Turn-A Gundam: Turning A Fresh Page

"...and within it were all the problems of the world...

Turn-A Gundam ends, as it always does (especially when you’re Tomino), in a psychedelic freakout that might even rival that (in)famous ending to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, albeit with less Thus Sprach Zarathrusta and with more Kagiri Naki Tabiji. (more on music later, it’s an interesting aspect of Turn-A I keep forgetting to address properly)

It also, notably, almost ends in a samurai sword showdown. Not a beam saber showdown. A samurai sword showdown.

As Gym Ghingham unearths the Turn-X, both of the Turn units start to react to one another and begin using the ultimate weapon of doom, the Moonlight Butterfly. Almost as a side effect of the resonance between the two units, the loosely allied factions crumble into even more disparate factions than I can keep track of. I’m pretty sure, by the end, it was Dianna Counter plus Loran, Sochie, Kihel, Miashei and Harry versus nearly everyone else. I’m not entirely sure how Dianna Counter went from “Dianna sucks let’s have a coup d’etat” to “We love you Dianna please come back” in the space of 13 episodes (I suspect the death of Agrippa Maintainer as much as I do Tomino ex Machina), but there you go.

More importantly, perhaps, is the nature of the Black History: namely, the Universal Century. Of course, that’s not all–the three AU Gundam series made prior to Turn-A‘s release (G, W, and X) are referenced. I admit I’m not that good enough to remember/catch the W and X references myself (I think someone had the Harmonica Cannon from X, and I think I saw Wing Zero at one point, but I’ve no idea what Wing Zero looks like so…). The basic, implicit premise is that, in Correct Century, war has been repeated over and over again, hence the repeated insistence that various characters not repeat the mistakes of the past. Of course, then again, the Black History itself was sealed off and known only to a few. And then there’s that old saw about those who do not learn from history being doomed to repeat it.

Of course, by broadcasting the Black History to everyone, Dianna ensures that all know of and understand the Black History’s repeated sequence of war after war after war, and can now hopefully learn from it and not repeat it. There’s probably a meta-joke here, about how Dianna starts the healing process towards peace by essentially forcing everyone to watch Mobile Suit Gundam, but I won’t make it, even if I just did.

And building on the “Miltonian conflict” between the Turn-A and the Turn-X discussed earlier [->], I still say that the Turn-A (at least in Loran’s hands) represents the force of peace, and the Turn-X represesnts the force of chaos (or war, or what have you), but even if they stand for each other’s moral opposites, they both, essentially have the same effect: the Turn-A can easily be used in a peaceful way, but it can just as easily–and almost by its very programming–be used for war. Worse, the Turn-A left the Turn-X with a battle scar the last time they dueled, and, as Gundam teaches us, if you get a scar, you have to seek vengeance on who gave it to you, no matter what. The essential effect is that, even if Turn-A is fighting for peace–even if its pilot wants to end war forever, without resorting to the Moonlight Butterfly–it still brings about war and destruction. Hence the Moonlight Butterfly: the ultimate peace enforcer, it just wipes everything out and says “TRY AGAIN [Y/N].”

What does happen in the end, though–whether metaphysically influenced by Loran’s use of the Turn-A throughout the whole series, or simply the nature of its default programming following a close encounter with the Turn-X–is the two unit’s Moonlight Butterfly effects literally reforming a cocoon around the two units (and, incidentally, sucking Gym Ghingnham up with them) and creating a virtual Pandora’s Egg for the twin warriors of war and peace. This description, of course, might seem to imply that Gym Ghingnham is the personification of Hope, but note that Loran seemed to evade the tendrils of the formation. Rather than a “creation”, then, perhaps it’s a “re-sealing” of Pandora’s Box, leaving Hope on the outside, wearing a stylish white pilot suit and clutching a broken sword.

Even though Turn-A Gundam was made in 1999, long before SEED and 00 were even contemplated, Turn-A is probably best seen as the conclusion to the whole Gundam cantos (can you tell I’ve been reading Dan Simmons [->] lately?), the moment where the endless wars of Gundam fame are finally laid to rest, and people get on with more important things, like “roleplaying Henry David Thoreau and/or Ralph Waldo Emerson” and “building buildings” and “not marrying Sochie” [->] (oops how did that last one slip in there?). A capstone, if you will–certainly fitting for Tomino’s last entry into the Gundam franchise (unless he’s persuaded otherwise).


I think, perhaps, my favorite part about the soundtrack–probably my favorite of Yoko Kanno’s, not that I’m a SUPER-EXPERT on Yoko Kanno’s prolific output–is the constand weaving of folk/ethnic/native musical themes into the soundtrack (I am going to call it “folk’ even if it isn’t, so TAKE THAT musical snartypants) . The first opening sequence [->] starts with throat singing of the words “Turn A” (and you don’t get more folkcore than throat singing, let me tell you), and many of the background pieces have a decidedly folk bent, especially the ones surrounding the Moon Hippies who have an extremely shamanic chant motif. The many versions of the second ending theme (“Tsuki no Mayu”/”Moon’s Cocoon”), too, are impressively folkish, with its rhythmic, entrancing drumbeats.

The nature of Turn-A lends itself well to the running folk themes, with its tale of death and rebirth, and the cyclical nature of everything sounding very much like animistic/spiritual teachings of various aboriginal cultures (you know, the ones who were going along just fine until some white devils showed up ….sound a bit familiar, perhaps?). Even Vicinity (and maybe Nocis City) had elaborate shamanistic rituals for the “coming of age” that centered around the White Doll/Turn-A.

In short: my rewatch of Turn-A Gundam was quite fruitful indeed. I think I have a deeper understanding of why I find it among the best Gundam series, something I think I felt innately when I first watched it, but, perhaps, not truly understood until later.

Or maybe I just really like pseudo-religio-spiritio-mythological mumbo-jumbo. This no doubt makes me a Nut Job, I am sure.

8 Responses to “Turn-A Gundam: Turning A Fresh Page”

  1. 1 Hisui 23 March 2009 at 4:07 pm

    1. I think I am one of the few people not to think that the ending of Turn A was that weird. I mean the Moonlight Butterfly was an odd attack to say the least but it fit with the weirdness of the show up to that point. All in all I found it easily understandable.

    2. I felt at the end of Turn A Gundam it was the Gym Ghingham faction vs everyone else that had gotten there arse kicked by Gym Ghingham and the Turn X. How much they worked together in this regard is another story.

    3. I mostly think that the Dianna Counter did a 180 mostly based on the fact Gym Ghingham was handing them their bums on a silver platter. A healthy dose of “You guys realize that you stink. You have Lt. Poe as one of your main leaders.” was what made them come crawling back more than any other factor.

    4. I guess my interpretation of the end was the Turn A symbolizes setting everything back to zero in a peaceful but deadly manner. Sort of a “I mercy kill parts of society to save the whole.” The Turn X is “I blow everything up to reset the world and hopefully it will go better this time”. In the end Loran rejects both ideas. This is why both the Turn A and the Turn X are sealed in the Moonlight Butterfly. He feels that society has to move away from violence becuase people want to change not becuase you throw away their tools of war.

    That was my interpretation anyway.


    Spoilers Below

    5. Also Loran is a fool for passing up on Sochie. She would have jumped his bones so hard the Turn A would have felt it. Instead he gets a pretty chaste relationship with the awesome but not as awesome Diana. Unless you want to believe that they were shagging on the side. I like to think that.

    Still bad choice Mr. Cehack. Bad choice.


  2. 2 Dorian Cornelius Jasper 1 April 2009 at 1:11 am

    All this talk of Yoko Kanno’s contributions, but not a mention on how awesome the OPs are.

    Especially Century Color.

    I mean that not in a thematic analysis way, but in a “Yeah, those are awesome” way.

    As far as its relation to the entire franchise: I like to think this thematically wraps up every Gundam that was, is, and will be. Compare the themes of SEED and 00 to Turn A, and you can definitely see Turn A being the answer to both, despite being made years prior.

    (Amusingly, I’m also a fan of the Megaman Legends games more than the other series in that franchise, and it’s the “Turn A” of the Megaman franchise, too. In more ways than one.)

    • 3 OGT 5 April 2009 at 9:55 am

      Oh, yes. Yes. The Turn-A music, taken as music separate from the series, is amazing. Both openings (Turn A Turn and Century Color) are my favorite Gundam opening songs ever (I think STAND UP TO THE VICTORY might be encroaching on their territory, though), and all the versions of the second ED (Tsuki no Mayu), especially the Gabriela Robin version, are the second-best Gundam ED (Prototype catapulted into first there).

      And, yes: Turn-A is the end of everything. For Tomino’s Gundam swan song, it’s perfect.

  3. 4 vannyx 31 October 2009 at 2:28 pm

    i was kind of dissapointed. I watched the whole thing and i got the whole piece thing. I know apart of gundam is the constantly switch sides and it could be because i got a bad translation. But i felt it was very clear. The ending fight seemed unecessary. They could have gone so much deeper wit this. Like the corporal, he was from the dark history but they didnt flesh out his character very well. Sochie got the shaft, she wanted Loran from day one, it just seemed very inconstant with Lorans character, i dont feel that Loran the way they portrayed him would have broken Souchies heart like that, I really hope he married the queen at the end because if he didnt based on the character i saw in the show he probably would have taken Souchie with him. Also the combat sucked, it was like going to a strip club , having a stripper show boob then covering up and walking off stage.

    So great its not about the fight, then the politics really sucked. Guin doesnt really seem to have a way with peope because he gets betrayed way too much.

  4. 5 Maximillion Jenius 14 July 2012 at 9:37 am

    Turn A is one of the MOST original AU gundam series for me, aside from Gundam G and X. Yes, when I said original I really meant that it is original. The ideas and the kind of environment that it wanted to imply to its viewers is more memorable than Wing’s super Robots. Perhaps that’s the main reason that despite it’s flamboyant and “exotic” mech designs I still held it on a higher ground compared to seed, wing, 00(second season and awakening of trailblazer) or even UC’s double zeta(*coughs*). So back to the topic, Turn A is original to set that mech design for the titular gundam. Though it may seem weird, that mustache really made me intrigue with the series, hence, I ended up finishing it; that samurai clash and debate( well their topic is somehow interesting to me). Although turn A was the Lord of all Deus Ex Machina, Loran avoided as much as possible the means of using the moon light butterfly contradicting that GN particles and Trans Am in 00 to solve any conflicts; as well as the zero system uniting the G-boys in wing. So….. Great post dude. I’m really glad that there are fellow viewers out there who still appreciates this Odd show.

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