Ever since Char Aznable became one of anime’s most memorable characters, many Gundam series have included similar rivals for their heroes. In general, they’re enemy pilots of roughly equal power who wear masks or something similar to hide their faces, and who often have their own ulterior, if noble, motives. Most recently joining the likes of Zechs Merquise, Harry Ord, and more is McGillis Fareed from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and his approach to being “a Char” is probably the most well-realized out of all of them.
Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans spoilers below.
Throughout the original Gundam, Char Aznable is willing to (and has!) back-stabbed even his closest friends because his true goal, to get vengeance for the death of his father, overrides any sort of sentiment he might possess. McGillis is incredibly similar. He’s willing to sacrificing childhood friends for the sake of accomplishing his motives, but in a way he might also be even more scheming and cut-throat than Char himself. While Char might sabotage some of his own side for personal reasons, he never actively leaked information to the enemy or tried to orchestrate both sides to fall in his favor.
McGillis has gone from being a fairly interesting character to being one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the next season of Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Given the overall quality of the show, I really, really hope the series doesn’t suffer from Sunrise “half-way point syndrome” like so many of their mecha anime, where in an attempt to become more successful a show loses what made it special in the first place.
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The key difference between Char and McGillis is motive. Char’s motivations are more sympathetic: the Zabis wronged him & his family and he wants revenge. McGillis on the other hand is just purely malevolent; the people he’s murdering, manipulating, and sacrificing are those who genuinely care for him and helped him. They didn’t mistreat him or anything. The atrocities Gjallorhorn committed which he seeks to eradicate them over are deeds which he himself orchestrated. The organization never would’ve taken those actions had McGillis not orchestrated them to do so in the first place; in contrast to Char Aznable, there’s no moral sympathy whatsoever behind what he’s doing.
That’s why I was really hoping that Gaelio–Iron-Blooded Orphans’ equivalent to Garma–would actually prevail in his fight with McGillis to throw a REAL alternate universe curveball to the proceedings, but it was not to be. How telling is it, how damning of McGillis is it, that Gaelio was the more sympathetic and morally upright of the two, given that Gaelio was the one who most strongly advocated killing the kids?
I’m also very concerned that Season 2 will suffer the same quality drop fate as all these Sunrise split productions have. McGillis is the central reason why.
I don’t think we know his true motive, so even if he takes the most despicable means and isn’t as sympathetic as Char I’m waiting for how the next season turns out.
Of course, like you I’m also crossing my fingers that the show doesn’t suffer from Sunrise Season 2 Syndrome, but I don’t know if McGillis is the main reason.
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