Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

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Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Nikkolas » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:33 pm

From TVTropes
The Gundam franchise is all over the scale with Zeta Gundam, Gundam 0080, Gundam 0083, Victory Gundam, MS Igloo and Gundam Age as the most cynical, G Gundam, Gundam Wing, Gundam X, ∀ Gundam and Gundam 00 as the most idealistic and rest like the original Mobile Suit Gundam, The 08th MS Team, Gundam ZZ, Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny somewhere in the middle.

In general, the Universal Century is widely regarded as the most cynical, affected by Tomino's battle with depression, conflict with Sunrise, and hatred of Japan's actions and attitude towards World War II. It's a continual cycle of From Bad to Worse and Kill 'em All, though it has a tendency to flip-flop to idealistic from time to time, as evidenced best by the massive Tone Shift between Zeta Gundam and Gundam ZZ and the ones in some of the OV As and Compilation Movies.
The Future Century is a Super Robot show, which predisposes it for idealism. Although it takes place in a Crapsack World with plenty of corruption and Scenery Gorn, it is also the only timeline that actually found a way to end mass-casualty warfare; the problem is fixing the system used to replace it.
After Colony features heavily damaged Child Soldiers. It proceeds to break the pilots who didn't come pre-broken, and then breaks the Child Soldiers again for good measure. There are twisted politics that leave the heroes as continual Unwitting Pawns, and the destruction of many colonies and nations but does not Kill 'em All and ultimately presents an idealistic message about pacifism and the ability of people to heal.
The After War era starts off as a Crapsack World in the culimination of an apocalyptic war and a mass Colony Drop leading to the death of 99% of the human race, and everyone trying to survive by whatever means necessary, however it gets much better. In the end, the Frost Brothers are defeated, the Satellite System is destroyed, the myth of Newtypes as weapons of war or the next step of human evolution, which drove the world-ending war in the first place is refuted, the warmongering leaders of the New Earth Federation and the Space Colonies are both wiped out(by the Frost Brothers) and the remnants of the governments finally making peace with each other, and the various protagonists all survive in a world that is gradually recovering, making this one of the most idealistic series in the franchise to date.
The Cosmic Era is pretty much the darkest of the non UC Gundam universes, with Kira, Lacus, Athrun and their friends being the only thing that kept humanity from destroying itself. When they weren't there, well as Rau Le Creuset summarizes life in CE:
"It's like we're walking through a maze of sorts. There are always so many paths to choose from. We pick a path, and we follow it. You people walk your path believing that something you desire is waiting for you. I walk it to confirm that there is nothing there."
The first season of Anno Domini starts as cynical. The heroes are part of what is arguably a terrorist organization trying to end war by brute force, and all of them are deeply scarred in one way or another. Governments are corrupt and the first part ends on a decidedly unhappy note. In the second season, idealism begins to triumph over the angst episode by episode, followed by a cautiously upbeat ending. The Movie moves this timeline firmly on the idealistic end, showing that even the most war-weary of soldiers can find true understanding, even if it takes a long time to do so.
The Advanced Generation slides down towards cynical over the show's three-generation timespan, with Flit Asuno going from Wide-Eyed Idealist to Knight Templar, Asemu deciding that the only way to keep both sides from destroying each other is to keep things at a stalemated Forever War, and Kio's attempts to connect with his foes meeting with repeated failure. The Vagans, meanwhile, see-saw from enigmatic villains to legitimately aggreived and then back to unsympathetic with The Reveal of their leader's true goal and ultimately all perishes for it. Although at the surface it seems to slide back into idealism at the end, it is at best a Bittersweet Ending for the finale.
And finally the Correct Century displays White and Gray Morality, with a conflict largely stemming from misunderstandings and confusion between two societies rebuilt after a world-ending war. The Hero is also an All-Loving Hero, and both sides are portrayed as not being evil. The reason it's at the end? The Correct Century is the Distant Finale to every other Gundam timeline.
Now of the series I know here, I have to disagree with some of the choices. However I'm not so conceited as to think I'm absolutely right and I could very easily have missed something. Hence this topic where I'm looking for more informed opinions.

