Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 36: Big-Zam’s Last Stand

We’re back in the thick of it as this episode opens on the assault on Solomon. Our heroes are giving it their all, but it’s not long before Sleggar’s G-Fighter takes a hit, forcing him back to the White Base.

On the ship’s bridge, Mirai is clearly distressed by the danger her sort-of-suitor is in. Bright picks up on this, but Mirai won’t admit it, leading to a genuinely beautiful little scene between the two of them. As the battle rages, Bright softly tells Mirai not to shut him out, and that he understands her feelings for Sleggar. He also lets her know that even if she pursues Sleggar instead of him he’ll always care for her and wait for her. It’s wonderful and a little heartbreaking to see Bright confirm the love he holds for his fearless helmsman; it’s made all the sweeter when he calls up another crew member, Vammas, to take over Mirai’s post for a few minutes so she can go to Sleggar while he’s on the ship getting repairs.

Mirai makes her way down to the pilot, who seems a bit surprised to see her. The two talk briefly; Sleggar is touched by her obvious concern. However, when she makes it clear that she wants to return his advances, he actually backs off a bit. He admits that he doesn’t think he’s good enough for her, but he also gives her his mother’s ring, saying that it’s his only family heirloom and he can’t stand the thought of it being lost in space if he gets shot down. The two share a brief but tender kiss before he heads back into the fight.

I don’t know how to feel about all of this. While Sleggar has been after Mirai since his introduction, there’s been little–if any–evidence before now that she reciprocated. Her attraction to him feels a bit sudden. By the same token, his maturity and respect are a far cry from his previous moves (which, as you may recall, included inviting her to shower with him and slapping her in the face). This whole scene doesn’t really feel earned. And yet… it’s still effective, somehow.

Anyway, enough of that drama! This is a show about big robots fighting, and this episode stars the biggest robot of all: the Big-Zam!

It’s 200% bigger than the Li’l Zam!

Dozle is piloting this behemoth with the aid of two other Zeon soldiers. While the Big-Zam is doing an admirable job defending Solomon (we see it vaporize several GMs and Balls), it’s clearly not enough; even Dozle seems resolved to the fact that Solomon is going to fall. We soon get confirmation that things are grim for Zeon: Dozle is informed that three-quarters of the base’s forces have already been wiped out… and just about that time, the Federation’s Solar System fires again, taking out another swathe of Zakus and Rick Doms.

A brief aside: while all of this is happening, a detachment of troops led by M’Quve heads to Solomon to provide backup. Along the way they come across the Solomon evacuees, including Dozle’s wife Zenna and their daughter Mineva. Dozle’s family is rescued; the Zabi line won’t end anytime soon. But hey, Mineva is just a little kid, right? We probably won’t see her again. It’s not like she’s going to have a massive effect on the Universal Century later on or anything.

Back to Solomon, though. The Big-Zam leaves the base and Dozle–flying solo now, as he realizes the battle is lost and has ordered his co-pilots to evacuate while he goes down with the ship, so to speak–starts wreaking havoc on the Federation forces. It turns out that in addition to just a ridiculous amount of lasers, the Big-Zam has anti-beam coating, so the Federation’s best weapons are all but useless against it.

Sleggar, who has returned to the fray by now, has a plan to circumvent this. He has Amuro dock with the G-Fighter to form the G-Armor, then lays out his strategy: the two of them will fly in close to the Big-Zam and unload, first with the G-Armor’s guns, then the Gundam’s beam rifle, and finally with the beam saber. Such a devastating barrage at close range should break through the Big-Zam’s defenses… though Sleggar is quick to point out that the two of them could easily die in the attempt. He doesn’t seem bothered by that, though, shrugging off his possible doom as the duty of a soldier.

The pair execute their plan, and… well, look, Mobile Suit Gundam is not exactly subtle with the foreshadowing. The episode has thrown up flag after flag that Sleggar is going to die this episode, and this is where it happens: the cockpit of the G-Fighter is shattered by the Big-Zam. The Gundam deploys from the ruined G-Armor and buries its beam saber in the Big-Zam, disabling it permanently. But Dozle isn’t going down that easy–he grabs a rifle, exits his machine, and opens fire on the Gundam.

While this of course does nothing, it’s an interesting showdown nonetheless, because a giant demon appears in space behind the furious Zabi:

This never really gets addressed again, so I’m going to dig into some Newtype lore that the series proper hasn’t covered yet to explain. One of the core parts of the Newtype mythos is the idea of ‘understanding.’ See, Newtypes are basically psychic. This usually manifests in improved combat ability: pilots are able to anticipate their foe’s attacks, allowing them to react quickly and giving them an edge in combat. That’s mostly how Amuro’s Newtype abilities have been portrayed so far. However, the true purpose of Newtypes according to the franchise’s philosophy is to allow humans to communicate their feelings and emotions across the vastness of space. In this way, people will be connected and finally understand each other, preventing future conflict. Up to now, Amuro generally picks up on intent (his enemy’s next move) but not emotion. This is the first (well, second; his brief interaction with Lalah was the first, but that wasn’t a combat situation) time Amuro’s powers have shown him another person’s feelings… and Dozle is feeling anger and hatred. Thus, Amuro perceives a demonic presence from his opponent, symbolizing the powerful negative emotions coming from him.

All of that said, this fight is over. One angry Zabi is no match for a top-of-the-line Federation mobile suit. The wrecked Big-Zam explodes, taking Dozle with it, and Amuro returns to the White Base. As the episode draws to a close, he delivers the news of Sleggar’s loss to a devastated Mirai. Bummer way to end an episode, but hey, the preview for next week has a Gelgoog! So that’s pretty cool! Look forward to that!

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