The third Gundam: Reconguista in G film continues the trend of breathing new life into a less beloved Gundam series. The edits make it noticeably easier to follow than the TV series, although I do acknowledge that the story is rarely ever straightforward or presented plainly, and this is a sticking point and the reason G-Reco is fairly divisive.
But as I watched Gundam Reconguista in G Part III: Legacy of Space, I had an epiphany of sorts that I think helps explain this split opinion. Namely, the key to understanding G-Reco is to get into the minds of individual characters. I understand how this sounds a little obvious (plenty of stories are about achieving personal goals), but what I mean is that character actions can seem inscrutable until you actively try to get into their heads.
The story as of Part III: As alliances and allegiances have shifted since Part I and Part II, Earth’s great continent-states now send forces into space to meet with Towasanga, a nation on the other side of the moon, created by the descendants of the humans who settled in space colonies in the Universal Century era. Not only do Towasangans have access to technology unobtainable by those on Earth, but the Towasangans see themselves as arbitrators between the Earth and the far-off colonies of Venus Globe, which provide to the Earth the photon batteries needed for it’s civilization to function, and thus see the need to equip themselves for conflict amidst the increasing tensions on Earth. Bellri Zenam, still thinking about the deaths he’s seen and caused, tries to figure out what he should do and where he fits into the big picture.
One of the big differences between G-Reco and other Gundam series is that there aren’t two major sides, like Federation vs. Zeon or Earth Alliance vs. ZAFT. Rather, there are multiple governments and factions: Ameria, Gondwana, Towasanga, Capital Tower (which is then further divided into the Capital Guard and the Capital Army). These groups are then conprised of singular people who think independently and have their own ideas of right and wrong, which results in G-Reco being more confusing when you think primarily in terms of who is on what side, and which side is winning because these positions are always in flux. Rather, the important thing is actually to understand what motivates each character and how it affects their decision-making.
Bellri, for example, is initially driven by his opposition to the Capital Army and its inherent militarization of what is supposed to be a neutral defensive force. Upon meeting Aida Surugan, he’s also moved by his own horniness. By the third movie, he’s also filled with regret—both from having accidentally killed his own teacher in mobile suit combat and learning why having a thing for Aida is a bad idea—and his actions reflect this. Bellri constantly tries to avoid dealing lethal damage, but also isn’t so naive that he thinks he shouldn’t do anything. When he loudly shouts that he’s about to fire and does a purposely bad job of aiming, one gets the sense that he’s trying to deliver warning shots that are nevertheless real and dangerous.
The Char Aznable of the series, Captain Mask, is motivated by something very different: improving the standing of his people. As a descendant of that Kuntala, people raised to be human livestock when food was abysmally scarce on Earth, Mask’s kind are still discriminated against. It’s little wonder why he’d be so willing to ally himself with the powerful and influential. To Mask, it’s all a means to a noble end.
So when the forces of Towasanga show up, and many seem to have pursuit of glory in mind, it highlights their hypocrisy and elitism. Particular attention is paid to the female commander Mashner Hume and her boytoy, Rockpie Geti, who are overly eager to mix business with pleasure. It’s as if the film is trying to say that the only thing that’s worse than ignoramuses perpetuating war on Earth is ignoramuses who live in space who are supposed to know better and perpetuate war anyway. Still worse is the man who consciously exacerbates all this: Cumpa Rusita, the leader of the Capital Army.
I will admit that I remember little of this section from the TV series, but the slightly condensed nature of the film brings with it better pacing that makes certain events feel less abrupt. The restoration of Raraiya’s memories now comes across as strange yet reasonable, like it takes going into space to jog her memories. Bellri learning why he shouldn’t be hot for Aida also has a realness to it, as he’s shortly after shown to be struggling with some serious emotional turmoil (and his insistence on calling her Big Sis from then on feels a bit like a self-reminder).
The next parts of G-Reco are originally where the series went from okay to great for me, but I’ve also read that Tomino plans on doing some heavy changes to the end. As Bellri and Aida reach Venus Globe in Part IV, I’d like to see how it might reshape my experience. For now, it’s still a fun and contemplative ride.