It’s finally here! As of June 1, Gundam Hathaway is streaming on Netflix!
It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Gundam Hathaway is a beautifully animated film that serves not only as a great follow-up to Char’s Counterattack, but an important and engaging entry into the Universal Century in its own right.
Picking up twelve years after the events of Char’s Counterattack, Gundam Hathaway focuses on Hathaway Noa, the son of recurring figure Bright Noa. If you’re not a Gundam fan, you might recognize Bright Noa as the guy I named my cat after.
I want to take a second to lay out the rather odd genesis of this movie. We need to go way back—all the way back to the mid-80s, when Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino wrote a book called Hi-Streamer which told the story of the return of Char Aznable, as well as the final battle between the Red Comet and his rival, Gundam protagonist Amuro Ray.
Meanwhile, the anime series ZZ Gundam was in production, and Tomino planned to conclude the two characters’ on-screen rivalry in the latter half of that show. That plan was scrapped when he got the green light to do a Gundam movie after ZZ was finished; he opted instead to send ZZ in a different direction and finish Char and Amuro’s story in the film. He wrote up a script that modified Hi-Streamer’s plot; this altered version of the story would later become the novel Beltorchika’s Children, but executives passed on it and opted to make the movie an adaptation of Hi-Streamer instead.
A year or so later, Tomino wrote a novel trilogy called Hathaway’s Flash, intended to serve as a sequel to Beltorchika’s Children—the version of Hi-Streamer (and, by extension, Char’s Counterattack) that hadn’t made it to the big screen.
Nearly thirty years later, in 2018, an adaptation of Hathaway’s Flash was announced, bringing the series into official canon at last (though it should be noted that Gundam has a fairly loose definition of canon anyway).
Hathaway is the first film in the trilogy, and it gets things off to a great start.
First off, I just want to say that this movie is gorgeous. The art and animation is beautiful and smooth; I really can’t compliment the visuals enough.
The story is great, too, so let’s dig in! Just a heads up: this is not a great jumping on point if you’re new to the franchise. I mean, it could be worse, I guess, but there are a lot of references to Char’s Counterattack and at least a handful of scenes that will make no sense if you aren’t up on your Gundam lore. Bare minimum, you should watch the original series compilation films (all three are on Netflix) and Char’s Counterattack (also on Netflix). That should give you most of the context you need.
Also, I’m probably going to get into spoilers here—for this show and for other UC series/films.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how I was going to like Hathaway as a protagonist; that was probably my biggest worry going into this movie. He’s… not great in CCA, considering he spends most of the movie mooning over a mentally unstable girl that he just met and his biggest contribution to the plot is, uh, murdering Amuro’s girlfriend in a fit of rage.
That’s something that I wish was talked about more, by the way! Nobody really mentions Chan in this film. There are a few references to the fact that Hathaway stole a Jegan in CCA and shot down ‘an enemy’ with it, which I think is referring to Chan, because I don’t remember Hathaway shooting anyone else down… but there’s no direct mention of Chan, and Hathaway himself seems more driven by the memory of Quess than any guilt he might feel over killing a relatively innocent woman.
At any rate—I actually ended up liking Hathaway quite a bit as a protagonist. He’s complicated; he has noble goals (attack the Earth Federation’s corruption, protect the environment, end economic inequality), but his motivation is questionable, his methods are brutal (the movie doesn’t shy away from pointing out that he’s a terrorist), and as the wealthy son of a famous war hero, he doesn’t truly understand the plight of the people he’s ostensibly fighting for.
Seeing Hathaway’s internal conflict throughout the movie is fascinating. I was particularly interested in the way his father, Bright, seems to hang over him like a shadow; it’s very frequently mentioned that he’s the son of a war hero, and he seems uncomfortable with the way this affects people’s perception of him. I hope the next two movies feature a deeper exploration of Bright and Hathaway’s relationship.
I also hope we get to learn more about the way Hathaway’s terrorist group, Mafty, originated. Hathaway himself seems to have doubts about their approach, even very early on in the movie, and the whole thing is clearly spinning out of his control—after all, we open with a group of Mafty impersonators misusing the name in failed bid to ransom off a bunch of politicians (plus, there’s ‘Mafty’s Army’ gathering in Australia, completely independent of the actual organization). I’m curious how the son of a prominent Earth Federation officer founded—or at least became an integral part of—this group.
The supporting cast isn’t quite as strong; we spend a lot of time with both the possibly psychic mystery girl Gigi Andalucia and the mega-horny military bro Kenneth Sleg. I don’t like either of them as much as I think we’re supposed to; Gigi is fine, but a little trope-y for my taste, and Kenneth is just an asshole. I think he’s probably got a redemption arc coming, but come on: he beat a prisoner unconscious and used the guy’s life as a bargaining chip. And don’t even get me started on his begging Gigi to sleep with him for most of the movie. He’s not a good dude.
Still, I don’t have to like the characters to find them interesting and compelling; Gigi and Kenneth are pushing the plot in interesting ways, and that makes them enjoyable in my book.
Somewhat less enjoyable for me are the mobile suit designs. The Penelope and Xi Gundams are just… too big, bulky, and busy. I want to like them, but I can’t. The grunt units, on the other hand, are pretty great; I really like the Messer.
I was expecting a little more Quess, honestly. Hathaway does mention her in some pivotal moments, and there’s a brief flashback of her from Char’s Counterattack, but that’s all. Not that I’m complaining—just a little surprised.
I was very excited for Hathaway, and it did not disappoint. I’m already dying for the next movie in the trilogy to come out—I hope we don’t have too long to wait!