Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team rewatch – Ep. 06 Battle Line in the Burning Sand

Welcome to The 08th MS Team rewatch! It must not have been hot enough in the jungle because the 08th MS Team moves to the desert in this episode. It’s still hot but at least it’s not muggy. That’s a good thing, right? Things still get a little mushy though as emotions rise high and the characters face the Apsalus once more.  

Summary: Episode 06 “Battle Line in the Burning Sand”:
Original Airdate: December 18, 1996
English Airdate: July 30, 2001

The 08th Team is on a new mission. They’re trying to find a Zeon testing ground for their new weapons in the hopes of finding the Apsalus and terminating it. Thanks to Kiki’s connection with the locals, they get a tip off as to the location of the testing ground. They find it in the desert. Michel is operating the hover truck alone since Eledore is still as the medical base. Michel is reading a letter from B. B. the mysterious women he’s been corresponding with since the first episode. The letter must have had distressing news since Michel is lost in thought and acts as if he’s distracted. He helps Shiro repair his mobile suit which is malfunctioning and in doing so he nearly injures Shiro because of his inattentiveness to the task at hand. 

Karen and Sanders investigate a huge gash in the side of a canyon. At the center of the gash there is a segment of melted glass that follows along the length of a gash. It’s a sign of a large beam weapon which literally melted the cliff side. They inform Shiro of their discovery and he immediately suspects the Apsalus. They setup an ambush and test it out with a remote control plane. The entire team keeps asking Michel to do things and he gets irritated because he feels like he’s being treated like a child. They’re not asking him to do things because they specifically want him to do them. They’re simply asking Michel because he’s the one who’s operating the hover truck. He’s easily irritated though and it’s starting to rub off on the rest of the team.

They take a break and Michel begins to tell Karen about what’s bothering him but then he changes his mind. They spend the night waiting for the Apsalus and the next day, Kiki is in the hover truck with Michel when she finds the latest letter from B. B. She starts to make fun of him but soon stops because the letter gets serious. B. B. admits that she’s worried that Michel will get injured or killed and she will stop receiving letters from him. She can’t endure the uncertainty so she lets him know that it might be best for them to stop corresponding.

With all this pent up emotion, Michel eventually lets it out. Shiro learns that he’s been acting strangely because of a letter and he scolds him for being so childish. A fight breaks out between then and Kiki chimes in. They argue, quite literally, about love and war and it only ends when Sanders steps in to put a stop to it. He tells Michel that he’ll be piloting the hover truck from now on because it plays a crucial part in the ambush and he can’t trust Michel right now.

Later they all think about what they said and some of them question what they’re really doing in the war and about the people they love. A song plays on the radio. It’s Eledore’s song and the whole teams relax to its soothing melody. Michel apologizes to Shiro for his action and they make peace. Michel has decided to keep trying to broadcast his feelings to B. B. and to work hard with his team and not let anyone down.

The next day marks the appearance of the Apsalus. The team jumps to action and they execute their plan to trap the Zeon weapon in the canyon and blast it out of the air. Michel comes face to face with it and he freezes. Shiro saves him but only serves to turn the attention on himself. Unable to shake him off of the machine, Aina yells at Shiro through the radio. He recognizes her voice and, caught off guard, Aina escapes in the Apsalus with Shiro’s mobile suit still hanging on.

After two really good episodes this one might seem like a bit of a letdown but it’s still pretty clearly a good episode. Like most good episodes of any given Gundam series, it’s equal parts character development and action piece. Part of the character development and intrigue of the plot finds is rooted in events of previous episodes. It works well that the characters takes previous events and reflect on them. It’s interesting to see that they’re affected by what happens to them because it contributes to the feeling of realism that’s a key element of what make this a standout Gundam series.

Part of that realism was also evident in Shiro’s mobile suit malfunctions. The left leg of his Gundam wasn’t working and he didn’t know why but he took the time to stop and look at it with Michel. It ws just a filter that got clogged up with sand but it made the leg stiff and difficult to move. It was also nice to see that behind all the armoured platting there is an actual machine. We don’t get many chances to look at the inner workings of a Gundam and this just helps to remind the view that they’re man made creations with multiple complex parts. I also enjoyed that Michel drove the hover truck around the desert sand to erase the tracks made by the mobile suits.

Another way this episode adds to some of the realism is the colouring. The colours looks faded and washed out as if everything’s been sitting in the sun too long. It works well considering they’re in the desert. The animators also produced and interesting thing with how everything looks as though there is too much light bearing down. It contrasts quite a bit with the jungle setting of other episodes but it works well.

Not everything works though. The fact that Michel is still communicating with B. B. via actual letters is ridiculous. The events of this story take place during the 79th year of the Universal Century which began at the end of or slightly after the 21st century. There is no way that snail mail has survived. It might seem silly to discuss realism in a Gundam TV series but there are so many things we take for granted or that are quickly and easily explained, it’s nice to see that someone has taken the time to add some depth to the world by having the characters face such problems as clogged filters. When done well, it’s as interesting to see those kinds of moments as it is to see beam rifles tearing advanced machinery apart.

I couldn’t help but be curious is the mission to find the Apsalus is an official mission. It likely is because the 08th Team likely didn’t have difficulty proving that they’ve encountered the new Zeon weapon before. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that everything that appears on the pilot’s screens is recorded. If that’s the case, the Feds would have audio visual proof of the Apsalus’s existence. It’s no difficult to believe that their base commander would approve a mission to find and destroy the new weapon. I think it also makes sense that the 08th Team is alone and doesn’t have the support of another mobile suit team for a few reasons. The first is that the Federation likely doesn’t have the resources to let more than one team take on the missing. It’s not just a matter of equipment but also of time. Shiro’s estimate for the duration of the mission was three days but it took them a whole five days to find and engage the Apsalus in combat. It’s a much easier to let one mobile suit team go on a longer mission than two or three entire teams.  

Another important part of this episode is that Shiro discovers that Aina pilots the Apsalus. We do not get to see what the fallout of that but that’s ok because it’s the focus of the next episode and I’ll be talking about it tomorrow. Sadly, it’s not all that good.

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