"What is 'Gundam', anyway?" This simple (?) question is answered in our thirty-ninth casual monthly column just for new fans!
by Ema Baba
What flaps in the night, and also the depths? A super-simple intro column for new Gundam fans!
We're back with Part 39 of what makes Gundam Gundam.
You can see our previous coverage of what makes Gundam
, and this week we're back with another Gundam standard!
One of the best parts of Gundam is the passionate clashes between rivals, but they really reach a new height when the two are one-time close friends tragically forced to put aside their past and face each other on the battlefield.
In #39, rivals, worthy foes... Sometimes, archenemies. Sometime friends!? Let's take a look at "Gundam's Fierce Rivals (Part 2)"!
Gundam's rivals have fateful encounters and fateful partings!
This week's duo of rivals is a pair that everyone from nine months to ninety-nine years probably knows well:
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
's Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala, the faces of a new generation of Gundam.
Protagonist Kira Yamato is a Coordinator, part of a new race of humans produced by genetic engineering. Even among them, he is exceptionally gifted.
Even as Earth and the PLANTs go to war, introverted Kira continues a relaxed, casual, chill (?) life in the neutral country Orb as a schoolboy with a hobby of computer programming. However, when the PLANT armed organization ZAFT attacks in an attempt to capture the Gundams, he ends up dragged (!) into combat in the cockpit of the Strike Freedom. (… Not to mention, reprogramming its OS on the fly...)
Meanwhile, Athrun Zala, son of PLANT Supreme Council chairman Patrick Zala, is also a Coordinator. Gifted with exceptional dexterity (according to Kira, he can even write on gains of rice!), his hobby is the construction of robots and other electronics. He's given gifts like the bird robot Birdy (easy to recognize, as that's what it says) and everyone's favorite round robot Haro (easy to recognize, as... well, yeah.)
However, after the loss of his mother in the "Bloody Valentine" nuclear incident, gentle Athrun resolves to join the de-facto military ZAFT.
from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED episode 1, "False Peace"
So it turns out that Kira and Athrun were friends from a young age!
The two met at an elementary school in the lunar city Copernicus, and from the age of 6 were so close that they were nearly family. Athrun even gave Kira his self-made pet robot Birdy for their elementary school graduation.
Even though Kira and Athrun grew up so close, as relations between the Earth Alliance and the PLANTs worsened, Athrun and his mother returned to the PLANTs to be with his father, while Kira moved to the neutral nation Orb's Heliopolis colony. However, as ZAFT's raid shatters the peace of Heliopolis, Kira is spotted by a ZAFT pilot in red during his evacuation—shockingly, Athrun himself!
As the threads of their destinies twist and turn, the two are brought together, not as friends, but as bitter rivals in countless Gundam clashes.
from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED episode 28, "Kira"
When Athrun is deployed to Orb as part of Creuset's squadron in pursuit of the Earth Alliance Pacific Fleet space battleship
, Birdy's animal (?!) instincts drew Kira back to Athrun.
Kira runs to a factory, following Birdy. There, cupping Birdy in the palm of his hand, is Athrun. The two face each other, separated by a fence.
While this is their first peaceful meeting in some time, it doesn't last long. Athrun's squadmates are along as well, and he quickly feigns a lack of recognition. (← A talented actor, too!)
While Kira knows with every fiber of his being that their friendship is unforgettable, when he prods Athrun further by calling Birdy a gift from a close friend, Athrun's response is ambiguous... Even recognizing each other, the two are ships passing in the night.
This scene does so much to show the cruelty of fate, as it twists these two fast friends into bitter rivals forced to war!
They're like the Romeo and Juliet of the battlefield, or at least the Romeo and Romeo of the battlefield! (Later, having each lost a friend to the other, their bitterness and love-hate relationship leads to a momentous clash.)
Stylish, red-suited and red-mobile suited Athrun (← although not the only scharacter modeled on Char - see his masked squadron leader Rau le Creuset) is reminiscent of Char, but his relationship with Kira is completely different than that of Char and Amuro. Athrun and Kira are at once fierce rivals and a special sort of comrade.
…… Comrade, really, you ask? If you want to see the many twists and turns left for these two, you're best served watching the enhanced
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
For now, that's all for our second look at the rivals of Gundam!
Oh, isn't Gundam just so fascinating?
Well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, well, 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!