I would agree that UC tends to be the most cynical, especially in the case of Zeta, but calling SEED "dark" is stretching things a wee bit don't you think? Oh sure, the N-Jammers being deloyed killed millions and the rest of humanity is starving to death but we don't see any of that and it's only mentioned a handful of times so I don't count it. Moreover, the final "battle" is Kira screaming about how humans can change and be better and yada yada yada. I don't see how this can be called a "cynical" setting at all.

From what I remember, G would have to be the most idealistic simply by its nature. It's a very light-hearted show (relatively speaking) and the hero saves the day through THE ULTIMATE POWER OF LOVE.

My two cents to start off things... Which would you guys say is the Most Idealistic and Cynical?

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by monster » Wed Apr 09, 2014 2:51 pm

Zeta is probably one of the most cynical, not because of the many deaths, but simply because of what happened to Camille after/on top of what he's been through in the series.

I mean, wow, how is anybody supposed to be optimistic about the future if, at the end of the day, you could still lose it all in the blink of an eye (more or less).
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Of course, the fact that ZZ aired right after kind of toned down that feeling. And maybe that's the point of ZZ being aired right away and with that atmosphere. So in that respect, ZZ might be considered the opposite of Zeta, especially with what happened to Camille.
Most idealistic? Hmm, Build Fighters?

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by ShadowCell » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:13 pm

Thematically, 00 has to be near the top of the "idealistic" heap. It starts off with a pretty messed up world, but it literally ends with magic pixie dust fixing most of the problems between the characters, and our heroes killing the people who won't come around (and then it buries the rest of the problems in background material that nobody will find). In fact, it's even more idealistic because it asserts and continues to have faith in the Innovators and the GN drives and whatnot despite itself presenting evidence to the contrary. You'd think the fact that people like Ali and Ribbons have to be killed off because they don't want to come to any understanding with their enemies would undermine the power of Innovation to solve conflicts and evolve people. But the show never really makes that conclusion, and instead it tells us in the movie that Innovation will literally save the world, since it gives Setsuna the power to understand the ELS and I guess ask them to stop eating us, so not even the likes of Ali and Ribbons and the Innovator Wars or whatever they were called are enough to make 00 doubt the power of Innovation. That is pretty idealistic.

In a different sense, though, you could say it's a pretty cynical show. It starts out with a fairly different setup for Gundam shows, being closely tied to contemporary political issues and all, but in the second season it abandons all that and becomes a by-the-numbers Gundam show.

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Vent Noir » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:13 pm

Clearly, Gundam Build Fighters is the most idealistic :)
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Raikoh » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:41 pm

I'd say that to me, the most idealistic is a toss-up. Depending on what side of the bed I wake up on, I'd go with either Turn A or Wing(/00 S2 and A Wakening maybe). Turn A mostly since it's happy in general and both sides of the war are presented as sympathetic and have logical goals that you empathize with. Wing is idealistic in the sense that there's the message of "If everyone just wanted it bad enough we could have peace!" (Despite the narrative proving how the message doesn't work, but whatever).

Most cynical is again a toss-up. 0080's ending or Seed in general. I know many people might say Seed is hopelessly idealistic, but think about it: none of the factions are mentioned as being "right." Regardless of the author's intent, there are the Ubermensch Nazi-esque Zaft, the INCREDIBLY racist Earth Sphere, and even the third "protagonistic" group of the Three Ships Alliance can easily be interpreted as a Fascist Dictatorship (i.e. the "You listen to us or we blow you up with our Gundams.") It really is a series where whoever wins leads directly to some unfortunate situations in the future which I feel could make it more cynical than even Zeta, which had clear-cut "Good Guys" in the AEUG. Not to mention that many other series have messages of overcoming one's limits and surpassing the unsurpassable (Garrod beating Newtypes, Setsuna becoming Gundam i.e. Innovator, and even UC had some of these moments such as Amuro beating Char or the Steel Seven's mission). Seed makes it VERY clear that sometimes people are just flat-out better (and better equipped) and it's possible that no matter how hard you try, there's no changing that (also 0080 has bits of this in the final battle).
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Kratos » Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:32 pm

