Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 21: Sorrow and Hatred

Ah, geez. I’ve been dreading this episode ever since I started writing these recaps.

We open with Hamon, Ramba Ral’s second-in-command/lover, as she discusses strategy with a soldier named Tachi. Hamon wants to avenge Ral, but it seems M’Quve is being difficult–he refuses to send any backup. Forced to scrounge together what meager gear they’ve got left, Hamon’s group gets creative: they attach some Magella Top cannons to the top of the partially-recovered, hastily-repaired Gallop. One cannon is also given to the unit’s one remaining Zaku, modified slightly to be used as a gun. I don’t really get how that could work, but I guess it does?

Remember, the top half of this can detach, but… where’s the trigger?

Hamon knows that the White Base is damaged quite badly, so she hopes that attacking with everything they’ve got will be enough to take the ship down. She’s got a good plan and, beyond that, she’s a natural leader; she clearly inspires her men. We are even given a scene where she addresses each and every one of them in turn, proving that she cares about (and has a personal relationship with) all the guys under her and Ral’s command.

Meanwhile, the White Base is in the roughest shape it’s ever been in. Pretty much all of the engineering crew was injured in last episode’s assault, so repairs are going slowly; on top of that, Ryu is still critically injured after his brief gunfight with Ramba Ral. That doesn’t stop him from heading up to the bridge to talk to Bright, though. See, Ryu has heard that Bright put Amuro back in the brig, and he’s not going to stand for that.

Bright defends himself by saying that if Amuro doesn’t receive his full punishment, he’ll get the idea that he can do whatever he wants because the crew needs him to pilot the Gundam. Bright says that “even a wild tiger” will eventually calm down if it’s caged. Ryu counters that while that’s all well and good for tigers, Amuro is a human being, and humans learn best through dialogue–in other words, if Bright wants Amuro to learn a lesson, he needs to actually talk to the kid instead of going all Macho Commander and tossing him in the brig.

Ryu is ordered back to bed, but he makes a quick detour to Amuro’s cell first. The kid is sleeping, and he’s having a somewhat interesting dream–a dream about the last time he saw Lt. Matilda Ajan. Now, on the face of it, it’s easy to assume that Amuro is just dreaming about a woman he finds attractive; something thrown in to remind the audience 1) that Amuro is a teenage boy, and 2) that Matilda exists (after all, we haven’t seen her for a little while). I think there’s something more to it, though.

Take into account the following facts (and, if you’re watching along with these recaps and haven’t seen the full series yet, spoiler warning!): the series has recently begun putting more emphasis on the, for lack of a better term, supernatural elements of the show–what will eventually develop into the Newtype mythology. At the end of this episode, Ryu is tragically killed in action. Not too long from now (her next appearance, if I remember correctly), Matilda will also be killed. I think this dream may be a psychic premonition, part of Amuro’s awakening Newtype powers. If not that, then it’s at least foreshadowing on the writers’ part.

Anyway, Ryu wakes Amuro up and the two talk for a bit about the young pilot’s situation. To the surprise of both Ryu and the audience, Amuro is actually very calm about being in the brig again; he says he understands and respects Bright’s decision. Good for him! He’s really growing up. Ryu says that’s good, and that Amuro should understand that Bright is a bit afraid of him. Er… I’m actually not sure that’s something you needed to tell the kid, Ryu. It sort of feels like you’re just stirring the pot a bit now. But I think he just wants Amuro and Bright to understand each other, and Amuro doesn’t react much to this information, so no harm done.

Unfortunately, it’s at this point that Hamon launches her attack.

Kai is already out in the Guncannon helping with repairs, so he immediately leaps into the fray, and he does an admirable job. He doesn’t take out any enemies, but he holds his own and seems bolder than in previous fights–a fact he even acknowledges to himself. You know, it’s great how much Bright and Amuro grow throughout the series, but I think Kai actually gets some of the best character development despite not getting as much focus as the other two.

The Guntank also deploys, co-piloted by Hayato (as usual) and Job John. You remember Job John, right? Blonde dude? He’s in the background on the bridge sometimes? You know. Job John!

He’s finally here, piloting for you; he’s the first member of the White Base crew! His coconut gun can fire in spurts–

Hamon’s all-out assault proves to be too much for the Guntank and Guncannon to handle, and the White Base is still too damaged to make its escape. Ryu and Sayla convince Bright to let Amuro out to pilot again, though Bright is a bit bitter about it (later on when Sayla advises an attack strategy, the captain snaps that she’d probably do it whether he gave the order or not). I understand that he’s under a lot of pressure and that he’s uncomfortable with his authority being undermined, but Bright’s being downright petty this episode–without Amuro, the ship is pretty much toast, so he really shouldn’t complain about letting the kid pilot again.

Unfortunately, the Gundam is undergoing repairs and isn’t ready to launch, so Amuro has to head out in the Core Fighter while the crew scrambles to get the mobile suit’s parts ready. To make matters worse, the Guntank stalls out–the tread hasn’t been fully repaired since Ral’s attack, and it breaks down during this assault. As the rest of the crew rushes around in desperation, Ryu quietly leaves the ship, heading for the Guntank.

Amuro does some good work in the Core Fighter, but runs out of ammunition. Luckily, by the time it’s an issue, the Gundam parts are ready to launch, and he performs a flawless mid-air docking before continuing the battle in his mobile suit. He notices that the Gallop has begun charging straight toward the White Base, and he intuits that it’s trying to ram the Federation ship and is likely loaded with explosives. He leaps forward to hold it still, but this makes him a sitting duck.

Okay, so he’s not totally defenseless–he manages to take out the one remaining enemy Zaku and toss it into an approaching Magella Top while still maintaining his grip on the Gallop.

“Killing two opponents while holding on to the back half of a weird robot snail” is perhaps Amuro’s most impressive feat to date.

Then things turn south. Hamon hops in a Magella Top and manages to get right behind Amuro, firing into the Gundam point blank. Even the Gundam’s armor can’t withstand fire from that close, and it seems like the mobile suit is doomed… until a Core Fighter appears, ramming into Hamon’s Magella. Both aircraft are obliterated. The Gundam manages to push the Gallop away and detonate it at a safe distance; the day is saved, but at the cost of the Core Fighter’s pilot: Ryu Jose.

Upon sneaking out of White Base, Ryu had gone straight to the Guntank, where he convinced Job John and Hayato that–since the mobile suit was broken down–they needed to deploy the Core Fighter. He then talked Job John into letting him pilot the Fighter, because after all, Ryu had a lot more experience. Then he had flown to Amuro’s rescue.

Despite the fact that Ryu was out of focus for quite awhile and had only recently started to become a prominent cast member again, this death hits extremely hard. Ryu had started to become a real fixture in the lives of our main characters: a mentor to Amuro, an adviser to Bright, and so on. Plus, everyone blames themselves for his death–Job John feels he shouldn’t have let him pilot, Hayato feels like he shouldn’t have let the Core Fighter launch at all, Amuro feels guilty for needing saving. Bright is particularly devastated, falling to his knees and begging Ryu for forgiveness. That’s what sells this scene, really: the genuine emotion each actor brings to their role. The White Base crew is completely wrecked by this death, and the grief and sorrow they feel is palpable.

And… that’s it. The episode ends on our protagonists mourning their loss. Hopefully next episode is a little bit brighter? (Spoilers: it won’t be.)

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