Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 31: A Decoy in Space

This episode picks up directly where last week’s left off: Bright and Mirai are meeting with Federation brass, where they learn that White Base is to be used as a decoy. The goal of White Base’s operation is to distract the Zeons, allowing the powerful Tianem fleet to reach Luna II unmolested. From there, the Federation will mount an attack on Zeon’s space fortress, Solomon.

The Federation’s forthcoming military plans aren’t the only thing revealed here, though. We also learn a surprising fact about Mirai; one of the generals knew her father, apparently, and he lets it slip that our favorite helmswoman is engaged! As one might imagine, Bright doesn’t seem to take the news very well. Mirai explains that it’s an arranged marriage, and that her betrothed fled to the neutral colony of Side 6 when war broke out. Well, that’s probably the last we’ll hear of that, then, right?

As the two return to White Base and prepare for their departure, they’re greeted by a new face: Sleggar Law, assigned to the ship to replace Ryu. He’s a solid pilot, a pretty good shot, and extremely horny. He immediately starts hitting on Mirai.

Okay, I’ve got to point something out here. In this episode alone, we’ve gone from “Mirai and Bright have a little bit of romantic subtext” to “Mirai and Bright’s romantic subtext is rapidly becoming text, and also she’s engaged, and also here’s a new character that’s trying to get with her, too.” Don’t get me wrong–Mirai is the best, and any sane, female-attracted person would be into her. But moving from a mostly-implied potential romance to a full-blown love… uh… well, it’s not a love triangle because there’s four people involved, so… love square? Yeah, I guess, a full-blown love square in the space of about ten minutes is pretty bold.

Oh, also, Sleggar was apparently based on Sylvester Stallone. So that’s neat.

The resemblance is uncanny.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: who cares about all this drama? I watch this show for robots! Where is the bad, red robot man that I find so enjoyable? I’ll tell you: going into space, that’s where! Yes, Char has hopped aboard a Zanzibar-class ship to follow the White Base into space. The ship has a complement of two Rick Doms (Doms outfitted for space) and a mobile armor called the Bigro.

The Zanzibar quickly catches up to and engages the White Base, and after roughly six seconds of fighting, Char realizes that–gasp!–the White Base must be a decoy! There’s probably a fleet launching somewhere behind the White Base, heading toward the moon or Luna II!

How does he figure that out? Because he’s Char Aznable, goddamit.

The Zeon forces launch, and Amuro and Sayla head out to meet them in the G-Bull and G-Sky E-Z. Sayla is clearly distracted in this fight, wondering if her opponent could be her brother. She also seems to have figured out Char’s motive–her internal monologue references his need to get revenge on the Zabi family.

Amuro tries to keep Sayla’s head in the game while also focusing on the fight himself, and he’s a good enough pilot to keep them both afloat for awhile. Unfortunately, Sayla’s distraction leads to her getting grabbed by the fearsome claw of the Bigro:

Okay, ‘fearsome’ may have been overselling it.

She has a perfect opening to fire on her foe, but she lets it slip, fearing that Char might be the pilot.

Back on board the White Base, Bright orders his newest crewman to hop onto the ship’s main cannon. Sleggar has demands, however: he won’t man the cannon unless the White Base turns to face the Zanzibar. Otherwise, he says, he won’t be able to make the shot anyway, so there’s no point. Bright is clearly miffed about Sleggar’s insubordination, but–after having Kai launch in the Guncannon–he begrudgingly agrees to Sleggar’s plan.

Char sees the White Base’s maneuver and notes that he respects the captain’s skill. This might actually be my favorite thing about how the show uses Char; he was the first major villain, but then he was gone for a big chunk of episodes. The arcs he missed were hugely influential on the White Base crew; by the time Char showed up again, our heroes had gone through desertion, death, and a few major military operations. Char’s reaction to White Base’s vast improvements in strategy and skill is a great barometer for the viewer to understand the growth the crew has gone through.

Another interesting thing about this scene with Char: he considers for a moment whether his sister might be on board the White Base, mirroring Sayla’s earlier fear that the Bigro was piloted by her brother. However, whereas Sayla couldn’t bring herself to fight due to the possibility of Char’s presence, Char quickly decides that no, there’s no way Sayla stuck with the Federation, so it’s totally safe to destroy White Base.

Back on the battlefield, Kai arrives at the perfect time to distract the Bigro. This opening allows Amuro and Sayla to dock with each other and form the Gundam. Amuro engages with the Bigro while Sayla takes out a Dom.

The White Base charges toward the Zanzibar. Char decides to play chicken and sets his ship on a collision course with his enemy, a move that completely freaks out Bright. It seems that, even with his growing talent as a commander, Bright can still be unnerved by Char’s tactics. The White Base readjusts its course and the two ships pass each other, firing everything they’ve got at one another. There’s only one definitive hit, though: Sleggar pulls off a direct shot on the Zeon cruiser.

The Gundam has trouble keeping up with the speedy Bigro, so Amuro decides to grab onto the faster mobile armor. The sudden acceleration causes him to briefly pass out, and for a split second it looks like the Bigro pilot, Tokwan, is going to take advantage of the situation to finish Amuro off. Luckily, the kid recovers quickly, and manages to dodge Tokwan’s shot and fire back one of his own. The Bigro explodes. Zeon loses another skilled pilot.

With the Zanzibar too damaged to pursue and the bulk of the enemy force defeated (the remaining Dom retreated), everyone returns to the White Base. Sleggar hits on Mirai again, and… that’s pretty much it! Another episode down!

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