Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 40: Lalah’s Dilemma

Hey! We took a week off, but we’re back–back in a Gundam mood!

As we pick up from last episode, the Gundam is in need of serious repairs. More than that, it’s in need of an upgrade, since Amuro has become to fast for the machine to keep up with. There are rumblings on the White Base that Amuro might be one of these Newtypes we keep hearing about; Bright isn’t sure what to think, but it’s clear the kid isn’t your average pilot.

I want to take a second here to say that I really like this plot point–that is, that Amuro’s reflexes are too fast for the Gundam. It’s a really interesting way to increase tension; it’s not unheard of for a mecha to be beyond a pilot’s capabilities, but for a pilot to outstrip their machine’s output? That’s quite a bit rarer. It’s a neat little twist and it also cements Amuro’s abilities as being beyond human–a bit of a necessity for all this Newtype talk to really have any weight.

While the Gundam is docked at Solomon for repairs, a scientist named Mosk Han arrives to give our favorite mobile suit an experimental upgrade: magnet coating, which is supposed to ease friction at the suit’s joints, allowing it to move faster. No one is entirely sure whether or not this will work, but hey, they’ve got to try something, right? Mosk is a bit single-minded about his work, but he and Amuro seem to get along alright regardless.

On the Zeon side of things, a colony is being evacuated. Specifically, a place called Colony Mahal is being cleared out so that Gihren can have it converted to a makeshift Solar Ray to combat the Federation’s own Solar System. This decision is causing some tension between Gihren and his father, Degwin; this scene is fascinating because it is at once a fairly subtle and interesting character moment for Degwin while also being one of the most ham-handed scenes in the entire series. Here’s what I mean by that:

Degwin is against the idea. He feels that creating a weapon like this will allow Gihren to rule Zeon through fear rather than true unification, to which Gihren basically responds, “Yeah, what about it?” Degwin states that he never meant for the Zabis to be a lasting monarchy, and only seized absolute control to prevent Zeon from shattering after Zeon Zum Deikun’s death. Now, it’s fairly easy to tell that that’s not really true (especially if you know that in the original plan for the series, Degwin was going to flat-out admit in the final episodes that he poisoned Deikun to take power), but the fact that he’s attempting to justify it that way now says a lot about where he’s at mentally at this stage of the war. Degwin Zabi is, at this point, a broken man. The war has cost him two sons (three if you count Sasro, who died prior to the start of the show). He has seen the way it twisted his other son, Gihren. He has finally come to terms with the fact that he has betrayed Zeon Zum Deikun’s dreams for the nation of Zeon. And yet despite all this, he signs off on Gihren’s plan, because… he simply doesn’t have it in him to fight it.

So, that’s the relatively subtle part. The ham-handed part comes in when Degwin tells his son directly that he is acting just like Hitler. Like, not some sci-fi space despot who is clearly a stand-in for Hitler–literally Hitler. And then Gihren proceeds to say that this Hitler guy sounds pretty cool, actually, and he’s happy to be the new Hitler. You know, just in case you were wondering whether Gihren was meant to be likeable in any way…

But enough stuffy politicking. This is a robot show! Lets see some robot fights!

Lalah’s Elmeth engages some Federation ships, backed up by a few Doms. The Elmeth tears through the battlefield; the problem is, she actually does too well, and her support units back off because they figure she’s got it handled. While the Elmeth is a top-of-the-line mobile armor and Lalah is a powerful Newtype, she’s still not a soldier, and she quickly cracks under the pressure of handling the whole fight alone. Luckily, Char swoops in to save the day. Despite things getting a bit out of hand after the Doms fell back, the attack is a success, and Char suggests that Kycilia form an entire Newtype Corps. Oh, and this isn’t important, but one of the Dom pilots is named “Buttsham” and I think that’s wonderful.

Now, back to our heroes. The Earth Federation is launching Operation Star One, meant to break through Zeon’s last line of defense. Federation forces are mobilizing from Solomon, including the 13th Fleet, which White Base is a part of. White Base itself is launching a bit later than the rest of the fleet, since the Gundam is still getting its upgrades; by the time it does finally move out, the 13th Fleet is already under attack by–you guessed it–Char and Lalah.

Amuro engages with his nemesis and really does a number on Char’s Gelgoog. It’s a fairly quick fight, but a good one. Unfortunately, Lalah moves to intervene. While she shares a unique mental connection with Amuro, she still feels indebted to Char, and that’s who she chooses to support. She doesn’t succeed in driving Amuro off (he manages to shoot the Elmeth’s bits right out of the sky), but she does pick up Char, and the two beat a hasty retreat as the episode ends.

The show is almost over, folks! Check back next week as the tensions between Amuro, Lalah, and Char come to a head.

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