In the latest installment of a new Bit here, we’re reviewing Bandai’s gunpla, a model kit of a robot from the Gundam universe. It’s a little outside our usual coverage, and there might be some light spoilers for the anime. This week: A carefully-considered editorial about an important issue.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a typical Gundam protagonist. You’re a war orphan who lives in a junkyard, and are probably at least mildly psychic. Your boss has given you a giant robot, or you built one yourself, or you cut out the middleman and just stole it from someone. It is time to battle, and you have a wide array of humongous laser cannons and blunt melee instruments to choose from. Nearly any kind of weapon you want has been scaled up 900% and made to shoot lasers.
You can have a lance, or a lance with a drill on it. Mobile suits from Iron Blooded Orphans, in a timeline where smashing things up is more popular than shooting them, mostly rely on huge wrenches and chainsaws, but they also have railguns. Gundam 00 has a sniper rifle that can shoot from the ground all the way to geostationary orbit. There are beam boomerangs, which are more of a butterfly knife, and several types of whip: regular, electrified, or made from lasers. Someone in the EFSF built a fairly accurate AK-47 replica that’s 30 feet long, there really are no limits.
What you can’t have, so far as I can tell, anywhere in the entire canon, is a set of nunchucks. There’s the Gundam Hammer, which is a spiked ball on the end of a chain, and the Hyper Hammer, which is a rocket-propelled spiked ball on the end of a chain, but zero nunchucks. For a franchise based so heavily on mall ninja aesthetics, this seems like an oversight.
Maybe it’s a software problem. There’s a lovely bit in Gundam Unicorn where the RX-0 Unicorn picks up a chain gun and is ready to grip it and rip it, but doesn’t have the right driver. Banagher Links, which is an extremely Gundam Name, has to zoom around dodging bullets while his robot’s operating system installs a new peripheral device. It’s a charming slice of world-building, and hilarious to me that even in the far future we’re still dealing with guff from computers. A sixty-foot war machine needing to download an OS update just to run MAG_DUMP.EXE is maybe the best example in the entire Universal Century that people will never learn from their mistakes, and that the real war, between humankind and printers, will never end.
The other relevant fact about Gundams here is that they don’t – other than G Gundam, where you put on a skin-tight motion capture suit and pantomime the karate moves a la Pacific Rim – operate on a 1:1 basis with the pilot. The displays, even, that you’re tapping on, aren’t real cameras, they’ve been processed by the onboard computers. At first, maybe, in the early One Year War models, they were, but pretty quickly things move to a display with a 360 degree field of view, where the camera feeds from all over the mobile suit are composited together and plastered across the inside of an Orb made of TVs that the pilot’s seat hangs inside. The images are processed to crop out the robot itself, the same way you can’t see your own feet in most FPS games. It’s a rendering, not a video feed.
Gundam F91 has another charming scene where a guy tries to pick up a gun, but can’t use the two little joysticks to make the hand grab it, and someone outside the robot yells at him to just let the computer do it. Instead of using the controls to directly tell the F91 Gundam F91 (that’s the canonical name, and yes, you have to say the whole thing) to “move arm out, extend fingers, rotate wrist, close fingers, lift arm, activate PA system, broadcast ‘hell yeah’ on all channels, and start wildly fist-pumping“ you right-click on the picture of the gun and select “GRAB” from the context menu, then let the Gundam figure it out.
All of this to say that if the thing can’t be counted on to automate basic tasks, it maybe isn’t up to the task of wailing on dudes with nunchucks without managing to bop itself in the face a bunch of times. Fair enough, I suppose: I don’t think I could be trusted with nunchucks either.
I don’t think it’s a lot to ask for, especially in one of the more Out There AUs, to see a Gundam do bad ass nunchuck moves. I just want, once, to see a robot flip out and wail on somebody with beam-chucks. If they can put a cannon in the Double Zeta’s face that shoots so hard it makes the suit reboot itself, they can tie two beam sabers together with a length of colossal bike chain and whip it around real dramatically before going upside a Zaku’s head with it. Maybe limit the use of it to Newtypes only, if you can’t trust an Oldtype to be that cool, but I refuse to believe that there isn’t a talented and wicked sick pilot out there could handle swinging those bad boys around.
Please, Bandai. I need this.