August 5, 2010

“With the passing of time, it might be that the leaders of the future… are those who wear skirts.”

Guin Sard Lineford, Turn A Gundam

Guin is half-correct, considering that he lives in a time era well after the A.D. calendar ended. So technically, he is wrong… well, sort of. Man this is one shitty can of worms.

Anyways, Turn A Gundam is over for me. Well, as over as can be, since I won’t be watching the two compilation movies (probably). Too busy with Ace Combat 6 and the goddamned Futami F-16C/F-2 planes (honestly, who the f**k flips on a dime!), but it sure as hell is fun trying to down air units with those twin out-of-control turbines.

Well, let’s talk about Turn A.

When Tomino made Turn A, I have to say that whatever he thought, it certainly wasn’t considered an option by me. Mecha in a post-apocalyspe world isn’t the first, but with the Turn A Gundam, who runs on two black holes and is capable of interstellar warfare, it seems almost heavy-handed to use such a robot in an Earth-based conflict that only includes an area about the size of the United States of America in real life. Not so for Tomino apparently, who manages to not only NOT destroy the world from day 1 of the storyline, but also manages to keep the true powers Turn A and the even more broken Turn X under wraps right up to the face-bashing finale.

Here’s the skinny: The population situated around Earth once wiped itself out in a war of epic proportions using gigantic fighting machines that are named Mobile Suits (the descendants of the Earth-based survivors call them Mechanical Dolls). The people who survived and escaped to the Moon and its surface colonies have been keeping watch over the entire planet for 2000 years; now, with the Earth recovered, they’re ready to return as well. There’s a slight problem: There isn’t enough space for both the Moonrace and Earthrace, and what barren lands the Moonrace want to settle in are also denied to them by the Earthrace, in true human fashion of “sharing is for noobs”. The first contact between both races don’t go well, and caught in-between is young Moonrace civillian Loran Cehak, who was sent to Earth two years prior as a scout and now works for the Heim family as their chauffer.

At least Tomino has infused logic well into this particular initeration of Gundam. Despite the overwhelming numbers of the Earthrace against the far superior technology of the Moonrace, the war itself takes up almost three-quarters of the series; the Moonrace, led by their queen Dianna Soriel, wishes to negotiate instead of fight, and the Earthrace are represented by the sly Guin Lineford, who also wishes for peace, but for more political and personal reasons than the pure-minded thoughts of Dianna. Matters are further complicated when another character, Kihel Heim, turns out to be a 99.99% exact replica of Dianna’s looks. The gears really start grinding when Kihel’s sister Sochie goes on the warpath to avenge her father and mother, and Dianna and Kihel’s plan to switch identities for a short while turn out to be far longer than any of them intended.

Turn A Gundam is also notable for its focus, more so on the interactions between the characters then Tomino’s other works. There are far less depictions of combat, allowing for characters to interact in ways that you would never have expected them to; in fact, civilian life of the Earthrace and the Moonrace who have landed even takes the spotlight in a few episodes, exploring some aspects of the world that Turn A takes place in. Tomino also explores the concept of alternate plans in Turn A; prior to Loran, the Moonrace had already attempted many insertion attempts to live on Earth, resulting in bittersweet dreams and rather headache-inducing messes on both sides and Moonpeople who were sent as forward forces try to seek acceptance from the Dianna Counter, who are only barely reined in by Dianna’s insistence of peace before arms.

The fights becomes less one-sided once the Earthrace start fielding more than just Kapools and the Turn A, and often the Earthrace win their fights with sheer ingenuity. It really helps that the Dianna Counter’s unit designs are either “small lightly armored” or “big fat easily tripped” units, for the most part… but actually, Dianna’s anti-war policies are the only thing between the Earthrace and total annihilation (there is only one Turn A and it can only be in once place at ay time, after all).

Turn A Gundam sets itself from the others with another fact that it started on Earth, and ends on Earth. While most Gundam conflicts end in space, Turn A spends a very brief tenure there. There is no outright space combat, at least not anything resembling the scenes in normal Gundam shows. This isn’t really much of an important point, but it’s quite funny to see the Earthrace crew bounce around their own ship… not to mention attempting to pull a Bilbo back to Earth (yes, they used a WOODEN CASKET).

As is the wont of Gundam shows, the conflict between Dianna Counter and the Earthrace militia¬† soon expand; first Dianna mentions that her troops are slowly but surely starting to include reinforcements from the Moon that are not directly affiliated with Dianna Counter who put quite a dent in Dianna’s peace efforts; the Earthrace have quite a few people, Guin included, who don’t really care much for peace as long as their goals are fulfilled, and the most unlikely alliance of alliances happens near the end.

And where is Loran Cehak, you ask?

Helping the civilians, of course! Unlike the military of previous Gundam shows, the series’ main force are composed of militia, and their structure is quite loose. This lets the show put forth its anti-war message even more; Loran uses the Turn A for more than just mobile suit combat or to carry stuff; it is his Swiss Army knife, and there is almost nothing that he can’ do with it. This is in sharp contrast to the war-obsessed Gym Ghingnham, the pilot of the Turn X, the Turn A’s cousin machine; Gym is utterly convinced that the only way to win is to eliminate the Earthrace, and even that is secondary to his single-track love of live combat. The troops under him are only marginally better by being incompetent.

And then there are the blatant references to the Gundamverse before SEED. Un-arguably, the most iconic moment in Turn A is when Gundam Wing makes its last stab at what must be the first anime show; you even get to hear the famous “IT’S A GUNDAM!!!!11”, though the person who said it didn’t suffer a mook death. If Lucky Star is a reference to otaku culture, then Tomino already made one dedicated to the Gundam franchise when he directed Turn A, intentional or no.

The mechanical designs of Turn A are done by Syd Mead, a concept artist most famous for his futuristic work. The designs grow on you after a while, but his works, which not only encompass the Turn A but also a fair number of the Moonrace mobile suits, clash somewhat with the original mobile suit aesthetics pioneered and refined by Kunio Okawara. Perhaps this is Turn A’s source of hate from hardcore Gundam fans; but heck, the Moonrace has had way more than 2000 years to get rid of cool-looking but useless design motifs because there’s no other faction left to show it to. If you can reconcile with G Gundam, you can reconcile with Turn A Gundam. Period.

All in all, if we were to talk about the message behind the show, Turn A’s anti-war message is one we’ve seen from Mobile Suit Gundam all the way to Gundam F91. But at least, it makes it interesting by giving you the opinions of the front-row spectators to the war, whose thoughts are all too often taken for silence, even in Gundam.


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