Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 18 – Zeon’s Secret Mine

This episode faked me out. I thought I was watching the wrong one at first, because it starts with Amuro and Ryu practicing a mid-air docking in the Gundam–a clip reused from a few episodes previous. Considering the last episode ended with Amuro hijacking the Gundam and flying off into the night, I was understandably confused… and then the narrator broke in saying, “Well, Amuro’s sure not gonna practice like this anymore, huh? Since he ditched White Base? Remember? Do you remember that? Wild!”

Mr. Narrator also helpfully informs us that Kycilia Zabi is leaving Granada (Zeon’s base on the moon) and heading down to Earth to meet with M’Quve.

But don’t worry, she’s being safe about it–social distancing, wearing a mask, all the precautions.

It’s not exactly a great time for a Zeon bigwig to be visiting the area, considering White Base is missing its key mobile suit and pilot. Speaking of which, how’s Amuro doing on his own? Not bad, it turns out! He’s hiding in a ruined city, chilling in a bombed-out house, eating a can of cold beans and constantly checking the entrance in case he needs to shoot an intruder.

Wait, did I say not bad? Because I meant bad. He’s doing pretty bad.

Joking aside, I’m impressed that he’s even made it as far as he has, and at least he’s staying vigilant and not making any super obvious mistakes… with one exception. His attempts at hiding the Gundam are absolutely pitiful:

He didn’t even cover the head! That’s the most recognizable part!

I get that he’s probably not carrying a dozen large tarps on his person, but that ‘camouflage’ isn’t going to fool anyone! Er… except Kycilia and M’Quve, apparently, because the two of them fly directly overhead in an Adzam (close enough for Amuro to see their faces, even) and don’t notice the giant robot clumsily hidden in the city’s streets.

Back on White Base, everyone is discussing what to do with Amuro. Kai, being Kai, brings up the fact that military deserters are supposed to be executed, which really freaks Fraw Bow out. Everyone is quick to reassure her that they’d never do that to Amuro–even Bright, who is no stranger to using corporal punishment, swiftly shoots down the idea. The one person who doesn’t seem opposed is, ironically, Sayla. Okay, I don’t think she wants to take things as far as execution, but she’s the only person really pushing for a harsh punishment. Kinda funny coming from the woman who stole the Gundam for selfish reasons herself just a few episodes ago!

One thing I find interesting here is that no one seems to be worried about not having the Gundam. Everyone is remarkably chill about the fact that their main line of defense is gone; they all seem more concerned with getting Amuro back safe. This, on top of the fact that they’re so swift to toss military regulations out the window regarding the kid’s crime, serves as a heartwarming reminder that White Base has become more like a family than a military unit.

Fraw heads out to try to bring Amuro back, and apparently her eyes are better than Kycilia’s, because she finds him almost immediately. She lets it slip that Kai was talking about execution, which just cranks Amuro’s angst to eleven. You’d think they would both know by now not to give much weight to Kai’s mouthing off, but they both seem convinced that the White Base crew hates Amuro now, so the young pilot hops into the Gundam and takes off, with Fraw Bow chasing after him in her weird little buggy.

I can’t find a good picture, but it basically looks like Speed Buggy. Just picture Fraw Bow driving around in Speed Buggy.

Of course, the episode needs to have some action, so it’s not long before Amuro stumbles onto a Zeon mine and–after a bit of recon–figures it must be the place the Federation is targeting on Odessa Day. Again, it seems Kycilia and M’Quve are blind, as they don’t see the giant robot not-so-subtly peeking over a cliff face at their secret base. Amuro sends Fraw back to warn White Base before making the boneheaded decision to try to wipe out the mine by himself.

Look, Amuro, I get that you’re a pretty great pilot at this point, and that the Gundam is better than every Zeon suit you’ve come across, but didn’t you just learn last episode that your overconfidence is your weakness?

“Your faith in your friends is yours!” Sorry, couldn’t resist.

He justifies this reckless attack by saying that the base doesn’t seem to have mobile suits, and while that’s true, he’s apparently forgotten that he just saw a big mobile armor flying around the area a few hours ago.

Still, I have to admit, he does an admirable job assaulting the base on his lonesome. Though he takes a lot of hits, he clears out the various tanks and turrets without too much issue; fights like this definitely make you realize how important the shield is to the Gundam’s design, as Amuro would’ve been toast without it.

This isn’t hugely important to the episode, but I’d like to take a brief aside to point out that as Fraw Bow drives back to the White Base during this fight, her buggy transforms into a weird hovercraft. It’s rad and I don’t understand why it even has a non-hovercraft mode.

Anyway, Kycilia is (justifiably) ticked off at M’Quve for letting an enemy mobile suit sneak up to this super-secret mining operation, and she orders him to counterattack in the Adzam we saw earlier.

I sort of love that the guy obsessed with art and beauty is stuck piloting one of the ugliest machines in the Zeon arsenal.

The way she says it, it sounds like a punishment–almost like, “You goofed up by letting this mobile suit in here; now I’m going to make you die fighting it.” However, she joins him in it, so she must be more confident in M’Quve’s abilities than she seems. And in fairness, the Adzam puts up a good fight–its ‘leader’ drone nearly does in the Gundam. The ‘leader’ is a weird little weapon: first, it coats the target mobile suit in a sort of ‘dust,’ then it deploys a cage around the suit that… electrifies the dust? And it… superheats the mobile suit’s exterior, forcing it to divert all power to keeping the cockpit safe? Which in turn makes the mobile suit freeze up… or something. I’m gonna be honest, I wasn’t too clear on it during the episode but I figured, “Eh, I can look up how it works later.” The problem is, now the explanations I’m reading aren’t clear to me either, so I’m just sort of guessing here.

At any rate, the salient point is that the Gundam is paralyzed for a bit, but Zeon wasn’t counting on fighting mobile suits as tough as this one. The Gundam holds out long enough for the ‘dust’ to wear off, at which point Amuro blows up the ‘leader’ and nearly takes out the whole Adzam before it manages to escape. Kycilia notes that Zeon will have to rush its mobile suit development to catch up to the Gundam’s power, meaning this little interaction may have some far-reaching consequences for Zeon–its bungling of its mobile suit production (developing too many different prototypes looking for a silver bullet, rather than carefully working on one well-designed successor to the Zaku II) contributed heavily to the nation’s ultimate defeat.

The other thing Kycilia decides at this point is that the mine has information that can’t fall into the Federation’s hands, so she orders M’Quve to blow the place up, regardless of the Zeon soldiers still inside. She might not be as cold as Gihren, but Kycilia is certainly pragmatic.

Sifting through the mine’s rubble, Amuro discovers that this is only one of many mines, and he has not prevented the mass Federation mobilization of Odessa Day as he thought (the White Base is figuring this out at roughly the same time; worse, Ryu points out that by attacking the mine, Amuro has tipped Zeon off to the upcoming Federation assault). He also comes across a wounded Zeon soldier, and comforts the man by bringing him water and giving him a flare to signal help. The soldier is thankful, though he does give Amuro an ominous piece of advice.

“If you told me you were the pilot of that mobile suit, I’d have a hard time believing you,” the soldier says. “But if you were… you shouldn’t be so soft on your enemies. You don’t have enough lives for that.”

Amuro ruminates on this as he leaves, barely getting clear of the place before White Base shows up looking for him. While it seems a bit grim on the face of it, there’s one nice detail about this situation: when White Base shows up, we hear one of the bridge crew spot a flare; that soldier lived and was likely rescued because of Amuro.

As the episode closes, Fraw grabs a buggy and takes off again, apparently still hoping she can bring Amuro home.

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