Inheritance is a messy topic. And I don’t just mean physical inheritances, like wealth or property — I mean the relationship we have with our parents, what our presence in this world says about our family, and what who our family is says about who we are. “Why am I here? What obligations do I have? What have my parents given me? Are my parents’ wishes my own? What do I want?” As children grow and begin to consider their roles in life, these questions come to the forefront. For some children, their inheritance is a blessing – the greatest gift their parents could give them, and a prayer for the future. For others, it is a curse – chains of blood that bind their future to the past, forging a path that can be the easiest to take, but the hardest to endure.
Cardeas (voice over): “If you trust in the possibility that lies within, the path will show itself to you…”
Banagher: “I tried! I did what you asked! And now what? Look what happened! What good was it for!? I piloted a mobile suit; I fought and killed in it! And now I’m stuck walking across a desert!… Tell me…what more do you want me to do, huh?! How much more do you expect me to fight?!
This episode talks a lot about inheritance, and it’s pretty obvious that Banagher and Loni’s inheritances are a lot heavier than the average child’s. Banagher’s father, Cardeas Vist, left him with the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, one of the most powerful suits in existence, as well as the responsibility of safely opening Laplace’s Box and “correct the Universal Century”.
Loni’s father, Mahdi Garvey, supported the Zeon Remnants (Full Frontal is familiar with him and praises him for “perfecting Haman’s legacy”, a reference to Haman Karn, the leader of the first Neo Zeon movement), and likely had a hand in funding the construction of her AMX-X7 Shamblo (external material states Mahdi was quite wealthy and a major captain of industry). This support is what initially ties her to Zeon, a blood bond that is made bloodier when Federation forces kills her family.
It’s hard enough to bear the expectations of being a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer, or inheriting the family business, and your parents are there to support you the whole way; imagine when the expectations you bear weigh as much as the whole world, and the tools you’ve been given is power that you cannot really handle on your own, and little guidance as to how to use it.
This lack of guidance leads Banagher and Loni to seek out parental figures, transient though they may be. Banagher finds support, and someone to look up to, in men like Daguza Mackle, Gilboa Sant and Suberoah Zinnerman. Loni has Yonem Kirks. But for all their efforts, they can’t provide as much support as these children need. Daguza is only able to give Banagher a push forward to find his role, and Zinnerman’s own problems prevent him from guiding Banagher as much as he might need to. And if you’ve watched this episode, you know that Kirks is not able to restrain Loni’s bloodthirst or turn her away from her father’s legacy.
Loni: “For children to be consumed by their parents’ wishes is the way of the world! I’m not wrong to feel the way I do.”
Banagher: “What they left you is not a wish; it’s a curse!”
Loni: “It’s the same! Our parents gave us life; we’re bound by blood to carry out their wishes. Curse or not, it’s our duty! You’re a hypocrite — your powers were given to you by your parents too!
Riddhe is not immune to his family’s past, either. He goes through a very visible shift in attitude this episode, after being told the legacy of the Marcenas family by his father, Chairman Ronan Marcenas. He reacts badly upon being told of what his family did at the beginning of the Universal: how they funded the terrorist plot that killed the first Federation prime minister, his great-grand father Ricardo Marcenas (the man giving the speech in the beginning of episode 01), to facilitate the rise of a hard-right Federation government in the name of security. It makes him realize that the cycle of pain and suffering is inescapable, that it’s necessary to maintain the current status quo because anything better is impossible — humanity can’t live so peacefully with itself. So when he sees Banagher desperately try to break Loni out the cycle of hate perpetuated by her past and being perpetuated by her now, Riddhe reacts with shock and pity at the sight of a fool trying to unbind fate. Riddhe believes he knows better.
What’s great about this episode is that it highlights the intersection of duty to the past and the desires of the present. It’s wrong to say that Banagher is pilots the Unicorn only because his father told him to — he accepted becoming the pilot of the Unicorn of his own volition, because in his own words, he needed Audrey to need him. The pressure is there to be the Box’s key, but he’s also searching for what he must do, and his father believes that becoming the pilot of the Unicorn is it. Loni is a pilot both to satisfy her anger for the deaths of her family, and also because she’s the daughter of a family that hated the Federation. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. To Loni, her parents’ wishes and her own are inextricable.
Nearer the beginning of the episode, Flast talks about his own choices, and that of Suberoah Zinnerman. He explains why he and Zinnerman chose to join Neo Zeon, that that was one of only two choices they had: howl but do nothing, or fight an endless war. Given the kind of men that Flast and Zinnerman are, the first choice was no choice at all. Banagher understood this, too.
Zinnerman told Banagher about his inner pain in the desert, and his disillusionment in the system and humanity. And Banagher also knows that Zinnerman’s wife and daughter were killed the same way that the civilians at Torrington were being slaughtered. Banagher can see that the chains that bind Zinnerman are still there, even if he can’t (or won’t) see it himself – his past pushes him to accept, maybe even relish, the massacre of Torrington, even when the deaths of innocents kills him inside. And so he begs him to stop, and pleads with him to be true to what he really wants.
Banagher later tries to do the same for Loni — to not just make a choice based on what her past is, but to choose what she really wants to do. This give her pause, and you can visibly see her stand down (much to Riddhe’s surprise and consternation.)
