It’s Monday, which means it’s time for another review and recap of an episode of Mobile Suit Gundam! This week, we’re jumping into episode 2, “Destroy Gundam,” which opens up with the continued siege of Side 7 by Char’s Musai battleship.
Once again, the show let’s you know it’s not going to pull punches – we immediately see the ship blow a hole in the colony, sucking people out into space. The hole is quickly sealed with strange, pink goop-bubbles that seem designed for this exact purpose, but the damage is done. Amid the chaos we see orphaned children (specifically, the trio of Katz, Letz, and Kikka, who will be sticking around for the remainder of the show) and a young woman screaming out for what we presume is her child. It’s a terribly bleak way to open an episode.
Things don’t get any easier from there, either – we cut to Captain Paolo, current Captain of the White Base, manning a defense turret. It’s here we meet another major character: Ryu Jose, a young cadet who by the end of the episode will be piloting the Core Fighter. Ryu is a nice guy, and it’s clear from this first appearance; even though he has little training, he’s prepared to take over the turret for Paolo so the Captain can see to other duties on White Base. Unfortunately, as the two are talking, the turret is hit by enemy fire and Captain Paolo gets a fistful of shrapnel to the chest, putting him out of commission for the moment.
The Captain’s tragic injury does help introduce us to another major character, though: Sayla Mass, who begins looking for people to help bandage the wounded Paolo. We don’t get much from Sayla right now, but in a few scenes she gets her chance to shine.
Once Paolo is recovered enough to talk, Bright informs him that every single soldier and engineer on Side 7 has been either killed or injured by the Zeonic incursion. Man, every single one, huh? Gene might’ve been an idiot whose impatience for glory may have ultimately cost Zeon the war, but apparently the dude was a pretty solid mobile suit pilot if he wiped out the whole base more-or-less on his own (sure, Denim was there, but he didn’t help all that much until the Gundam showed up).
It’s during this discussion with Paolo that we meet yet another important member of the White Base crew (writing these recaps has really made me realize how large of a cast Gundam has). Mirai Yashima – “of the famous Yashima family,” Captain Paolo notes – offers to pilot White Base out of Side 7, as she has some experience piloting small spacecraft.
Now we get to check in on Char! He’s reporting to his boss, another major player in Gundam: Dozle Zabi, a member of the Zabi family that leads Zeon. Dozle is a big, scary-looking dude, and right now he’s not too happy with Char – mostly because Char is late getting back from a mission, which means Dozle’s preparations to celebrate Char’s return are wasted. The rest of the scene portrays Dozle as a pretty straightforward military man; he is intrigued by the info Char has gathered on Operation V and agrees to send him more supplies. However, I like to think that his annoyance at Char has less to do with wasted time and effort and more to do with missing out on a tasty feast.
Char, being the smart tactician that he is, reasons that if Slender could sneak out of the colony last episode, Char could sneak into the colony this episode. It’s a pretty smart plan, even though it doesn’t end up accomplishing very much.
Back on the White Base, there’s drama unfolding about the fact that Amuro is piloting the Gundam. The kid is actually quite realistic about his victory, admitting that he did a pretty bad job and only survived because of the Gundam’s impressive performance. Bright recants the opinion I praised him for at the end of the last episode – now he wants the untrained Amuro out of the Gundam, even though he doesn’t have a good replacement lined up. However, Paolo points out that rookie or no, Amuro has done alright so far, and White Base doesn’t have a lot of options in terms of pilots.
While everyone on the bridge is arguing about Amuro, Sayla and Ryu are out looking for survivors to load onto the ship before leaving the colony. It’s here we meet our final major character on the White Base: Kai Shiden, who… does not give the best first impression. Sayla asks if he saw any other survivors, and he basically responds, “No idea, I was too busy trying to save myself to look for anyone else.” Sayla slaps him, leading to the famous line, “You hit me! Even my own father-“
Er, wait, no. Wrong slap. It actually just leads to Kai grumbling as Sayla goes off to scout around. What’s important to note here is that after Sayla leaves, Kai actually does help Ryu, hinting that he’s maybe not as bad as he seems. Also, let’s face it – while Kai is being a bit cowardly compared to the other major players we’ve met so far, it’s not like his reaction is unrealistic. He’s a teen living a normal life in a space colony when suddenly giant robots attack, everyone has to evacuate, and things descend into chaos. Yeah, he’s got a bad attitude, but we could maybe cut him a little slack.
