[This is a special guest post by ghostlightning]
For the third year straight, I’ve rewatched Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket just before Christmas. I believe it’s become the ideal anime tradition; well, at least Gundam fans if not robot anime fans as a whole.
Christmas time is when the year is also winding down, a time to meet friends and family, reconnect and renew. It’s a time perfectly suited for nostalgia, and tradition shares a sphere with nostalgia in the great venn diagram of everything.
War in the Pocket was a celebration of Gundam’s core audience coming of age… a good decade since the original series aired. The kids who watched Mobile Suit Gundam are becoming or have become physical adults. It was then perfect to tell a story that speaks directly into the psyche of a Gundam fan.
The allegory here is that Alfred and his 11 year-old peers are robot cartoon fans who have this naive picture of war and violence; oblivious to the real risks and costs, while they fawn over the weapons and technology… of course the piloted robots in particular.
Among his friends, and especially after his immersive and trying experience with both Chris of the Federation and Bernie of the Principality’s respective armed forces, Al finds himself transformed. He could no longer be the kind of war/weapons/military junkie his friends were.
It’s as if Gundam, the franchise itself was saying:
“It’s okay that you’ve changed, and can’t get into these cartoons the same way you used to 10 years ago. We’ll try to change with you, and give you shows like War in the Pocket, but we both know it’s different between Gundam and you as an adult. We’ll be okay that you won’t be as into the more naive, sillier, and youthful shows we’re going to make as alternatives to the Universal Century. But we won’t forget you. Every now and then we’ll come up with these videos just for you.”
True enough, the franchise went back to TV with alternatives to the original story while remaining modeled after it, with W, G, (even V), X, (even Turn A), until last decade’s SEED, 00, and this decade’s AGE. For the older and aging fans, OVAs like Stardust Memory, 08th MS Team, and Unicorn were made.
War in the Pocket came not long after Char’s Counterattack, which at the time closed out the main conflict in the Universal Century. 0080 let us back into that conflict, what we know and love about Gundam, while trying its best to give us stories that grow up with us.
This is also why “oldfags” are utterly faggoty for the UC while excessively faggoty against AU Gundam shows. They lack the perspective of the crossroads that faced the franchise a decade into its existence. It was always going to be about Alfred’s friends, they’re a renewable resource. But Alfred is the fan of the original series, and he grew up, as some fans over the decades will grow up and discover the UC and its more adult stories and perhaps, like Al, will never be the same.