Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Symbolism of God and the Cross in Gundam Unicorn

Many of you have probably already read Ghostlightning’s latest post, but I though I’d mention it anyway.  He discusses an episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, in which a character, Minerva, draws some interesting parallels between character situations and God and Christianity.  Ghostlightning’s analysis advances the ideas further.  It’s quite an interesting read, and suddenly has me reinterested in trying to again dive into the overwhelming Gundam universe.

The Colonization of Space That Wasn’t: Gundam’s Universal Century as Editorialized by Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn 02

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

10 thoughts on “Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Symbolism of God and the Cross in Gundam Unicorn

  1. Thanks for the mention. I actually am interested in what you’d make of the rather atheistic narrative of Gundam.

    It isn’t anti-theistic, only a remarkable absence of religion until Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam but the Moon-Moon colony and its “Space Aztec Ninjas” are a bad joke (1987). You then had Turn A Gundam which had a post-apocalyptic setting which allows for portrayals of “primitive” religious practices (tribal ceremonies, and further Aztec Ninjas). The Turn A Gundam itself is indirectly implied to inspire religious feelings and perhaps even referred to as a “god” at some point (iirc).

    In Unicorn however, especially in the very telling first episode we hear the speech that inaugurated the Universal Century as a new means of recording history, a specific declaration that now is the time of space, ending the era of God (Anno Domini).

    We then infer an anti-theistic motif in the narrative, as far as the human race is concerned.

    Personally I find it unnatural, but I accept it as a conceit of the work.

    Ultimately, the writing is not so powerful that it can evoke an idea so powerful as God so as to portray Zeon as an inspiration for the people (and then contrast it as an “Earthly” government concerned with worldly things such as empire, and vengeance).

    We may make fun of good old St. Anselm, but we still cannot come up with a concept grander and more convenient than god. And it plays out in the oddest parts of the fictional universe: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.

    Note: the Unicorn narrative is not written by Tomino Yoshiyuki (responsible for the comical representations of God in the Gundam UC narrative; and the otherwise absence of God in it).

    Tomino however, wrote Space Runaway Ideon, which IMO has comparably heavy religious evocations (if not direct references). The Ideon itself is referred to as the “Giant Metal God.” It is also notable as a direct inspiration for Anno Hideaki and Evangelion (all the way to End of Eva).

    1. That’s a lot of great information, and a great starting point for me. Your description mentioning the end of the era of God (which you also mentioned in your post) as well as the inference, no matter how small, that the empire has taken the place of God, parallels strongly to a number of governments in the past century, and particularly today to the cult of Kim Jong-Il in North Korea.

      And actually, the only Gundam series that I’ve spent any time beyond a passing glance watching is Turn A Gundam. Part of what I found interesting, at first, was the role of indigenous religion in the story. I really enjoyed it, and though I wasn’t blogging at the time, I think it would’ve made for some great analysis. I should go back to it. But I dropped the series about 10-12 episodes in because I found that it was rambling, and frankly, I didn’t like how the characters were being used in the story.

      Thanks for the extensive comments!

  2. Oh, another note: Turn A Gundam was made in 1999, the 20th anniversary show; while Gundam Unicorn is the 30th anniversary show.

    The 10th Anniversary show: War in the Pocket (1989, first Gundam show NOT made by Tomino) is of interest for depicting CHRISTMAS in a neutral space colony. Albeit, it’s a commercial Santa Claus kind of thing rather than any appeal to religion (contrast with Macross which had a Church and everyone singing Silent Night, Holy Night).

    Relevant post:

    http://ghostlightning.wordpress.com/2009/12/25/christmas-anime-heartbreak/

    It may be interesting to note that these more serious(?) but small(?) God evocations occur during milestone releases in the Gundam franchise.

    Um, just in case you’re wondering, I am atheist who happens to appreciate religion the way he appreciates robot anime: I don’t believe any of it (and think a good lot of it is ridiculous) but I’m a big fan of it (particularly Roman Catholicism).

    1. Thanks for these comments as well. If I were an atheist, I think I would Roman Catholicism interesting as well – the traditions, the imagery (wardrobe, architecture, art, symbolism, etc.) and the history was amazing. It fits well into a variety of entertainment genres. Protestantism doesn’t – and for that, I think I’m grateful. 😛

      I’ll definitely check that post out…I hope to find time to do a series of anime/Christmas related posts this season, and I’m currently in an information-gathering stage.

      1. I was born and baptized R. Catholic, and went through the whole indoctrination (Cathecism, Parochial education, the works). When I first started questioning, I ended up in a Protestant (Born-again Christian) church for two years, before I chose to be how I am.