The problem is, author intent is very important when discussion whether something is idealistic, and SEED's Three Ship Alliance is definitely the clear-cut good guys. It's very obvious that the audience was meant to see them that way, so alternative character interpretation aside, it's a pretty black-and-white conflict.

Still, I don't know if that makes SEED an idealistic series overall. I always found that one of SEED's biggest issues was thematic consistency - it whiplashes back and forth between idealistic and cynical fairly often, so it's hard to pin it into one camp.

I'm a little surprised that Victory hasn't been mentioned yet - I think that would be my pick for most cynical. Maybe either that or Zeta. As for idealistic, I think I'd go with 08th MS Team, especially considering Shiro and Aina.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by ShadowCell » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:07 pm

I dunno about SEED, but from the production standpoint, DESTINY is probably the heavyweight champ of cynical Gundam shows.

On the other hand, I don't think idealism and cynicism is really the best spectrum to describe the tone of these shows. I think it's better captured by optimism and pessimism. That is, UC seems pretty pessimistic about the world, since the world of the Universal Century as we see it is a constant crapsack of genocidal maniacs and warring empires and stagnating governments; but then there's the likes of G Gundam and Gundam X, which are pretty optimistic about our ability to resolve conflicts and stop killing each other. Idealism and cynicism seem better suited to the motives behind various creative decisions the showrunners made. Like, you could say the first season of 00 was idealistic in the sense that the writers tried to do new things and break the Gundam mold, and the second season was cynical in that they were creating a much more traditional Gundam show and giving the fans what they wanted. And in the same sense, DESTINY was maximum cynical because by the end of the show it was nothing but what the fans wanted.

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by HellCat » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:55 am

AGE says "No matter what, families will ultimately support and love one another".

A message so ridiculously idealist it flies in the face of several other Gundam shows that say the exact opposite.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Zeonista » Thu Apr 10, 2014 10:51 am

ShadowCell wrote:On the other hand, I don't think idealism and cynicism is really the best spectrum to describe the tone of these shows. I think it's better captured by optimism and pessimism.
Well you got to that point ahead of me. :) Gundam as a whole is filled to the brim with idealism in the standard definition. Hopping into a giant robot to change the world usually requires some degree of commitment to some sort of ideals or cause at some point. Usually the standard Gundam story has a war of competing ideals/ideologies and the protagonists have to pick a side and use them to advance their own ideas of what is right. In a few cases, the protagonists have found all existing factions at fault and made their own faction to best carry out what they want. So in that sense, Gundam is automatically out of the consideration.

Now as to optimistic versus cynic, that is where things become interesting! Most Gundam series have a default setting for cynicism. Aggressive nationalism is on the rampage, people are pointing fingers at other people as the reason for all their problems, and cities are getting vaporized all over the place as Total War is unleashed to gain Total Victory. But the story progression has the young protagonists taking the ubiquitous Gundam(s) to put an end to the current war by the most direct route, with the view that if the frickin' war can get finished, everyone can get back to building the better world. Even if events don't work out for the Gundam pilot personally, a lot of other people get to benefit. So the setting is cynical, but the overall story is optimistic.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:31 am

Nikkolas wrote:I would agree that UC tends to be the most cynical, especially in the case of Zeta, but calling SEED "dark" is stretching things a wee bit don't you think? Oh sure, the N-Jammers being deloyed killed millions and the rest of humanity is starving to death but we don't see any of that and it's only mentioned a handful of times so I don't count it.
Well, if you're going to ignore parts of the setting because... well, I'm not entirely sure why, actually. Because it's not displayed prominently enough? In any case, if you're going to ignore parts of the worldbuilding, you're obviously going to come to different conclusions than other folks.

