Friday, 18 July 2014

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team rewatch – Ep. 02 Gundams in the Jungle


Welcome to The 08th MS Team rewatch! We’ve just arrived at the jungles in Southeast Asian and it’s hot. Hot and humid. I feel like going for a swim in the lake but I’ve got work to do first. Maybe I’ll go swimming once I’m done writing today’s rewatch.

Summary: Episode 02 “Gundams in the Jungle”:
Original Airdate: January 25, 1996
English Airdate: July 24, 2001

Shiro and his team, which includes Master Chief Petty Officer Karen Joshua, Chief Petty Officer Terry Sanders Jr., Corporal Eledore Massis and Ensign Michel Ninorich,  arrive at the Federation base where they are greeted by Base commander Kojima. He informs them that the 06th team has been deployed to the jungle where they are searching for a factory built by the Zeon. The 08th Team is deployed to offer them some assistance. While preparing for combat, we learn that the rest of the MS teams at the base do not have many nice things to say about the 08th Team and its members. Sanders in particular is nicknamed Sanders the Reaper because of his bad luck and having destroyed six allied mobile suits in past missions. It’s pretty clear that the 08th Team already has a bad reputation.

They encounter two Zakus in the jungle and engage them in battle. During the battle, Shiro gets separated from the rest of the team. His team stays in the jungle hoping that he will return but eventually they decide to return to base. While looking for the Zaku that escaped, Shiro meets a young woman swimming naked in a pool of water. It’s a pretty random thing to see in the middle of the jungle, even though base commander informed him that the jungle was inhabited. Shiro eventually finds the Zaku and once again engages it in battle. Naturally, he defeats the enemy.

While all this is happening, Aina is with her brother who we learn is the person behind the Zeon’s new weapon which is called the Apsalus. We learn that the modified Zaku Aina piloted in the first episode is somehow tied to the development of the Apsalus. We also learn that Aina’s brother is sick and he requires medication to stabilize his condition.

Back at the Federation base, the rest of the MS teams are making fun of the 08th Team for having lost their commander on their first mission. Unsurprisingly, they attribute this to Sanders’s bad luck. The episode ends with Shiro’s Gundam triumphantly walking back into camp. It gives a sign that maybe the 08th Team isn’t a joke like all the other teams seem to think.

I think it’s important to point out that the first and second episodes of the series aired on the same date during their original airdate in Japan. It’s pretty likely that they even played back to back. This helps to ease the lack of a solid introduction in the first episode. The second episode does a much better job at setting up for the rest of the series. Aside from Shiro looking at the pocket watch Aina gave him at the end of the first episode, the episode doesn’t even make mention of their first encounter.  

This episode focuses on the 08th Team, its members and the team’s reputation on base. Everybody seems to expect the team to fail. Even Sanders thinks his bad luck curse will cause unnatural hardship for the team. Luckily for him, some of the attention is also directed at Shiro. People have heard of his accomplishment with the Ball in the last episode and they’re curious to see what the new commander can do. His own team members are more sceptical and very judgemental of Shiro. The judging goes both ways though as Shiro thinks Karen is a know-it-all and Sanders doesn’t obey orders while in combat. For the most part, Shiro focuses on his mission though and it’s that focus that allows him to succeed in the end.

Everything happens really quickly. After only a single short mission, the team is already starting to come together. After Shiro gets separated during the battle with the Zakus, his team who was busy judging him earlier change their tune. Even though they, Karen in particular, were disappointed by his skills as a pilot (he was adjusting to Earth’s gravity) they’re now concerned for his wellbeing. He might not be the best commander but he’s their commander. The ending also reinforces that the 08th Team will exceed people’s expectations. By ending the episode with Shiro’s Gundam victoriously walking into camp, the show is letting viewers know that the 08th Team is special. They’ve just defied expectations and they’re likely to do so again. 

With this episode we once again get a look at Shiro’s possible dislike of killing. When fighting the Zaku in the jungle, he damages it to the point where the Zaku loses an arm. When he encounters it again later, he shoots the mobile suit several times but the pilot keeps on trying to attack the Gundam. Shiro exclaims “He’s still fighting?” surprised that the Zaku pilot still wants to fight even though his MS has sustained damage. Shiro then fires several more shots at the Zaku until it crashes to the ground. I interpreted that scene as Shiro not wanting to cause more damage than necessary in order to defeat the Zaku. It makes sense to me considering he first tried to immobilize Aina’s Zaku in the first episode and then worked with her to survive the situation instead of focusing on killing his enemy. It’s this kind of action and commentary that will make others single him out as a possible traitor later in the series.

You can’t talk about the second episode and leave out the nudity. The girl Shiro meets in the jungle is shown swimming completely nude, her breasts prominently displayed. It’s unusual for this kind of show. It’s pretty common to see in anime that target themselves specifically at mature audiences (Afro Samurai or Ghost in the Shell for example). For a show in the Gundam series it just feels out of place.

Nudity seems as good a place as any to end this post. Come back tomorrow for more Gundam goodness.

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