Hindsight's Victim wrote:Tomino... calls Victory absolute trash that no one should watch. I've... really been enjoying it so far.
Thank you all for convening one last time. Regrettably, though I managed to endure Mobiro Suto Vikutori Gandamu's finale by holding the sides of my head together with my hands, it successfully infected my brain, and I have reconciled myself amicably with my passing.
It's ironic that this comes so soon after a discussion of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, and its own bizarre shift in structure, tone, and quality. Victory manages to reverse the model of its predecessor with a first half I found consistently above average and a second half that has literally killed me. Where Victory manages to outdo ZZ is in its suddenness and intensity. Rather than the gradual shift into something unfamiliar, Victory is divided almost evenly into two completely unlike halves, and the transition between the two is so abrupt and obvious that it approximates two completely different shows.
The first half of Victory ends with Episode 27. Though not perfect, the show managed to impress me considerably up to this point. Recurring issues like the uneven pacing and lapses of responsible supervision allowing for the young cast's various escapades were forgiven in light of a strong sense of momentum and purpose, with the action progressing engagingly towards established goals, and a consistent sense of ingenuity and detail. As stated previously, I was always wary that the show would lapse into laziness, and allow the action to be carried by vague, arbitrary increases in power, or simply brushed over as a trifle. To the contrary, I was delighted as the show consistently kept its tools and tactics in mind and allowed its disputes to be resolved through cleverness and skill, posing and solving unique problems with each new episode. Lastly, Victory bore in its breast a real sense of personality and heart, standing toe to toe with any previous series in its sensation of genuine humanity.
Episode 27 itself might be the finest Victory achieves, the point when a number of narrative and thematic threads culminate at a single resolution. The first half of the series bears with it the familiar themes of previous series, with young people being caught in the winds of war and all that goes with it, but adds its own spin with the undercurrent of parental abandonment and a response to its place in the Gundam metaseries with its focus on the stalled progression— and even regression— of mankind's ascent to the stars. Leading up to Episode 27, Üso has managed to rescue Shakti from Zanscare's home colony, where she had reunited with her mother, the Queen, after long years on Earth as a young orphan. But Shakti feels no connection with her mother and seems horrified by her means and ideals, even saying that her mother is dead to her. Üso himself is still having difficulty coping with taking human lives; simultaneously, he is in the grip of his sexual maturation and awakening, coming haltingly to terms with the transition from viewing women as maternal figures to viewing them as sexual interests. Finally, both Shakti and Üso have begun to awaken to their Newtype perceptions, and both realize that the change is occurring.
The action of the episode itself deals with the deployment of a weapon captured from Zanscare's fleet, long foreshadowed but only now revealed. The weapon, a gargantuan beam artillery intended to bombard the Earth's surface from orbit, is being turned on the Zanscare fleet after a daring strike on the Zanscare colony forced them to regroup en masse around their home territory. The weapon outdoes the most blatant of Zeta Gundam's sexual imagery with its profile: an unabashedly phallic weapon consisting of a long, tapered shaft bearing two large, slightly oblong spheroids at its base. At the culmination of the battle fought while the weapon charges, one of Üso's key mother figures dies right in front of him, while the weapon's remote controls are destroyed. Üso, in his grief, is left with the responsibility of firing the weapon manually, despite having expressed his belief that the weapon was too terrible to use. As he unleashes the beam, devastating Zanscare's concentrated fleet, the psychic agony of hundreds or thousands of simultaneous deaths is inflicted on Üso and Shakti.
I contend that this episode, had no more of the show ever been made, could have served as a fine ending to Victory. A bleak and inconclusive ending, but nonetheless a fitting one. Üso and Shakti are both forced to come to terms in some way with their parental abandonment; the threat of Zanscare is crippled, but at the cost of forcing a boy barely on the verge of maturity to utilize a weapon of mass death; Üso's reluctant embrace of the blatantly phallic weapon symbolizes his crossing the threshold to manhood not only physically, but as a pilot and a Newtype; lastly, Üso and Shakti, the two young leads of the show and the setting's symbolic future, inaugurate the awakening of their special perceptions— the mark of mankind's own maturity in space— in singularly torturous fashion. The entire narrative until now has led to Üso taking his manhood literally and figuratively into his own hands, and the moment sells every theme the show has woven into the telling of its story.
If only it had ended there.
The faults of the remaining 24 episodes of Victory aren't worth enumerating with such specificity. In general, the problems of pacing notably worsen, and the failures of reason and responsibility among the show's adults to reign in the young cast make their counterparts in ZZ look like the parents of the year. Despite parental abandonment previously being a strong theme, that alone is far from enough to cover for it; rather, it's at this point that every theme the show had had disappears,
and are not replaced by anything at all until the very tail end of the series. At that point, the show works desperately and fails to recapitulate a subset of the themes already explored in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. And the long-anticipated collapse of a sense of engagement and cleverness in battle manifests immediately and totally with the advent of Üso's Newtype abilities.
But those faults are hardly issues of their own; rather, they all stem from and are contained within the great overriding problem of Victory's second half: the sudden and sustained collapse of all logic and reason. From Episode 28 onward, there ceases to be any sensible reason or motivation for anything that anyone does or the way that anything works. The show pitches unpredictably from an air of general frustration and decadence to outright bewilderment and a suspicion of deliberate sabotage. Amazingly, the show manages to continually outdo itself, breaking ground on deeper and deeper levels of despair every time you think it's bottomed out; at the time I described the show as a descent into complete madness, I still had no idea
how bad it would get by the end.
From the fountain of relentless dyslogic springs all related woes: the deterioration of any sense of momentum and engagement from a total lack of meaningful narrative goals and interesting problems; the decay of any sense of gravity or tension as the show ceases to treat any weapon or tool as anything but the naked hand of writer convenience; the disappearance of personality or personal investment as all characters' actions come unmoored from comprehension, and the shocking absence, retraction or contradicion of characterization of even the most central characters; the absence of meaningful stakes when no clear villain or the coherent threat posed by such emerges; and the death of mystery and wonder when the entire concept of Newtypes is utterly devalued, which not only ruins this series but turns the entire allegory of mankind's ascent to the heavens into a sick farce, paving the way for Mobile Fighter G Gundam to storm in soon afterward to stomp flat the deep grave containing everything Gundam had been prior to that point.
What's worse is that every now and then, especially near to the end, the show will manage, for a few agonizing seconds, to stir up some genuine emotions. Worse than merely descending into schlock or stalling into a flatline, the show spits its final insult by tormenting its audience, juxtaposing what you could
be feeling, what you should
be feeling with an animated nightmare zone that absorbs and collapses all hope and thought, never to be regained. It's the few seconds of heartbreaking recognition and pleading for help of an Alzheimer's patient all but totally consumed by delusional reverie.
With Victory's abrupt fuck-you deus ex machina non-ending of supreme meaningless, my journey through the UC comes to an end. This was the last of the Gundam material that I stole off the Internet years ago, when my Internet was still good enough to download gigabytes of shit whenever I wanted, and the only series I didn't get around to watching with the rest around the same time. Though I'm sorry it ended this way, I had a lot of fun with Gundam, even if it hasn't sold me on watching any other anime in the future. Now begins the next phase of my life. Specifically, the phase where I die, because Victory killed me. It's not as scary as I thought it would be. It's... peaceful.
Spammy, I can see time!