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Episode 1: Day of the Unicorn

 

Review by Chris Guanche

March 18, 2010

 

Summary

 

As the Anno Domini era comes to an end, Earth Federation Prime Minister Ricardo Marcenas prepares to usher in the new Universal Century on the space colony Laplace. In space, a young man named Syam Vist and several other terrorists reposition the colony's mirrors to focus all sunlight on a single point. Marcenas says that the old nations of Earth couldn’t work together to create solutions for mankind’s problems. The colony then explodes, followed by the terrorists’ escaping ship. Syam is tossed out into space during the explosion and catches a glimpse of something floating nearby: the Universal Century charter. In UC 0096, Cardeas Vist visits his aging grandfather Syam and reports that they’ll proceed with the plan. Syam says that the Earth Sphere can’t continue if they do nothing. He hopes that someone will be able to use Laplace’s Box. He then asks Cardeas if he can forgive him, and Cardeas answers that what they’re doing might end the world, so he’s the only one who can give forgiveness. In space, the camouflaged Neo Zeon remnant "Sleeves" ship Garencieres comes under fire from a Londo Bell Clop cruiser. Captain Suberoa Zinnerman orders pilot Marida Cruz to launch in the Kshatriya and fend off the three chasing mobile suits. Marida deploys her funnels and quickly destroys two Jegans, but the Stark Jegan fires its bazooka with a scattering shot at her. The Stark Jegan then fires shoulder missiles, but Marida dodges them and launches more funnels. The Stark Jegan ejects its missile pods and moves into close range for a beam saber attack. Marida is able to push it away and cut it in half. At Side 4’s Industrial 7, 16-year-old Banagher Links practices with a Med mobile suit at the Anaheim Electronics Industrial Colony. Afterwards, he and his classmates listen to a lecture about the One Year War from their teacher, Bancroft. Bancroft criticizes the students for not paying attention and is informed that their shuttle has broken down. As the students travel through Bancroft’s Zeon museum, student Takuya Irei is impressed by an old Zaku II.

 

Banagher holds onto his Haro and looks at the Zaku, and his friend Micott Bartsch tells him that sometimes he looks like he’s staring out at nothing. Banagher answers that he’s not looking at anything, and Micott asks if he’s thinking about his father. He says he’s thinking about where he is, and she says she feels sometimes like things are off. He then looks out into space and catches a distant flash of the Unicorn Gundam, which makes him think of a unicorn painting and a piano. Nearby, Cardeas sits in the cockpit of the Unicorn Gundam with a nervous test pilot. Cardeas orders the pilot to fly toward an asteroid field and is impressed with the suit’s performance. Cardeas calls Gael Chan and says they’ll be heading back. Gael informs him that students were still at Anaheim, but Cardeas isn’t worried about anyone seeing anything. After he returns, Gael informs him that a Londo Bell ship ran into the Sleeves and lost three mobile suits. Gael tried to get information out of Londo Bell commander Bright Noa at Londenion, but he wasn’t successful. Cardeas informs his staff that all tests are complete on the Unicorn Gundam, so their next step is to seal the NT-D and start the La+ program. Cardeas sits at his desk and looks at Banagher’s student file while thinking about forgiveness. Several Geara Zulus deploy as the Garencieres docks at Industrial 7. Zinnerman tells his crew they’ll try to get Laplace’s Box, but if it’s a trap, they’ll fight. Stowaway Audrey Burne leaves the ship and takes a handrail through a service tunnel, but she reaches an area under construction and falls into the colony’s zero gravity area. Banagher suddenly has a strange feeling and runs to the mobile suit hangar. He takes off in a Torohachi petite mobile suit and flies over to where Audrey is floating. He gets in close and opens the hatch to grab and rescue Audrey. The Torohachi then runs out of fuel, so he maneuvers over a highway and crash lands on a grass field. He then gets out of the cockpit, but Audrey knocks him down and twists his arm behind his back. She asks him who he is and says she needs help getting to the Colony Builder. She asks if they can use the mobile suit, but Banagher says it’s out of fuel, so they’ll have to go to the Snail on foot. Audrey says she must speak to someone immediately so that she can stop a war. She then begins to walk away, but Banagher says she can’t do it alone. They get on a subway, and Banagher explains that it’s rumored the Vist Foundation has a mansion at the end of the Colony Builder. She asks if he’s been, but he tells her he hasn’t and says someone high in the Foundation is the chairman of his school. The train stops for a security check, so Banagher and Audrey get off.

