Mecha Monday: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Finale Impressions [Spoilers]

[Due to how brilliantly integrated Gundam Unicorn is, this post will contain spoilers not only for Gundam Unicorn, but for other Universal Century entries, including Zeta Gundam, Char’s Counterattack, and Gundam F91.]

unicorn 7

Gundam Unicorn Episode 7: A Newtype Hope

More than a year has passed since the previous episode came out, and the feature length finale couldn’t have come soon enough. With high expectations set and many questions needed answering, the final episode goes above and beyond what it set out to do. Not only does it end rather well, but it provides closure for Char’s Counterattack and the early UC era at large. While its attempts to bridge the early and later UC eras are arguable, and while it uses “space magic” a bit liberally for the UC era, it has a solid enough plot, meaningful culmination to the various character developments in the series, and is entertaining through and through.

The easiest place to start with when talking about this episode is that the first third of the episode or so has some of the best mecha choreography and action I’ve seen, with great emphasis placed on the normal, grunt suits. Unfortunately, I’m not too familiar with the names of many of the Federation or Zeon grunt units, but Gundam Unicorn has always been great about featuring the units that do the heavy work, and this episode is no different. In the end, I suspect Bandai will sell a great number of kits of these grunt units, so it works out for everyone involved. I was a little disappointed to find that the Full Armored Unicorn did not show up as much, as it was immediately locked in battle with the Banshee from the outset of the episode, and by the time the Unicorn breaks away, it already lost a good deal of its full armor capabilities.

On the other hand, this episode introduced a new (or maybe not so new) mobile armor, the Neo Zeong. It houses the Sinanju, and ultimately makes a nice reference to two of Char’s major mobile suits at once. It easily went toe to toe with both the Unicorn and the Banshee, serving as a great check against the boundless strength of the two Unicorns. That being said, they still grow immensely out of proportion when they stop a colony laser all by themselves.

Unfortunately, not every character makes it out of this episode alive. While the death count is nowhere near something like Zeta, Marida’s death is quite shocking, if not unexpected. Her death creates trauma for characters both close and not so close to her, chiefly her surrogate father Zinnerman, and her killer, Riddhe. Marida, a Cyber Newtype in the Ple series of clones, is similar in role to Zeta Gundam’s Four Murasame, but she developed quite a lot more, and eventually starts to become more like a real Newtype, helping to develop more of the philosophy behind the Newtypes.

One character that didn’t wind up receiving much development was Full Frontal’s commander, Angelo Sauper. His fanatical obsession with Full Frontal stood out throughout the episodes, and though he did play a role in this episode (and receive some Full Frontal-related development), his past was unfortunately not explored. While it’s not unthinkable to believe that Banagher spared him, his remaining role becomes a little awkward. His fate is different in the novels, and it seems to flesh out his character more than anything else (and also makes him a bit of a male counterpart to Marida), so its exclusion in the episode is perhaps a little awkward.

Neo Zeong: It's like a conglomeration of every Zeon Mobile Armor.

Neo Zeong: It’s like a conglomeration of every Zeon Mobile Armor.

The plot of this episode cuts right into why the Universal Century was created, what it intended to do, and why it went horribly wrong. The Laplace’s box that everyone in Gundam Unicorn was fighting over turned out to be the original Universal Century charter. While it was believed the charter was replicated accurately, one amendment was strategically left out:

In the future, should the emergence of a new space-adapted human race be confirmed, the Earth Federation shall give priority to involving them in the administration of the government.

This line alone was supposed to advance humanity into the future, and easily prepare humanity to evolve. Its exclusion has had the exact opposite effect, and has turned the Universal Century into a cesspool of corruption and stagnation. With this revelation, the foundations for the three courses of action had been laid. The Federation’s past-facing obsession with destroying the box and keeping this revelation secret, Full Frontal’s present-facing desire to keep the box sealed and use it as a bargaining chip, and Banagher and Mineva’s future-facing wish to open the box and unleash the possibility on the world that was sealed a century ago.

Ultimately, the future-facing ideology was what Syam Vist had in mind from the beginning, as the colony builder on Industrial 7 houses an enormous communications platform that Mineva uses to broadcast the true intent behind the creation of the Universal Century, and we see that those in charge at the Federation finally begin to accept that they may not be in charge any longer. Regrettably, Banagher and Mineva’s actions may not have had any effect, as the Federation is still around in the later Universal Century. However, judging by the waning power of the Federation displayed in Gundam F91, I believe Banagher and Mineva’s efforts did not go to waste.

Char’s Counterattack may have been critical about Newtypes in the past, Gundam Unicorn is almost entirely optimistic about the potential that Newtypes represent. Smartly, Unicorn is a little careful about trusting Newtypes unconditionally, as the box and the Unicorn itself have safeguards that prevent anyone but true Newtypes from using them.

The ultimate team-up.

The ultimate team-up.

Speaking of Newtypes, Unicorn seems to have finally centered in on the central philosophy behind the Newtypes. It’s always been clear that Newtypes are the next stage of evolution of humanity, but the potential they can achieve has always been mysterious. The abilities of Newtypes grew as the Universal Century grew, starting with advanced reaction speeds and spacial awareness, through using special technology to channel the spirits of the dead, all the way to creating enough kinetic force to stop a colony drop.

Unicorn establishes that Newtypes don’t die the way traditional humans do. They leave their bodies behind, but their souls ascend to a higher plane of existence. This naturally comes with a few perks, such as being able to appear as a spirit to other Newtypes, or having a larger grasp of the flow of time than humans do. Their abilities seem to tend toward the fantastical, but ultimately seem like natural extensions of the abilities of Newtypes established in earlier works.

Episode 7 finally gives us a clue as to what happened to Char and Amuro. After Full Frontal’s metaphorical (or metaphysical) exploration of time with Banagher gives us an awesome One Year War vignette, we see what happens to a pair of mobile suits that get enveloped by the combination of the energies created by the two machines’ psychoframes, called a psycho-field. This power is what stopped Axis from crashing to Earth, is what ultimately consumed Amuro and Char, and is what allows spirits to manifest. In this manner, this episode revealed that, though Full Frontal is a Cyber Newtype created in Char’s image, Full Frontal was influenced very much by the spirit of Char; the psycho-field created between the Unicorn and the Neo Zeong finally allowed Lalah, Char, and Amuro move on.

In the end, Gundam Unicorn sought to prove itself in a timeline that is already established, and did that and more. Not only did it convincingly tell a story that bridged the gap between the early and later UC eras, and in the process legitimize the role of Newtypes, but it also successfully expanded the philosophies created in Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam, and Char’s Counterattack through a greater understanding of the abilities of Newtypes, and in the process also helped to explain what happened to Char and Amuro, and finally allowed the two of them to find peace. While it stumbles over the use of space magic, the final episode resolved the plot and character developments in a solid and entertaining episode.

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A mad scientist who's so cool!

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A mad scientist who's so cool!

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