Personally, I'd say that CE is more cynical than UC. "Cynical" is not synonymous with "unhappy", "depressing" or "has a high body count". Going purely by number of people killed in the backstory, Gundam X definitely tops the list, followed by UC, then CE as a distant third. But Gundam X and UC both have ultimately optimistic messages -- the good guys win, the main conflict is resolved, and the survivors presumably live happily ever after.

Not so with CE. CE's primary conflict is ultimately driven by racism, and neither Seed nor Destiny do much of anything to resolve that. The other issue is the fact that the settings main powers have a tendency of being ruled by genocidal psychopaths -- the Earth Alliance by stealth and conspiracy, ZAFT by popular vote. Seed "solved" this problem by killing the leaders of both factions, which allowed them to rebound with new ones in Destiny; meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Destiny has these leaders getting wiped out again, with the implication that the main characters are assuming control directly (on the ZAFT end, at least). So that's CE's resolution for the problem: kill the people who disagree with you and take control yourself. That's pretty ZOINKS cynical -- and given CE's setting, I can't even say that they're really wrong to do so.

Compare this to the ultimate messages in other shows (Amuro in CCA essentially says "give people time and they'll come around", 00 explicitly says "peace will come through understanding, and oh yeah we have psychics now so understanding is easy", G, Wing, and X were all essentially personal conflicts where defeating the individual driving the fighting would reasonably end the war, etc), and "the only way to end war is with a benevolent dictatorship -- ie, put someone in charge who will shoot anyone who tries to start one" is pretty relentlessly cynical.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Nikkolas » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:51 am

Because it's called showing, not telling. We see plenty of the Earth in the Archangel's travels and not once do we see this supposedly grim setting. If millions of people are starving, if there are piles of corpses in the streets, why is there never any hint of any of them no matter where the protagonists go?

And UC wasn't about racism? About Earthnoids vs. Spacenoids? It didn't have plenty of genocidal psychopaths running the different groups? (Gihren for Zeon, Jamitov for the Federation) The fact people on Earth really just don't care about what happens to those people in space is a pretty big point in Zeta.

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by monster » Thu Apr 10, 2014 2:26 pm

ShadowCell wrote:from the production standpoint
I don't think we should concern ourselves with the production standpoint.
Nikkolas wrote:Because it's called showing, not telling. We see plenty of the Earth in the Archangel's travels and not once do we see this supposedly grim setting. If millions of people are starving, if there are piles of corpses in the streets, why is there never any hint of any of them no matter where the protagonists go?
The only places that the Archangel went to on Earth where there were people were an area in Africa, Orb, and JOSH-A. Orb was largely independent and well off, JOSH-A was a military installation, and the African community was ruled by ZAFT, which may supply their own food.

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by ShadowCell » Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:05 pm

Nikkolas wrote:And UC wasn't about racism? About Earthnoids vs. Spacenoids? It didn't have plenty of genocidal psychopaths running the different groups? (Gihren for Zeon, Jamitov for the Federation) The fact people on Earth really just don't care about what happens to those people in space is a pretty big point in Zeta.
That's not racism, though. It's hard to point to racism as the main conflict of the Universal Century precisely because there isn't actually anything innately different about Earthnoids and Spacenoids. There's something different about Oldtypes and Newtypes, but that doesn't follow the Earthnoid-Spacenoid axis. Even Zeon's genocide wasn't really explicable by racism, since most of their victims were fellow Spacenoids. Besides which, the Spacenoids and Earthnoids don't hate each other because of some immutable characteristic in each other, they hate each other because of politics; otherwise things like Char's plan to throw nasty things at the Earth until everyone moves to space wouldn't make any sort of sense.