 

Marida and two men drive up to the crash site, and she tells Zinnerman by radio that Audrey was probably in the suit. Marida recalls apologizing to Zinnerman, but he said it was his responsibility as captain. He tells Marida to stay under the radar and find her first. Banagher and Audrey walk through the street and eat hot dogs. He tells her they can blend in with a factory tour. They ride an elevator and are met at the top by Marida, who asks Audrey to come back. Audrey says that whatever Laplace’s Box is, Full Frontal will simply use it to start a meaningless war. Marida and the men get onto the elevator, and Banagher uses Haro to distract them with a high-pitched noise. As the elevator goes down, Banagher and Audrey jump up. The two men give chase, but Banagher kicks them back into the elevator. Marida chases them to a rising platform, but Banagher uses a drop kick to grab her coat and toss her away. Banagher and Audrey introduce themselves, and he tells her about how Haro was popular when he was a kid. She tells him she didn’t know about it because she was only on the move. Micott tells Takuya that she hopes Banagher wasn’t the one who crashed the mobile suit. She looks out of the observation deck with binoculars and spots Banagher and Audrey on the other side of the Colony Builder. Audrey tells Banagher she ran away from the people she was with, and he asks if she’s a political activist, like the anti-Federation people who want Spacenoid freedom. She answers that they are, but scarier. Gael shows Cardeas surveillance video of Audrey and Banagher. Gael thinks that Cardeas shouldn’t be meeting in person with the Sleeves. Banagher and Audrey arrive at the Vist Foundation mansion and walk in. Banagher walks into a room and looks at a detailed unicorn tapestry. He reads what’s written on the tapestry and remembers being there before. Cardeas then walks in and says that the tapestry is called “The Lady and the Unicorn” and is an original from Medieval France. Audrey begins to introduce herself, but Cardeas cuts her off and says it’s best she doesn’t mention her name. She begins to mention Laplace’s Box, but Cardeas stops and tells Banagher to leave. Audrey says that Laplace’s Box is rumored to be the secret of the Vist Foundation’s power and asks why it’s being given to them now, but Cardeas again asks Banagher to leave. Banagher says he can’t leave Audrey alone, and Cardeas threatens expulsion from school. Audrey asks Banagher to leave, and he says he feels like everything in his life is falling into place for the first time. He asks her to say that she needs him, but she says she doesn’t.

 

Banagher is escorted out of the mansion, and Cardeas tells Audrey he’s changed the meeting location. She asks him to reconsider, and he tells her he knows that Full Frontal is considered the second coming of Char Aznable and can’t be taken lightly. Cardeas explains that even with the key, only a qualified person can open Laplace’s Box. Zinnerman tells Marida to return to the ship and go on standby while he heads to the Colony Builder. Outside the colony, Loto mobile suits from the Federation’s ECOAS task force secretly approach. Zinnerman is surprised that the head of the Foundation is in charge of the meeting, but Cardeas answers that he can’t entrust something this import to anyone else. A Geara Zulu pilot picks up several ReZELs and Jegans from Londo Bell nearby. Zinnerman is confused that Cardeas is only giving him the key to Laplace’s Box, which he knows can overthrow the Federation. Cardeas asks Zinnerman if he believes in Newtypes, and Zinnerman answers that there’s a strange power on the battlefield that can’t be explained. Cardeas mentions Zeon Deikun’s Newtype theory for the reformation of humanity. The Geara Zulu pilot panics and opens fire on a ReZEL, destroying it. Cardeas explains that since the One Year War, the Federation has been afraid of this power that threatens the Earth elite. Two ReZELs destroy the Geara Zulu. Gilboa Sant tells Marida that Londo Bell has surrounded the colony, so she says they have to get Zinnerman and escape. Cardeas says the Federation established research labs that were used by mad scientists who only focused on the military applications of Newtypes. Following the Gryps Conflict and the two Neo Zeon Wars, time allowed the Federation to win out because Newtypes were undefined and became synonymous with ace pilots, far removed from Deikun’s concept. Cardeas says Laplace’s Box can restore the future that was meant to be, but if misused could destroy the world. He says he’s giving them the key, but if their only focus is the revival of Zeon, the Box won’t open for them. Marida flies through the colony in the Kshatriya and destroys a Jegan, raining down debris on the colony. Gael receives a call and tells Cardeas that Londo Bell is already fighting inside the colony. Zinnerman thinks he’s been setup and pulls a gun, but Cardeas thinks he was followed.

 

A ReZEL opens fire at Marida from the ground, so Bancroft tells everyone to evacuate. Marida slashes another ReZEL and grabs its beam saber. She then has her funnels destroy the ReZEL on the ground, but the explosion sets off its Minovsky reactor. A massive explosion blows a hole in the colony wall and vaporizes Bancroft as he seals people into an emergency shelter. Takuya watches the explosion with his binoculars and says it’s the beginning of a war. Banagher thinks of Audrey and runs off. The Lotos enter the colony and deploys troops under the command of Daguza Mackle. Cardeas thinks it’s a shame to break a 100-year-old alliance, even though the Foundation tried to break it first. In space, Nahel Argama captain Otto Mitas has the ship fire its cannons at the colony to create an entry path. Several ReZELs launch from the ship, including one piloted by Riddhe Marcenas. Banagher tries unsuccessfully to open one of the doors, and a beam blast vaporizes all the students standing next to him, Takuya and Micott. A ReZEL blasts its way into the colony and attacks Marida. Micott begins to cry because everyone is dead, and Banagher asks Takuya to take care of her. Banagher asks about the suit that came in, and Takuya says it was a Zeta-type from the Federation. Banagher tells them to get to safety on the Federation ship, but Micott doesn’t want him to leave her. Zinnerman, Flaste Schole and another man trade fire with the ECOAS soldiers, while Cardeas and Gael run through another corridor and also come under fire from ECOAS. Gael kills several ECOAS soldiers and tells Cardeas to go ahead. One of the Sleeves men dies inside the elevator, and Marida takes out another ReZEL. Cardeas rides another elevator and is confronted by Alberto Vist, an employee and an ECOAS soldier. Banagher runs into Zinnerman and Flaste at the elevator, but they ignore him and move on. Cardeas asks Alberto if Martha put him up to this and says Alberto may think he’s using the military, but he’s really the one being used. Cardeas then snaps the ECOAS soldier’s neck and uses his body as a shield from the gunfire of the Foundation employee. He then kills the employee with a machine gun, but Alberto shoots him. Marida searches for Audrey and comes under attack from a Loto. Audrey then runs into Haro, Takuya and Micott. Daguza exits the Loto and fires a bazooka shot to blind Marida. He jumps away from the Loto just before Marida destroys it with her funnels. The exploding wreckage falls toward Takuya and the others, but Riddhe shields them from the debris. Takuya asks Riddhe for help, and the area around the crashed Kshatriya explodes.

