Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Episode 1: The Black Gundam

It’s finally time! Zeta Gundam is here! And with a snazzy intro, too!

For real, I really love the intro sequence of this show. The animation is so smooth and crisp; it shows off the characters and suits very well. The only issue is the music; the original opening track can’t be used in the Western release due to some kind of copyright issue, so it’s replaced on the blu-ray collection with an instrumental track from the show itself. It’s fine, but it would’ve been nice to have the original song (which is “Toki wo Koete” by Mami Ayukawa, by the way).

Speaking of characters and suits: both Yoshikazu Yasuhiko (character designer) and Kunio Okwara (mechanical designer) returned for this series. Additional mechanical designs were provided by Mamoru Nagano and Kazumi Fujita. And, of course, Tomino returned as director.

Once that fantastic opening sequence is past, we can dig into the meat of the episode itself. We open on a mobile suit pilot wearing a familiar pink normal suit. He and two other pilots are flying their mobile suits toward a space colony; the suits in question are Rick Dias…es (what’s the plural of Rick Dias?), and naturally, the one our main man is piloting is red. His two companions call him Quattro, but given the mobile suit color, recognizable voice actor, and the allusion one of his subordinates makes to serving in the One-Year War, it’s very obvious that this is none other than Char Aznable.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Char actually do much before we cut away to our new protagonist: Kamille Bidan. Thus begins the grand tradition of Gundam introducing a new protagonist in every single series! Anyway, Kamille is a young man living in the colony known as Green Oasis–er, wait, that’s Green Noa… no, sorry, it’s Gryps! See, the colony was originally called Green Noa, but it gained the nickname Green Oasis; however, it was recently taken over by an Earth Federation military group called the Titans, who have relabeled it Gryps. I think.

We meet Kamille as he’s skipping out on some kind of martial arts training, but unlucky him—he bumps into one of the instructors as he’s leaving the building. The teacher immediately gives Kamille a good slapping! I’ll be honest, there’s no real reason for this scene to be here other than to establish that yes, just like last time, the main character is going to get slapped. It’s… oddly comforting, I’ll admit.

Anyway, as Kamille is running from his class (not because of the slap, mind you, which barely slows him down despite the fact that it sent him flying; nah, he’s just in a hurry) he meets a classmate of his: Fa Yuiry. Fa chases after him, calling his name, which annoys Kamille to no end. Kamille hates his name, viewing it as too feminine. This will be important in a moment.

Kamille reaches his destination, a sort of colony tram-car thing, with Fa in tow. The car sends them rocketing off toward the colony’s space station, which is where Kamille is really headed. As the two shoot through space–because this tram car operates outside the colony proper for some reason–our young hero sees something in the distance: three flashes of light. The mobile suits from earlier, though the kid doesn’t know it. At that same moment, Cha… uh, Quattro senses something. He wonders if he’s feeling the presence of Amuro Ray, or perhaps Lalah Sune.

This is such a wonderful moment. It establishes so much: first off, it really hammers home the sense of continuity between the previous series and this one, referencing a major story beat from the end of Mobile Suit Gundam. It also removes any lingering doubts a viewer might have as to whether or not this is Char (who else would be familiar with the Newtype abilities of Amuro and Lalah?). Finally, it foreshadows the emphasis on Newtypes that the show will build throughout its run.

The tram arrives at the spaceport and Kamille reveals why he was in such a hurry to get there: a ship just came in. Not just any ship, though! The personal transport of one Bright Noa, fearless captain of the White Base and hero of the One-Year War! Kamille is apparently a bit of a White Base fanboy. Again, I love the strong ties to the previous show here; Gundam‘s protagonists are minor celebrities in Zeta. Fa even asks if Bright is a Newtype, directly referencing the mythos that had already been alluded to by the previous scene.

