All the events in the Universal Century timeline prior to this has led up to this moment. Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ were the preludes leading up to the finale that isMobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack. It is important to have knowledge of the story and characters from Mobile Suit Gundam, as you will not understand the relationships or the motivations for many of the featured characters.
The movie starts off revealing the fact that Char Aznable, the primary antagonist in the original Gundam series, is now the leader of Neo Zeon. His intention is to save Earth by destroying the Earth Federation and committing genocide by killing all the people living on Earth. How does he plan to do this you ask? By dropping asteroids on Earth to create a nuclear winter, thus rendering it uninhabitable; in fact, one of the first things that happens in the movie is that an asteroid is dropped on Lhasa, Tibet, causing cataclysmic damage. However, a second asteroid must be dropped before his true goal can be achieved. The Earth Federation, with the help of ace pilot Amuro Ray, the primary protagonist in the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, must find a way to stop the charismatic leader of Neo Zeon before he can finish what he already started.
That is the basic set-up and storyline of the movie, with numerous action scenes as well as quieter character moments to give audiences a deeper look into what drives our heroes and villains. You can feel the hatred that Char and Amuro have towards one another, to the point where Amuro is willing to do whatever it takes, including sacrificing himself, to kill Char. Honestly, the best parts of the movie are when it focuses on these two individuals and it tends to veer wildly off course when the focus shifts to other people.
Many questionable choices are made by other characters throughout the film and I am unable to sympathize or rationalize with any of their actions. I will warn you that I do plan to talk about some spoilers starting now but I will mark down where the spoilers end.
***WARNING: SPOILERS START HERE***
People are idiots in this movie and make the worst decisions EVER!! As previously established, Char intends to wipe out all life on Earth. He has his reasons, however misguided they may be, and it is because he feels that humans living on Earth have become complacent and harm the Earth by polluting it. The only way to save the planet is to “reset things” by eradicating all life on Earth and allowing it to start over again from scratch.
Knowing Char’s plans, but not necessarily knowing his motivations, the high ranking officials in the Earth Federation try to establish a treaty with Neo Zeon; in doing so, they provide Char with an asteroid base in exchange for gold and the promise that Neo Zeon will disarm their fleet and hand it over to the Earth Federation.
…WHAT?! Char already dropped one asteroid on Earth and now you’re going to sell him another one just because he promised that he’ll play nice?? I… I can’t even. Just… no, no. How does this make sense to anyone at all? He’s already dropped one asteroid on Earth and now just because of some piece of paper he’s not going to drop a second asteroid that you handed to him on a silver platter?
Aside from this, I had issues with several characters in the story. I will try to give a short introduction to each character ahead of time before explaining my issues with them. One of the primary individuals involved with the treaty is the Earth Federation Prime Minster Adenaur Paraya. His daughter is Quess Paraya, who ends up being a Newtype. Bright Noa is one of the heroes from the One Year War (Mobile Suit Gundam) and his son is Hathaway Noa. Chan Agi is a technical officer who was working on the RX-93 Nu Gundam, which Amuro pilots in this movie, and she seems to be his lover based on several scenes.
//deep breath in, deep breath out//
Okay, here we go. Adenaur and Quess Paraya were on Earth and took a shuttle into space in order to meet with officials from Neo Zeon for the treaty signing. Using his status, he jumps the queue to board a spacecraft but decides to allow one more person on board since he used his privilege to cut in line. That allows Hathaway Noa, who was there with his mom and sister, to board the shuttle. As the shuttle heads into space, it narrowly avoids collision with the asteroid dropped on Tibet. During this near miss, Quess is screaming at the pilot to go further right, even though he can’t hear her. She doesn’t have a seat belt on so she ends up floating out of her seat and Hathaway, who was sitting with them, pulls her back down so she doesn’t end up hurting herself.
The shuttle is damaged and ends up being rescued by an Earth Federation ship, who’s captain is Bright Noa (Hathaway’s father). Amuro is also stationed on this ship as they are the task force, named Londo Bell, that was assigned to stop Char from succeeding. During their time on the ship, Quess and Hathaway try out a combat simulation program that is using data from the most recent battle and they are allowed to do so because of Adenaur’s standing. Quess wanders off and is stopped from going any further in the hangar by one of the officers on the ship. Quess is later told by Hathaway that the officer was Amuro and she immediately takes an interest in him.
