Gundam 00: from international to intergalactic relations?

What is it with mecha anime and the theme of communication these days? Not that I’m an expert – so this will be a huge simplification – but the original Macross was all about how culture crosses all alien boundaries; Evangelion and RahXephon both dealt with existentialism; Code Geass was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on a certain real world hegemon; and all the Gundam series I’ve seen so far have been dominated by political messages. At first glance, the most recent completed additions to both the Gundam and Macross series seem merely to be less impressive incarnations of their illustrious ancestors. But come the movies, and suddenly everything is clearly about communication with the extraterrestrial ‘other’. I’ll have to put aside Macross Frontier until Sayonara no Tsubasa is out later this year, but let me just say that I was quite bemused.

Characters with new looks, and completely new introductions…who don't really do anything *sweatdrops*

To give Gundam 00 a bit more credit, the idea of ‘communication’ was present throughout the TV series. I’m talking about Aeolia Schenberg’s ‘dialogues to come’ (来るべき対話), of course. Just look back on what he said in A.D. 2091 (in the series timeline):

I hate when knowledge gets misused and people who are taken in by perceptions and prejudice lose sight of reality. That is the source of misunderstanding, ignorance and conflict. I want us to understand each other… Humanity must learn to use knowledge properly. If they don’t, they’ll just rekindle the flame when they try to travel out into the vast world of space.

However, if there is indeed other life out there, and if humans encounter them one day (whether because of their technology or ours), then this concern is quite valid. If we can’t even get along with each other, how are we to get along with intelligent beings that may be completely different from us?

For the shippers: old favourites and perhaps an anticipated surprise?

Of course, what I didn’t expect is that they would actually introduce aliens such as the ELS. A silicon-based(?) sentient life form that is completely different from us – their way of understanding others is basically to assimilate them. Of course, for us carbon-based life forms, that actually means death! The ELS are just trying to communicate, but the natural reaction – in fact, the only reaction possible – for us earthlings is to defend ourselves. A realistic encounter between two intelligent lifeforms that have evolved under completely different circumstances: this is what Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer does almost perfectly.

The new mecha are crazy…though Setsuna's is mainly for defense and communication…*sweatdrops*

However, I have never quite gotten used to that other Gundam staple: the Newtype or its various ideational relations – Coordinator, and now the Innovators. As a Genetics major, I’m more than willing to contemplate ‘coordinators’, but the idea that humans will spontaneously evolve into a more advanced being due to exposure to ‘GN particles’ has me rolling my eyes. Sure, Setsuna being able to communicate with the ELS by non-conventional means was necessary for the survival of the human race, and the conversion of the ELS probe into that flower in space demonstrates that the ELS finally understood that communication through assimilation was impossible for humans. But having humans go through an impossible transformation for that…I always thought Gundam was meant to be more realistic – didn’t know it had become sci-fi fantasy!

I'll give it to them for the most innovative alien lifeform I've ever seen in anime though…

I’m not sure if Gundam 00 was ever at a point where I felt that it would change my mind about the franchise. I was probably biased against it right from the time I saw Kouga Yun’s character designs, and the somewhat preachy political messages have never really interested me. This theme about the importance of communication is yet another case of a convoluted message: most other Western fan reactions I’ve seen can be reduced to ‘WTF?’. Admittedly, now that I am actually studying international relations, I dare say a rewatch might be quite eye-opening…but I’m really not interested enough. Besides, even if strategy here is much better, Gundam’s major draw supposedly lies in the mecha, and the mecha in Macross are far more interesting. ^^

p.s. incidentally, Patrick’s survival was sooo completely expected by the vast majority of fans that it isn’t even hidden on the TV Tropes page for the movie

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to Gundam 00: from international to intergalactic relations?

  1. Pingback: Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Do You Remember Love?: it’s sacriligeous, I know… « HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

  2. Pingback: Aldnoah.Zero through an international relations lens… | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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