Ahoy! Welcome to Anime Parlay. This is The Captain and I’ve got another little segment to pitch to you eager readers. Ultimate World-Building is exactly what it sounds like; a post dedicated to the wonderful and fantastical art of world-building through an anime lens. Simple, right? I have been an aspiring writer since I was in high school and something that has always fascinated me is how those fictional places are put together. What does it look like? Who lives there? Are there factions/tribes/groups? Is there conflict? Hint: there is ALWAYS conflict in some sense. Aside from the numerous other basic questions I could ask about the world, these ideas are what make that world function and bring it to life.
I live to study these plots, characters, ideas, and settings in anime (and other things). To me, the measure of a great story is completely how it imitates reality. Stories, to make a long post short, exist to enlighten, inform, remind, guide, influence, and have existed since man began fist-fighting beasts to eat. However, I personally find my favorite stories take in real world influences and use them (in whatever meaningful context the creator decides) to share their vision with us, the viewer/reader. Enough said! Today, I wanted to really dive into the socio-political world that takes place in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. If you don’t know anything about Gundam, you’re going to get a crash course today in one of my favorite in the franchise.
Why Mobile Suit Gundam 00?
When I was in high school, Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny were the latest in the franchise. I loved those shows back in the day and they turned me into the mecha fan I am today. When Gundam 00 hit the scene, I was serving in the military. This show became the TOPS for me for so many reasons. For one, the show dealt with war, especially in the Middle East, which was my theater of war. There was an episode of Gundam 00 where the characters were going through the Striat of Hormuz while we were sailing through the Strait of Hormuz at the same time. What are the odds? I also had the opportunity to visit Japan multiple times while the show was airing and got to share in ALL the Gundam 00 Hype while Season 2 was dominating the air. It was a good time to be a fan.
Recently, I wanted to rewatch this groundbreaking show to see how well it had aged. I also wanted to write about it but really didn’t want to subscribe readers to 50+ episode reviews. I am thinking 26+ might be too much. Let me know on that. However, I really got back into this show. Being the creative person I am, I made an excuse and here we are! Let’s get into it!
The World of Gundam 00
If there is one thing to know about Gundam, these stories are about war and the underlying politics behind them. Most Gundam shows narrow it down to two, maybe 3 sides/nations/factions battling for any amount of reasons. There are big robots, lazers, and explosions. They are easy enough to get into if that sounds like your cup of tea but Gundam 00 is different. It’s informed. It’s aware of itself. That’s thanks to it’s story and scriptwriter, Yousuke Kuroda.
You may know some of Kuroda’s other works such as Scryed, Excel Saga, and, some of my guilty pleasures, Please Teacher and Please Twins. Kuroda has a GREAT style of story telling and really knows how to drum-up meaningful, heartfelt drama between characters that feel like people you have known forever. That’s pretty excellent! The same is true in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. What strikes me as even more fantastic is Kuroda’s understanding of current world politics and how that shows in Gundam 00. To make the point even more obvious, Gundam 00 is the only Gundam show (that I currently know of) that takes place in our timeline. It’s in OUR future! 2307 Anno Domini (AD if you’re nasty). Only 300 years in the future from when the show originally aired. So cool!
Guess what? There is war! It’s Gundam. We discussed this. Yes, even 300 years into the future, humanity still can’t get their collective shit together for the betterment of their species. Oh humans! Luckily, the world has completely moved away from their reliance on fossil fuels to power their societies. Solar power is finally king of providing energy and each of the 3 world powers posses an geo-stationary orbital elevator which allows them to transport people between earth and space while gathering renewable energy. In order to accomplish something as monumental as this, the three factions of Gundam 00 had to come together and have maintained an era of peace for years. Who are these world powers? Check it out:
- The Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations – Think of the Union as the US and it’s allies like Australia and Japan. The Union functions with a parliament of representatives but distribution of solar energy and use of the Union’s military falls in the lap of an American elected official that is essential the President. Simple enough! It seems like the Union shares ideas of political autonomy while also promoting freedom and goodwill.
- The Human Reform League – The Human Reform league is a geo-political powerhouse consisting of Russia, China, India, Taiwan, Mongolia, Papa New Guinea, and Korea to name a few. Although never exclusively stated in the show, the Human Reform League appears to run on the ideas of socialism. They have an elected chairman that represents the Human Reform League who live somewhere in China.
- The Advance European Union – Europe’s going to be in the group too! It’s pretty much Europe with a small sphere of influence in Africa where their orbital elevator is built. They also function around a parliamentary body like the Union but without an elected president calling other shots.
