There’s no real reason behind my selection of this picture, beyond the fact that I’m talking about Turn-A Gundam in this post. It’s nice to see a Gundam lead piloting something low-tech now and then, though, isn’t it? (Given what I could have chosen, be thankful.) Anyway, this is a follow-up to ‘War Sucks!‘, and while it contains no spoilers for Turn-A, it does contain one moderate spoiler for the final episode of Gundam 00.
I pointed out that although, as far as the Gundam franchise is concerned, war sucks, this doesn’t necessarily make the franchise as a whole pacifistic. Cameron, swiftly dissecting Full Metal Panic, not only suggested that said franchise reverses Gundam’s ‘being thrust into war is being thrust into adulthood’ metaphor (so that Sousuke matures by being thrust into civilian life), but also that the story eventually escapes the attitudes to war of both its protagonist, and its villain, Gauron. I’m having to paraphrase, so do read his original post.
Now, it may well be that the challenges of war in Gundam are the challenges of adult life, writ large in beams and Minovsky Particles, and that the experience of the (almost invariably) adolescent, male hero being forced to fight stands for the experience of the (predominantly) adolescent, male viewers being trained to become mindless salarymen. Most stories with young male heroes seem to fit a coming-of-age stencil, and I’m sure there are people out there who will tell you that all stories are somehow coming-of-age stories. But that’s something that needn’t bother us right now. I like the idea that war is life — ‘a darkling plain / [. . .] / Where ignorant armies clash by night’ — as far as Gundam is concerned.
Pushing this, just for fun, a bit further, it strikes me that that statement is true in a slightly different sense, too: war is the life of the franchise. It’s inescapable. Every instalment has involved fighting, for without fighting, what would be the point of all the humanoid war machines? And without the humanoid war machines, how would the franchise be profitable? It would be hard to sell toy models of, say, the Combine Harvester Gundam, the Forklift Gundam and the Frankly, We Just Felt Like Building a Giant Humanoid Walking Machine Gundam.
Except, of course, for the Turn-A (or, for the perfectionists among us, ∀) Gundam, which is also the Washing Machine Gundam, the Agricultural Transport Gundam and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Safe-Disposal Gundam. Gundams into ploughshares indeed.
So Turn-A Gundam isn’t just (for reasons which I won’t spoil) the final conclusion to all the other series, including the alternate-universe ones, it’s also a conclusion to the franchise as a franchise, a franchise which needs war. Gundam can’t really spend time considering what a peaceful world would look like, because it’s Gundam, and merchandise needs to be sold. It can’t escape like Full Metal Panic can, either, because it doesn’t have normality (well, high-school comedy) as a counterpoint to its endless violence. But Turn-A, with its slice-of-life scenes and its unglamourous mechanical designs, gestures towards that world’s existence in a more sustained way than other Gundams. (Really, 00? Killing not-Amuro off in an RX-78? It’s amusing, but it’s no ‘Rebirth’.)
This might be quite obvious to some or indeed a lot of people. I feel like I’ve mostly been anticipated by (contains spoilers) OGT’s recent rewatch finale post: the point he does/n’t make (a kind of apophasis?) about the show’s ‘meta-joke’ is the kind of thought I was lacking. I think I’ve been too preoccupied by Turn-A‘s role as an ending to all the stories in the franchise to properly consider its role as an ending to the franchise itself: an end to its voracious desire for more sequels, more wars and more toys.
- I haven’t noted down all the posts about Turn-A that I’ve come across, but besides OGT’s archive, IAmZim’s, Colin’s, Koji Oe’s and Crusader’s come to mind.
- Speaking of Crusader, it would be foolish to react to Cameron’s post without mentioning Crusader’s assertion that ‘mecha is magnificent, but it is not war’ . . .
- . . . and it would be foolish to mention that post without mentioning this one and that one.
- I haven’t devoted much thought to the mechanics of Turn-A‘s effect on Gundam, but they probably resemble some of the chronological wizardry that Animekritik recently performed on the Leijiverse, in a series of posts starting here.