"What is 'Gundam', anyway?" This simple (?) question is answered in our ninth casual weekly column just for new fans!
by Ema Baba
This week, we're turning it around with an 8th super-simple column for new Gundam fans!
was Gundam faces and coloring, and then
was masked men and Haro.
was all about the Universal Century,
was mobile suits,
took on MSVs, and
covered the "Zaku" and "GM",
took on parts swapping,
was an example of mobile suit R&D, but this week we've got one more really iconic piece of Gundam.
What makes Gundam Gundam? Mobile suits, right? It's even in the title! So we've been covering those a lot, but Gundam isn't just about awesome-looking robots with lots of lore. It also sets itself apart with detailed, engaging stories about realistic human relations.
So this week, I'm going to introduce you to the women of
Mobile Suit Gundam
: beautiful, to be sure, but not a step behind they share duties with!
What makes a Gundam? Leading ladies just as versatile as the men!
Let's lead off with Fraw Bow.
Fraw grew up with hero Amuro Ray, and is now his girlfriend. She's a kind, attentive girl who is always looking after Amuro. After she loses her parents in the Zeon attack on Side 7, Amuro encourages her to take up a new life aboard the federation ship
. Thus, she becomes involved in the One Year War of U.C. 0079. Caring for the wounded, assisting other evacuated civilians (including the war orphans Katz, Letz and Kikka,) and occasionally aiding in the galley, she is accepted as a member of the crew and is eventually recruited by the Federation. Later in the show, she's also one of the
's radio operators. Many of her scenes involve her increasingly one-sided love for Amuro as he's charmed by other women like Matilda (who we'll talk about later.)
If you take a close look at Fraw's design, her uniform is slightly different from that of other characters. Why? Well, let's just leave that as a mystery for now... Okay?
Next is the first woman of Gundam who springs to mind for most people: Sayla Mass.
Sayla, a medical student volunteering on Side 7 at the time of Char's attack, also evacuates aboard the
. On board, she assists the medical staff and also acts as a radio operator. (As the show continues, she also enters combat as the pilot of the G-Fighter.)
One of her most famous and iconic scenes is from early in the show, where when Kai Shiden refuses to aid in the evacuation of civilians she replies "Cowards like you who are only looking out for themselves should be left here on Side 7" and slaps him.
However, Sayla has a secret. She's really Artesia Som Deikun, the daughter of Zeon Zum Deikun, founder of the Republic of Zeon. Her brother is Casval Rem Deikun, better known as Char Aznable! (Shock!)
After the death of her father Zeon Zum Deikun, she was taken to Earth. Her brother Char returned to the Principality of Zeon to pursue revenge, while she moved to Side 7. Poor Sayla was forced to take on the name Sayla Mass to hide her true identity.
Along with Fraw and Sayla, there's yet another type: Mirai Yashima, a vital member of the
Mirai, daughter of a senior Federation commander, is another evacuee from Char's attack on Side 7. While she's the privileged daughter of an elite family, she doesn't let her status go to her head: a calm, kind demeanor (and a talent for sewing!) make her almost a surrogate mother to the crew. And, of course, the object of many clashing affections...
Engaged to a man named Cameron Bloom, she rejects not only his advances but aid for the
during a visit to Side 6, and is slapped by crew member Lt. (JG) Sleggar Law for it. (Oh my!) Later, she begins to fall for Sleggar's dashing demeanor... But that goes nowhere, and after the war she weds Bright Noa (
Next is Lt. (JG) Matilda Ajan, commander of a Federation logistics unit.
Matilda, a soldier from her first introduction, is one of Gundam's most popular women.
Nearly everything Matilda does has meaning, from her determination to "create something amidst the destruction of war" that led her into the service to her hunch that Amuro "may be psychic". Her caring manner and stern beauty were the first time Amuro felt "love", rather than just "like".
And then Matilda sacrificed her own transport plane to protect Amuro from the Black Tri-Stars' Jet Stream Attack... She was engaged to be married to Federation Lt. Cmdr. Woody Malden after the war. (*cries*)
Amuro, so smitten with Matilda that he nearly came to blows with other crew members over ownership of a photo of Matilda taken aboard the
, can be seen displaying it in his room in later series. Matilda was Amuro's first love, and his first adult crush. (... Matildaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!)
What makes a Gundam? Women on the other side of the war, too!
So far we've looked at the women of the Federation, but there are also plenty of appealing female characters fighting for Zeon!
Let's start with a woman who must be mentioned in any discussion of
Mobile Suit Gundam
: Lalah Sune, a Newtype just like Amuro. Yes, the Lalah every Gundam fan knows.
Her ethnic-influenced dress sets her apart at a single glance. Plucked from poverty by Char, trained by the Flanagan Institute (a military apparatus devoted to Newtype research,) she is commissioned as an ensign in Zeon's forces.
After awakening as a Newtype, she pilots the "Elmeth" mobile armor, possessed of a terrifically-powerful all-range attack (capable of attacking from any angle,) and is known to the Federation as the "Ghost of Solomon". However, shortly after a chance meeting with fellow Newtype Amuro on the battlefield in which they make psychic contact, she dies protecting Char...
Lalah, who hated fighting, was driven to excel on the battlefield out of loyalty to Char for saving her, and poured all her feelings for Char into the controls of the Elmeth.
Her line "Amuro... I can see time..." continues to be one of Gundam's most famous quotes.
Another woman vital to the Zeon war effort was Kycillia Zabi. Eldest daughter of the Zabi family which ruled the Principality of Zeon, she held the rank of Rear Admiral and commanded Zeon's Mobile Assault Force. Tasked with securing resources and executing guerrilla strikes, she also found time to take Char under her wing after his demotion, establish the Flanagan Institute which developed Lalah as a Newtype, and leave the evidence of her cunning across a broad swath of U.C. history.
In the closing stages of the war, she discovers her brother Gihren's assassination of their father Degwin, orders him executed, and takes the reins of the Principality, only to be killed by Char.
While she's listed as only 24 (!?), her habitual mask and cool, commanding air make this seem almost... (
Ed.: Hey! Watch it!
And last but not least, there's Crowley Hamon! The common-law wife of Ramba Ral! (A veteran Zeon pilot known as the "Blue Giant".) Character descriptions like "lover" or "common-law wife" make it seem like maybe we're going a little
deep into realistic adult interactions, but she was also a sisterly presence as beloved by Zeon soldiers as Matilda was by Amuro. She was also amazingly talented, at times taking command of Ramba Ral's forces as he fought on the front lines. (Eventually, seeking revenge for her beloved Ramba's death, she...)
Anyway, that's all for our look at the women of Mobile Suit Gundam! Going over it, it really stands out how important the role each woman played was in their characterization.
Maybe if we get the chance, we can look at more women of Gundam later. ... Maybe.
After all, there's just so many fascinating things in Gundam to talk about!
Well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, that's it for this week. Next week we'll be taking another laid-back look at what makes Gundam Gundam!
Scriptwriter. Troublemaking scenarist.
Learning more every day to teach you about the fun of Gundam!