This is probably my only chance ever to type this, so I’ll take it.
This blog of mine glows with some awesome DICTION! It’s burning prose tells me to convince you! Take THIS! My text, my pictures and all of my spoilers! SHINING BLOGGER’S WORRRRD! Go! GO! GO!!
It’s ritualistic. I find it useful to think about mecha shows which for convenience’s sake we’ll pigeonhole as ‘super robot’ in terms of ritual, and Mobile Fighter G Gundam is right at the top of the Magic Words pile. Not only is there ‘This hand of mine . . .’, there’s also a shedload of signature attacks and, of course, ‘Gundam Fight! Ready . . . GO!’ G Gundam itself extracts a lot of mileage from modulating its rituals, varying the wording and the speakers to emphasise various things (finishing with a duet, the ‘Love-Love Sekiha Tenkyoken’); then the phrases take on a life of their own and furnish /m/ with a heightened, (over-)dramatic armoury of expressions.
It’s also a ritual which marks the show’s emotional climax in the forty-fifth episode, ‘Farewell Master! Master Asia’s Last Breath’. The episode’s title makes it obvious that Master Asia will be making his exit, which you might think would lessen its impact. Normally, perhaps it would, but this is the world of ritual, where you always already know what’s coming even if you don’t know quite in what manner it will come. And it’s the manner of ‘Master Asia’s Last Breath’ which adds the crowning emotional bite.
Whenever Domon and Master Asia perform ‘Look! The East is burning Red!’ it’s a precious moment: it’s introduced when they first meet in Shinjuku (YouTube for reference; the ritual begins at 3:33) and repeated only rarely as the series proceeds. It’s also enthralling in its ludicrousness. This is just a massively amped-up form of greeting, or a celebration of the School of the Undefeated of the East. Like a lot of the best things in life, it seems essentially pointless.
But its performance in the forty-fifth episode is still – for those of us willing to accept G Gundam‘s terms and premises – the emotional culmination of the preceeding story. Finally we (well, me – you may have figured it out earlier) realise why the East is meant to be burning red: it’s the sunrise. And the ritual is the ultimate reconciliation between master and pupil, the passing on of a legacy and also a mechanism to ensure that Master Asia can realise the error of his ways and still go out shouting – an important consideration in a world where even the horses are hotblooded.
The sunrise is especially appropriate because of the nature of Master Asia’s plan. Master Asia is really a (much) manlier version of Princess Mononoke‘s San: noticing the devastation caused to the Future Century’s Earth by the Gundam Fight and by human habitation in general, he resolved to remove humanity. (I suppose this makes him an eco-Char.) As Domon points out, Master Asia’s solution is an overreaction as a paradise without humans would be rather pointless. (Indeed, from Berkeley‘s perspective, if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, there is no tree.) So it’s fitting that Master Asia sees the sunrise from the beach and declares it ‘beautiful’. (This Ghibli moment is a little odd when it’s ∀ Gundam which is usually tagged as ‘the Miyazaki Gundam’, but then ∀ has a certain ecological awareness too.)
Anyway, as a counterpoint to Master Asia’s aspirations, G Gundam repeatedly showed us rural idylls and then used the Devil Gundam to completely trash them. Most of the Guyana arc, for example, is spent in a landscape of wide lakes and lush forests. Then, when the Devil Gundam arrives, it turns into a hellish disaster area, with earthquakes, fires, and disgusting mechanical tentacles infesting the landscape (quite a lot could be written on the way G Gundam associates machines and corruption, including the Devil Gundam tentacle-raping a planet). The same thing happens to Lantau Island and Neo Japan as the series continues, with the process happening more quickly each time it repeats.
Master Asia certainly does a great deal of damage to the environment in the process of trying to save it. But then there was something badly wrong with his chosen tool, something with miraculous powers that fell to earth and was corrupted. Or, in other words, I’m both irritated and entertained by G Gundam‘s habit of throwing vaguely allegorical names at you and then probably not doing anything with them. Probably:
Despite the terrible things I’ve done, there has never been one Devil Gundam cell on my body!
Put your faith in our Gundams!
I was amused to learn that the God Gundam and the Devil Gundam underwent a renaming program for the US dub. I suppose YHWH Gundam was unpronounceable. ‘This shrub of mine burns with an awesome POWER! It’s flaming voice tells me to bring the Israelites out of Egypt,’ &c.