Welcome to The 08th MS Team rewatch! After the brightness of the desert sun from yesterday’s episode, the show decides to dim the light and let the romancing begin. Too bad it’s kind of shitty. Read on to find out why.
Summary: Episode 07 “Reunion”:
Original Airdate: October 25, 1997
English Airdate: July 31, 2001
We get a quick prologue as the story opens at a Zeon base somewhere on Earth. Admiral Kellerne, first seen in episode 04 “The Demon Overhead”, is moving out with the few troops he still has left on base. He’s reassembling his troops to Ginias Sahalin’s base. The story doesn’t pick up in this episode but it’s setup for another episode.
There is a quick recap of the end of the last episode where Shiro hears the voice of the Apsalus pilot and recognizes it as the voice of Aina. The show takes up from there. We see an image of the Apsalus flying with Shiro’s Gundam still hanging on. Shiro tries to get Aina’s attention and he goes so far as to stepping out of the Gundam and climbing towards the Apsalus’s cockpit. He sees the damage his team inflicted on the Zeon weapon. Aina opens the hatch and steps out seeing Shiro and confirming her thoughts that he was the mobile suit pilot she was fighting. She gives him parts from the Apsalus to do a quick repair job of the Gundam’s circuitry.
With both mobile suits in various states of damage and disrepair, they plummet to the ground and in doing so get separated. Shiro’s Gundam falls into a crater and he ejects from the cockpit only to find himself stranded and alone in the wilderness. The Zeeks have been tracking her movements and they know that she’s encountered a Federation mobile suit since the last test. Zeon tries to recall the Aina to the base before Federation rescue teams find her. The Apsalus is in need of repair and an encounter with the Federation will likely result in the destruction of the Zeon weapon. She ignores them and tries to find Shiro. When she does, he’s passed out in the snow on a mountainside. She takes bandages his frostbitten hands and when he’s awake he instructs her to pilot the mobile suit and melt some ice with the beam saber. The result is an improvised hot spring. They take a bath together.
They break out into an argument about the war and what it really represents but they get interrupted by the arrival of the Zeon and the Federation search parties. A Federation ship tries to tow the Apsalus away but Aina blows it up, having rigged it earlier in the episode. She is rescued by her troops. When they ask her about the mobile suit pilot she tells them he’s dead. It’s unclear whether or not she’s protecting Shiro or vocalising how she feels after their argument.
It’s been nice to rewatch The 08th MS Team. I’ve enjoyed being pleasantly surprised that the Gundam series I’ve often cited as my favourite is actually good. I believed it when I first said it a few years ago but It’s been a while since I’ve watched this short series and I was genuinely worried that it might not be as good as I remember. The first episode, admittedly, doesn’t do much but episode 02 to 06 are really good Gundam episodes. Then we get episode 07 “Reunion” and it is shit.
I get the feeling this episode was supposed to be a good. The episode includes a short recap from the previous episode and that’s never happened before in the series. That’s a big deal because the original air dates indicate just how sporadic and spread out these episodes where during their original run. It’s quite possible that there was a recap during the Japanese broadcast or that they replayed the earlier episodes every time a new episode came out but I don’t know that for certain. Either way, a recap is unprecedented and it leads me to believe that it was one way to make this episode look like it’s an important episode to the series. And it is.
As the title suggests, “Reunion” is the culmination of a main plot point of the series. Shiro and Aina who first met in battle during the first episode have been separated since then. In this episode they’re reunited and it’s a big deal because they finally what the viewers have known since the beginning: they’ve been fighting each without knowing it. Yes, the characters already knew that they were soldiers fighting on two different sides of the same war, but that they had a chance encounter in space and ended up being on two sides of the same war front is a different thing altogether. It should have been an interesting and game changing episode for the series but it fails completely to be either engaging or important.
The episode is all about these two characters. That’s fine because their romantic relationship and their individual roles in the war are important elements of the series. Besides, the show’s format is essentially to focus on one or two characters per episode and to flesh them out as characters while also advancing the plot of the series and throwing in some action to keep everything interesting. The problem though is that the relationship between Shiro and Aina is terribly written and just doesn’t work when you start to think about it a little. Their second encounter is so strange. They seem happy to see each other and they flirt and take a bath in the mountains but then, as if suddenly remembering the context in which their meeting occurs, spout nonsense about the war and argue over it.
As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing how Shiro has proved himself a capable commander of his mobile suit team, this episode demonstrates just how romantically inept his is, especially when you compare him to the rest of the team. We do not know anything about Sanders but Karen used to be married which means she’s able to sustain a healthy and long lasting relationship. Her marriage also serves as an explanation for why she’s often emotionally detached and by the books. Her husband’s death impacted her in an important way. Michel, who should be pretty preoccupied with the war he’s fighting, is trying his best to keep his long distance relationship alive. As for Eledore, he’s a romantic. Instead of using the war as creative inspiration for song writing, he writes a love ballad. They might not all succeed as love but they’ve worked at in and it’s an important part of their lives. In comparison Shiro looks like a buffoon and that’s exactly how he acts in this episode.
It’s not just Shiro though, Aina isn’t any better. Neither one of them talk about anything directly. They spout and yell nonsense about their love for each other, and their views of the war. The message they’re broadcasting is unclear and contradictory and it makes for an uneven episode. They both show a desire to help the other person which matches up with how they acted during the first episode but it’s still a mystery as to why they’re doing it. It can’t be because of their humanitarians at heart, they’ve both killed numerous times since the beginning of the series and presumably even before then. Not knowing why they help each other makes it difficult to relate to them. It is nice that they’re focus on helping others while being in the middle of a war but they contribute to that war and the atrocities it leads to which brings us back to the inconsistent message of the episode and the inconsistent actions of Shiro and Aina.
I really hope the next episode is a good one. I’d be really disappointed if this episode heralds a downhill progression for the series. There is only one way to find out: come back tomorrow.