Mobile Suit Gundam, Episode 41: A Cosmic Glow

It’s Gundam time!

After Gihren’s “Hitler was awesome” rant last episode, his dad, Degwin, has decided that the kid has gone too far. The Zeon monarch secretly abandons his son as we pick things up this week, heading out to initiate peace talks with the Earth Federation. Good for you, Degwin, growing a conscience! No way this could go wrong!

While we’re on the Zeon side of things, let’s pop over to Char and Kycilia, shall we? Kycilia drops a bombshell on the Red Comet: she knows that he’s actually Casval Rem Deikun, and that he joined the military to try to wipe out the Zabi family. Awkward! Char is understandably taken aback by this news, and wonders how Kycilia figured it out. Apparently, she noticed that he had changed after meeting Lalah, and she wondered why Lalah’s Newtype abilities affected Char so much, so she did some digging. Ultimately, this led her to discover his true identity… but now, she says, he seems more focused on creating a future for Newtypes than avenging himself on the Zabi family, so she’s not going to do anything with the information.

That’s… nice of her? I get that Kycilia is essentially “the reasonable Zabi” (especially now that Garma is too dead to occupy that role) but still, that’s awful trusting, lady! I mean, at the very least, she must realize now that he got her brother killed. Does she not care about that? She does say that they can deal with the revelation after the war is resolved, so maybe she’s intending to move against Char eventually, but still… I suppose she just doesn’t want to lose her best pilot in Zeon’s darkest hour, which is fair, but I get the feeling this decision is going come back later and hit her like a bazooka to the head.

We briefly divert to the White Base, where everyone is talkin’ Newtypes. Bright has finally come around to accepting that Amuro is one, and the pilot points out that the rest of the crew probably is, too, or else the ship wouldn’t have made it this far. Bright admits that he’s probably right, while also stating that Amuro is still far and away more gifted than the rest of them.

On the subject of Newtypes: Lalah and Char are getting ready to deploy against some Federation forces. It’s a fairly standard “gearing up for combat” scene, but two very important things happen: first off, Char kisses Lalah. There’s been romantic subtext between them pretty much from the jump (muddied a bit by Char describing her as “like a sister” a few episodes back), but this is on-screen confirmation that he’s more than her commanding officer.

As a side note, this whole relationship is pretty messed up. I mean, there’s the sister thing (and just wait until Char’s Counterattack, it’s going to get even weirder in that department), plus he’s her boss, and once we see how they met in Origins there’s a whole other layer to it. Bottom line, this is inappropriate on a lot of levels.

Anyway, the other major thing is that Lalah asks Char to start wearing a normal suit when he deploys. As you may remember, he makes it a policy not to suit up for space battles, because he doesn’t see the point–after all, his mobile suit isn’t going to get destroyed, so he won’t need a spacesuit, right? However, he immediately acquiesces to Lalah’s request. This is both a reaffirmation of their bond and an important plot beat, the significance of which will become clear in the next few episodes.

With all that out of the way, the two lovers deploy, Lalah in the Elmeth and Char in the Gelgoog. Naturally, they’ve engaged with the fleet that White Base is part of, so our heroes deploy as well and we get a nice space battle. During combat, Amuro once again makes a psychic connection with Lalah. It goes even further than usual, though–instead of the fairly abstract, trippy animations we’ve seen up to this point, the two actually have a full mental conversation (while drifting through a bunch of trippy weirdness, of course). Lalah laments that she didn’t meet Amuro earlier; as the two come to understand each other through their Newtype link, it becomes clear to both that they are kindred spirits. Sadly, Lalah feels a strong loyalty to Char. The two argue back and forth about how to proceed, and for a moment it seems like maybe Lalah will leave Zeon after all… and then Char attacks the Gundam. Lalah and Amuro’s link is severed as both are forced back into the fight.

While all of this is happening, by the way, the White Base crew seems to have a vague understanding of what’s going on between Amuro and Lalah, more-or-less confirming all of them (well, the ones we’re familiar with, anyway) as low-level Newtypes.

The duel between Char and Amuro here is excellent, featuring some of the most frenetic action we’ve seen so far as the two skilled pilots face off. Ultimately, our hero gets the upper hand, slicing off the Gelgoog’s arm and moving in for a killing blow with the beam saber.

And suddenly, the Elmeth is there between them.

It’s too late for Amuro to pull back; his saber sinks into the mobile armor, destroying it. As Lalah dies, she communes with Amuro one last time; the two reflect briefly on their doomed relationship and what their status as Newtypes means. Amuro laments that they had so little time together, and hopes that one day, Newtypes will be so advanced that time will no longer matter to them. As Lalah fades away, she assures Amuro that she can “see time itself.”

As odd as it sounds, coming as late as it does in the series (there are only two episodes left), this is the major turning point in Amuro and Char’s relationship. Char blames Amuro for Lalah’s death because he destroyed the Elmeth; Amuro blames Char since Char is the one who put the peaceful girl on the battlefield to begin with. The moment is also an interesting bit of foreshadowing about Newtypes as a whole–there’s an implication that Lalah doesn’t merely die, but ascends to some kind of higher consciousness (“I can see time itself!”). This gains traction in the sequel series, Zeta Gundam, as well as Char’s Counterattack, and eventually pays off fully in Gundam Unicorn.

At this point, I should perhaps address the issue of fridging–killing off a female character in order to motivate a male protagonist. It’s a terrible, sexist trope and a very lazy way to write. The question is: is Lalah’s death an example of fridging? While I could see that argument, my gut feeling is to say no. While it is, as I said, a big motivating factor for both Char and Amuro moving into the last few episodes (and eventually Char’s Counterattack), the two already have a strong rivalry and didn’t need Lalah’s death to “make things personal.” Additionally, Lalah isn’t killed off by some bad guy–she makes the decision to sacrifice herself. That’s not a huge distinction, but I do think it’s worth noting. Finally, Lalah’s legacy is important and long-lasting. This isn’t a throw-away death meant to add shock value or push Amuro toward revenge or something, it’s an important part of the Universal Century and has ripple effects for the next several in-universe decades.

For now, though, what matters is this: Lalah, a very important person to both Amuro and Char, is dead because of the conflict between the two. This incident will only drive the two against each other harder as the final battle of the One Year War approaches.

As Char retreats and Amuro looks on in numb shock at what he’s done, we cut to General Revil. He’s informed that Degwin Zabi has arrived to initiate peace talks. For a brief moment, it looks like perhaps the war is about to end without further bloodshed… and then Gihren fires the Colony Laser, wiping out a third of the Revil Fleet. Including, of course, Degwin and Revil’s ships. The leaders of both military forces are gone in an instant, and now there is only one path forward. Next week, the assault on A Baoa Qu begins!

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