It's much easier to point to that in the Cosmic Era, because the main difference between Coordinators and Naturals that drives the entire conflict is basically biological. The Coordinators are a lot more accurately described as a race than the Spacenoids, and the Naturals and Coordinators hate each other in virtue of their genetics.

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Nikkolas » Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:32 pm

But there's only like...six Newtypes in 0079 through Zeta. (not counting "Cyber Newtypes") I don't see how it can be described as Oldtype vs. Newtype. The Earth has a fear of Newtypes and that motivates a lot of the Titans' actions like the colony gassing that takes place before Zeta begins, but overall it's still a struggle between those who live in space and those who live on the Earth. The Earth's indifference to the plight of the colonists or what the Titans did to them was one of the things that stood out most obviously to me when I watched it.

I get your point though, the Naturals and Coordinator conflict was one of the best parts of SEED to me. It's something very easy to believe would happen.

EDIT:
Seven Newtypes. Forgot Sarah.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Xenosynth » Thu Apr 10, 2014 6:47 pm

I have to wonder if Earthnoid vs Spacenoid fits more in a matter of classism than racism, since... iirc, the colonies and people who lived on them tended to actually be more poor/considered lower class than the earth elite? Though I dunno for sure the politics behind it, still, I've seen people say 'racism' a lot for it (on and off board) and I always saw it more as a class struggle/conflict for Earthnoids/Spacenoids.

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:17 pm

Nikkolas wrote:But there's only like...six Newtypes in 0079 through Zeta. (not counting "Cyber Newtypes") I don't see how it can be described as Oldtype vs. Newtype.
It can't be, that's our point. The primary conflict in UC is political, not racial. It's basically "spacenoid empire du jour trying to invade the Earth Federation", with that empire being some flavor of Zeon up until F91 and Victory. It's not "Earthnoid vs Spacenoid" or "Oldtype vs Newtype", it's "Established Government vs Invading Newcomer".
Nikkolas wrote:The Earth has a fear of Newtypes and that motivates a lot of the Titans' actions like the colony gassing that takes place before Zeta begins
The Titans gas attacks were over political demonstrations, not some abstract Newtype crusade. Basically, some of the colonies were pissed about the Titans' heavy-handed policing and were upset enough about it to stage mass protests. The Titans responded by killing all of them.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Kratos » Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:37 pm

Nikkolas wrote:I get your point though, the Naturals and Coordinator conflict was one of the best parts of SEED to me. It's something very easy to believe would happen.
One of the greatest tragedies of SEED is how it wastes this conflict. It has so much potential, and then does basically nothing with it (aside from using it to turn its Federation into cartoonishly evil villains). Your point about showing VS telling a few posts up is so apt here - if SEED had spent a bit more time establishing the divided world by showing it to us and having the characters directly interact with it, it could have been one of the best (and, as you say, most resonating) conflicts in Gundam. Alas.
Xenosynth wrote:I have to wonder if Earthnoid vs Spacenoid fits more in a matter of classism than racism, since... iirc, the colonies and people who lived on them tended to actually be more poor/considered lower class than the earth elite? Though I dunno for sure the politics behind it, still, I've seen people say 'racism' a lot for it (on and off board) and I always saw it more as a class struggle/conflict for Earthnoids/Spacenoids.
Thing is, though, nothing is ever that clear-cut. Sure, this is mentioned a bunch, but everything we see about Colony life goes against the notion of them being universally abandoned and impoverished - Sides 6 (in MSG and 0080), 7, Gryps (though I'm not sure it counts), and Industrial 7 all show a fairly middle-class suburban life. Meanwhile, nothing shown ever seems to imply a particularly "elite" life for those still living on Earth. AND THEN you get stuff like the sheer opulence that Zeon's leaders live in, and you kinda start to get the sense that maybe that element was included to give an extra edge of hypocrisy to what these factions are saying. Yeah, some Spacenoids do live in poverty (ie Palau - though man, check out the Governor's residence there), and it's likely that the poor were the first to emigrate, but by the time of the OYW any clear class divide between Earthnoids and Spacenoids seems to have largely disappeared.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Nikkolas » Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:47 pm

