Beecha Sucks and He Won’t Die: Gundam ZZ, Episodes 31-44

gundam zz 32b

If only we were so lucky.

Now seems a pretty good time for writing another Gundam ZZ post as the latest episode that I watched (number forty-four – only three episodes left!) made me hate the thing all over again.

The good points of this set of episodes:

  • they are finally out of the desert
  • someone tries to walk from Glasgow to Dublin
  • Beecha has a run of episodes in which he seems to show some form of growth
  • Fa resurfaces and she’s still hard as nails, resourceful, and brave
  • the Puru dealt with most is Puru Two, i.e. the less annoying Puru

Uh… I’m pretty sure that is it – and it bears mentioning that when I say Beecha “seems to show some form of growth”, the larger context is that he reverts to being wholly awful fairly quickly. What sort of guy steals the most powerful mech when the enemy is attacking because his pride is hurt? Beecha! He isn’t the first or last character identified with the protagonists to steal a Gundam (Amuro, Garrod) but, to the best of my knowledge, he is the only character as such who has the gall to do so when the enemy is shooting away and trying to kill everyone. Achievement award!

As I bumped along, watching these episodes, for the most part I was just at this even keel wherein I wasn’t exactly enjoying or not enjoying the proceedings. I have really no idea how to explain it; I still could observe that this wasn’t a “good” mech show but also felt that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been lead to believe (it certainly isn’t the worst Gundam I’ve watched, even). I had another moment where the rage of UC fans toward this show became something I could understand more deeply when Beecha becomes the acting captain of the Nahel Argama (LOLOLOLOL FOR REAL???), but its felt primarily like a fairly middle of the pack mech show. Yes, I realize that UC Gundam is supposed to be about more than being a mech show, and that this season represented a reversion to being more like the shows Tomino was trying to critique by doing Gundam in the first place (and, earlier, Zambot 3), but in the grand pantheon of mech shows, yes, this is simply par for the course. And, unlike some other par for the course mech shows, it benefits from being part of the larger Gundam franchise – instead of wondering why the hell it exists at all, as I did for the free-floating Argevollen, I’ve been accepting of its reason for existence as being part of a larger franchise. (Of course, it is true, too, that I know why it exists like this – have to bring in younger fans, so you better make it goofier and throw in a bunch of rebellious kids who are the characters who actually know what is what, unlike those lying, stupid adults!) (And, actually, along those lines, it’s easier to let some of the material slide given that it feels like a deliberate flipping of the bird by Tomino at, well, just about everyone.)

All of which is to say – this wasn’t torturous watching, or I would’ve dropped it, but it feels odd to say that I “liked” it. And I have more or less adjusted to it; with the exception of Beecha, the cast doesn’t inspire hatred from me. I am even pretty much okay with Judau, a few really grating examples excepting (at one point he jumps on a dining table that a bunch of important folks from the Federation are sitting at, kicks around a bunch of food, and yells a ton; he does get chucked into a holding cell for it, but so does Bright, and Bright doesn’t even get upset with him for his idiocy).

But! Episode forty-four pissed me off! And, really, the handling and characterization of Emaly is horrendously awful and irritating. Emaly does the heroic sacrifice but, lol, it wasn’t even necessary, and, lol, it was alllll her fault they were getting attacked still at all! Women are so stupid, amirite, bros? Haha, silly women, thinking they can be a captain of something! But, also, what is up with her being repeatedly addressed as “Acting Captain”? This isn’t standard procedure in militaries since it’s more of a mouthful, and also because the difference between someone acting in a position they aren’t normally assigned to and someone who is regularly assigned to it isn’t one that affects authority at all. I can’t help but take it as the show wanting to remind us that she isn’t REALLY a captain. And for one last kick from the indignity squad, the poor woman dies screaming Bright’s name. Emaly somehow goes from being a capable military officer in these episodes to being a half-wit whose decision-making process follows one question and one question only: “Will it get me into contact with Bright?” It got so unbearable that I started just skipping though scenes involving her so I shudder to think what sort of nifty content I may’ve missed.

Speaking of her death, though, we get a bunch of deaths in this stretch! None of them really matter, primarily since they’re either fake-outs, or it involves characters who have very little presence in this series. I know that some of these characters were perhaps liked by fans of the original and Zeta, but here they’re just convenient bodies to explode. It’s primarily in these deaths that shades of what is to come in Victory can be seen (although in retrospect I think some of the rapid deaths in that show were meant to reinforce an idea of war as a meaningless pursuit in the sense that the people die too fast for their deaths to have a greater meaning… maybe… or that Tomino was chucking it all in our face to criticize us all for tuning in to a violent mech show that allegedly wants us to think war is bad while we take enjoyment from watching warfare… maybe), i.e. deaths purely for proving how very serious this all is without any actual weight to them. I’ve heard it said that around episode thirty was where the tone changes, but that would require something more than just axing a couple characters who’ve barely been in the show. None of the characters act like they’ve been affected by the deaths; they might cry a bit right after it happens, but if you asked them in the next episode about their feelings about it, it seems like they’d give a blank look and say they didn’t know what you’re talking about.

Other assorted thoughts, comments, etc.:

  • HOW COULD I HAVE NOT MENTIONED YET the awful, awful, awful episode involving a colony modeled after Hong Kong which is presided over by a Chinese mob boss-type villain who is greedy and perverted? He contrives to kidnap all the girls and women for his harem, OF COURSE, and where his guards try to turn away a young girl who is trying to infiltrate the place by joining his harem, he of course enthusiastically accepts her. He also makes wonderful comments like wanting to enjoy the “immature fruits” first. Yuck! But the bigger problem is what a racist piece of shit caricature he is. The Gundam franchise has a serious issue with depicting Chinese characters. (This episode also features cross-dressing Judau and Iino; people keep saying Judau is ugly as a woman but he looked pretty decent to me. Meanwhile, everyone loves Iino in drag.)
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