Master Asia’s Last Breath

Rock On!

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.

Last Breath At Sunrise

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.

Blogiography

  • The Nihon Review reviews G Gundam.
  • OGT muses on the experience of rewatching it.
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21 responses to “Master Asia’s Last Breath

  1. I so wish I could remember the speech in Japanese, but you’ll just have to live with the English version for now.

    THE SCHOOL OF THE UNDEFEATED OF THE EAST!
    THE WINDS OF THE KING!
    ZENSHIN!
    KEIRETSU!
    TEMPA KYOURAN!
    LOOK, THE EAST IS BURNING RED!

    Why do you have to leave us Touhou Fuhai? Who else can follow in your manliness?

  2. I think the best part of this post was YHWH Gundam and the subsequent pastiche of the burning bush. What fun is it to watch an Imagawa Yasuhiro show if you can’t do things like that?

  3. did you just fucking disect one of the most mindless shows ever? Epic.

  4. Actually I was reading Claiming Ground’s blog – that most recent article on the future – and I’ve noticed how Shinjuku is always in ruins in the future, well, at least in Code Geass and G Gundam, I haven’t really seen it used in the future besides with those two. I don’t know what the Japanese are thinking when they always show their island in ruins (or large portions of it, as well as the world, eva?).

    It seemed like in G Gundam, to the extent of my memory, you had these large urban centers and then everything else was undeveloped or in ruins, and so Master Asia’s motive is to preserve what is left by killing everybody. This is really similar, that ideology of preservation, is coupled with that historical continuity, what with the martial arts rituals and such, and we get a look at how a lot of art deriving from the Orient is like saying “well thank you white folks for modernizing us,” not that this is a subtle reference to North Korea or anything…

  5. I watched the whole thing dubbed on CN back when I watched TV. So pardon me if my information is terribly wrong from the original.

    I realized that the EAST IS BURNING RED had something to do with a rising sun, but in the back of my mind I just thought that they were alluding to The East is Red, the de facto commie anthem in the PRC during the Mao era. I get the fact that Master Asia was trying to wipe out man to make a pure blue world, but I kind of tuned it out in favor of the sheer campiness of Gundam Fights. I felt sorry for Master Asia when he kicked the bucket, but probably mostly because I would never hear that awesome over the top voice actor again.

    I will never forget when Noble Gundam showed up…and Allenby. I had by then gotten use to the multitude of Gundam designs, some good some awful, but I never could have imagined a mahou shoujo gundam. Shadow Gundam was my favorite though, though you guys might call him Gundam Speigel. Bolt Gundam was a strong second in my book.

    Though I have to ask if Devil Gundam was tentacle raping the world and Rain ended up as the Devil Gundam does it then qualify as a truly monstrous as female with a multitude of members?

    HERE I GO!
    THIS M240B OF MINE IS BURNING RED IT’S LOUD ROAR TELLS ME TO CHANGE THE BARREL!
    NOW GIVE ME ANOTHER BELT!

    So yeah the environment… Only you can prevent forest fires.

  6. You know after reading one of your entries on G Gundam, I took at look at it.

    The whole show was amazing. Stereotypes, manly characters, drama, hilarious suits (Windmill Gundam anyone?). And this scene.

    Mindless it may be, but it’s freaking awesome. Strangely, it’s possibly my favourite Gundam.

  7. I tried watching Gundam a while back … but I got bored of it lols. I like some of the new mecha anime nowadays though, like Macross and Code Geass :D

  8. @ Demian: Well, quite. It’s a credit to Master Asia’s greatness that it took Guts to defeat him in SaiGAR – I suppose that makes Master Asia the second most GAR character as far as the SaiGAR voters are concerned.

    @ OGT: Well, quite (is this a new ritual?). ‘Take THIS! My speech, miracles, and all of God’s plagues! Let my people go! GO! GO!!’

    @ 21stcenturydigitalboy: Creating crazy theses about mindlessly fun anime is what I live for, to be honest.

    @ lelangir: Shinjuku’s a pretty spiffy area, apparently, so I wonder if it’s a case of ‘Well, if Shinjuku’s gone to the dogs it must really be bad’. As for the general trend for ruined depictions of Japan, the traditional explanation is that the Japanese are the only people who’ve actually lived through nuclear strikes. Though I’m a bit tired of ‘Blame the Bomb’ explanations for things in anime.

