The White Base has finally touched down on Earth and the crew have earned themselves a lovely vacation on a beach. Sadly, this isn’t your typical anime and a beach episode doesn’t call for a filler full of fanservice. Instead, Amuro must deal with being torn between the safety and comfort of his past and the necessity of his future with the Federation.
We take a look at a particularly bittersweet episode of Mobile Suit Gundam today in “Coming Home.”
1. A Much Needed Respite
This episode marks perhaps the biggest shift in terms of format and tone that we’ve seen so far. Throughout the season, the hunt for the White Base has always opened with a modicum of tension, reminding viewers that the Zeon forces are always not far behind. Being on Earth, however, the dynamics have changed and it’s less of a hunt and more of a journey behind enemy lines. This allows a brief respite for the crew of the White Base as they touch down by a beach.
This respite does wonders for the characters and the audience, allowing us to see them live a life outside of the constrains of war. They can shed their uniforms, enjoy the sun and some training and splashing in the water. It reminds us, again, of the purest forms of human connection that, as the episode explores as it progresses, are often buried by conflict and war.
2. Hierarchy Of Earth-dwellers
One of the interesting things brought up by Kai in this episode is the idea that those living on Earth are the “elite.” Despite Fraw Bow’s insistence that Amuro grew up distanced from his mother on Side 7, Kai simply writes him off for still having a house on Earth. And yet, the reality is that those living on Earth are subject to the whims of the Zeon and Federation forces. They are living at the heart of a war zone.
I’m sure we’ll see more of the Earth-dwelling elites like Icelina’s family at Garma’s party a few episodes ago, but it’s something that struck me as short-sighted to write off anyone still living on Earth to be part of the elite. The episode goes on to explore just how wrong that is by showing people struggling to get by with oppression from both Zeon and Federation soldiers.
3. The Complacency Of Occupation
A bit of a running theme in this show seems to be how soldiers on both sides of this war can be awful. Upon returning home, Amuro finds his house ransacked by alcoholic Federation soldiers with no respect for him or anything around them. What struck me about this is how the show doesn’t distinguish either side of the Fed/Zeon conflict as inherently heroic. These are Federation soldiers who have become complacent in their duty to protect civilians and have let the power of that position go to their head.
The Federation soldier who mocks an elderly woman by throwing money on the ground for her to pick up is shown to be just as awful as the Zeon soldiers who terrorise a refugee camp and bribe them with luxuries for food. The show holds neither ideology above the other and so is free to explore the actions of the individuals who embody those ideologies and how they interact with the world around them.
4. A Reunion
This has been teased since the very earliest episodes, Amuro’s reunion with his mother. Truth be told, I wasn’t quite expecting it to take place this early in the show. Nor was I expecting the developments throughout the episode. The reunion starts off pretty much how you’d expect with a tearful embrace between mother and son, but it all goes a bit tits up when Amuro guns down a Zeon soldier to protect him self from being found out.
It’s this moment when Amuro chooses the Federation over his family and it’s honestly heartbreaking. The show plays it surprisingly small, not over-embellishing the moment and letting Amuro’s saluted farewell speak volumes for where the character has come after all that he’s experienced. If this is a show about exploring human connections beyond the manufactured ideologies of war, Amuro is a character study in losing ones humanity to defend the ideology.Continued below
5. The Terror Of Gundam
Speaking of Amuro losing his humanity, the episode ends with the Gundam destroying a forward Zeon base in the nearby mountains (admittedly, after performing a sweet mid-air transformation from the Core fighter) which really showcases the devastating might of the Mobile Suit. Descending upon the base like stoic destruction, this is the point where the show drops all semblance of “Look! Cool robots!” and reminds us all that these Mobile Suits are instruments of war and when their emotionless facsimiles of humanity rains death on a base, it’s horrifying.
It also feeds back into what Amuro has been experiencing these past few episodes. He’s moved past that dissociative trauma into pure aggression, dropping empathy in order to more efficiently defend the White Base and kill Zeon soldiers. It’s just as harrowing, but something about Amuro losing his humanity is particularly bittersweet.