By now, it’s been decided that Amuro will keep piloting the Gundam for the time being. His first task: destroy the extra Gundam parts that haven’t been loaded on to White Base yet, as there’s no time to retrieve them and they can’t be allowed to fall into enemy hands. Amuro notes that there are parts for three more Gundams still on Side 7; imagine how different things would have gone if the White Base had four Gundams instead of just one! Although the parts he ends up destroying include the ruined Guntank and Guncannon that Gene took out last episode, so perhaps the three extra parts were one more Gundam, one more Guntank, and one more Guncannon. Either way, that firepower could have done a lot of good. Oh, and how is Amuro going to destroy this machinery, you ask? Why, with super napalm, of course.
Fun fact: super napalm is a real thing! It’s also called napalm-B, NP2, or incendergel, and it doesn’t actually use napalm in it’s composition.
As Amuro sets off to burn up some robot bits, we get a brief scene of Fraw Bow driving through the colony, remembering how normal things were just a few hours ago. Frankly, this scene just feels like an unnecessary gut punch. It’s only here to remind us that Fraw Bow is having a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day.
Sayla, on the other hand, is a bit more successful in her scouting. She doesn’t find any Federation survivors, but she does spot a Zeonic soldier – our boy Char, who has found the ruined Guntank and Guncannon and started meticulously documenting them on his… camera binoculars? Anyway, this is where we find out that Sayla doesn’t mess around. She grabs a pistol from her glove box and tells Char to turn around slowly and take off that mask and helmet. When he does so, we discover the real reason Tomino wrote Char onto Side 7 – to reveal that Sayla and Char know each other! Sayla is so surprised to recognize this soldier that Char gets the opportunity to use his signature move, CHAR KICK, to knock the gun out of her hand. The Gundam arrives and Char flees, thinking to himself that Sayla is “too strong to be Artesia,” a line that isn’t going to make sense for many, many more episodes. This always strikes me as an odd thing to say about someone, and even though it’s about the specific person and doesn’t refer to gender, it feels sort of sexist to me. However, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin fills in a bit about the history the two share, and it does seem that most of Sayla’s character development happens after Char leaves her life.
Char ends up escaping right past the White Base, and we’re treated to a rather embarrassing scene of an entire docking bay full of people failing to shoot Char as he nonchalantly flies through. I get it, these people are mostly rookies or freshly-conscripted civilians, but seriously? No one can land a shot? At least Bright gets pretty close to taking Char out; he hits the Zeon soldier’s cameranocular-thing, destroying it and rendering Char’s infiltration pointless.
Finally, White Base is ready to leave Side 7. Paolo is still bed-ridden, leaving Bright in command (get used to that, buddy) and he’s actually pretty competent here, issuing orders and keeping things running smoothly on White Base as it departs. Amuro covers the ship in the Gundam, shooting down a few missiles with his newly-acquired beam rifle. But he’s not prepared for what comes next: Char deploying in his customized Zaku, a highly tuned suit with a sick red paint job. Char not only has incredible style, he recognizes a truth universally acknowledged: red wunz go fasta! Specifically, it’s noted that Char’s Zaku moves at three times the speed of an average Zaku, which tips off Captain Paolo that they’re dealing with the legendary Red Comet.
Another thing to note: Char is not wearing a pilot suit during this fight. This is actually a neat character trait of his – as he explains later, he has no intention of getting his suit destroyed, so he won’t need to survive in space. Therefore, why would he need a pilot suit? It’s a small detail, but it helps establish how much of a badass he is.
The fight goes pretty similarly to the one inside the colony: Amuro is overwhelmed, but survives due to the strength of the Gundam and eventually turns things around. He manages to take out Slender in a single shot, but is nearly defeated by Char before Ryu deploys in the fighter-jet-like Core Fighter and provides covering fire. One thing I always find funny about this fight: Amuro is warned to conserve beam rifle energy and gives a petulant reply of, “I don’t need to be reminded of that!” only to run out of said energy almost immediately afterward. It underscores just how immature and inexperienced he still is at this point. Luckily, Char doesn’t know the Gundam’s limits and backs off, not realizing that the powerful beam rifle is out of ammo.
Amuro heads back to White Base and gets scolded by Bright for his sloppiness in combat. This is where we learn that Bright is a Tough Love Dad.
And so the White Base heads to the Federation-controlled asteroid Luna II as the episode ends. What threats await them there? Find out next week!