    Also, I like your new blog (I’d never have the courage to use the word ‘praxis’ in an actual post).

    @ Crusader: I’m sure I read somewhere that the Nobel/Noble Gundam was inspired by Sailor Moon (here‘s a picture for anyone who reads this and hasn’t seen G Gundam) – I like how they mixed a maho shojo look with the pilot having vicious beserker abilities, though. Nice contrast. The Shadow/Spiegel is a clever design too: it has a touch of a jester’s costume about it, like Schwarz Bruder’s own cap, plus something like a Stahlhelm, and wound up looking pretty badass.

    I’m undecided on the Devil Gundam, but I think since it required a female power unit to work at full potential as a regenerative machine the Devil Gundam is gendered as male separately from its pilot (and lets not forget the whole tentacle rape aura that hangs about it). To be honest, Rain’s role (or lack of one) in the last four episodes was one of my biggest beefs with the show, but there you go.

    As for gun barrels, I think the first time I realised that war was really unpleasant was when I read about soldiers in the First World War having to use their urine to cool the barrels of their machine-guns – and to wash their hands, for that matter.

    @ RCB: Oh man, the Windmill Gundam was a stroke of genius, especially the way a whole squadron of them showed up at the end. While it has flaws, I thought G was a great blend of martial arts, super robots and general hotbloodedness. It’s certainly my favourite silly Gundam, but then it’s also really the only Gundam show of its type. While there are lots of shout-outs and resonances with other Gundams (including the first on-screen appearance of the Wing Gundam!), it’s almost unfair to compare it with the other parts of the franchise.

    @ blissmo: Macross F and Code Geass are probably easier to enjoy than a lot of the Gundam franchise. The trouble is, there’s so much Gundam to choose from so, while there may be a Gundam for everyone, it’s rare for people to find their perfect Gundam on the first try.

  9. G Gundam might be my favorite of the ones that I’ve seen because of it’s over the top nature, and you’ve reminded me of one of the reasons why with this post and that link to their greeting. That’s why it was so fun to see both voice actors make an homage to it in These Are My Noble Masters, as they play characters in that show.

    And also because it brought us fun stuff like this. :P

  10. Hehe, giant fighting robots.
    The only Gundam series I’ve finished though is Seed/Destiny, along with most of 00. The rest seems like an acquired taste.

  11. @ TheBigN: It’s the mark of good-and-silly anime that it produces fun 4koma. And I did like the uber-butler voiced by Akimoto in Kimiaru – in fact, G Gundam and Kimiaru provide some of the images in my banner.

    @ Nagato: You know it’s all about the robots which are both giant and fighting. I wonder if the acquired taste thing is just because they’re older? You know your own tastes best, though. If you’re curious the OVAs are nice and short so you haven’t lost much time if you don’t like ‘em.

  12. Is G Gundam pretty good? I haven’t watched it but my question is, is it enjoyable? I think I might want to try and find out.

  13. I’m probably the wrong person to ask, but I thought it was pretty enjoyable. It sets out to be ridiculous-yet-fun, and achieves its goals. I guess the viewer has to buy into the hotblooded action, though. Proof of the pudding’s in the eating: I’d recommend trying it.

  14. I frequently have dreams of a G Gundam sequel where we actually get to see the 14th Gundam Fight and all the awesome characters come back for another go at it. It’s probably an OVA I’m imagining, but even that would be worth it…..or possibly a manga like Gundam X: Under The Moonlight.

  15. I’d prefer the OVA route – I quite like Ecole du Ciel and Crossbone, but there’s something about animated Mobile Suits. It would be seriously awesome, though I’m wondering how they’d top the amount of awesome in G in the first place (given how it even had a Gundam riding into space on a MS horse).

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  19. RYUHA TUHOFUHAI WA…
    OUCHA NO KAZE O…
    SENSHIN…!
    KERETSU…!
    TENPATSU KYORAN…
    MIYO!
    TOUHO WA AKAKUMOETEIRU!!!

    ò.o/

    My msn XD: rain_mikamura@hotmail.com

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