“Mankind possesses a god.
The inner god called Possibility.”
- Cardeas Vist
Already a stark contrast line from the thematic “Mankind’s souls are bound by gravity” used throughout the Universal Century prior to this. Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) is the latest Gundam animated series entered into the Universal Century calender, placed in the untold era between the end of Char’s Counterattack and Gundam F91.
Just warning you now that this WILL be spoiler heavy, so please continue at your own risk.
For the last 35 years, the term “Universal Century” was synonymous with endless war and bloodshed, something that just seems expected after the One-Year War and all conflicts that had sparked from the embers of that war. However, Unicorn paints this picture as the result and not the cause, as previously thought for years, thanks to an untold incident that happened almost 100 years before - A terrorist attack on the Earth Federation’s Prime Minister’s satellite residence, Laplace, at the dawn of the Universal Century...
Laplace’s Box. A secret object said to be able to topple the Earth Federation or even destroy the world if used by the wrong men for the worst intentions. It’s an interesting plot device for a Gundam series, and very different from anything used before. What this item truly means to either side of the conflict, or the world itself, is revealed by the end of the series. And while, if you’ve seen Gundam F91 or V Gundam, you might be thinking why this is important at all. I will get into that toward the end of this.
This retrospective will follow 3 parts, the characters, the myths, and the themes.
Banagher Links is a typical Gundam protagonist in the sense that he is an adolescent who finds a Gundam and is thrown into a battle he doesn’t understand. Past that, he’s very different from all the other pilots who came before him, both chronologically and universally. Banagher is a far more thoughtful child, but also a bit of a blank slate. He very much represents the viewers of the series and voices out to question all the tropes pre-established by those that came before. From why adults do the illogical things they do that lead to war to why he was chosen by the Gundam in the first place.
He seems to instantly connect to those he speaks to in ways that make him a focal point in some form or fashion. His connections to these people may not have only effect them, personally, but those around them.
- Audrey Burne (or rather, Mineva Lao Zabi) simply wanted to nip the crisis in the bud before things got out of hand. While fruitless, her encounter with Banagher starts to put her slowly at ease when this unknown boy who wants to help proves there’s something more within. Years of trust issues and sheltered views seem to fade away as he progressively shows that he could change this world. And even though she has moments of coldness probably endowed by her time with Haman Karn on Axis, her innocence and greater desires eventually melt that icy exterior and allows her to trust in people - Something that completely counters the way she had been raised, prior.
- Riddhe Marcenas, a Londo Bell pilot and child of a political figurehead who sought maintaining the status quo to avoid more potential bloody resolutions, found a rival in Banagher, who seemed to be the embodiment of “manifest destiny.“ And as his own feelings for Mineva start to emerge, his views start to skew further and further from well-judged, leading him to thinking Newtypes as a whole should be erased, and even going as far as to take the lives of two enemies that were actually coming around to Banagher’s point-of-view…
- Marida Cruz. Also known as Ple-Twelve, a young woman who thought of herself as nothing but a combat unit called a pilot, built to serve her master, started to develop a mind and heart of her own after fighting against the Unicorn’s pilot. Her existence being cloned for war, she begins to actually gain a happy mindset once held by her progenitor Elpeo Ple, though more matured. She begins to see her master, the war-torn Zeon captain Suberoa Zinnerman, as more of a father, to which the vice-versa was already true. Like Banagher, she, too, seems to be able to open the eyes of people astray, like she had done for Banagher and even for her own murderer, Riddhe, who in her awakened spirit visage, showed him and everyone aboard the Nahel Argama the correct path and focus. Her sacrifice calmed the raging heart of someone who thought he had lost everything important, and showed him the true target of their misery.
- Full Frontal, the man who sought to continue Char Aznable’s legacy. When Banagher first encountered him in combat, Frontal - or perhaps Char himself - saw immediately the potential that lied within. Another soul as strong his own. And even with Banagher performing something only Amuro Ray had done before him, Frontal’s view of this light is simply as another sign of mankind’s ignorance to the possibility that they hold. And even in their final battle, he tries his best to persuade the young Newtype into joining his cause and showing him how vain his fight is. Banagher’s will once again invokes the light of the human heart to the ghost of Char, showing him mankind’s potential. Finally convinced, with help from his lost love Lalah Sune, Char himself ceases his battle, leaving Frontal an empty shell, and imbuing with Banagher the final words “It’s in your hands, now. Do what you believe you must.” Banagher single-handedly quelled the roaming soul of a man who lived so strongly to hate mankind, and sincerely convinced him that possibility will someday show itself - something even he may not have believed at first. But all it took was a princess to fall from the sky to start the wheels of destiny to turn.
It is strongly hinted in one scene that he was trained at a young age as a cyber Newtype before being taken away from his home by his mother, who died some time afterwards, before the start of the series. His memories of this time seemingly wiped or repressed, he seeks to find his place in a world he feels insignificant and alone in. While he did start out a cyber Newtype, his abilities strengthened naturally afterwards from trials and experiences, making him if not the most powerful Newtype to exist, the most “perfected” Newtype to exist. I plan to cover this in further detail in another part.
His naivety, I feel, is in tribute to his blank-slate status. However his leaps of logic always cut deep, giving the viewer the thought of “wait, did he actually say that?” In more than one instance, he crumbles the thoughts and methods of those more hard-hearted and stubborn than him, including the cog-in-the-machine Daguza Mackle or the revenge-seeking Zinnerman. Unlike other UC Gundam protagonists, he is very pacifistic and truly believes that conflicts are not the solution when lives are at stake, and seemingly gains the respect and admiration of even those that once rival him. A lot of people complain that his pacifism makes him a whiny and weak MC to Gundam, but those who think that, I believe, are truly missing the point of not just Unicorn, but Gundam as a whole. And while it does feel much more like a shonen-genre trope like Dragon Ball or Naruto, it’s a breath of fresh air for Gundam, since the last time we got a protagonist like this was Loran Cehack and Shiro Amada.
From wanting to belong in a vast world, to fighting in a battle he never wanted to be a part of. Learning he can take the reins of fate and change the tides of conflict, shining the light of the human heart to all mankind. Gundam UC manages to finally take the protagonist from the bleak horrors caused by war and still show that no matter what sorrows take place, there always lies hope and possibility, living by the power of just two words: