After missing a week because of ill health, I’m back to look at an episode with an interesting history in Mobile Suit Gundam. As Amuro discovers as seemingly deserted island, he’s confronted a Zaku unlike any other piloted by a man that will rock Amuro’s stance in this war.
Let’s dive into what I thought about Mobile Suit Gundam‘s “Cucuruz Doan’s Island.”
1. Another New Opening
Surprisingly, this episode opens with yet another new opening. This was really unexpected, I assumed we’d be rocking that Zabi family focused opening for a while, but we’ve already moved on. Instead of focusing on the Zabi family’s rule of the Principality of Zeon, this opening explores the orbit of the Sides around Earth and the position of the various stations around Earth and around the Moon.
Curiously, the only mention of the Zabi family is of Gihren’s declaration of war against the Federation and a focus on the fact that he believes he can save humanity. It seems to hint at the more dictatorial aspects of the Principality that I think the show will explore more as it goes forward.
2. Running Docking Drills
We’ve seen the Core Fighter dock into the Gundam in midair before (and I remember marking out over it), but I appreciated this episode opening with Ryu and Amuro running drills to get it right. When they attempted it last time, it wasn’t aligned just right and Amruo had to scramble to not let the Gundam’s torso careen into the ground so running practices to get the alignment just right makes a lot of sense.
We get the feeling that there’s always some level of preparedness to the White Base, that even in the moments that we don’t see them, they’re getting ready for the next encounter with the Zeron forces. It also reminds us of the stress Amuro goes through every day to be ready.
3. Cucuruz Doan And The Peace Of War
Cucuruz Doan is an interesting one. Almost every serialised story about war and, specifically, the horror that war inflicts upon those wrapped up in it tells the same story of those still fighting in the war meeting a peaceful deserter who is roped back in to protect their new life. Hell, there’s even a Clone Wars episode about it.
What interests me about Cucuruz Doan (other than his name) is how he relates to what Mobile Suit Gundam has told us about Zeon thus far. In his backstory, we see that in buying into the Zeon ideology he distanced himself from his connection to humanity and it allowed him to commit horrible acts. In recognising that, he abandoned their ideology in an attempt to make reparations by protecting children. Where the real passion of this episode comes is in how it forces Amuro to examine the people behind the ideologies he’s fighting against and how they’re manipulated against each other.
4. The Terror Of A Zaku
Speaking of Doan’s backstory, that was rough. This series has had some pretty dark moments at times, but lordy, that was something else. Seeing it only through Doan’s nightmare only ended up heightening the horror of a 30 foot tall robot bearing down on a group of unsuspecting civilians and gunning them down. That one moment really solidified the Zeon ideology as cruel, for no matter how much they claim to be for the benefit of mankind, they paint the Federation as “the Other” in order to justify their destructive war against them.
This isn’t a war about freedom, it’s a war about eradication. And it was only once Doan could break that conditioning that he could connect with humanity once again. This episode wasn’t all together great (we’ll talk about that next), but the character study of Doan and what it said about Zeon was real interesting.
5. Keeping Up To Par
The story goes that in bringing Mobile Suit Gundam to America, series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino wasn’t happy with this episode. For whatever reason, he found it not up to par with the rest of the episodes, and cut it from the English dub. I wanted to cover it here as a) I’ve been watching the series in the original Japanese with subtitles anyway and b) I wanted to provide a complete picture of the series.Continued below
However, I can’t disagree with Tomino’s assessment of the episode. While I think excising it from the series’s English release was a bit harsh, this episode is certainly one of the weaker episodes I’ve seen so far. What it does explore in terms of Doan’s character is interesting, but there’s little else of substance beyond that. I do find it interesting that Tomino as a creator is someone who is continually re-evaluating his work and what he thinks doesn’t hold up.