 

Banagher floats through a dark corridor and finds himself inside the Unicorn Gundam’s hangar. He finds Cardeas inside the cockpit, who is surprised to see Banagher. Riddhe evacuates Takuya, Audrey and Micott in his ReZEL’s hand while Marida takes off. Banagher asks where Audrey is, and Cardeas comments that she’ll survive because she’s cheated death before. Banagher thinks Cardeas wants to escape by himself in the mobile suit, but Cardeas answers that even if he did escape, he wouldn’t last long. Banagher thinks that Cardeas acts superior but wasn’t able to do anything. He says that all the people killed had plans for the future and shouldn’t have died that way. Cardeas says that people needlessly kill each other and devoured the Earth’s resources, causing them to move to space. Cardeas says that humanity must regain its dignity and revive the hope of 100 years ago. He tells Banagher that Audrey carries an immense burden and he’ll have to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders if he wants to be with her. He asks Banagher if he can do that, and Banagher says all he knows is that he wants Audrey to need him. Cardeas grabs Banagher’s hand and imprints it onto the Unicorn Gundam’s biometric authentication system. He tells Banagher that if he’s a suitable pilot, the Unicorn Gundam will give him immense power and show him the path to Laplace’s Box. Banagher asks what the Box is, and Cardeas tells him it has cursed the Vist family for 100 years, but if properly used it can bring light to the Universal Century. He says that Anna didn’t want Banagher to fall to the curse and took him away. Cardeas asks Banagher to forgive him and says his wish has finally come true. He floats out of the cockpit and is engulfed in the fires from an explosion. Banagher realizes that Cardeas was his father and suddenly remembers being with him as a child and leaving the mansion with his mother. Banagher then activates the Unicorn Gundam and takes off. Marida continues to search for Audrey and releases funnels when she spots Banagher. He slams into her and pushes her toward the space harbor door, but the funnels blast a hole for her. Marida sends more funnels after Banagher in space, but the Unicorn Gundam activates the NT-D program and deflects the shots. The cockpit transforms around Banagher, and the suit’s exterior also transforms, revealing a traditional Gundam head. Banagher pulls out a beam saber and rushes toward Marida.

 

Commentary

 

The latest Gundam OVA finally gives us something that isn’t set in the oft-explored One Year War. Set three years after the Char’s Counterattack movie, this series explores some of the time between that movie and Gundam F91, but it also digs into the very roots of the Universal Century. I guess it’s fitting that the Universal Century was inaugurated in bloodshed, as seen in the opening. Because this OVA is adapted from a novel, it simultaneously feels familiar and different. Londo Bell and Neo Zeon are still around, but instead of just straight open combat, they’re both chasing after a MacGuffin, in this case Laplace’s Box. There are a few nods to the old shows, including mentions of Char, Bright and the return of the Nahel Argama. Also, I get the impression that the stabbed Zaku in the museum is supposed to be the one Amuro Ray took down in the first episode of the original Gundam. While there are some Gundam clichés present in the story, they’re used a bit differently this time. Unlike some of his predecessors, Banagher doesn’t have the same emotional issues and wants to actively take part in the conflict, rather than being forced into it. He’s drawn into all this by Audrey, and while this episode drops hints without saying it outright, anyone loosely familiar with the novels knows that “Audrey Burne” is just a pseudonym and that she’s really Mineva Zabi. Her presence kind of ties together various series and will hopefully explain what happened to her after she disappeared as a child. Story aside, what really sticks out in this first episode is the combat. It’s all beautifully animated in high definition, and it’s nice to see the cannon fodder be able to put up somewhat of a fight against a monster like the Kshatriya. The music used throughout the episode also fits every scene, making the complete package enjoyable. The only problem here is the long wait until the next episode.

 

Overall Rating

Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarNo Star

4 out of 5 stars
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Gundam Unicorn Episode 1 Gundam Unicorn Episode 1
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