        From an interest standpoint (and not a criticism of faith or morals), there is less to be curious about in non-Catholic Christianity in my experience. From a reflective standpoint, I suppose I did not appreciate (after my adolescent rage against the Catholic church faded away) how so much of the Protestant church’s activities (meetings, sermons, testimonials) were slurs against Catholics. I went to worship in two different church communities and it was quite consistent.

        The context for this is that here in the Philippines, Catholicism is the center and the other faiths are the periphery. Every non-Catholic is surrounded by Catholics of varied levels of devotion (you have your lapsed, your mechanical/robotic going through the motions people, your fanatical, etc.). Just as the early Christians were surrounded by pagans everywhere, they needed to create us vs. them binaries: sometimes patronizing (we are saved, they are not so we must fish them out), sometimes combative.

        I only wish you don’t take my (secular) sharing and discourse on religion as, um, blasphemy. If so, I apologize for the presumption and will stick to talking about cartoons :3

        1. Thanks for the great comments. I absolutely welcome them! 🙂

          I would mention, though, that the context you mention has maybe marred your view of the message of Christianity. While MANY do approach evangelism (“saving” others) in a patronizing way, it shouldn’t be that way. It’s a reaction, just like worship – it should be done out of love. Christianity is either right or wrong – there’s no in between. If it’s right, and if a Christian truly loves someone who isn’t a believer, they should spread the message of salvation out of love.

          Also, I’ve seen and experienced and even been part of the whole “looking down on Catholics” thing. It’s stupid. There are hypocrites and “cultural” believers in all different churches; but we are still one body. I’m sorry your experience was like that in the Protestant churches – unfortunately, I think that’s not unusual here in the states, either.

          1. It is comical. Catholics do it too (I’ve little doubt people in other religions do it too). It’s all part of social constructs protecting itself — it happens on an ideological level.

            I have no enmity with the faithful. Even if I don’t believe in granting constitutional rights to groups or individuals that protect activities because they are religious or spiritual in nature, I have a healthy respect for people.

            I don’t think much of enmity period. I don’t go around telling people I’m atheist because being martyred for that is utterly ridiculous to me (and I will have to martyr myself in this country if I am reckless with revealing this thing; especially since I work for the benefit of both Catholic and Protestant institutions). It is uncomfortable to participate in religious activities being the way I am (I just became a Godfather at a Baptism, am often asked to lead prayers — I’ve always done them well, and I have a deep literary appreciation for the OT)… I wholeheartedly fulfill the responsibilities associated with the rites …in a secular fashion.

            I have no problem admitting to other atheists that my values are fundamentally, Christian (LOL).

            I like talking to you like this, because I always enjoy talking to the learned religious people. I have faith in them that they will do right by me (not judge me, because they are taught well not to do so). I’ve been good friends with priests and pastors throughout my life, and I look up to them too despite disagreeing with them concerning the most important thing.

          2. Seems I’m running out of room, here, to place comments. It’s really interesting to hear about your experiences. They say that the U.S. is a Christian country, but it certainly isn’t, especially not compared to a place like the Philippines or South Korea.

            I’d like to hear what changed your mind about Christianity, especially since you seem to still be so connected with it, professionally, culturally and even values-wise. Would you email me? Beneath.the.tangles@gmail.com.

  3. As an actual atheist/agnostic, and pardon if this may offend anyones religious view but, I find this too in fact be a natural step in the evolution or probable evolution of man upon the christening of the Universal Century. The basic idea behind the promise of the UC was built around a notion of faith within humanity itself to show the way to progress that had taken them to the heavens, instead of relying or depending on an intangible concept such as God. That Zeon managed to replace that amongst the disenfranchised Spacenoids is simply in my view a revision of that original pronouncement, which concretes itself by giving realistic hope back after both the failed promise of the UC and also from their worship of God. Banagher and by extension his father manage to put into words what in fact was core philosophy behind the UC and later Zeon Deikum’s Newtype theory that seems to have been lost now, that of the God within Humanity itself known as possibility, and as Marida points out that requires faith in both Humanity and the world, something that has been apparently very lacking up until this point.

    1. Thanks for the great comments. It’s interesting to hear your interpretation, having never seen the series myself. Strangely enough, your analysis reminds me of a Bible story – the Tower of Babel, where man tries to “reach” to the Heavens, in essence placing themselves as God, having felt that they’ve reached a pinnacle in (perhaps) technology and culture.

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