Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 3 – Vote to Attack

We’re on to the third episode of Mobile Suit Gundam! After the initial pair of episodes, the stage is finally set, with all the major players introduced. This is our first real look at what a ‘normal’ episode of the show will be like.

We start by checking in with Captain Paolo, who has still not recovered from his injuries. Paolo doesn’t get much focus here, but he does explain the general thrust of the White Base’s situation: the ship is headed to the asteroid Luna II, with Char still tailing them. He also mentions a Commandant Wakkein, who will be a major figure in the following episode.

As they head to the bridge, Bright has an awkward conversation with Sayla. It’s clear that Bright is uncomfortable with his current leadership position, and Sayla picks at some of his insecurities after he reveals that he’s from Earth and has never been to space – something that apparently marks him as a wealthy elite. The theme of Bright being a bit thin-skinned will carry through the rest of the episode. I’m so used to thinking of him as the cool, collected leader that he’ll become that it’s still strange for me to see him as he is here – balking when Sayla asks if she’s required to answer his questions and snapping at Mirai when she second-guesses his tactics.

Meanwhile, on the enemy ship, Char is less than impressed with the support Dozle Zabi has sent his way: two Zakus instead of three, carried on a rickety old Papua cruiser. Apparently, Zeon’s running out of supplies. This, combined with the Federation’s new weapons from Operation V, are an early indication that the war is beginning to turn against the spacenoids.

Back on White Base, Fraw tracks down Amuro. I want to make a note here for those who aren’t actually watching along. Roughly 80% of Fraw Bow’s dialogue is just the word “Amuro!” at full volume. She enters the scene calling for him, and my wife – who has not been watching these episodes with me, but is often reading or working in the next room as I view them – heard her and automatically said, “Oh, Fraw Bow must be here.”

Anyway, Fraw points out that Amuro isn’t eating or bathing. This is the first time Amuro is reminded of one of the show’s biggest recurring themes: Food Is Good. Okay, that might be overstating it a bit, but seriously – this is not the last time a character will explain to Amuro that eating is important. It’s true, I suppose, but I always find it a bit strange how hard the show hits it. In fairness, Amuro is such a workaholic that he often skips meals, so I suppose his friends are justified in lecturing him about it.

On the bridge, Bright and Mirai discuss what Char might be up to. When Mirai surises that the Zeon ship might be low on weapons and that’s why they haven’t attacked, Bright agrees that that could be the case… or maybe that’s what Char wants them to think! Bright is clearly trying to stay a step ahead of his enemy, but he’s taking it too far. He’s about 6 steps ahead of Char at this point, which… that’s too many steps! It reminds me of the iocane powder scene in The Princess Bride.

White Base’s sensors detect the resupply ship approaching Char’s Musai and there’s much debate about whether or not the Federation ship should use this opportunity to strike their foe. Bright is still obviously unsure of himself, and makes the odd choice of asking Hayato’s opinion, possibly to save face after being questioned by the others. Hayato thinks he’s being clever and uses a judo metaphor to say that White Base should attack Char. Have I mentioned yet that I don’t like Hayato? You might recall that he didn’t bother alerting Amuro about the emergency evacuation a few episodes back because he didn’t like that Amuro’s dad was in the Federation. Just a stellar guy, huh? That pettiness only gets worse as the show goes on.

Despite his missteps so far this episode, Bright has a decent idea: since the bridge crew can’t decide whether White Base should make a mad dash to Luna II or try to fight Char while his ship is getting resupplied, Bright calls for a majority vote. Most folks seem to be in favor of the attack, including Amuro, so the Gundam and Core Fighter are prepped for action.

Char meets up with his resupply crew, led by a guy named Gadem. Gadem doesn’t seem to like Char much; he immediately mocks him for needing resupplied in the first place, and gets pretty defensive about his age and capabilities. Despite this prickliness, Gadem is clearly dedicated to his job.

As the resupply begins, Amuro and Ryu approach the docked Zeon ships. This is where we find out that Ryu is a terrible soldier. He’s surprised when Amuro suggests not flying directly toward the sun and trying to fight the enemy blind. Shouldn’t that be Tactics 101? Even Amuro notes that Ryu should really know better.

