All wars have their own heroes, and the little war in Side 6 had theirs in Bernard Wiseman. Bernie was a shit pilot, caused the death of his team, and ended up becoming a hamburger for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. How does this mountain of fail make him a hero?
Achievement-wise, the only thing Bernie proved was that you can incapacitate a highly-advanced prototype MS with Santa balloons, grenades, and a heat hawk. But that isn’t my point. The thing that makes him a hero is that he chose to fight the Alex with a measly Zaku. He didn’t decide to continue his mission out of duty (though the Cyclops Team’s death did affect him largely), but he felt responsible for the continued survival of Side 6. He was underequipped, demoralized and had the means to desert. But he didn’t flee. Never mind the nuke threat being a moot point. For all intents and purposes, Bernie died for our sins.
0080 is one of the few Gundam shows that portray a Gundam as a perceived evil in the eyes of the protagonist. The Alex, beautifully designed by Yutaka Izubuchi (who also did the Patlabor mechs) and sporting ARM CANNONS OF RAPE, existed as a target that Zeon wanted to be destroyed, even trying to resort to using nukes on an otherwise peaceful colony. Simply put, if the Alex never existed at all, things would have ended up differently, and Bernie and Chris wouldn’t have had to kill each other (unknowingly and unwillingly). Never have I, in my years of being a Gundam fan, wanted a Gundam to just not exist in the first place.
It makes us wonder what could’ve happened if there was no war going on. Would Bernie and Chris get along? Maybe, or maybe not. But at least there wouldn’t have been any human hamburgers. (What if Al had reached Bernie in time about the news of Zeon surrendering? And then again, what if Misha didn’t unload all of his stuff on the Scarlet Team? Or if the Cyclops Team reached the Alex in the very beginning? It could go on.)
Arguably, 0080 is the most “real” robot out of all Gundam shows. Never mind 08th MS Team and Shiro’s unbelievable love hax. Here, war is depicted as real as it could be, in an isolated civilian colony with a peace that could be disrupted any moment. The show doesn’t portray war as pretty or exciting or “more animated shell casing porn plz”. People die in grisly and ignoble ways. No one got off better from the War in the Pocket. No one.
But did Bernie really die for nothing? No, because of Al. Thanks to his experiences with Bernie, he is forced to grow up, and the scene where he feels sorrow instead of excitement over seeing scavenged war paraphernalia is heart-wrenching. He can no longer go back to the days of bashing GMs as shit, seeing blood and gore firsthand. And Bernie entrusts his will to him. Don’t hate the Feds, he says in his final message to Al. I cried along when he burst into tears while talking to Chris, who was the unwilling antagonist all along–she escaped with nothing but a cast and a wistful interest in That Guy Whom She Walloped Days Ago.
Chris of MAHQ couldn’t have put it better:
In Gundam Wing, hundreds of people could die in one episode, and it’s meaningless. In this series, one person dies, and it means everything. That is the sign of a good series.
This is one show you should watch (and rewatch) during Christmas season. As long as there is thought of war in this world, it shall endure the test of time, with its poignant display of heroism.