Ernest Hemingway once said that, “All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.” And with that in mind we come to the end of the story of Amuro and Char that began in the epic Mobile Suit Gundam. The Universal Century time line and stories would continue on in a variety of fashions including the Gundam F91 movie, the Victory Gundam TV series, and the upcoming Gundam Unicorn OAV. But this is the end of the story that introduced us to the Universal Century. This is the culmination of legendary rivalry of Amuro and Char in the most spectacular fashion possible. Whoever wins shall determine the future of humanity.
Ah, Char’s Counterattack, with a name like that who wouldn’t want to watch this movie? There is a duality to having an ending for a series. On the one hand, it is great because you receive closure as a viewer, perhaps secrets are finally revealed or a love is finally confessed. On the other hand, it can be a bit depressing because the ride is over and you have to say goodbye to characters you have watched for so long. And on either of these fronts, there is a possibility of an unsatisfactory finish. Char’s Counterattack has a big job to do, showing us the last story of Amuro and Char.
We begin with a colony drop because if you are going to have an epic Gundam movie then you have to start with a colony drop. This colony drop is being orchestrated by none other then Char Aznable as the leader of Neo-Zeon. He plans on continuing to drop satellites on Earth until the resulting nuclear winter is so harsh that humanity has no other choice than to leave Earth and take to the stars. It is up to the Londo Bell Task force with Bright Noa and Amuro Ray to stop Neo-Zeon before they can make the Earth uninhabitable. The problem is the Federation government is more content in appeasing Char than stopping him. Amuro knows you can’t just hope the Red Comet will fade away into the background. When Char gets his hands on the Axis asteroid you know he is not going to use it for low cost but high quality housing purposes.
At the end of Zeta Gundam, Char’s fate is ambiguous but clearly he survives to fight another day. Though had I seen Zeta at its release time, I’m sure I would have been decidedly more devastated. In Char’s Counterattack Amuro finds himself at odds once again with his original rival and it seems parts of their history have not been swept under the rug after all. As old wounds are opened up, Lalah Sune and her influence on both men can still be felt here. Since Char and Amuro make up the main part of this film, it comes off quite well, but the people swirling around them don’t always fair so well. The pace at which Char’s Counterattack moves is brisk but sometimes so much so that character decisions don’t get the background needed to make sense.
The character with the most fluctuation thought the Gundam series is Char. He goes from devious revenge seeking schemer on the dark side of gray in Mobile Suit Gundam. He then becomes a mysterious mentor figure in Zeta Gundam mostly on the side of angels. His final transformation is into a charismatic commander with sympathetic but disgustingly apocalyptic goals. Char’s feelings for Amuro go from that of a deadly rival, to an awkward ally, and finally to nemesis. The problem is we never really see why that is on screen. I am sure there are books and manga that fill in these gaps but we don’t have access to those texts in the U.S. Amuro on the other hand is no where as radically different. He has obviously grown past his shell-shocked nature that he had through most of Zeta Gundam. It is obvious that he is more mature than we have seen him in the past, as seen by his take charge attitude, lack of hesitation, and calmer demeanor. For no adequately explained reason Amuro is no longer with Beltorchika Irma but instead with this engineer named Chan Agi. I don’t really have that much to say about Chan because she does not get that much screen time and what little time she does get leaves little impression. Quess Paraya on the other hand is a bizarre character though I did not find her as annoying as most people do but I did find her almost incomprehensible. Narutaki and I joked that her dialog sounded like she was reacting to an older version of the script. But Quess is a cyber-newtype and we all know they are a few cards short of a full deck. It was amusing to see her fawn over Char and have him condescendingly pat her on the head then send her out to die.
With each new iteration of Char, you can somewhat see the evolution but at the same time there are huge leaps of personality going on. Zeta’s Char was a far departure from his attitude at the end of Original Gundam, here in Char’s Counterattack he comes off as more intune with who Char would have become after the events of the One Year War. It almost seems like Zeta never happened. Though Zeta seems to have happened a little more to Amuro, even if he wasn’t in it very much, because he brings over that calmer demeanor but loses none of his skills. Once again I find myself liking Amuro’s character here with the inflammation of a old rivalry. Many of the new characters that are support for our heroes are completely throw away, or rather are there to replace some of the characters who didn’t make it through Zeta. Hathaway is a much better, but still rather an idiot when it comes to girls, version of Katz. But really what would this be without people falling for crazy cyber-newtypes. Speaking of, Quess’s attitude makes her seem like a Tomino lovechild. She is insane and therefore everything she does is random and fits in only with the world that must be in her head. Finally, I am happy to report that Haro is in his full glory in this film.
Char’s Counterattack looks gorgeous. Tomino was quite clearly given a big budget and used it. Everything is bigger and better for the big screen as well. Amuro’s Nu Gundam and Char’s Sazabi are the quintessence of their suits from throughout the series. As it should be for their final battle. Oh, it seems there was a buy 1 get 1 free sale on funnels because people are using them left and right in Char’s Counterattack. Part of me wonders if Tomino always wanted to have funnels be as prominent in series but budget constraints kept them from being as prolific or was the increase in funnels a reaction to fan demand. These mobile suits will forever be fondly remembered by fans of the franchise.
The production values, especially where our mechs are concerned are a lovely sight and certainly comes off as a much higher budget (and used well) than Tomino has been given in the past. And thanks to that Char’s Counterattack has suspenseful and breathtaking battles. Once again this show updates the character designs but for the most part everyone is recognizable. I say most because it took many quite a while to realize Mirai (the closest to a newtype a human could be!!!) was on the screen at the beginning. Also, Quess’s hair is dumb but I digress.
Overall Char’s Counterattack was good but hardly a perfect end to the story of Amuro and Char. It would seem that we have Tomino in full force in this movie. He gives us an epic story line, great robot battles, and excellent political back and forth battles as well. On the flip side we also have odd relationships, crazy women, and a magical Newtype powered letter T that flies around at the end. In other words everything we love and hate about Tomino. This is definitely the work of kill-em-all Tomino. The body count in this series is quite high and it almost seems like Tomino introduces new characters becuase he ran out of old characters to kill. But it is this grim finality that conclusively ends the story while not being utterly pessimistic or nihilistic. If you have made it this far into the Universal Century time line there is no reason not to watch this movie.
I enjoyed this film and overall liked it better than Zeta Gundam but I still felt this installment in the Gundam line falls closer to the entertaining but not amazing category. So much of this film goes under explained or under examined but there are solid strokes with Char and Amuro, their ensuing rivalry, and beautiful visuals. Amazing in its visuals for sure, but that really isn’t enough especially when closing the story between these two. It may sound contradictory to my last statement but Char’s Counterattack is still a must see because you just plain have to see Char and Amuro throwdown one last time.