Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 17 – Amuro Deserts

Well, everyone’s always telling him to eat–at least this time he gets dessert!

Char loves a good dad joke.

All kidding aside, though, it’s a bit of a spoiler to title the episode “Amuro Deserts,” considering it doesn’t actually happen until the very end. In fact, as the episode begins, Amuro is acting the very model of a good mobile suit pilot: he’s practicing mid-air docking in the Core Fighter and running combat simulations based on data from the captured Zaku. In a nice call-back to an earlier episode, one of the sims we see him run is of the CHAR KICK he received in his first bout against the Red Comet. That one must still smart, huh?

About this time Kai shows up, being his usual smarmy self. He asks Amuro what the point of running simulations against Zakus is when they know Zeon is starting to field Goufs. He’s clearly trying to undermine the young pilot, but when Amuro responds that he upped the simulated Zaku’s performance to compensate for this, Kai can’t help but laugh and say “That’s our Amuro!” It’s nice to see bonds forming among even the most curmudgeonly of crew members. Kai even offers to take over the helm so Mirai can have a break, which she gladly accepts.

She heads down to the ship’s interrogation room to see how Bright is doing with Cozun. Not well, it turns out! Perhaps unsurprisingly, the prisoner doesn’t buy that someone as young as Bright could be in command.

It’s at this point that the episode interrupts itself in order to present us a scene of Amuro fixing a sink. Kikka breaks the handle off a sink and Amuro fixes it. That’s… that’s it. He also sort of walks in on Mirai in the shower? It’s absolutely bizarre and I have no idea why it’s here.

While that brief, not-even-particularly-fanservicey-just-awkward mix-up is happening, Ramba Ral is getting resupplied. He gets a couple of shiny new Zakus; things are looking up for the Blue Giant! He also has a rather illuminating conversation with his lover, Hamon, and we find out that despite being on a mission to avenge Garma, Ral doesn’t care about the Zabis all that much. In fact, he only took this mission because it would result in a two-rank promotion that would would grant him the prestige and authority to make sure his men are well taken care of. What a great dude!

Ramba Ral: The Ron Swanson of Zeon.

I really do love Ral. His presence is a great reminder of the moral ambiguity of the war; sure, Zeon are ‘the bad guys,’ but Ral is by far the nicest soldier we’ve met on either side (aside from perhaps Lt. Matilda). He’s a good commander who cares for his soldiers and leads from the front. Contrast that with the drunk Feddies who taunted Amuro about his mother’s unknown fate a few episodes back and it’s clear that neither side is fully right.

Speaking of Ral’s men, Cozun seems to have smuggled some components into his cell and uses them to blow the lock. He’s all set to escape, but he makes the mistake of stopping by Sayla’s cell on his way out; he thinks she’s a Zeon because she asked about Char. She’s quick to alert the rest of the crew about the prison break, and Cozun hurries off. He ends up making it to the comm room and relaying valuable information about the White Base’s mobile suits to Ral’s Gallop.

At about the same time, White Base stumbles across a Zeon mine and gets into a firefight. Bright orders Amuro to head out in the Gundam, but Amuro launches with Hayato in the Guntank instead. He’s starting to think he’s got a better head for tactics than Bright–and, admittedly, he is doing a bang-up job wrecking the mine with his mobile suit of choice… that is, until Ral shows up to provide aid. The Guntank is woefully unprepared for that, and has to fall back so Amuro can get in the Gundam after all.

While all of this is going on, Sayla (having been let out of her solitary confinement by Ryu) is hunting down Cozun. She finds him in the comm room and chases him through the ship (with help from, of all people, the three orphans and Haro) until he finally reaches the airlock. He seals the door behind him, grabs a jetpack, and is getting ready to take off while Sayla ineffectually tries to shoot the door open with her pistol.

That’s when another crew member shows up with a freakin’ bazooka and blows the airlock wide open. Cozun, uh… does not make it.

Not the most graceful way to go.

Back on the battlefield, Kai launches in the Guncannon, but he’s no Amuro–he’s quickly outmatched by Ral in the Gouf. This is almost curtains for Kai, but luckily Amuro shows up in the nick of time and drives the Zeon ace back. Notably, however, Amuro realizes that his computer simulations just can’t keep up with actual mobile suit combat. I find this line very interesting; in terms of the episode itself, it’s surely just meant to illustrate that all of Amuro’s data and simulations are no substitute for actual combat experience and he shouldn’t rely on them so much (a point that’s stated outright by Bright in the following scene). There are larger implications for the series, though–specifically, the fact that Amuro is reacting faster than his computer can model could be an early hint at his Newtype abilities. Newtypes (or their alternate-universe equivalents, depending on the series) being too fast for their machines to keep up is a plot point in multiple iterations of Gundam; this might be the seed of that idea.

Once the battle is finished, Amuro gets a stern talking-to by Bright… except it’s honestly not all that stern. He admonishes the pilot, sure, but he doesn’t yell at him or hit him or anything; in fact, he wraps up by imploring Amuro to be more careful. Sure, he brings up military chain of command to intimidate the kid a little, but he comes across as pretty reasonable to me. Ryu and Mirai seem to think he went a bit too far, but I just don’t see it. Besides, he’s right–Amuro’s decision to disobey orders and not explain his plan beforehand put the entire White Base in danger, and he ended up needing to launch in the Gundam anyway!

Unfortunately, Bright then decides to take the Gundam away from Amuro entirely. He asks Mirai if she approves, and the two have a brief argument about it; Mirai says that she has a strong feeling that Amuro is special somehow, and I again have to think that this is Newtype foreshadowing. Because this show needs more drama, Amuro overhears the discussion and freaks out. He decides to leave the White Base… and he takes the Gundam with him, launching in the middle of the night as Fraw Bow begs him to stay.

So, next episode the White Base will be without its strongest mobile suit and its best pilot… but they’ll probably be fine, right?

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