We’re back! Last week, I embarked on a mission that I’ve been trying to force myself into for years now: finally sitting down to watch Mobile Suit Gundam. Despite being somewhat surprised by how dated the animation style of the show was, I was incredibly impressed by the maturity of the storytelling in just the first episode.
That continues as we look at my Five Thoughts on Mobile Suit Gundam‘s “Destroy Gundam!” Will you survive?
1. Evacuating Side Seven
This episode has one hell of a dark opening, with Side 7 being attacked by Zeon Forces and the continuing evacuation of the civilians. It’s strange because immediately we see that even thought the very ’70s animation feels cartoonish and a little silly in hindsight (to me, at least) the actual storytelling is an incredibly mature look at the way lives are affected by war. We see Fraw Bow evacuating children from the Side amidst a war zone while parents search for their lost children. It’s pretty heavy stuff.
What I loved, though, was the thought and attention to detail put into the animation and the storytelling of the episode. During the evacuation, the White Base is staffed with replacement operators in place of the injured and we see them coaching these civilians and children in how to operate such a massive war machine. Especially the moment where the acting captain, Bright Noa, tells the helmsmen to give these new operators time to respond to commands. It’s little touches that add such realism to the storytelling through the characters and incredibly impressive.
2. Fraw Bow, Thrust Into War
While Amuro gets to do cool shit like pilot a giant robot, Fraw Bow has to deal with the real shit and it’s pretty fucking harrowing, to be honest. There’s still that sense of dissonance inherent in this art and animation style paired with such emotional storytelling. She’s the character we follow the most during the worst of the evacuation, cleaning the wounds of the captain and evacuating children even though she’s only a teenager.
We even see her venture out back into Side 7 during the fighting to look for more survivors with Sayla and show that even in the face of such danger she’s braver than most of the men in this show. There’s even a moment where she reminisces on her life on Side 7 and just weeps because all it is now is rubble and discarded memories. It’s rough going and I really wonder where they’re going with her character after experiencing something like this.
3. Char Comes Into Focus
We didn’t get much of Char last episode, only learning about him in juxtaposition to what we learned of Amuro, but he really comes into his own here. We see him command the Zeon forces to capture Gundam and he’s shown to be incredibly tactically smart for his age. At least, I’m assuming he’s fairly young compared to the other Zeon officers around him. Char manages to sneak into Side 7 in the middle of an evacuation without the use of a Mobile Suit. He just waltzes right in, it’s incredible to see character traits like this explored through visual storytelling and allowing the actions of the character to speak to who there are.
We even get to see Char unmasked for the first time when he’s confronted by Sayla later in the episode. Sayla, who… looks just like him? They’re setting up something with Artesia (Char’s sister?), but that’s interrupted by Amuro in Gundam before the audience has time to let that sink in.
4. Amuro Ray, Smartest Kid In The World
Speaking of Amuro, one of the things I know about this series going into it is the Newtype stuff, albeit in very vague terms. However, the show is already starting to foreshadow developments with his character. We know he’s a talented mechanic, but he’s shown almost to be a prodigy here being able to pilot the Gundam after a brief look at the instruction manual. This isn’t really Amuro’s episode, though, it focuses more on the side characters like Fraw Bow and Sayla during the evacuation and Char during his infiltration of Side 7.Continued below
We do get an interesting moment where Amuro hesitates before firing on Zeon soldiers. He may be a skilled pilot, but the show is quick to remind you he’s still a kid thrust into a war. In the end, we see him in battle for the first time and while he holds his own, he’s rattled. And what’s more, he doesn’t even seem to realise that shooting down the Zaku murdered Slender. He can’t bring himself to fire on soldiers, but can easily dispatch a Mobile Suit because he can’t see the face of the pilot. It’s a strange dichotomy and I’m fascinated by how they’ll develop that.
5. Destroying Gundam
Something that interested me about this episode was how they need to destroy the unfinished Gundam parts. In fact, it’s what gives the episode it’s title; both Zeon and the Federation need to destroy Gundam. It’s set up well with the evacuation of Side 7 meaning that they can’t let the Zeon forces find out about their Mobile Suit technology. Destroying all traces of the Mobile Suit that’s clearly much more powerful than Zeon’s Zakus.
It’s also a clever way of making Amuro’s Gundam feel so unique this early in the series. It’s obviously the protagonist Mobile Suit, but making the fact that it’s truly one-of-a-kind into a plot point brings an extra weight to Amuro’s destiny as Gundam’s pilot.