Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 12 – The Threat of Zeon

Last week, I talked about how “Icelina–Love’s Remains” is an oft-forgotten, but subtly important episode of Mobile Suit Gundam. This week’s is the opposite: this episode is big, bold, and well-loved for introducing some of the most iconic elements of the series.

After truncating the opening monologue last time, this week opts to just change it altogether. The new narration focuses on the Zabi family and their dictatorship within the Principality of Zeon, while also catching new viewers up on the struggles of the White Base up to this point.

We again open the episode by focusing on the Zabi family, now in the midst of preparations for Garma’s funeral. Degwin is nearly catatonic, sitting and listening to the last message he received from his late son; Kycilia gently nudges him to get up and present a strong face for the people of Zeon at this difficult time. It’s a good reminder of where Kycilia falls on the spectrum of Zabis: she’s not the emotionless psychopath that Gihren is, but she shares his ambition and fixation on the Zabi empire.

Back on Earth, we meet a group of Zeon soldiers–but these aren’t just nameless red-shirts here to serve as the monster of the week. Oh no. These guys are led by a distinguished gentleman by the name of Ramba Ral.

Get used to this handsome face–he’s going to stick around for a while.

Ral and his forces are seeking White Base to avenge Garma’s death. With Char having recently been recalled by Dozle, Ral is about to become the foremost threat to our heroes.

Speaking of our heroes, after the events of last week, they… aren’t doing so hot. Amuro is on the verge of a complete mental shutdown; when we first see him this episode, he is doggedly working on repairs for the Gundam’s computer system–hey, that’s pretty normal, right? But then Fraw and Haro come in to bring him food, and Haro notes that Amuro is ‘feeling down’ and that there’s some kind of issue with the kid’s brainwaves. If that weren’t cause enough to worry, we then see Amuro eat the food Fraw has brought him. That’s right: in a shockingly out-of-character moment, Amuro actually eats when he’s supposed to. Clearly, something is wrong! In all seriousness, though, Sad Munching Amuro is really creepy and the scene does make it clear that something is off–he’s just standing there, stuffing sandwiches into his mouth in an almost mechanical fashion, his face completely blank. It’s unnerving, to say the least.

This man is not well.

Bright isn’t faring much better; the stress of his captaincy is weighing heavily on him, to the point that he actually taps out for a moment to relax in his room–a rare moment of vulnerability for a man who likes to project surety and control. Mirai comes to cheer him up with words of support; I just love these crazy kids together! They’re a good pair, even if they don’t realize it yet.

Unfortunately, Bright doesn’t have long to relax, as Ral’s people have found the White Base and begun pursuit. Bright has the ship maneuver into a thunderstorm to try to lose them, and as a result we get one of my favorite scenes in the series; see, almost everyone involved in this little chase is a spacenoid, and space colonies don’t have weather events like thunderstorms. Fraw Bow panics and assumes that the lightning is some kind of terrifying new Zeon weapon… and then we cut over to the Zeon ship, where the soldiers assume that the lightning is some kind of terrifying new Federation weapon! It’s a nice bit of humor (and a smart little detail) in an otherwise rather dour string of episodes.

Amuro isn’t laughing, though. Instead, the raging storm is triggering traumatic flashbacks to last week’s events. See, I was right–that Icelina stuff really messed him up!

The storm is fierce enough that White Base needs to land, and Mirai does so while Bright calls for the Gundam, Guncannon, and Guntank to launch; he’s hoping that they can take out, or at least drive off, their pursuers before the storm clears. Amuro’s not exactly fit to pilot in his current state, though. Ryu has to slap him just to get him focused enough to go down to the hangar, and while suiting up, Amuro has a panic attack and feels like his helmet is suffocating him. The poor kid is a mess… but he’s also the only one who can reliably pilot the Gundam, so there’s not much choice but to send him out and hope it goes alright.

As for the Zeons, we find that Ral is the kind of commander who leads from the front. He launches in a sexy new mobile suit that we haven’t seen before.

Could it perhaps be some kind of Zaku?

Right away, the Zeons have the upper hand. Ral’s mobile suit has an electric whip (which, for no discernible reason, is called a heat rod), which he uses to great effect against the Gundam, shocking it and even destroying its bazooka. This suit is no Zaku, my friend–no Zaku! It’s a Gouf, and it’s rad as hell.

Ral is also an effective leader to his men, Acous and Cozun, and the three of them make a strong unit. They press their advantage against Amuro for a bit before the Guntank and Guncannon arrive to provide support, at which point Ral–demonstrating more military acumen than perhaps any other villain to this point–orders a hasty retreat. His first appearance, and he managed to sortie against the full complement of White Base’s mobile suits and not lose a single man! Clearly, Ramba Ral is someone to watch.

Returning to White Base, Amuro sees a disturbing sight on the bridge’s viewscreen: Zeon is broadcasting Garma Zabi’s funeral to the world, and Gihren has just begun his brother’s eulogy.

As you may recall, Gihren’s plan for the funeral was to use it as a way to push anti-Federation propaganda onto the people of Zeon, and that’s exactly what he does. His speech (which is one of the most famous scenes in all of Gundam) turns quickly from a remembrance of his fallen sibling into an anti-Federation rant, and he gets progressively more angry and crazed as the speech goes on. Briefly, we see Char–no longer masked, but sporting stylish shades–in a bar somewhere, watching the funeral as well. He’s approached by an agent of Kycilia Zabi, hinting that she intends to poach the Red Comet from Dozle, though focus quickly returns to Gihren’s speech. The maniacal monologue ends with a cry for the people of Zeon to rise up in anger and burn the Federation to the ground in the name of the glorious fatherland–and just in case the whole “tyrant screaming at gathered throng to destroy his enemies” thing was too subtle for you, the episode ends with a thunderous, repeated roar of “Sieg Zeon! Sieg Zeon!” from the masses.

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