Later on, Quess visits the hanger again in the hopes of seeing Amuro. There, she sees Chan, who calls out to Amuro. Quess immediately takes exception to this and goes off on Chan, stating that Chan is “getting in the way” of her and Amuro and that she (Chan) should leave the ship.
So because the Prime Minister ends up on their ship, Londo Bell must take him to the space colony where the treaty signing will take place. Char, as the supreme leader of Neo Zeon, is of course present in order to take part in the meeting. Soon after it ends, he runs afoul of Amuro while he is out with Hathaway and Quess. They get into a fight and argue about their beliefs, when Char mentions his belief that people on Earth are weighed down by gravity.
Despite the fact that she claimed to love Amuro and that they were destined to be together, she disarms Amuro from behind when he pulls his gun out, claiming he wasn’t being fair, and ends up RUNNING AWAY WITH CHAR.
Skipping ahead, Char discovers that Quess is a Newtype and decides to take advantage of that. They put her in a mobile suit and discover that she’s a natural, despite her only experience with one being that in the training simulation from earlier. Amuro, being familiar with Char, knows that he is exploiting Quess and wants to save her. Hathaway, despite only knowing Quess for such a short time, also somehow falls madly in love with her and states his intention to save her, even claiming that he’s learned how to pilot a mobile suit.
//deep breath in, deep breath out//
During the climatic battle, Chan decides to take a damaged mobile suit out into the fray in order to provide Amuro with assistance. During this time, Hathaway manages to board a mobile suit and upon take off, manages to take out a Zaku with complete ease! Man, these Zeon guys are pushovers!
Eventually, he locates Quess and begs her to come back, completely confident that she will forget about Char and Amuro if she just comes back to him. Chan arrives in her damaged suit and tells Hathaway to get away from Quess as she is dangerous. Quess open fires on Chan. Chan tries to defend herself and ends up killing Quess. Hathaway then becomes enraged and opens fire on Chan, who is defenseless, and kills Chan. Ugh…
Anyways, back to the main plot. So the asteroid base was heading towards Earth and they were unable to destroy it with nuclear missiles. Bright Noa and his team manage to sneak aboard and strategically plant explosives, which splits the asteroid base in half. In an unfortunate twist, half of the asteroid would clear Earth, but the other half has enough momentum that it would still crash into Earth.
Amuro defeats Char, captures his escape pod, and decides to make a last ditch effort to stop the asteroid’s descent with his Gundam. Additional Earth Federation troops then arrive and try to assist Amuro in pushing back the asteroid. That makes sense; they’re all on the same side and don’t want Earth to be destroyed. Eventually, some Neo Zeon mobile suits join in the attempt to stop the asteroid. Wait, what? WHAT?! Wasn’t your leader’s plan all along to drop the asteroid and kill all life on Earth? WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO STOP IT NOW?????
Many of the suits, from both sides, start exploding due to the heat from the asteroid entering Earth’s atmosphere. In the end, Amuro’s mind powers somehow save the day by pushing all the Earth Federation and Neo Zeon suits away to safety and somehow also altering the course of the asteroid to veer away, saving Earth. POWER. OF. THE. MIND. Oh, and both Amuro and Char are assumed dead at this point as well.
***END OF SPOILERS***
I’m exhausted. So much of the story, characters and ending are so inexplicable that it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around, even a week after watching it. Character motivations and actions are all over the place and extremely inconsistent aside from a few like Amuro and Char. It’s just a total mess and honestly the end was fairly disappointing as I did enjoy the original series and was hoping to see a strong end to the storylines of these iconic figures. Instead, what I got was Char’s Counterattack. It’s not bad, but it’s pretty middling, which may even be a bigger crime. All in all, if you want to see the conclusion to the Amuro/Char storyline because you’re deeply invested, by all means. For casual fans of Gundam, I’d give this one a pass.