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Breaking the Narrative Episode 0079: Variations and Evolution of Masculine Rivalry! Conflict Between Men Can Be Constructive!

I first apologize for the obvious Universal Century joke in the title of this article, but I thought it was neat correlation considering what I’m covering this week. Yes, I’m going to be covering male rivalry and how it can be both destructive and constructive. I’m going to do this by discussing by far the largest and most intense rivalry in all of anime. No I’m not talking Goku and Vegeta, because their rivalry is by comparison rather tame and overall not well constructed. No offense to Toriyama-sensei, but he is very by the seat of his pants as a writer, and the Goku/Vegeta rivalry only really affects Goku and Vegeta. I’m talking the rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable from Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam franchise.

So why am I doing this particular rivalry? Sure, there are plenty of well-known similar sets of rivalries throughout Gundam’s history. However, none of them are so in-depth, so complete as this one.  This also can show how war in and of itself can show the development of men, both those who are on opposing sides of a conflict, and those on the same side. Better get suited up in your normal suits. This is going to be a long one! Lets Hammer This In!

To begin, I am going to make a suggestion: If you can stand late 70’s and early 80’s style animation long enough, you should watch not only the original Gundam movie trilogy (which is a three movie summation of the original 43 episode war drama) as well as Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (which has its own three movie summation but in this case the series is the better written runthrough) and Char’s Counterattack. This will cover aspects developed in those three works, as well as some of Char’s life depicted in the current OVA/movie series Mobile Suit Gundam Origin. Also, this is a part of the Universal Century Timeline, which according to the debatably canon G-Savior, starts after the year 2045CE with the start of the first orbiting space colonies… going by the format U.C.0079 for example, and now I just explained the bad joke.

Now let’s examine our two rival heroes, Amuro and Char.

Amuro Ray is 16 by the beginning of the original series in September of U.C. 0079, in which the One Year War plays out. Being a genius who has taken after his father in the field of mechanics by the time the story plays out, and being estranged from his mother who lives on Earth, he mostly lives alone. His father is away on work for the Earth Federal Space Forces developing the mobile suit young Ray eventually uses, the titular RX-78-2 Gundam! Being for all intents and purposes a self raised-orphan of sorts, Amuro is a bit messy, slightly malnourished because he just forgets to eat at times out of a sense of depression, and he is easily swayed by women. He’s kind of a soyboy in that regard, and this was written in about 1979. That kind of hammers home a point I’ve previously made with characters like Harlock doesn’t it? It’s almost as if, in the 70s and 80s, the Japanese had understanding humans and human emotions down pat. Point is, Amuro is far from a perfect protagonist, and this shows all throughout his depictions up until his eventual demise.

Now how about Char? Born Casval Rem Deikun, and appropriating the name of a supposedly close personal friend and taking his place because they looked similar enough, all so that he could get revenge for his parents, Char is also an orphan of sorts. He is raised while jumping from place to place with his sister Artesia (ironically his rival’s eventual in-field support under the name Sayla Mass). This set-up, and his showing of getting through the ranks of the Principality of Zeon’s military (to get at the Zabi family that has for all intents and purposes dragged his father’s name through the mud) led Char to more quickly become a battle-hardened sociopath whose only concern deep down is showing his own Newtype superiority.

This shows overall that their fateful first meeting in combat on September 18th of U.C 0079 was a battle between two already troubled and broken young men whose lives would be overall defined by their own conflict. To them, the conflict between the ideologies and sides they have chosen are all but meaningless. This was a battle between a relative new soldier who was quickly forged in the heat of battle and a tactician who formed his entire growth into an adult in winning his battles. In this first battle alone it becomes apparent that the only reasons Amuro even survives are his own Newtype talents starting to form at this point, and the technical genius of what his father unwittingly left for him, handing him a life of sorrow, self-loathing, and despair. This is something Tomino as a writer is well known for doing – showing the dark brutal truths of war and what it does to people. And this was meant to be a kids’ show!

This might be a little non-sequitur, but this apparently violent and bloody material (which was geared towards selling toys) didn’t have the same effect in Japan that are attributed to such material in the US…

Anyway, going through the war between the 16-year-old Amuro and 20-year-old Char it starts simply as a basic rivalry determined by who is on which side. They don’t even meet in person until nearly two months later while on the neutral Side 6 colony. Even then, neither knows who the other is until after the fact and they have a surprisingly civil exchange due to both of them having met their shared love interest Lalah Sune. It isn’t until Lalah dies piloting her Elmeth and saving Char from Amuro as he gets ready to kill the illustrious Red Comet that their rivalry starts brewing some genuine hatred for one another.

Amuro’s beam saber penetrates the cockpit and incinerates the young Indian pilot immediately. Therefore Amuro hates himself for killing her and Char for bringing her into the battle, and Char hates himself for letting her in on the front lines, and Amuro for laying the killing blow upon her. To add to how hard this hit Char, the only change to Amuro’s Gundam was application of magnetic coating to its joints, the unit updating in combat through its learning computer system, which helped bolster Amuro’s skills until he got used to both his Newtype predictive ability and his skills finely honed through desperate survival situations. Char was sitting pretty throughout this time just going from suit to suit until he finally got one whose abilities even closely met the specs of the Gundam in the form of the Gelgoog, and STILL couldn’t beat him. Amuro earned his spot, Char got his spot through deception and manipulation of others.

Char chose his path while Amuro’s was thrust upon him, ironically by Char’s own ambitions. Even when Char switched to the experimental Zeong suit, which was equipped with Newtype weaponry that far outclassed what the Gundam should have been able to keep up with, Amuro still beat him… even after losing his suit’s head and left arm. Then, he followed through to fight Char in zero gravity with fencing rapiers in an area with limited atmosphere in the A Baoa Qu space fortress. The only thing keeping the two men from killing one another was the their pilot suits. They decided here that Amuro was the winner of this battle, not wanting to continue in front of Sayla, who had found them at this time. The reason was that Char’s helmet was hit right between the eyes while Amuro only had a superficial wound in his right shoulder.

Both survive this and go through different paths. Char kills the next to last of the Zabi clan in the form of his superior officer Kycilia Zabi, after swearing to kill the entire family for what they did to his parents. But since the Zeon remnants don’t know that this is what happened, nor who he really is, as heir to Zeon Sum Deikun’s position he is able to slip away to the asteroid Axis for a few years while he recovers and figurs out where he wants to go from there. The only Zabi survivor is the infant Mineva at this time, and she was born innocent of the clan’s transgressions. Char thought it useless to take out any form of vengeance upon a baby. He eventually leaves Axis, which holds what would become Neo-Zeon, under the guise of being a ‘scout’ for an attack. Amuro is essentially made a piloting instructor on Earth. As part of the Earth Federal Forces, a Petty Officer during the bulk of his conscription, he was made a government hero and not allowed to leave service to the state or his own compound due to his abilities and the authoritarian grip of the Titans Group.

It is at this time that Char, under the alias Quattro Bajeena, infiltrates the Earth Federal Forces. Finding out about what had happened while he was away and not liking it one bit, he decides to join the Anti Earth Union Group, or AEUG, as they were using the same sort of tactics often used by the Zabis when they overtook Side 3 and turned it into the Principality of Zeon. At this point he trades in his once iconic mask for a pair of oversized sunglasses to not only hide the deep blue eyes that would give away his original identity, but the scar he kept from his swordfight with Amuro. Then, as time goes on, he meets Amuro again and is the primary person to help convince his former enemy to join the Terrestrial resistance group Karaba, helmed by his former shipmate Hayato Kobayashi, despite Amuro being independently wealthy due to royalties from patenting and distributing series mascot Haro in his universe to children.

