TL;DR Having the hots for your father figure can be fatal.
Somewhat recently, I watched Char’s Counter-Attack for the first time. I was both impressed by how good the visuals were while also impressed at just how bad they get at times (the infamous Char-on-a-horse sequence has some serious insults to one’s eyeballs), and overall found it a decent if not particularly compelling story. As the final note for Char and Amuro, it strikes me as being pretty weak, even as I didn’t take issue with the in media res approach utilized regarding the conflict that is in motion at the opening of the movie. Yeah, thematically I am totally on-board with the idea that both Char and Amuro are fated to be forever haunted by Lala Sune in some fashion, but its surrounded by a film that seems lightweight in comparison to 0079 and Zeta (and I even say this as someone who hasn’t liked Zeta much).
But this is all fairly beside the point at the moment, as what I really wanted to talk about has to do with Quess Paraya. I had braced myself for her, as nearly every commentary that can be found about the movie at some point states that she’s pretty obnoxious. Early on, she struck me as a sort of female Judau Ashta, but as the plot progressed, I really was reminded more of Kamille Bidan.
While there are a lot of differences between the two, CCA echoes Zeta strongly in its presentation of the pseudo-incestual feelings of its pubescent leads, and the adult targets of these sentiments who are either unable or unwilling to deal with it. Quess is often cited in support of the idea of Char as a pedophile, but it’s made quite clear that his interest in the girl is prurient for reasons other than a romantic or sexual dimension – she’s a powerful Newtype, and as such would be useful for his own end goal of dropping a colony. This is implied in the depiction of their interactions, but Char himself reveals it directly late in the film, when he expresses some amusement at the idea of her having a crush on him while also indicating that he was ignorant of it. It’s up for debate whether he truly hadn’t caught onto it, as Char is very canny and has displayed a willingness to manipulate others without regard for their well-being. However, given the access he has had to Quess, and Quess’s own adoration of him, his failure to take advantage of it sexually supports his statement that he had only been interested in her power.
But, I had used the term “pseudo-incestual” instead of… well, whatever term is used for teenagers who develop the hots for much-older adults. Quess’s own familial background follows a pretty standard UC Gundam set-up, with a mother who is missing in action, and a father who maintains a mistress and is depicted as a quisling who isn’t interested in trying to understand his daughter. (By the way, I swear the mistress is the only smart person in the whole movie, as she backs out of going to space over how horrible Quess is.) The failure of her father to parent her leaves Quess desperate for a father-figure. Initially, she becomes enthralled with Amuro, whose military exploits put him into stark relief with her noncombatant father. But when Amuro proves to be a flawed person himself, her attentions turn toward Char, whom she comes to admire from afar for his military efforts and the seeming purity of his dedication to his polito-military goals. If anything, Char is an even better replacement as a father-figure given the way he carries out pursuit of his political beliefs. Dear old dad was gearing up to cave to Char’s demands, after all, in an effort to save his own skin and fortune; Char might be monstrous in his own efforts, but they certainly can’t be said to be done simply to preserve himself. Some words late in the game between Char and Amuro confirm what had already been implied, as seen above in part in that screencap; Amuro had just stated “I couldn’t be a father figure to Quess!”, and Char’s reply is as seen there.
Lest you think, though, that Gundam can only deliver up a girl with daddy issues, Zeta’s covers the boy with mommy issues side of things. In Kamille’s case, both mom and dad are dead, and both also weren’t great parents even while alive (although no one ever wants to give his mother credit for going to bail his ass out after he punches an officer; given Kamille’s consistently poor behavior, you figure it may’ve been easier to just leave him in paramilitary custody). And, honestly, Kamille does have some daddy issues, and, like Quess, tries to slot Char/Quattro Bajeena into that role, only to be angrily disappointed upon discovering that Char is also flawed. But his attempt to cast an unrelated adult as a mother-figure shares much more common ground with Quess’s actions than his interactions with Quattro do (although, surprise surprise! in both cases an involvement with Char ends very badly!), as he demonstrates an uncomfortable mixture of sexual attraction and desire for a maternal figure toward Reccoa Londe.
Kamille’s early behavior toward Reccoa suggests that he is trying to latch on to her as a surrogate mother, before his hormones start to infiltrate the situation. Thus, Kamille shifts from simply looking to Reccoa for guidance and as one of the very few adults he can trust to behaving toward her more as he does toward Four Murasame. Kamille tries to dissuade Reccoa from doing her job on the grounds that it is too dangerous, before shifting his attempt to interfere onto their ship’s captain (considering that she’s an adult and he’s a bratty kid, this is pretty annoying to watch!). Later in the show, when Quattro rebuffs Reccoa’s overture, Kamille is also the person most bothered by it, playing the role of the luckless yet faithful romantic contender who is angered by the would-be champion’s indifference. Like in so many other iterations of this particular trope, he confronts Quattro over it (although this hardly changes the outcome).
Reccoa, for her part, doesn’t actively exploit Kamille’s feelings as Char may have with Quess, but that also doesn’t mean she doesn’t come to rely on him to a degree that is unseemly for an adult toward a child. I genuinely don’t think that she is aware of the exact nature of Kamille’s sentiment toward her; she’s too blindered by her own frustrations, particularly regarding the mutual romantic attraction she shares with Quattro, but which the latter refuses to act on. She also, at some points, brushes off Kamille fairly abruptly when she’s focused on her missions. (It’d be fair to say that she runs a bit hot and cold toward the boy, although with the caveat that the same is true of most of the adults in the show, something which suggests that Tomino sees this as how adults generally treat children.)
I think that Kamille and Reccoa’s dynamics and relationship are handled much more deftly than Quess and Char’s, although the former does have a lot more time to develop it. Quess’s interactions with Char are more straightforwardly of the “yuck pedo” variety, as although Char doesn’t pursue something romantic and/or sexual with her, he doesn’t discourage her from gushing over him, nor does he tell her to not crawl into his lap. Kamille’s actions and feelings toward Reccoa induce a lot of queasiness since it’s more subtle, and therefore feels more alarmingly realistic, in the sense that you could see it happening in real life (and possibly may even have!). Tomino catches a lot of flak for lacking subtlety, but he hits the nail on the head with this one in expressing a socially/culturally inappropriate aspect of (broken) youth.