cooler than you three synoptiwhatsit bozos.

      Hopefully that helps make the caption-joke clearer.

  2. 3 The Animanachronism 28 January 2009 at 1:34 pm

    It’s impossible for the Universal Century’s Newtypes to succeed: the need for future toy sales demanded that the UC was kept open, which in turn meant that Newtypes could never bring about permanent peace.

    Anyway, 00 is to be commended for its reversals and refractions. It’s definitely proved that there are yet more ways to skin the Gundam cat. (Guncat?) I’m still not sure I properly like it, but doubtless that’s a matter of ‘resonance’.

    PS: John 1 either goes over or under my head, but I wouldn’t claim to know which of those two alternatives is what’s happening. Do you know something I don’t?

  3. 4 ghostlightning 29 January 2009 at 10:32 pm

    @ OGT

    Kaioshin Sama loves 00 much the same way you do, though your resonating with it is unique (his is Turn-A I think).

    I checked out your anime list and I didn’t see 08th (though on your plan to watch), 0080, or the MS Igloo stuff.

    I actually recommend the MS Igloo 2 which is ongoing (1 ep is subbed, the other is still raw). It’s quite an experience.

    • 5 OGT 30 January 2009 at 10:03 am

      @ghostlightning: KaoshinSama liking Gundam 00 as much as me doesn’t surprise me, as he seems to be the Sunrise Apologist; the American fan situation regarding Sunrise being what it is at times (to loosely paraphrase: SUNRISE SUX), that’s hardly an insult and more of a badge of honor.

      I do have yet to see 08th MS Team, sadly; I should probably pick up the boxset soon since it’s fairly cheap, and I’ve heard nothing but praise for the 12-episode series (I have difficulty confirming whether there is a 13th episode, some people say it exists, others vociferously deny it ever was). The others I’m not so sure about, but will probably pop up in my list sooner or later.

      I don’t even know what MS Igloo is all about. I think robot porn…?

  4. 6 The Animanachronism 30 January 2009 at 3:32 pm

    MS Igloo should really be called Peenemünde: The Anime, but yeah. And isn’t MAHQ pretty close to a GunCat already? I guess we still need something like an ISBN system.

    It wasn’t the caption but John 1 itself that I was talking about – I know that John is the hippie Gospel – what I meant was that, in my experience, things that make no sense to me are either too clever or nonsense, and I think it’s too early to rule John 1 into the ‘nonsense’ category. But you may differ on that.

    • 7 OGT 30 January 2009 at 5:50 pm

      @Animanachronism: Nonsensical and clever have been known to mean the exact same thing at times, so I don’t know. If you’re talking about the first chapter of the Gospel of John, then I’m afraid I can’t help you there. I joked that the Gospel of John makes no sense because it’s a mind-trip of a gospel–it’s more of an affectionate if pointed jab. I think I just finally realized what you were talking about, heh.

      I had to look up Peenemünde to figure out what you were talking about; I suppose it’s about Gundam R&D, then.

  5. 8 The Animanachronism 31 January 2009 at 4:29 am

    It’s about Gundam R&D, and I think it pushes the Zeon – WW2 Germany parallel element of the One Year War further than other parts of the franchise.

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