Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 8 – Winds of War

We’re back to another episode of Mobile Suit Gundam! The show is really starting to hit its stride now. After a solid episode last week, I’m pleased to say that this episode is a winner too!

White Base is still on the run from Garma’s forces. The ship is being forced to fly low to the ground to evade its foes, but the rocky terrain is making navigation difficult for poor Mirai. Our old buddy Lt. Reed is being a real jerk about it, too, saying that Mirai isn’t a good enough pilot and demanding that the ship fly higher–which would, of course, lead to the ship getting shot down by Zeon. How did this guy even reach the rank of Lieutenant?

Meanwhile, those civilians from last episode are still chomping at the bit to get down to Earth. In particular, there’s a mother with her young son who wants to show her kid his dad’s hometown. Amuro wonders idly if all mothers are like that; sounds like Amuro’s got some mom problems! Poor kid can’t catch a break with either parent.

At any rate, the Side 7 refugees storm the bridge again to demand they be dropped off. Reed is incredulous and calls them selfish, which might hold a bit more weight if he hadn’t just suggested abandoning them all last week. Surprisingly, though, Bright is all for it this time, because he’s devised a clever strategy to turn the situation to White Base’s advantage.

It turns out the reason White Base is flying so low is that the rocky terrain is enhancing the jamming effects of the ship’s Minovsky particles (yes, those magical particles are back). Basically, as long as the White Base is flying low and in a valley, the particles will be concentrated tightly around the ship; this will prevent Zeon from targeting them directly. However, soon, they’ll reach an open area where they’ll be vulnerable to attack.

That’s where Bright’s brilliant idea comes into play: if they call a ceasefire with Garma’s forces to drop off the civilians safely, it will buy them some time to prepare for the inevitable fight. Specifically, they can use the transport that drops off the civilians to smuggle the Gundam into a better position. It’s honestly a really good plan–even Char hasn’t figured it out! It’s a nice subversion of the usual “cut to Char instantly dismantling the Federation’s strategy” trope we’ve established. This time, when we cut to the Zeons, the Red Comet admits that the ceasefire is probably some kind of trap, but he can’t figure out how.

The crew hides the Gundam in a transport ship, which Kai then blows a hole in so that they can fake a crash landing in front of their Zeon escort. This is actually one of the only times Kai is a jerk this episode–he yells at Katz, Letz, and Kikka for pestering him while he works. I can’t really blame him; kids are annoying.

Once the transport is in the air, we meet the Zeon escort: a guy who goes by Big John (I’m not sure if that’s his callsign or the designation of the ship he’s flying, but I choose to believe it’s his nickname) and his co-pilot (who is not named, and will hereafter be referred to as Weasel Joe). These two guys are actually really cool, Big John especially. They seem like they really want to ensure the refugees are safe, and they’re even friendly with the Federation forces to the small degree that they interact–which is mostly via Fraw Bow trying to flirt with them (she wants to make Amuro jealous). Notably, Weasel Joe is the only one who responds to the flirting, which is actually a bit creepy. She’s, like, fifteen, Weasel Joe. Don’t be gross.

For their part, the refugees are pleased as punch to be back on solid ground, including that mother from earlier. She’s excited because her late husband’s hometown is supposed to be nearby, although she notes that she doesn’t remember this giant crater lake being here! Oh well, probably just a weird coincidence. She wanders off to find the clearly destroyed town, and Big John and Weasel Joe–noticing that she’s broken off from the other refugees–follow her in their aircraft.

Char does start to get some inkling of Bright’s plan after the fake crash, but he keeps a lid on it for now; he’s still trying to set up Garma for failure, ostensibly so that he can swoop in and save the day, earning back his former glory. Of course, he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on yet anyway, so even if he were inclined to speak up there’s not much he could say. Seriously good job on this plan, Bright!

While the two Zeon pilots keep an eye on the widowed mother, Amuro gets his Gundam into position. Unfortunately, the sun reflects off the mobile suit just right, and Big John spots it as the pair are headed back to base. Amuro–who has just watched these swell fellows drop off supplies for the refugee, because they’re just that nice–has to shoot them down. Luckily, they manage to crash into that lake I mentioned earlier and survive, though Amuro doesn’t know that; he probably thinks he just murdered two decent men. I don’t think that’s ever directly addressed after this, but man, what a bummer.

About this time, the ceasefire draws to an end and Garma’s forces attack. Kai, again, volunteers to go out in a mobile suit (the Guncannon) to defend the White Base, proving he’s nowhere near the coward he says he is. He doesn’t do too bad for his first fight, either; he’s panicked and scared, but who wouldn’t be? He burns through his ammo pretty quick but takes down a fair number of Magella tanks and Dopps in the process. All in all, he does about as well as Amuro did in his first few sorties.

Char finally realizes that the Gundam must be set up behind Zeonic lines, but too late–Amuro reveals himself and goes to town on his foes. It’s a slaughter; the Gundam is surprisingly agile for a ‘real robot’-style mecha, and he keeps killing people with the Gundam’s shield, which is just brutal. We briefly experience the carnage from Garma’s point of view, hearing his soldiers scream in terror over the radio, and it’s kind of horrifying. Much like Amuro’s recent mid-combat freak-out, this scene reminds us that just because the Gundam pilot is our hero, that doesn’t mean that what he does is fun or pleasant.

To really hammer home the whole “war is bad” thing, we also cut over to the widow, who is helping Big John and Weasel Joe recover from their crash. They can see the battle from where they are, and they muse about the fact that no matter who wins, there will be more widows afterward. Oh, and before heading back to their unit, the Zeons tell the lady that the town she was looking for is gone and her dreams are dead. Gee, what a fun episode!

It’s not long before Zeon is routed (one poor sap gets his Zaku shoved off a cliff by the Guncannon–an embarrassing and hilarious way to go) and our heroes are safe… for a little while, at least. Naturally, the preview assures us that this won’t last long, but it also gives us a ray of hope: Matilda Ajan is going to be in the next episode! Matilda is a minor character, but she has a big impact on the series. I can’t wait for us to meet her next week!

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