Sidonia no Kishi – 11

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When Kobayashi first told Nagate she needed a new savior, he’s honest: he has no idea if he can live up to previous heroes, but he’ll do his best, because he’s a Knight of Sidonia. Compare that to Kunato Norio’s mopey, nihilistic attitude that seems to say “Bite Me, Sidonia”. Ever since he lost his cool in the cockpit, he’s been a ghost, with only his loyal little sister to keep him company in his musty mansion with huge ducts coming out of the walls, Brazil-style.

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He doesn’t even bother answering the call to sortie, but Nagate, Izana, and 46 others answer the call. Some, like Nagate and Samari, have duty in their hearts. Others, like Izana and the other greenhorns, have hawk-moths in their stomachs. With the planet-sized Hive Gauna bearing down on the much smaller Sidonia and evasive maneuvers ineffective, the only remaining option for XO Yuhata is to send two platoons armed with the experimental weapons, in the hope they can take the Gauna out.

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After they outrun the anti-planet missile Exterminatus launched as the prospective coup-de-grace to their assault, the 48 frames look fierce, but quickly take on the appearance of tiny mosquitoes bizzing around the head of some great beast. There’s no immediate challenge to their arrival or their first volleys into the placental surface, as if the Gauna can’t be bothered with such a weak enemy. But the Gardes eventually draw some blood; enter Benisuzume.

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The platoon almost successful in disabling the hive’s propulsion system, is utterly annihilated in a matter of seconds. We only catch glimpses of Pilot’s POV video feeds until one after another they cut out to static. She may be the only Gardes-type Gauna, but she’s clearly enough, forcing Yuhata to change gears and call for the activation of Sidonia’s Super-Ultra-Bad-ass Hyggs Cannon to blast a hole into the hive the sixteen surviving frames can enter and take out the Master Gauna.

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As crew members informed Yuhata of the risks to the residential area inherent in firing the cannon, the episode cuts to that area, panning past various structures, but the only actual people we see are Lala, Kunato and his sister, which begs the question: where’s everyone else? I know all of Sidonia is on the line, but what is Sidonia? How many people are left? Why don’t we see them evacuating, hiding in their homes, or running around panicking? Their plight is left to the imagination.

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It’s hard to feel for what amounts to a largely unseen cipher of a population, but that isn’t really a big deal, because I do care about Izana, Nagate, Yuhata, and a handful of other characters, and I’m rooting for them to somehow prevail. They know what they need to do; now it’s a matter of how (and whether) they can do it, and what else the Gauna have up their slimy sleeves. Izana lamented the fact they have “basically no time left together”; Nagate insists they still do. I hope he’s right!

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Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

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The third entry in 2014’s Summer Hot Flashbacks is Mobile Suit Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket, which is set on Side 6 during the final act of the one year war and tells the tale of a comparatively small conflict. And it tells it quite well.

Side 6, the neutral colony featured in original Gundam’s relatively bland no-good fiancé plot, turns out to be not so neutral after all and is developing a new Gundam frame for the Federation. As always, Zeon knows this and has sent a special forces crew to blow everything up. (Seriously, Federation R&D must have taken all of Federation Security’s budget because Gundam development secrecy is a joke!)

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The main characters are Al, a spunky kid and military enthusiast, Bernie, a young optimistic Zeon pilot and Christina, a federation test pilot.

I know! I know! Before you run screaming to the hills because this is another Gundam featuring a twerpy little kid that saves the day: DON’T!

War in the Pocket is a coming of age tale with Al’s loss of innocence at it’s core. Al never flies a Gundam and doesn’t save anyone. In fact, the final scene ends with him, sobbing, broken at the beginning of school year ceremony, surrounded by the still-children he used to consider friends.

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Bernie too is a solid, well presented character. From nieve young pilot to grim soul survivor of his squad, Bernie both uses Al’s enthusiasm to Zeon’s advantage and cares for him, knowing full well Zeon plans to nuke Side 6 if he fails. Before the final battle he even leaves a video confession of Zeon’s war crimes in hopes that Al will one day understand.

It’s all quite good and even floats a Romeo & Juliet side plot between Bernie and Christina. In any other Gundam this could have been a poorly paced central theme but here, the love is just a potential and, since they never learn each other’s identity, the tragedy is just for Al and the viewer. By the end, the survivor is happy and clueless, which further crushes Al’s spirit.

Perhaps the casts likable, happy personalities and lack of over the top relationship drama makes WitP stand out most. Sure, every Gundam pulls on the viewer’s sympathies by pitting nice character on opposing sides, but only WitP does it without melodrama.

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WitP is a good looking show. Maybe not as well rendered or stylish as 08th MS team or the Stardust OAVs, and the scope of the conflict is very small — often not featuring mech combat at all. It has plenty of details though, and spending time on a few mobile suits instead of an endless flood of new types, we get some neat looks.

My favorite moments come in the final OAV, when Bernie and Al are scavenging parts for a broken Zoku. We really get to see repairs, guts of the suit, and a process that’s glossed over in the other series.

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In closing, War in the Pocket drives home the idea that everyone could be friends if they could get over duty and the extrinsic forces of war and opposing ideologies that the characters don’t even care about. Its also a digestible, self contained show and the ideal place to go if you want to experience Gundam, without a massive investment.

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