Turn-A Gundam: Diplomatic Breakdowns

The Cake of Unity above the Vegetables of Discord

The Cake of Unity above the Brussels Sprouts of Discord

Turn-A Gundam (∀ Gundam if you want to get really precise) has always been one of my favorite Gundam series; it more or less was my favorite Gundam series (excepting G, but that’s G) until 00 came along, and I still haven’t (and probably won’t bother) sorting out which of my personal Gundam Triumverate I like better than the others. Out of some kind of insanely wild hair, I added Turn-A to the roster of series I am currently following, and unexpectedly blazed through the first ten episodesl, faster, even, than my first trip through the series.

Turn-A was always the oddest of the oddball AU series–the first episode has a palpable lack of anything robotic past the first two minutes, and no robots are even seen until towards the end of episode 2. Fighting is scarce and rare; Loran and the Turn-A spend far more time washing clothes and chasing down livestock than actually beating other robots up. Part of that ties in with the thematics of the series as a whole (which will come in a later post, hopefully, even though I could do it now; I’d like to keep the posts contained to at least 10-episode chunks at the least), but early on it’s more or less imposed by the fact that the Moonrace and the Earthrace aren’t exactly at war, but neither are they at peace. They, instead, operate at a tenuous level due to miscommunication, bad planning and timing, and general communications breakdown. In the early episodes, neither Dianna Soriel nor Guin Lineford want to go to war–in fact, I think this general state of non-war extends throughout the whole series, more or less–but through actions entirely out of their control, they’re forced to war with each other, despite the intentions of both being pure.

Even at this early phase, there’s still the suspicion of Foul Play afoot amongst the Moonrace, but only in passing and only if you’re truly paying attention properly (or aren’t like me in the first watching, perhaps). Unlike other Gundam series (or, at least, those I’ve seen), it isn’t the leaders of the individual groups pushing them to war, it’s small factions within the groups themselves. Unlike other Gundam series, the two factions aren’t pre-existingly at war, and I don’t think they ever actually truly go to war. What should have been a peaceful landing for the Moonrace is, instead, turned into a nightmare of bloodshed and the awakening of the Turn-A through simple failure to communicate properly. The simple early mistake breeds mistrust on both sides, and events quickly spiral out of control, leaving Dianna and Guin scrambling for diplomacy in the face of continuous and nearly uncontrollable aggresion from both sides. Whereas civilians (in general) hardly ever seem to be anything other than a quaternary consideration in other Gundam series, Turn-A has a conflict instigated and started by the civilians of the factions, forcing the military and executive arms of the factions to engage in hostilities neither wish for.

Couple with that Loran’s status as both a Moonrace loyalist and a Milita soldier in the Turn-A, and the fact that Dianna and Kihel swap places for most of the series, and you have Turn-A: the Tomino Gundam that feels much more like 00. Rather than the grim feelings of revenge  earlier Tomino Gundam protagonists had, Loran wishes most for peace and harmony, even as he pilots the Turn-A, the major point of contention between the two factions, and, ironically, the very device he uses to help him assist understanding and facilitate communication between the two factions.  He is a freedom fighter, in the sense that he deliberately doesn’t bear arms for freedom, and engages in combat reluctantly. The lack of Gundam-standard flashy action, then, serves the theme of the series better than if it were omnipresent as it is in many other Gundam series–it is not a hindrance of the series, but a strength, one that, however,  can alienate a viewer watching Gundam more for action than for characters.

Perhaps it watches better than I feel I make it sound here, as seems to be the case for a lot of Tomino series (or maybe I’m trying t0o hard to both be coherent and spoiler-free beyond the first ten episodes), but whether or not I can actally describe things properly with words here or not, Turn-A seems almost better to revisit than to watch for the first time. An odd feeling, to be sure.

5 Responses to “Turn-A Gundam: Diplomatic Breakdowns”

  1. 1 ghostlightning 5 February 2009 at 12:35 am

    I still haven’t progressed from after watching episode 9, but Turn A is still the show that’s destined to make me feel good about changing my mind about something.

    The character designs took some getting used to for me, but once I got hold of its nuances, it’s really quite beautiful. And before I know it, I’ll probably end up liking the Gundam itself, which I really disliked in the beginning for looking the way it does.

    The other Gundam that I disliked at first but ended up enjoying thoroughly is 0083 Stardust Memory. It doesn’t have the thematic heft of Turn A, but is satisfying in its mecha designs, set-piece battles, and energizing soundtrack. I ended up wanting to watch the Zeta movies after seeing it, which says to me its real value – adding narrative meat to the Universal Century continuity.

  2. 2 Pontifus 5 February 2009 at 12:48 am

    I’d recommend this post to anyone considering watching Turn A, as it’s immensely helpful to shed the “one side vs. another” mindset as early on in the viewing as possible. The one character we can call a genuine antagonist gets relatively little screen time, and even then he represents the kind of splinter faction you’re talking about. I love the “micro” approach of the show; I’ve heard people complain about the Turn A being used to ferry cows and such, but it was precisely those scenes that made me able to watch the show when I was convinced I couldn’t stomach mecha at all, and showed me that mecha can do more, literally and conceptually, than shoot each other and explode.

  3. 3 The Animanachronism 5 February 2009 at 3:17 am

    Now that cake was a lie (sorry).

    Spot on. I must rewatch this myself at some point, especially if it’s likely to be even more enjoyable the second time around!

    • 4 OGT 5 February 2009 at 9:29 am

      @ghostlighting: Odd/unusual character designs no longer take much time for me to get used to; there might have been a few moments when I first watched Turn-A (which must have been at least three or four years ago) that the art struck me funny, but it quickly passed. Syd Mead’s mechanical designs are some of my favorite Gundam mechanical designs, too–perhaps it’s because he works with anamatronics more (Johnny Five Alive in Short Circuit, for instance), but the Turn-A original units look more like they could exist than is usually the case.

      @Pontifus: A Pontifus response! I feel honored!

      Turn-A is a good series to shed the “mecha” stereotype with, I think, but it’s not one that generally does it. I knocked my mecha wariness out fairly early in fandom, so I never really had the general malaise towards mecha that some have, but I still can’t get too terribly excited about non-ridiculously-over-the-top (i.e. GaoGaiGar) super robot series, though. That might be more of a Go Nagai malaise, alas.

      And Gundam laundromat haters be damned–Turn-A doing ridiculously commonplace things is 90% of the reason I love the series, even if it wasn’t thematically appropriate.

      @Animanachronism: Oh, it was, it so was. Your rewatch enjoyment may vary, as I’ve changed in how I watch anime from the first time I watched the series. It can’t be a BAD rewatch experience, though.

  4. 5 Exhibition Staff 5 July 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Howdy! This post could not be written much better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this information to him.
    Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. Many thanks for sharing!

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February 2009

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