After last week’s episode blew my socks off with a wild action setpiece that was fresh and original (despite being 40 years old) and used the environment of space in a unique way. This episode does much the same, even if it doesn’t nail the landing so much.
Join me as I finally journey through the original Mobile Suit Gundam and review it’s fifth episode, ‘Re-Entry To Earth!’ Will you be able to survive?
1. Amuro’s Backstory; Connecting Through War
So far, I’d say that Mobile Suit Gundam‘s story has been in a bit of rush. Each episode has focused on a new obstacle facing the refugees of Side 7 and hasn’t let up. None of them have had rest and, in a strange way, it feels like very little time has actually passed since the first episode. That also means that we haven’t had much time to just get to know the characters and see them interact in their downtime.
This episode opens with a pretty touching moment as Amuro uses his skills to fix one of the kid’s broken toy. We see that these people are connected by the ravages of the war between Zeon and the Federation, that many of them bear the same scars. We also get a hint at Amuro’s backstory with the notion that his mother should still be on Earth somewhere and a reminder that his dad’s whereabouts are still unknown since the first episode.
2. Char’s Genius At Play Once More
God, Char is just the coolest. I love that each episode has really ramped up each set piece and added a new and interesting environmental wrinkle each time. This episode, Char plans to attack the White Base while it enters Earth’s atmosphere. This is the kind of plan where the timing should be impossible and logistically should not work, but Char has been set up as such a tactical prodigy (remember the Luna II infiltration? yeah) that I can totally buy this.
3. Combat On A Deadline
One of the things I love about this show so far is how it uses the varying effects of space to affect the action sequences. We’ve seen Amuro plan an ambush so the sun is at his back in order to blind the Zeon forces. We’ve seen Char use mines in zero gravity to block the exits of the Luna II base with ships. Each and every episode has added a new environmental aspect to the action scenes and it’s just so cool.
In this episode, Amuro has to defend the White Base from Zeon’s Zakus within four minutes or the Gundam will burn up in re-entry to Earth. That’s… that’s the coolest shit I’ve ever heard. This brings some real fucking high stakes tension to the action as we’re wondering how Amuro could possibly defeat four Zakus in four minutes.
Turns out… well, you can’t. And this is maybe my one complaint about the episode is that it builds up these massive stakes and has a very specific time limit before Amuro gets atmosphere, but then he’s just fine. Gundam enters the atmosphere and is just chill. Now, I get that one element of this is to once again to showcase how impressive Gundam is, but it also felt very safe. It felt like the closest to cartoon storytelling this show has come.
4. Stretching Amuro Thin
The setpiece of this episode was not just about the deadline of hitting Earth’s atmosphere, but also showcased the advantage the Zakus have over Gundam: numbers. Amuro is becoming a good pilot over time, sure, and Gundam is certainly an impressive Mobile Suit, but while he toiled away trying to hit Char he left White Base and the shuttle completely vulnerable.
Yet trying to attack the three Zakus by himself leaves him vulnerable to be blindsided by Char. It’s an interesting tactical conundrum this episode sets up which shows that Gundam’s power is offset but its limitations as a single Mobile Suit. I really hope this show continues to explore the downsides of Gundam being White Base’s lone defender instead of showing it as some god robot that can Superman through ever problem.
5. Kids At WarContinued below
One of the major themes of this show so far seems to be the generational divide of war. While the Zeon forces as a whole don’t seem too young, Char definitely does. Char leading his Zakus against the Federation feels like the war of the new generation fighting back against the old generation. That’s, again, something the feels currently relevant. Which makes it even more interesting that the White Base has had to rely on children and civilians to return to Earth. Almost all of it’s bridge crew and combat personnel are young and inexperienced, fighting for survival against the Zeon forces.
Yet we kind of see the justification of the Zeon ideology whenever the White Base crew meets an older Federation officer. They always seem to be gruffer, less open-minded and barking about courtmartialing kids for using military technology to save themselves. Maybe Amuro and Char are actually very similar, they just happen to be on the other side of this ideological divide that might not even be about them. I hope this thread gets explored later in the show.