On the Zeon ships, Gadem notes that the Minovsky Particle density is higher than it should be. How exciting! Our first reference to Minovsky Particles! Though they aren’t explained here, they are a major part of Universal Century lore. Minovsky Particles are crucial to how mobile suits work; mobile suits are run on Minovsky generators, beam weapons are a result of compressed Minovsky Particles, and – most crucially – these li’l guys play havoc with radar and the like, making line-of-sight combat (a.k.a. the thing that mobile suits are designed to excel at) the norm. Without Minovsky Particles, the whole franchise falls apart.

Another first: this is the first time the Gundam busts out its bazooka! Amuro does well with it, too, landing several direct hits on both the Musai and the Papua. During this assault on the ships, I was again reminded that deaths in Gundam are not pretty; we see several soldiers get taken out by the Core Fighter, and while there’s no blood or anything, it’s clearly a bad way to go.

Before too long, Char launches in his custom Zaku II and engages the Gundam. Right away, Char is a very physical combatant – though it’s likely out of necessity, as the Gundam’s armor is so thick that the Zaku’s machine gun doesn’t do much against it. Regardless of the reason, we’re treated to another instance of the Red Comet’s Special Forbidden Technique, CHAR KICK!

Remember a couple paragraphs back when we found out that Ryu is bad at soldiering? Turns out he’s even worse than we thought. He’s flying around between White Base and Char’s Musai, making it impossible for the White Base gunners (in this case, Kai and Hayato) to fire on the enemy ship without risking taking out the Core Fighter. As if that weren’t bad enough, he has his comms turned off, so White Base can’t even contact him to get out of the way. Seriously, Ryu? Keep in mind, he’s not a conscripted civilian like Amuro. He’s an actual Federation soldier. He’s a rookie, sure, but still – how did he even get this far?

Since Ryu is screwing everything up, Kai volunteers to pilot the Guntank (alongside Hayato, as it’s a two-man job) to provide Amuro backup. That’s important to note – though the information is relayed through Hayato, it seems to have been Kai’s idea. As much as Kai complains – heck, he even complains about launching in the Guntank this time, despite being the one who floated the idea – he actually does care about keeping the White Base and its crew safe.

Oh, and throughout this whole process, Bright is kind of freaking out. He’s lucky that Mirai, who is at the ship’s helm, is keeping calm. It’s cool to see how quickly they establish that dynamic. It reminds me of my relationship with my wife – when one of us is panicked about something, the other one somehow develops the ability to stay completely grounded in order to guide us both through the situation. It’s no wonder these two crazy kids end up falling for each other.

Gadem finally gets the resupply finished and the new Zakus launched. He even launches himself in his old Zaku I, the first time we’ve seen that suit in this series. I love the Zaku I – it’s not as cool looking as the Zaku II, but then, it shouldn’t be. It’s obvious immediately that it’s the predecessor to the latter suit, and I’m impressed that mechanical designer Kunio Okawara was able to communicate that visually. Still, it is an outdated piece of equipment, and it doesn’t fare very well against the Gundam. Gadem lands one good hit before getting bisected by the Gundam’s beam saber.

Char makes the wise decision to fall back rather than have his two shiny new Zakus engage. He seems befuddled by the whole situation; he’s a firm believer that victory is determined by the skill of the pilot, not the performance of the gear. And yet, the shoddy tactics and amateur pilots of the White Base have defeated the veteran Char several times now. He’s not sure what to make of it. On a re-watch, it almost feels like this is setting up the idea that Amuro is a Newtype – he seems to have some supernatural talent for staying alive in fights that ought to kill him. I don’t think that’s the case; I’m pretty sure the Newtype idea didn’t come along until later in the show’s production, and Char’s statement is pretty vague, anyway. Even so, this scene dovetails nicely with later developments.

As the combatants return to the White Base, we see that Bright isn’t just Amuro’s Tough Love Dad – he’s Kai’s Tough Love Dad, too. Interestingly, despite the fact that Ryu was by far the worst fighter in this sortie, he gets off with a light “Don’t forget your training next time,” whereas Kai and Amuro are scolded. This leads Amuro to remark to Ryu that he’d like to hit Bright in the face. Whoa, Amuro! Even Bright’s own father never hit him! (Yeah, I know, I made that joke already last episode. Deal with it.)

That wraps up “Vote to Attack.” Next episode, the White Base will dock at Luna II… but it won’t be the safe haven they’re expecting. Tune in next week!

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