I am, absolutely, an unabashed Gundam nerd. I know almost every single mobile suit from the Universal Century, I know a bunch of dumb little tidbits about the overall mechanical design of Federation and Zeonic mobile suits, I’ve read the original trilogy of novels by Tomino and I find them to be one of the better works of literature I’ve ever read. Not amazing, but, pretty damn good, which itself lends to one of the reasons why Gundam is not just the Japanese equivalent ot Star Wars, but instead, my Star Wars.
So when a buzzword-filled article gets written about Hathaway’s Flash that’s completely and totally off its rocker, it’s nothing short of frustrating and exasperating because there’s virtually nothing in it that’s correct, so much that the opening paragraph is a blatant refusal of an understanding of the topic at hand such that I have to take a step away from writing about video games to and instead write about part of this niche nerdy media that has driven, taught, and inspired me throughout a major part of my life – which is saying something, because a particular Gundam game specifically showed me how to think in terms of a three dimensional target surface – a long and fairly confusing topic for another day should I get around to fully committing to my series on gunnery. One day. But I digress:
Hathaway’s Flash is the sort of section of the Gundam canon that you can only truly appreciate if you have some sick obsession with Gundam because of the idea of it to have absorbed the majority of the media in regards to what is known as the Universal Century timeline. It’s Sunrise scraping the bottom of the barrel, much like the article in question, and the end of the particular series which Hathaway is the titular protagonist is unfortunately another example of Tomino’s depression and frustration with the world – which quite frankly is a recurring theme throughout the series, wherein Tomino frequently makes decisions he decides he regrets later, likely, because they were made from a place that isn’t necessarily where his life was lit with happiness and satisfaction, but instead shrouded in darkness and frustration.
And man, I get it. Sometimes I feel like Zeta Gundam is a perfect sort of show because it illustrates not just a more accurate representation of the hard sci-fi Tomino intended, but also the hilariously dumb, stupid, and nearly unforgivable decisions that the characters within it make – largely because that’s how Tomino felt about the world when he wrote it. That’s how I feel about the world sometimes, maybe even a majority of it: I know people who are making choices every day to sandbag their own progress towards what they want to do, which in large ways appear irrational – and hell, I’ve been one of them. It’s moments of weakness, with nothing else. It’s human.
That’s besides the point, though, because entire article is written as if nothing of the world of Gundam exists to have led up to the events of Hathaway’s Flash – largely, I imagine, because the author hasn’t actually seen much Gundam and therefore is operating under the assumption that the entire medium is nothing more than trite entertainment featuring giant robots. Perhaps, if they had seen even so much as the opening episode of the original Gundam or Zeta Gundam, they might know that the terrifying nature of the military weapon that is a mobile suit, and more specifically, a Gundam, and it might actually occur to them as a blatant contradiction to the narrative which they are trying to present that Hathaway’s Flash is somehow unique in its presentation of giant robots as being pretty god damned scary: in the opening episodes of both the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam, we get perfect examples of the absolutely horrific nature of these giant weapon platforms and the destruction they can wreak.
Yeah, seriously, what’s happening there is that Amuro slices a Zaku in half, and mobile suits? They’re driven by thermonuclear reactors, which if they are destroyed in a way that compromises that reactor, they’ll detonate with results that are absolutely spectacular that’s nothing short of a small nuclear explosion. The situation is so dire that immediately, Amuro realizes the damage he’s done to the colony, and recognizes the crucial factor of minimizing the collateral damage to the colony.
And oh yes, this leads to consequences: Amuro Ray actually ended up causing permanent brain damage to his father by way of oxygen deprivation from the time the man actually spends out drifting in space before he was rescued. If that’s not a terrifying example of lasting consequences, it’s important to realize that Tem Ray was the man who designed the Gundam, and for him to be subject to its might as a weapon system even simply as collateral damage, and to have a permanent lasting affect on the most crucial asset to most any human being is truly full of impact: it might have been better off for Tem Ray if he had died there, rather than survived.
The entire first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam – or the first twenty to thirty minutes of the movie trilogy (which I recommend over the original series) – has significant civilian casualties. We get to watch people be blown away by the Zeon mobile suits, and the terrifying power of a mobile suit is made clear, not just from this first episode, but later in the series when Amuro begins to use the full extent of the power of the Gundam. Its beam rifle is a weapon which is directly comparable to the main guns of a naval vessel – it’s like if the U.S. military strapped a railgun the likes of which they’ve been working on for the past twenty years to an F-15, F-22, or F-35 and then started using it to blast apart ships which belongs to their enemies, killing hundreds of people in just a handful of shots.
The destructive power of these machines is real, and it has been from the very beginning. There is, after all, a reason why Mobile Suit Gundam established the “real robot” genre, with elements like 0080 that specifically focus on a civilian point of view, to the absolute brutality of Gundam F91. I’m pretty sure I’m still reeling from that because most Gundam weapons that are solid ammunition shooting cannons are usually caseless.
