The Hamburger That Ends the Hatred

[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.

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6 Responses to The Hamburger That Ends the Hatred

  1. schneider says:

    I’ve grown up, in the respect that I demand mecha anime to be good, either in action or in story (esp. the narrative’s usage of mecha). Before, I used to tell myself, “if it has robots, I’ll watch it.” That is no longer true. I’ve watched a lot of mecha anime, good and bad, and I have less tolerance for the dull and unenjoyable.

    With this, I feel increasingly alienated from mecha fans, because their idea of good is different. I would dare to be arrogant and say my standards are better, but I can no longer be as passionate as they are in their areas of interest. Especially when the bashing of shows start (SEED, Code Geass, Macross Frontier, Evangelion, whatever’s hateable at the moment). Not that I’ve become a grumpy old fan, but I’ve decided to just not bother.

    0080, I think, I would never tire of. If there’s anything oldfag in me, I sincerely wish that the next Gundam show would take notes on how War in the Pocket depicted war as A Bad Thing. Not with Newtypes, Jesus Yamato, or aliens, but with plain, honest people who could’ve gotten along but tragically ended up otherwise.

    • I’m with you here. But there’s one thing that I realized through this viewing, and especially in relation to AGE finishing up this year, is that I’m on board with the impossible project: Gundam TV.

      It’s easier to make an good adult OVA. Band of Zakus would make everyone jizz.

      What’s more difficult and more worth doing is a 50 episode TV Gundam. Something for the kids, something to get them behind cheering for and buying robots piloted by heroes, villains, and soldiers.

      How do you show lots of fast fighting action without glorifying violence?

      How do you show really bad people, then deal with them as enemies without presenting death as the best kind of justice.

      How do you make the wronged heroes win justice and become happy in the end as opposed to broken (like Kamille), without being lectured into submission (like Flit).

      How do you make Gundam not become a saint, an angel, a redeeming god on the battlefield? Or, how do you make Gundam a saint, an angel, a redeeming god on the battlefield WITHOUT sparkly deux-ex-Gundam powers?

      Tomino got away with many things by not making his series conclusive (and by being okay with bitterness). But a modern AU show must be conclusive. There is a world after Gundam without Gundam being necessary. How do you do it, without copying Turn A?

      • schneider says:

        Those questions you came up should be hung up on the next Gundam TV project’s whiteboard.

        I have but a glimmer of hope, considering the amount of executive meddling involved especially for a studio’s flagship TV series.

        I’m most interested in this question:

        How do you make Gundam not become a saint, an angel, a redeeming god on the battlefield? Or, how do you make Gundam a saint, an angel, a redeeming god on the battlefield WITHOUT sparkly deux-ex-Gundam powers?

        Gundam has become these things. The name and the visage have ascended to mythical status, and I would love a new take on this.

        • omo says:

          Those questions you came up should be hung up on the next Gundam TV project’s whiteboard.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if it was already.

          I think people take Gundam TV seriously. You can see all of this stuff being thought through in series like SEED and 00.

      • Matt Wells says:

        How do you make Gundam not become a saint, an angel, a redeeming god on the battlefield?

        Easy. Make the show about three factions or more. Give each of them the SAME Gundam. The same week Pacifist Jesus main character uses it to end all war, Enemy Ace uses it to blow up a bus full of crippled war orphans.

        Demonstrate that a Gundam is as morally neutral as a knife or a gun, entirely shaped by the purpose of the user. SO BASICALLY TETSUJIN 28, YEAH.

        Alternatively, remake Legend of the Galactic Heroes and give them Giant Robots. Done and dusted.

        • schneider says:

          That could work if the franchise in question wasn’t Gundam. If I were a producer, then I’d have all three be painted differently with varying weapons, let Pacifist Jesus win (or sway the others to his side, then have them fight a bigger enemy together)…

          Still, neat idea!

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