If you know anything about the original Gundam, you likely know about the rivalry between series protagonist Amuro Ray and series villain Char Aznable. But if you watch Gundam the Origin and Gundam Unicorn in tandem, there is a another possibility for Char’s prominent rival–and perhaps a more thematically meaningful one.
This past year has seen a lot of Gundam anime, but most interesting has been the relationship between the OVA series Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin and TV series MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM UNICORN RE:0096–the beginning of Char’s story and the end of it respectively.
[Note: This article contains spoilers for Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin and MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM UNICORN RE:0096.]
As seen in Origin, the character Gundam fans most commonly referred to as “Char” is actually the assumed name of Casval Rem Deikun. His father is the Chairman of the Republic of Zeon (an alliance of space colonies seeking independence from Earth) who is assassinated and usurped by Degwin Sodo Zabi: his father’s friend and right hand man. Little more than a political prisoner, the young Casval escapes to Earth with his sister to live in anonymity while his mother remains behind, eventually dying in captivity.
Char’s entire motivation in the original Gundam is to get revenge on the Zabi family for the death of his father and mother as well as the pain they caused his sister. Using his assumed identity, Char spends years getting close to the Zabi family–even befriending some of them–before killing them off one by one.
But in the end, as he loses his taste for revenge, he chooses to leave one Zabi alive, the infant Mineva.
What he doesn’t realize is that he has left the baby in a situation mirroring his own. Mineva, like Char, is considered the sole remaining heir to Zeon’s royal family by many–with people eager to try and use her for political ends. Moreover, her father was killed (indirectly) by his supposed friend (Char), which led to her mother dying heartbroken only a short time later.
Their origin stories are eerily similar, yet, Mineva grows into a young woman that is the polar opposite of Char. While Char first seeks revenge for his father and later strives to bring about the world of his father’s ideals, Mineva doesn’t seek revenge and attempts to do everything in her power to prevent the sins of her family from coming to pass again.
Before his death, Char’s father propagated the idea that those who lived in space would become more evolved than those on Earth–a “new type” of humanity for the new frontier. The theory also stated that Newtypes were more capable of understanding each other. While likely a political tool more than anything else–a way to create a sense of nationalism among the entirety of space-born humanity–it nonetheless proved to true.
Char himself is a Newtype with various telepathic and precognitive powers, as is Mineva. Yet, time and again, it is Char who seeks to control people–persuade or force them to move to space and evolve–while Mineva is the one who strives to understand them.
Poetically, it is Mineva in the end, not Char’s rival Amuro Ray, who causes Char’s final defeat. The child he spared–the mirror of himself that he created–is the one who finally sets his soul to rest. She, a Newtype promoting understanding and hope, best exemplifies the dream of Char’s father and gives mankind’s younger generation a chance for a lasting peace among the stars.