Flashbacks! – Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam 01 (Part 1/2)
Since I don’t really like the idea of blogging in mid-season, I’ve got a few more weeks to go before I can start tackling new shows. So I guess it’s as good a time as any to brush up on some shows that I’ve finished up in the past every now and then just to give things a little variety. As what’ll hopefully be a recurring feature on this blog, I’ll take some time to dissect some key episodes of series that are worth revisiting (be it for their good merits or otherwise…).
First up, the follow-up to the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam: Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
Having really only glossed over the original Gundam (no thanks in large part to the R1 DVD releases only featuring an English audio track), my knowledge of the Universal Century timeline was initially limited to just what was broadcast here in the states in the early 2000s (namely, the 08th MS Team OVAs) as well as simple conversations with more knowledeable fans. However, that all changed in 2005 when Bandai Entertainment decided to take a number of their Gundam licenses and reissue them into more affordable bundles. After quickly snapping up the 0080 and 0083 OVA series, I eventually found myself splurging on the repriced dual-disc volumes of Zeta as well.
So anyway with that backhistory done with, on to the actual episode itself. For a series premiere, there isn’t really much in the way of introductory material. In fact, director Yoshiyuki Tomino opts to throw the viewer out into space, tumbling around blindly across the void before eventually settling you into the cockpit with a seemingly random mobile suit ace pilot. After listening in on the conversation he has with two partners you quickly come to realize that they’re more or less badasses (in RMS-099 Rick Dias mobile suits no less, lol) out to do badass things (for some reason or another).
But just before we find out what they’re ultimately out in space to do we get treated to some kind of abrupt segue in which an Appalachian man-child martial artist impresses his juniors by literally crashing through a wood block. I kid you not:
As completely ridiculous awesome as that segue was, the introduction that Tomino elects to create for series protagonist Kamille Bidan quite possible even tops that. Apparently keen to adopt truancy as a means to escape the sideshow his senior is putting on for the class, Kamille promptly comes up with a lame excuse to literally dash out of the building but has the poor luck of running into the team captain. As many fans of the original Gundam may recall, Amuro’s emotional instability and ineptitude often called for Bright’s many-a-backhands to set him straight. So when Kamille tries the same lame dish to escape this time he gets treated to a series favorite:
After recovering surprisingly quickly, Kamille then continues his class-skipping ways to the tune of cheesy 80s pop when all of a sudden the trademark on-again, off-again series romantic interest pops up. In true stoic Gundam pilot form Kamille gives dainty, yet helmet-haired Fa Yuiry the cold shoulder which then gives rise to an even cheesier side-by-side conversational jog. As we see our heroes run through half the campus, we find out about one of Kamille’s insecurities, the fact that he has a feminine name. At first, it didn’t strike me as a girl’s name since this was the first time I had ever seen it, but given how you can easily change “Kamille” into “Camille” (which has a French origin, thank you wikipedia) and still have it sound the same. Still, not a common name here in America but whatever.
Several whizzy electric car rides, linear rail stations, and repetitions of that 80s pop theme later, Kamille happens to spot our three badass commando pilots doing a great job of maintaining their stealth approach on the space colony. In return the trio’s leader, Lt. Quattro Bajeena, feels a strange presence and speculates by evoking the names of the last Gundam boy wonder Amuro Ray and the googly-eyed Lalah Sune (btw, if you were a Gundam newbie heading into this series, BACK UP and at least read up on the events of the original Mobile Suit Gundam or else you end up missing out on a TON of references).
Things eventually shift back to Kamille and Fa, who’re still bickering like a married couple, at the space station. Anyway, it’s here where we finally learn that Kamille really skipped out on class just to fanboy One Year War veteran Cpt. Bright Noa and watch him pull his new ship (sheesh, going from a legendary assault carrier to a mere personnel/cargo shuttle…) into the hangar. Realizing they arrived too late to watch the landing, Kamille ducks into an adjacent hallway and just happens to run into the series’ overarching baddies, the elite Earth Federation Titan task force (amusingly misprounounced in the original Japanese as TEE-TAHN).
Amidst all the grunts are introductions to two more key characters in Zeta (the second of which I’ll be getting to a bit later). The first is a slick pompadour’d doucheface who serves as Kamille’s first real rival on the battlefield: Jerrid Messa. His first act? To be a Titan douche and call Kamille’s sexuality into question.
Granted assaulting a member of an elite military outfit isn’t the best way to keep on breathing, you have to remember that Kamille’s plot armor is destined to be the thickest of all in this series. So when a doucheface talks shit about your girly sounding name and has quite a few of his cronies (also supposedly highly efficient trained killers), Kamille has the luxury of having telegraphing a left straight to someone’s chin as a first option.
After a few seconds of Kamille completely destroying his soldier opponents (yeah, complete WTF), he’s eventually overpowered by sheer numbers when passing members of the military police decides to arrest Kamille and Fa for trespassing. With everything back under control and with Kamille pinned to the ground, Jerrid (his hair restored to its previously immaculate condition) proceeds to knocks Kamille out by punting him in the head.
With the kids’ adventure brought to an abrupt halt for the time being, the episode returns to Quattro’s mission outside the colony. Still having not been detected, he eventually decides on infiltrating the structure via a service port on the colony’s hull. He’s immediately spotted by a pair of engineers but quickly neutralizes them by splashing them with some kind of sticky adhesive via a finger spray (random weapon was random). While Quattro is busy sneaking around in the various ducts and tunnels in the colony’s superstructure, we’re briefly introduced to two men noticing anomalies as a result of Quattro’s break-in but fail to do anything about it. Amazing display of incompetence aside, we learn from them that the colony is known as Green Noa 2, a.k.a. it’s new moniker Gryps (not terribly important aside that the war that will be fought throughout Zeta will come to be known as the Gryps Conflict).
Eventually, Quattro gets tired of picking electronic locks and decides to blow shit up. His change in tactics rewards him with a straight shot into the actual cityscape situated on the interior of the colony. Cue some dramatic strings, a panoramic view of what seems to be a heavily industrial sector of the city where Quattro’s ultimate objective is hinted to be in, and we finally get treated to a nice commercial break…