Gundam 00 has been, for the certain sort of Gundam fan I am a bit of a ride (that is, if I can term myself a “Gundam fan” as I still don’t know how well I fit the bill despite fitting the bill pretty well). There’s a bit of something for everyone, though, carrying both a message that is easily grasped by those unfamiliar with the franchise’s nooks and crannies and a more subtle message distributed via little specks of Minovsky GN pixie dust particle intertext aimed more at the fans in the “know” as it were; for those whose primary concerns in fiction are less lofty the fights are pretty rockin’ and Kouga Yun can design characters to please any potential gender-based demographic and, if nothing else, you can at least take amusement in the fact that half of Setsuna F. Seiei’s lines are other people’s names (the other half is “Gundam”).
Although, honestly, even if people say them too much (as some might argue [->]), names are rather important in Gundam 00. More specifically, it’s the interwoven threads of connection between the large cast that the act of repeated nomenclature drives home. Nearly all the major players are, in some way, connected to each other through Six Degrees of Setsuna F. Seiei. Considering that half of the cast works at cross purposes to the other half, conflict is inevitable. Indeed, as Setsuna’s Innovation light envelops the Veda station, Andrei explains to Mary|Soma his reasons for hating Sergei: Sergei simply never tried to understand the pain and suffering Andrei underwent following the death of his mother. Mary|Soma simply replies “It was you who didn’t try to understand him.” Indeed, as the Rubber Band of Vengeance (where Hong Long, Wang Liu Mei, and Nena Trinity die in close succession, victims of their own conceits) taught us in episode 21, when you prioritize your own desires more than others in negative ways, retribution is sure to come. Even Louise, who managed to survive 21, briefly came upon the hollow satisfaction that is vengeance fulfilled; as the hate and rage melts away, only grief, regret, and sorrow remain.
Not all negative interactions need end in tragedy, however; simply by trying to understand one another can a conflict be resolved. Granted, in the real world, such resolutions are not nearly as tidy as in Gundam 00, but then we don’t have Setsuna’s magic GN particle pixie dust to aid and abet that quest (and neither, it seems, does the world of the epilogue). The only true villains in 00 are those who refuse to even attempt understanding another person; even the Innovades, claiming to be the “superior humans” and with telepathic powers, never even attempt this, apart from Anew Returner. In a sense, this makes Setsuna the worst offender in this regard: after his indoctrination by Ali Al-Saarchez in his youth, he spends nearly the entire series refusing to understand anyone and simply blindly following the ideology laid before him by Celestial Being and worships Gundam as a god that will bring deliverance from suffering. Only after Ribbons delivers a shock to his system does he understand the duality of it all, and resolves to bring about a new era himself using Gundam, rather than Gundam using him: an active rather than a passive role.
In that sense, the final battle is quite simple: Setsuna destroys both the 0 Gundam, his idealized image of Gundam, and the warped Ribbons who upset Aeolia Schenberg’s plan, who can no longer stoop to trying to understand another. Why bother understanding someone, when you can make them do what you want with just a flick of the wrist? But that, too, is where Ribbons is as wrong as Setsuna was: despite his protestations to the contrary, it is not he who leads the path towards the future, but others acting on his behalf. By pulling puppet strings, Ribbons is the ultimate at using an external force to bring about the new age he desires. Setsuna’s true Innovation, though, is not the GN particle pixie dust, but the realization that no external impetus can bring about change: not Celestial Being, not the A-Laws. Only an internal impetus can bring the desired change, as surely as it worked on Setsuna (literally and psychologically).
Even nastier, perhaps, is the franchise-wide message encoded in that final climactic scene: the external force is Gundam itself. The destruction of 0 Gundam, which resembles the famed RX-78-2 of yore, and the death of Ribbons, who is totally not Amuro Ray at all, points straight to the realization Setsuna had: Gundam cannot change the world, but those who watch it can. Rebirth? Renewal? Perhaps–with the recent announcement of a Gundam Unicorn movie, Gundam as a franchise clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but Gundam–all of Gundam–alone cannot bring about change: not to the world, not to Japan, not to any community, virtual or real, and not even to any one individual without their active participation in it. It is not magic. But it can spur on those who do have the ability to change, even in a minor, infinitesimal way. After all, is not reading a book (or listening to music, or watching a television program about robots beating the snot out of other robots), on a fundamental, basic level, an act of making an attempt at understanding another human being (be it a deeply intricate philosophical concept or simply “robots beating the snot out of each other is really cool” [->])? Even if you disagree with the other person in the end, you understand, or made a legitimate attempt to, and understanding often salves our more negative emotions.
In the end, even in the epilogue, the world is still not united, nor does it seem as though war is about to die. It’d be quite easy for the world to fall into chaos once more (just in time for the movie, no doubt). The important thing is that people are striving to construct that peace and that future themselves, rather than rely upon another to fix it.
We’re all in this together, with global consequences for mishandling things. Might as well make the best of it.