The tragedy is that it’s so fragile and difficult a choice—the death of Kirks drives her even further into her hatred and revoke the choice she was about to make to stop the chaos, and Loni resumes going berserk in the Shamblo.
Civilians killed aren’t given a choice to fight, and if they die, their families will harbor a hatred that will only lead to more hate. Banagher seems to see that; he argues vehemently with Loni — as Riddhe looks on and derides his efforts — that the deaths she cause will only cause more anger and hatred, the creation of more like Loni. That cycle perpetuates itself, until either a force tries to stop it, or there’s no one left to hate.
Our desires and our wants — they are a reflection of not just who we are, but who and where we came from. That is not say we’re not individuals, and we don’t have choice. But in lot of ways, we are still slaves to our past. That also does not mean we can’t choose otherwise — we can choose something different. The past forces your hand, but you can still try to break those chains. You can, with great effort, choose something different. After all: inside us all, is the inner God called possibility.
But choosing to have faith in that God is not easy. It never is.
This might be my favorite moment in the entire episode. There’s a liveliness to what’s going on in such a slow scene. The diner’s owner draws constant attention to himself with little gestures and tics (rubbing his hand against the arm of his chair, the way he tiredly leans back into his presumably old chair, smiling unconsciously at a sip of his coffee.) And the lovely non-verbal conversation they have—the back and forth blinking, and him raising his pipe at her to ask permission to smoke and her assenting with a small smile—really drives home the intimacy of the setting, and the openness of the conversation they’re having. I doubt that Audrey, in her role as Mineva Lao Zabi, sole heir to the Principality of Zeon, gets much opportunity to talk about the roots relationship between Earth and the colonists with someone who is neither on her side or against it. So I don’t doubt her when she says meeting a humble man who wants to talk to her without an agenda over a cup of coffee really “made her trip worth it.”
Just to piggyback off this scene, but Audrey talking about how she missed having her feet on solid ground, with her feet tapping the linoleum (not really possible in zero gravity because of momentum) was great. The very bright and organic fashion of her boots, compared to the old-school diner decor, draws attention to how different she is, as a Spacenoid, to the old man she is talking with.
Here are some other sequences I really liked:
- A motley band of war relics from both sides come out to battle in this episode: from the Earth Zeon Remnants we see the remnants of past wars — Marasais, Capules, Goufs, Dwadges, I believe the first appearance of an Efreet Schneid, and of course Yonem Kirks and his show-stealing Zaku 1 Sniper — and the dregs of Federation suits being kept at the low priority Torrington Base — Aqua GMs, Guncannon DT’s, a custom Byarlant, and I believe even an old-as-piss Type 61 tank. As Watts so eloquently put it, the scene of the battle was practically “a walking war museum.” But it was appropriate that it was old suits that attacked Torrington: those Earth Zeon Remnants fought as an expression of rage, built over years of guerrilla warfare and as Full Frontal said, caused by being unable to participate in the two Neo Zeon wars that occurred up in space.
- In the original novel this episode was based on, the plot was radically different. Rather than be piloted by Loni Garvey, her father Mahdi Garvey was still alive, and was the pilot of the Shamblo (the massive red mobile armor that terrorized the seas and Torrington Base), while Loni and her brothers acted as co-pilots. Mahdi had no love for Neo Zeon, and was instead portrayed as a wealthy Islamic extremist out to get revenge on the Federation and “the White Man” for slights committed against the Middle East and his family, using Neo Zeon as a tool for his vengeance. In the novels, the Shamblo is stopped because Loni, horrified by Mahdi’s bloodthirst, communicates to Banagher the Shamblo’s structural weak spot right before being killed by her own father for her treasonous actions, and Banagher himself destroys it, not Riddhe. I’m not sure what the reasoning is for changing this episodes plot so dramatically (especially given how the OVA series is otherwise very faithful to the novels), but in a way, I’m happy that they did. I think the added religious element would have been a distracting factor in a show as laser-focused on its messages as Gundam Unicorn (not to say that questions of God and religion aren’t talked about ever — consider Cardeas and Syam’s continuous talk of the “inner God called ‘possibility’”, as well as the scene in the small church at the Palau asteroid base in episode 02. Furthermore, Mahdi in the novels does not provide a good mirror for Banagher like Loni does in the OVA — they are both children empowered by their parents and weighted down by the responsibility given to them after their deaths. Finally, the plot change brings in Riddhe’s own nature into play — he’s now convinced, having learned of his family’s legacy, that there is no way to break the chains of the past and believes killing Zeon is the only way to stop the bloodshed, while Banagher cannot bring himself to harm others to bring about a bloody peace. Having Riddhe fire the shot using Banagher’s beam magnum to kill Loni was an effective dramatic tool.
- The flashback shown at the beginning of this episode is of Operation British, when Zeon forces dropped an evacuated colony onto Sydney, Australia, destroying a massive chunk of the continent in the process. It is likely for this reason that the next set of coordinates of the La+ program were unlocked this episode at Torrington — the Unicorn Gundam seems to be guiding its pilot on a tour of some of the most significant events of the Universal Century, what with the last episode taking place at the ruins of the first prime minister’s residence, Laplace (the site of the battle between Banagher and Full Frontal, and the location of Daguza’s death at the end of episode 03.)
- The first battle immediately after this flashback takes place in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and where the capital of the Earth Federation is located in the UC timeline. The building Loni destroys with the Shamblo’s main cannon is the Federation assembly building.