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.