Unfortunately for Kamille, he already missed Bright, so it’s time for him and Fa to head back home. As they go to leave, though, a group of Titans (remember, that’s a special branch of the Earth Federation military) overhear Fa talking to Kamille and one of them–Jerid Mesa–makes a tragic mistake. He hears the name Kamille and assumes it’s a girl’s name.

I want to lay out how benign Jerid’s actions actually are here. The full sequence of events is as follows:
-Fa says, “Kamille!”
-Jerid glances over at Fa and Kamille
-Kamille responds to Fa
-Jerid says to himself, “Oh. I though Kamille would be a girl’s name, but surprise–it’s a guy.”

Kamille overhears this comment and goes berserk.

He launches himself at Jerid and decks him, screaming that Kamille is a man’s name and he’s a man! Naturally, all of Jerid’s Titans friends jump in to defend their pal. Kamille actually handles the fight pretty well, landing several good hits on most of his attackers, but once the spaceport security guards hop in, he just doesn’t have a chance. The Titans beat him up a bit and drag him off to a holding cell.

Now, back to the good stuff: Quattro’s Rick Dias reaches the colony! The pilot disembarks from his mobile suit and heads in; it quickly becomes apparent that he’s there looking for something. It’s not long before he finds it: the Titans’ base, which is home to a brand-new mobile suit which looks like a black Gundam. More than one, in fact.

I adore this whole sequence. It’s a great callback to the first episode of the original series, where a group of Zeon soldiers infiltrate Side 7 to find the secret Earth Federation base there. This is almost the exact same thing, except this time around, the Earth Federation are the bad guys, and the infiltrator isn’t some nameless goon but Char Aznable himself!

Unfortunately for Char, one of these new Gundams is out for a test drive. It spots him and pursues, firing its vulcans at him. As Quattro notes, this is stupid for multiple reasons: he’s far too small a target for the mobile suit to have a chance at hitting him, and every missed shot is going to endanger the colony. He makes a speedy exit and rejoins his two compatriots (their names are Roberto and Apolly, by the way) in space; they’ve also seen the Gundam thanks to a well-placed spy cam positioned outside the colony.

We rejoin Kamille as he’s being lambasted by a Titans officer who is, basically, accusing Kamille of terrorism. The officer (Matoshi) says that since Kamille assaulted a member of the Titans, he’s probably a member of the A.E.U.G.–an anti-Earth Federation group. Matoshi says that while the A.E.U.G. might claim they’re fighting for the right of oppressed spacenoids, they’re really no better than the Principality of Zeon. Kamille refuses to respond, so after a bit more yelling, Matoshi leaves him there to stew for awhile.

Sitting alone in the interrogation room, Kamille has a vision of space. It’s vague, but is another clear indicator of his Newtype abilities; the vision is cut short, though, when the door opens and a lawyer enters, telling Kamille that he’s free to go. It seems that Kamille’s mom is kind of a big deal in the Earth Federation, so it wasn’t too hard to secure Kamille’s release. But, naturally, Matoshi arrives and says something to trigger Kamille’s temper; the kid kicks the officer in the face and all of a sudden, it’s not so easy to bail him out anymore, regardless of his mother’s status.

Lucky for him, then, that just then one of the new Gundams crashes into the building.

While Matoshi and the other law enforcement folks in the area are distracted, Kamille rushes out. His Newtype senses alert him that a nearby jeep still has a key in the ignition, so he promptly steals it (humorously, as Kamille tries to get the car to start, we see none other than Captain Bright drive by in the background). He drives off, eventually ditching the jeep and wondering despondently what he’s going to do now.

As Kamille begins life on the lam, we cut again to Quattro. He fires a flare from his Rick Dias, which signals a ship called the Argama. The Argama opens fire on Gryps, and then… credits!

It’s a wild first episode, but it does a lot right. There are some great callbacks to the original series and an interesting cast of both new and returning characters. The show is off to a fantastic start! Check back next week, and you will see the tears of time.

Uh, that’s the ending tag for the previews. “You will see the tears of time.” Not quite as good as “Who will survive?” in my opinion.

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