Kuroda pretty much took a leap, pondered on what the world would look in 300 years but with the current ideals of world peace in mind. Sure, nations are now joined together for once but to what end? There are still sides, still regions to be fought over, resources to win, and economies to be fueled. Conflict, even with humanities best intentions, still can not do it. What’s worse, with fossil fuels being depleted the limited reserves left in the Middle East have left the area bankrupt, decayed, and in a state of constant civil war. It really does mimic our own reality very insightfully.
Gundam 00, just on the surface, is a prediction. A prediction of what could be once we completely dry the planet of oil and thus have to find energy elsewhere. The three strongest economies, made up of multiple countries contributing to their factions as a whole, created orbital solar energy farms out of desperation to stay relevant. If you don’t have the resources to run a nation, you won’t survive. It just shows that even with creative freedom to do anything, Kuroda decided to show us a world that repeats itself eternally. Greed and war, it continues to consume humanity.
Enter Celestial Being
In the very first episode, we’re privy to the Advanced European Union showcasing their latest mobile suit. A giant robot, state-of-the-art, made to combat the enemies of the AEU. Not only are they showcasing their model as a show-of-force to their rival nations but they have the tenacity to show it off on the anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between the world’s factions. That’s called a BALLSY move in politics. BALL-SY!
Now, imagine out of seemingly nowhere, another robot of equal size descends from the sky like a diety and lands next to that first robot. Not only is this new one sleeker and better designed, it makes the first robot appear archaic to the Nth degree. How do you think that makes the AEU feel? That their best machine is already obsolete out of the gate. What about the Human Reform League or the Union? They were already offended at the AEU’s new model and now this “Gundam” is now the new hotness. How would you feel?
As the first episodes go on, Celestial Being, a completely separate entity privately funded by a long-dead investor deliver multiple attacks on the nations of the Earth with the Gundam weapons. They come with the goal to end all warfare with armed intervention. Fighting war with war (which is hypocritical in it’s intent). It all sounds pretty “anime” with that description but you really have to have a different mindset to understand just how scary this would be IRL.
Let’s look at it with a different frame. It’s currently 2018, we’re exactly where we are in the world and then breaking news of an attack from a mysterious force on a military base somewhere in the country. Let’s say it’s on par with the first episode of Gundam 00 and assume that the attack actually reveal that this said military base had violated agreed upon terms in a peace treaty by housing excessive military assets on base. Imagine the chaos that would erupt from America’s orange drunk uncle caricature! On top of that, the BBC or CNN airs the uncut message from Celestial Being after the attack. Imagine hearing these words on television or online in a live news broadcast:
“We are Celestial Being. We are a private military force dedicated to ridding world of warfare. We will used armed intervention to end the conflicts of humanity with the aid of the mobile weapon Gundam. This is a warning to the world. Any nations, religions, organizations or corporations who promote warfare will become targets for future intervention.”
If it were me, I would be scared shitless. There is some paramilitary group raining hellfire on those who would incite war. That’s all we seem to know as humans. Then you have to wonder who they would attack, why, and what the world would do to respond to a threat of this nature. Thank GOODNESS we don’t currently have something like this happening, even if, like me, you’re on-board with what Celestial Being is ultimately trying to accomplish. A nightmare of epic proportions, to be sure.
If you have never watched a Gundam show in your life, Gundam 00 is a safe place to start. It isn’t over complicated and that’s thank to the dedication put into researching current events and applying a “future” filter over it. It’s plausible is what I like about it most. Everything functions 300 years from now like it currently does which really drives the point home when it comes to the themes of conflict and war in the show. If I can leave you with one thing, it’s the relevance of this quote from Celestial Being’s creator:
“What I hate are people who misuse their intelligence, the ones who get caught up in their own personal beliefs and prejudices and lose sight of the truth. It leads to misunderstandings, followed by discord and then by conflict. All I want is understanding between people.[…]Humans must learn to apply their intelligence correctly and evolve beyond their current state. People must change, otherwise even if humanity expands into space it will only create new conflicts.”
Although, we as humans, haven’t reached space yet, it makes to wonder if we ever will with our current world and the leaders bumbling through it to make it worse for the masses. Regardless, this post really only covers the first few episodes so I won’t comment further until I finish the first season. Still, Kuroda has crafted our world in such a way that it really could be our future if we continue to fight. I think that’s pretty damn insightful and look forward to seeing how it all plays out, in Gundam 00 and reality. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you for more goodness here on Anime Parlay.