Brave Fencer Kirby wrote:
Nikkolas wrote:The Earth has a fear of Newtypes and that motivates a lot of the Titans' actions like the colony gassing that takes place before Zeta begins
The Titans gas attacks were over political demonstrations, not some abstract Newtype crusade. Basically, some of the colonies were pissed about the Titans' heavy-handed policing and were upset enough about it to stage mass protests. The Titans responded by killing all of them.
http://youtu.be/6X4p7aA4jls?t=16m3s

Here Char specifically notes that the reason for the colony gassing was out of fear of Newtypes. Yes, Char is not the most trustworthy guy even as Quattro but we need look no further than the Cyber Newtype program to see that the Titans were trying to create their own anti-Newtype force. So they definitely have a great fear of them. (I realize the Japanese term isn't actually "Cyber Newtype" and I have no idea if people on here use that term or the Japanese one. But either way they are for all intents and purposes Newtypes) For yet more proof we can look to the fact Amuro's fame has been suppressed because the Federation can't admit that a Newtype was the one who saved them time and time again.

The A.E.U.G. has its own agenda and bias but I think I'll go with them on this one. Zeta is all about how Earth doesn't care one fig about the Colonies. The leader of the AEUG who gets assassinated even goes so far as to derisively retort that the Federation Parliment members wouldn't go into space because "they're afraid of getting space sick."

EDIT:

This has nothing to do with anything but
The term used in all the original Japanese voicetracks, from Zeta to Unicorn, is kyōka ningen (強化人間), literally meaning 'enhanced/strengthened/reinforced human'.
Why did they do that? Isn't that being needlessly obtuse? Four and teh others are clearly supposed to be Newtypes, even if they are "artificial" or "fake." I think the dub was right to invent the Cyber Newtype term. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's based off Char's Counterattac where Char mentions that the one dude who was super-crazy about Quess was "cyber-enhanced."

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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Kratos » Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:02 pm

The Titans made Cyber Newtypes not to counter actual Newtypes (of which there were few, if any, confirmed) but because it had been shown that the abilities of so-called Newtypes and the weapons that harnessed them were advantageous in combat. Cyber-Newtypes were a shortcut to getting access to those abilities that didn't involve hoping that one of their soldier might develop ESP someday. Note that both Neo Zeon factions make use of Cyber Newtypes as well.

Now, the Federation eventually does create Newtype machines specifically designed for taking out Newtypes - the NTD in the Unicorn models counters all traditional Newtype weaponry by design. But while it's easy to see why the Titans would be ideologically opposed to the whole Newtype theory, their agenda was always more anti-Spacenoid. It's a small, but important, difference.

EDIT: Although...
Nikkolas wrote:Why did they do that? Isn't that being needlessly obtuse? Four and teh others are clearly supposed to be Newtypes, even if they are "artificial" or "fake."
Possibly as a euphemism. Whether they actively feared them or not, the Titans likely wouldn't have wanted the idea of Newtypes to propagate, steeped as it is in ideas of inherent Spacenoid superiority. By calling their miracle soldiers Newtypes (even artificial ones), they help spread the idea that Newtypes are superior and encourage that train of thought in the people they're trying to oppress.
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Re: Most idealistic and Most Cynical Gundam Series

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:11 pm

Nikkolas wrote:Here Char specifically notes that the reason for the colony gassing was out of fear of Newtypes. Yes, Char is not the most trustworthy guy even as Quattro but we need look no further than the Cyber Newtype program to see that the Titans were trying to create their own anti-Newtype force. So they definitely have a great fear of them.
You pretty much said it yourself -- Char is pushing an agenda, you can't really take anything he says at face value. And as Kratos points out, the Titans cyber newtype experiments weren't really an attempt to counter natural newtypes specifically, but rather simply another weapons development project.
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