This sort of blatant ignorance of what essentially is the core elements of Gundam is in large part what makes this article sting to read. The idea that the entire plot puts politics in the background is completely unfounded: it is constantly talking about the politics of the terrorist group, Mafty, and the impacts of it on high and low levels, as indicated by the same the conversation that author chose to include in their article. Are Mafty’s goals naive and short-sighted, or is it the sort of pure view of a child? Which, in my opinion, indicates Hathaway as someone who never quite grew up, especially as we start to put things into the bigger picture:
It fits him, which actually is such an important part of his characterization that to say you don’t need to be familiar with Char’s Counterattack to appreciate this film is… Well, I mean, you can watch it on its own to a certain extent given that it is a movie, and in its own rights, a self-contained plot, but to do so creates a situation where, like the author of the article in question, one who did so wouldn’t understand where the actual foundation or basis of the politics discussed in Hathaway’s Flash goes right over the head of the person watching.
Hathaway is embracing the politics of a man, Char Aznable, who captured the heart of the girl he found himself infatuated with, likely less because he thinks it’s a lofty and worthwhile goal, but more because in his head, Hathaway thinks that’s what Quess would’ve wanted. Hathaway’s politics? Mafty’s politics? They align directly with Char’s, which is, in itself, ironic considering that the elite of the Earth Federation are also trying to get the majority of humanity to move into space colonies. In fact, the only real difference here is that the Earth Federation want it for themselves for their elite to live on, which in itself is a lot more sustainable than everyone living on the planet – whether you agree with them being the ones who are allowed to do so or not.
So let’s talk about Hathaway’s motivating force – and the situations that led him to where he is in Hathaway’s Flash. By way of his father, he was treated as a hero after several wars, who he absolutely caused headaches for his father because he committed outright murder, friendly firing Chan Agi, Amuro’s significant other at the time. His father? Bright Noa? He’s a man who got away with terrorism and a coup d’etat by going against another faction building power in the Federation known as the Titans with a group known as the A.E.U.G., or Anti-Earth Union Group, who opposed the treatment of spacenoids – those who lived in space colonies – as second-class citizens.
Hathaway’s reasoning for becoming a terrorist most likely is that he believes he can get away with murder because he has, that his father has gotten off with being a terrorist and won the right to come back to the fold of the Federation a hero, when in all reality, the fact Hathaway uses a mobile suit created by Anaheim Electronics, the perfect evil bad guy characterization of the military industrial complex who plays both sides of the conflict to make a profit demonstrates that if anything, he is simply stirring the pot, inciting conflict, and if the brutality armed conflict in an occupied urban setting with high amounts of collateral damage should indicate anything to the viewer, it’s that for all his lofty ideals, what he’s really after – where he really has to make a choice over whether or not he wants to pursue his goals or protect the life of the girl who’s once again briefly showed in him until she found something else – the majority of the onscreen action and his own internal dialogue at the time expressing this debate he’s having with himself.
No, it’s sure as hell not the taxi driver that makes him question his goals – it’s the beautiful girl in his arms, because that was his motivation before – motivation enough to kill – and now? It’s in his head whether or not that’s what he’s really after. Enough to cause him to delay and nearly cost his organization the loss of crucial human capital of a trained, and seemingly competent, mobile suit pilot. He put his entire group’s lives on the line, jeopardized their entire operation and the subsequent actions they undertook, for the sake of making sure Gigi was alright. Hathaway never changed; he’s consistent!
Lofty ideals? It’s more like he’s trying to embrace something he never really got to hold, and at the very end, he was still reaching out for something, someone like Gigi to stop him, even after he had already committed to a terrible cost of human life. What he’s giving up isn’t his privileges as a murderer painted hero, it’s her. A little blood here and there, well, it never caught up to him so far, and so, he commits. Sure, you might think he’s the good guy, but like a lot of things Gundam, it’s not that clear cut, the only thing that is is where Hathaway decides to hesitate – if you’re familiar with his motivations to begin with.
Listen, I get it, the author and a bunch of others are getting their Gundam cherry popped, and that’s fine, it’s just please, one should actually give the rest of Gundam a shot before they start putting out their opinion and throwing those buzzwords. In Gundam, politics are everywhere, but it’s a different sort than the things we’re dealing with today! It’s the politics of Earth and the habitats with which humanity expands out towards the rest of the galaxy:
You might actually see a series that jabs at corruption, wherever it’s located; that illustrates the behavior of people as a whole; that says simply, war is hell – the guns, uniforms, and big death machines just look cool outside of that context; that cares and worries for the planet and shows the extremes that people might feel the need to go to protect it; and just maybe start to understand it’s a complex cocktail that takes more than one sitting with one movie to properly digest and appreciate to its fullest extent.