It’s not often that I immediately write follow ups to certain posts that I just put out. Mainly because I take breaks between watching things. But as always, Gundam is a special case for me. This year is where I finally started to permanently split up what I watch into seasonal chunks more often. I don’t know why I haven’t done it before hand besides Fist of the North Star, but it means looking at things in a much better and focused way. So yeah, that Symphogear GX post needs to be written soon. I’m sorry, but Oshii October. Next week I swear. Now that I think about it, I owe a lot of posts to people, I think. I’ll get to them. But for now, it’s Gundam time with the sequel of December Sky, Bandit Flower. A part that shakes up the Universal Century Gundam Universe a little bit more.
Ummm, beware spoilers on this one because I’ve got to complain about a lot of things.
I have complained about the state of the Universal Century quite a bit online. Especially Twitter. Yeah. This comes up a bit because up to Universal Century 0096 in Unicorn at the minimum, the Zeon have held land on the Earth Federation since the start of the One Year War in Universal Century 0079. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: Bandit Flower is taking the time to focus the Zeonic land held on the Earth. It takes place eight months after the end of the One Year War which was a win for the Earth Federation. The kicker is that a third party, the South Seas Alliance, shows up to ruin everything for everyone.
The South Seas Alliance is a group that both sides of the original parties of the One Year War have to face. Originally, the South Seas Alliance was a very radical Buddhist cult portion of the Earth Federation. Well, they went independent and part of this 90-minute segment is figuring out why and hopefully putting a stop to it on the Earth Federation’s point of view. Io Flemming and the Spartan crew fight the South Seas Alliance directly. A journey that hurts all of them. On the other end, Darryl has to escape from the South Seas Alliance after retrieving a spy. All for making the threat feel larger.
All of this provides a great way for our two leads to grow. For instance, Io Flemming is put into a new situation and has to deal with the crew of the Spartan. After saving them in a new Gundam of course. The crew generally don’t like him because he showed up in an expensive thing and that seems organic. If I was a pilot, I would think the same thing about a Gundam pilot until he shows some skill. The most interesting think about Io is his new found friendship with the pilot, Bianca Carlyle. They form a friendship through free jazz, save each other’s lives in combat, and even play music together. It’s an adorable friendship. As in, no romance is forming yet. Io doesn’t seem interested in her at the moment, but that can change. If it does, this relationship starts in a very positive place.
I should also mention that Bianca is really cool. Not just because she’s an awesome pilot, but because of how she is as a person. She’s fun, wreckless, and has served in a lot of combat scenarios so she’s experienced. We see this through how many tattoos she has all over her body from different groups she has been a part of. There is a fan service kind of moment when Bianca gets her latest tattoo when she’s in her underwear in front of other pilots, but she easily owns it through her confidence and personality. Io and Bianca have a very balanced friendship. Even if they are both chaotic, someone has to take responsibility during different scenarios which adds a valuable dynamic.
Daryl Lorenz’s arc isn’t as interesting, but it’s important for him to grow. He takes charge of a group of people that are unsure of his abilities. (Of course, He also has to deal with the scientist whose memories are blocked off after her suffering in the Thunderbolt sector and that’s horrible.) Without that, which doesn’t take up a lot of time, Daryl is another person who has to prove he has fantastic piloting abilities instead of it being assumed by the fame he amassed in the thunderbolt sector. It’s interesting to see both of him and Io framed outside of the conflict from December Sky and dealing with normal soldiers. So yes, Daryl does prove himself and his group members respect him. Now for the conflict to follow. IF we get there.
I have so many gripes against the South Sea Alliance itself. Now, the reveal that they are cult that is brain washed by a New Type is interesting in itself. No series has ever had a New Type do this because New Types have always been pawns of the military to become super weapons. Seeing the reverse of that is interesting. So in essence, cool. The horribleness comes from how the show treats Bianca. You know, the former captain Bianca in December Sky who tried to self-medicate herself in the middle of the conflict. She died by being shot in the head. Now, she’s alive somehow and being brain washed. Isn’t that kind of scummy to you? Add that to the scientist being treated as a child you get some of the bad things from Gundam show up in all sorts of ways.
There is also the fact that Bandit Flower isn’t as creative as December Sky at all. In no way is it experimental with the setting and music, but is instead built it was meant to further a franchise. December Sky was self-contained and could have been left as a lightning bolt in a bottle with its awesome music and visuals play no questions asked. Instead, Bandit Flower demands a sequel because this is part one to dealing with yet another horrible group in a war that seems to keep going. The world is set, characters are in place, and everything, but there isn’t a follow up to having these conflicts solved at all. It’s been three years now and nothing. Hopefully one day soon.
With the lack of experimentation in its presentation and audio, Bandit Flower still looks great. I mean, it only was a few years ago, so no duh right? The character designs are the same, but there is a lot of interesting environments and locations for mobile suit battles to happen. In the ice, in the ocean, in a jungle, in the sky, and everything else. The mobile suits are original designs that are updated, but the newer Gundam, the Atlas Gundam, is a fantastic piece of machinery that has so many cool functions. Obviously a toy commercial thing but who cares? It’s awesome. Which is what I say about the other units as well. Each one just looks great and moves great in combat. All sorts of Gundam fun.
I’ve thought about this a bit, and I think that Bandit Flower is a good movie/series/whatever. It is no where near as creative or whole as December Sky, has scummy moments from December Sky expanded on, and is unfinished for now, but it does a lot more positive things as well. Bianca is great for instance and so is a lot of the new cast members. Really love their personalities. Plus, it expands Io and Daryl’s stories as well. The world feels more whole, it looks great, and everything. It’s interesting, just not as unique as before. I suppose we are waiting for more manga to appear because more comes out which is fine. I just hope its soon.