Saturday, 26 July 2014

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team rewatch – Ep. 10 The Shuddering Mountain, Part 1


Welcome to The 08th MS Team rewatch! The little OVA that could continues to impress. This episode marks the first half of the climactic finale of the show and we’re treated with a great mobile suit battle. It’s one of my favourites.

Summary: Episode 10 “The Shuddering Mountain, Part 1”:
Original Airdate: July 25, 1998
English Airdate: August 3, 2001

Federation Jet Core Boosters attack the Zeon mountain base where Ginias is finalizing his Apsalus project. It’s a bombing run. Captain Norris Packard, who we’ve seen in several episodes before, counterattacks the Jet Core Boosters with a Gouf mobile suit. The Federation also brought MS teams and Guntanks as reinforcements. The 08th Team is part of those reinforcement forces.

Zeon’s plan is to evacuate the mountain base and escape in the Kergeulen. The 07th Team heads into the tunnels which lead to the centre of the base. It’s the Federation’s fourth attempt to infiltrate the base and, so far, 9 teams have been put out of commission. Captain Ryer suggests trying to destroy the entire mountain and not just the base within. Base commander Kojima is reluctant to do so since it would likely require the use of nuclear armaments which are forbidden by the Antarctic Treaty (confirm treaty name). Since mobile suits are powered by a nuclear reactor, Ryer suggests that they intentionally cause a mobile suit meltdown. A suggestion that Kojima is shocked to hear.

Aina is coordinating the evacuation and giving careful attention to the injured. After having a heart to heart with Norris, her friend sets out in his Gouf to clear a path for the escaping Kergeulen. Unheard to Norris, Aina vows that if anybody harms Shiro it will be her and she’ll be going into the afterlife along with him.

Back in the ruined city, Eledore hears a sound he’s familiar with. It’s a Gouf, piloted by Norris. He engages with the 08th Team. Norris proves to be an excellent pilot. The 08th Team feels as though they’re being played with. Because the Gouf is so fast and the Gundams’ vision is obstructed by all the buildings, command is given to Eledore. Using his ground sonar and the rest of the equipment in the hover truck, he will guide the MS pilots during the fight.

While Karen and Sanders fight very well, the real standout is Shiro. He’s not an enhanced or super pilot like some of the main characters from other Gundam series, but he’s very capable. He goes head to head with a pilot he admitted is better than any of the pilots in the 08th Team. He’s scared but he still does it. Norris defeats Shiro but doesn’t destroy his mobile suit entirely nor does he kill him. But he does use Shiro and his Gundam as a shield. Freaking out in a mobile suit which has had its fuses blown, Shiro starts screaming that he wants to lives. He reboots his Gundam, rips off his broken arm and starts attacking the Gouf again. He screams that he wants to marry Aina and grown old. Norris realizes that he’s been fighting the man Aina loves.

Shiro kills Norris by cutting his mobile suit in half but not before Norris can destroy another Guntank. Shiro failed to protect his comrades in the Guntank division. Disappoint by his performing and the senseless killing, Shiro announces to his team that he’s leaving the Federation’s military service.

Back in the mountain base, the Apsalus is completed and while toasting to victory with his top advisors, Ginias watches as the poisoned wine takes effect. He can now claim all of the glory and recognition for the completion of the Apsalus. Again, Eledore hears a sound he recognizes and he warms the team that Aina is about to pay them a visit. The completed Apsalus III, a larger model than what we’ve seen before, shoots out of the mountain. Its beam weapon destroys the mountainside.

There isn’t much character development in the series anymore and that’s ok because there isn’t really a need for it. Since enough episodes have been used to develop the characters, all we need now are small moments, such as what the characters say during a battle, to sustain their individual characteristics for the viewer. Since this is the beginning of the show’s climax, it’s fitting that the focus shifts to the action. The tension and excitement of watching the mobile suit battles is intensified by the viewer’s emotional attachment to the members of the 08th Team which we’ve come to know and like since they were first introduced. The battles are even more exciting because The 08th MS Team’s careful attention to detail and added realism helps to heighten the sense of danger for the characters. We know their Gundams aren’t invincible and we know that the enemy has better technology and weaponry but what the 08th Team has is great camaraderie and a willingness to do what is required of them to end conflict quickly. They’re also pretty fucking badass.

The highlight of this episode is without a bout the battle in the abandoned city. It’s great stuff. Battles in Gundam series have often been reduced to two mobile suits meet up, fire at each other head on, and the good guy defeats the bad guy. That there is a battle with a terrain worth mentioning (the abandoned city) is refreshing. That they also employ a strategy specific to that terrain and the technological capabilities of the enemy’s Gouf (using the hover truck’s ground sonar to direct the MS pilots) is also refreshing. It’s also nice to know that the enemy has very capable pilots that aren’t superhuman or anything like that. Norris has a custom Gouf which he’s clearly piloted numerous times in the past and he’s using his mobile suit to great effect. I also like that Shiro is presented with a challenge. At three against one, Norris holds his own and it makes for a great action sequence.

The show isn’t entirely focused on the action though. Parts of this episode are setup for the second half of “The Shuddering Mountain”. There is also additional character development between Aina and Norris. We learn that Aina considers Norris to be a father figure for her and she’s greatly inspired (or intrigue) by a man who can be so compassionate and self-sacrificing towards his troops and Zeon civilians yet also be a considerable threat to the enemy’s forces.

There is one thing that confuses me and it’s how Ginias convinced Aina to pilot the Apsalus III. Shiro, despite his peaceful ideals, continues to battle with the 08th team because that’s his job. He’s a soldier. Refusing to do his duty can, and already has, resulted in disciplinary actions. Aina, as far as I can tell, isn’t part of Zeon’s military. She’s a civilian. She doesn’t have to do shit yet she continues to support Ginias’s Apsalus Project by being his pilot even though she disagrees with the project.

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