During this time, the two men are able to put aside their disdain for each other and see one another as allies. In fact it is talking to Char that solidifies Amuro’s decision to return to battle, Though Amuro’s own sense of PTSD is something that has kept him from returning to space… a bizarre sense of spatial agoraphobia if you will, the whole lack of gravity being what he is most afraid of. Part of it is from him having had to float aimless in empty space for nearly 10 minutes before being picked up by the remnants of the crew of the White Base. Point is, even with their checkered past they are able to come to terms with one another. They are even able to joke around with one another and tease each other about their respective pasts. Char claims he returned to laugh at Amuro, and Amuro makes the dark joke that Char making a sacrifice of his life and freedom to better the world was a ‘family tradition.’ Neither gets offended. Then Char fakes his death and returns to Neo-Zeon.

When Char finally returns with the whole asteroid Axis to the Earth Sphere, planning to crash it into Earth, his intent was to force humanity into the stars and preserve what beauty the planet had left. Amuro took this as an insult and a rekindling of the darkness within the Red Comet. As during the prior Gryps Conflict, Char came out as a shockingly naive environmentalist. Realizing he couldn’t keep running from his trauma, Amuro went out to meet his bitter rival one last time. However Char had a hidden reason for his extremely dramatic bluff, besides that of sending the Earth into a new Ice Age. He wanted one last intense battle with Amuro to finally determine the better warrior. As such, Char provided Amuro with the plans for the psycoframe (short for psychic communication frame) technology that was also embedded into Char’s custom suit the Sazabi. This was the exact tech that Amuro needed to make his Fin Funnel concept work, which did make his Nu Gundam the pinnacle suit it is, even if the expensive frame was later forsaken for other technologies.

It was in this final battle within the atmosphere that finally proved once and for all that Amuro was not only correct with where to go, but was the better pilot. He did this not by killing Char himself, but using his abilities with his singular suit, amplified by Char’s cockpit, to force the asteroid out of the planet’s atmosphere and save it at the cost of both of their lives, ultimately ending the rivalry.

So what does this tell us? While different forms of love and companionship are powerful mindsets, rivalry can be a very positive motivation for many, both friendly and non-friendly forms of it. Rivalry encourages self improvement, gives goals to set, and can give a balanced perspective upon your own weaknesses through the strengths of another. One thing I noticed throughout reviewing this particular rivalry is that while Amuro and Char have felt so many negative emotions towards one another there is one thing they never did – disrespect one another. Char always respected Amuro’s unbridled talent while Amuro always respected Char’s tactical genius.

So never let anyone tell you that a sibling rivalry, political rivalry, or market rivalry is a bad thing or must be of ill intent. Most times rivals respect each other and even enjoy one another’s company. If you view someone as your rival, think closely about how that rivalry is, and use that to turn it into a more positive experience. My elder brother and I had a bit of a rivalry with one another but we viewed it on different terms. I felt I succeeded by making my life my own while he felt that having the more ‘illustrious’ computer programming degree would help him. However I’m not the one stressed over his finances like he is, though I do have my issues his are more glaring since he earns more than I do. An example of positive political rivalry would be hard pressed to find now a days, though I guess you could suggest that there are a few in the Senate.

As for market rivalry, you can just look at Microsoft and Nintendo. They have a few current titles that show crossplay capabilities, but also Microsoft has provided them tools to optimize Minecraft for the Nintendo Switch and Wii U consoles for those iterations, particularly the Switch version due to its chipset being a custom NVidia Tegra X1. It’s only Sony that has issues with the concept of working with the other two, due to their history with Nintendo in particular. To see that, just look at the history of Playstation in general. But so many have covered that I don’t need to go into it. Adam Koralik did a good piece on it, though.

Now this is important because most of this that I described would be classified by feminists as the dreaded ‘toxic masculinity’. It goes to show you how dark and negative a feminist lens perspective actually is, how harmful it is to be someone living with this sense, not just to others but to themselves. Now if you’ll excuse me at the time of the release of this article its my wife’s birthday, and she’s turning 3-….ok honey I won’t say your age… See what I have to deal with? Remember kids, teasing is healthy! Also Please Remember to Game Freely!

Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.