[Spoilers for Gundam AGE]
Obright died, but not before treating us to an Oldtype-style beatdown where ingenuity trumps over genetic piloting talent. This I will remember. But Obright’s life is far more memorable than that.
He was a better character than Kio. Kio combines the skills of Usso Evin, the civilian sensibilities of Banagher Links, and all the worst bits of Kira Yamato. It is particularly damning that the final product of the Asuno Project is not the AGE system or the Gundam, but Kio himself. Kio exists to promote the pacifist Gundam message, the telling that war is bad, the hypocrisy of post-human pilots who fight while sparing lives, and their absolution.
Consider this: Obright has backstory. From an unremarkable pilot in the 2nd arc, to a grizzled veteran in the 3rd, Obright was two distinct characters. The 2nd arc invests in his maturation through loss. Obright the veteran was a man of few words, maintaining his distance even from his own team. It’s subtle, but the team greatly respects him, even Seric, his own superior. For a minor character, the show invested on him a lot.
Obright lost a loved one to the Vagan. But it did not make him bitter and develop a consuming hatred against the enemy, unlike Flit Asuno. This is noteworthy in the Gundam metaseries, where feuds are fueled by revenge, where pilots try to avenge their fallen comrades. If anything, Remi’s death taught Obright to value his friends more, to treat them as family. Obright’s life shows that war can do terrible things to a person, but that person need not let himself be defined by such tragedies.
Obright was loyal to his comrades, and merciless to his enemies. He didn’t put his allies in danger by taking chances. He didn’t fight with suicidal rage. He even tried to guide Kio in his own little way, showing the child some tenderness. The scene itself was sad. Kio was young enough to be his own son. The son he and Remi never had.
Obright had to die, in the tradition of Gundam grunt pilots. He had to die because he was an Oldtype. He was firmly set in his ways, as adults are. Those who are incapable of reaching enlightenment are incompatible with the anti-war message that post-Turn A Gundam puts out. This is a shame, since the very lecture that Gundam tries so much to preach to its audience is often its own narrative’s downfall.
But it was fitting when Obright died in front of the Diva. He, like the ship, were relics. It was time for them to go, to keep the tears flowing for the characters. I will not ask for more, like wish that he had survived in the end. I knew he was going to die the very first time I saw him.
(Isn’t this a bad thing? Gundam’s tropes are so established that we automatically decide the final fates of characters long before they themselves even meet it. The grunt pilots always have a high mortality rate.)
People say that the 3rd arc of Gundam AGE is a mistake. I believe it is very flawed, and nowhere near as good as the first two arcs, but we get isolated cases of good minor characters who would linger in one’s mind, even after their calculated demise.