The relationship between Char and Amuro is a fundamental part of the Mobile Suit Gundam film trilogy. At the beginning of the series Char is a veteran war hero of Zeon, whilst Amuro is a teenager in way over his head, dragged into the war effort of the Earth Federation. The fights between Char and Amuro are what fuels most of the plot of the trilogy. As each conflict depicts minute changes in how Char and Amuro treat each other, as well as how they’re treated by the show. In this essay I will talk about what makes Char and Amuro’s changing relationship interesting, and how they’re contrasted by the movies.
As I’ve already mentioned Amuro is a teen who’s dragged into the war by accident. His home colony is attacked by the Zeon – who are effectively Space Nazis – resulting in him having to pilot the ‘secret’ weapon that had been transported there: the Gundam. Amuro ends up piloting the Gundam throughout the all of the movies, bar a few instances where he is in solitary or in a different mech for some reason. Amuro’s father was Chief Engineer of the Gundam, and during the attack, neglects helping any civilians over protecting the Gundam. In the few scenes we’re shown before the attack begins it is pretty clear that Amuro’s homelife doesn’t include his father. He isn’t present in Amuro’s home. Amuro himself is locked in his room messing with electronics. And it is a neighbour, a big sister character to Amuro who spends most of the movies babysitting, who drags him to the evacuation shelters. At this point, Amuro’s electronics dabbling directly reflects his Father’s own attitudes. Both of them are neglecting people to play with technology. However, unlike his father, Amuro does act to defend his colony. He shows a genuine interest in the wellbeing of people, as opposed to his father’s prioritising the Gundam.
The next time Amuro meets his father he is not in a good state. His father is suffering from oxygen deprivation syndrome, his obsessions are all he has. He no longer is genuinely performing experimentation, he is just retreading superficial actions. He thinks he’s made a module that will up the Gundam’s performance, but it’s just junk. This in itself would be pitiful, his father is ill and is in need of support after all, but even like this Amuro’s father doesn’t show any care for Amuro. He is only excited to see him because of the Gundam. He only cares about the Gundam. Amuro has long since lost a decent familial connection with his father, all the war has done is exacerbate it.
The Crimson Comet Char Aznable, celebrated war hero of the Zeon Republic, has his own family issues. Being the son of the previous leader of the Zeon he could only watch as his father was usurped, ideals twisted and his family torn apart. His father wanted independence from the Earth Federation in order to allow ‘Newtypes’ – the next evolutionary step for humanity as they adapt to space – the freedoms they deserve as people. He believed the differences in capabilities between Newtypes and ‘Oldtypes’ – humanity as we know it – would result in racial tension, and systematic oppression. Newtypes would just be used as tools, not treated as people in and of themselves.He was an arbiter of progressivism and acceptance. The usurpers took his propaganda and upped it up to eleven. Acceptance became superiority. Freedom for Newtypes became genocide of ‘Oldtypes’. Even Zeon calling itself a Republic is blatantly wrong given that it’s now ran by Monarchistic Space Nazi’s, with all the internal fighting and assassinations that implies.
The only remaining member of Char’s family is his sister. A sister who, rather than remaining in Zeon in order to enact revenge from the inside, has ended up on White Base, the Earth Federation ship that Amuro is part of. Char’s relationship with his sister is ultimately a false one. Unable to move on from his past, he mistakenly believes she won’t either. Discovering that not only is she with the Earth Federation, but directly part of the war effort directly contradicts his view of her being a pacifist. He still sees her as a child in need of his protection, not as a woman with her own ideals and goals that she is working towards. The only other people Char gets close to throughout the series are Gamera, and Lalah. Both of them have their own roles in the narrative and political struggles going on, but at the end of the day, they both meet the same fate. Char’s own plans for revenge end up killing both of them. Intentionally, or unintentionally: Char ,by his own actions, loses those who are most important to him once again.
Char and Amuro both, for admittedly different reasons, have lost their families and been caught up in a war that does not care for them. Char is fighting for the people who are the antithesis of what he wants, and Amuro is simply part of a decoy ship pilotted by inexperienced civilians that isn’t expected to survive. These unifying backstories aren’t presented to us from the beginning. We follow the narrative primarily from Amuro’s perspective. At the start Char really is this mystifying unstoppable force of war, and Amuro is just a troubled teenager in need of lots of hugs. It’s only as Amuro matures into more of a soldier that we learn more of Char. By the end of the series they end up switching places. Amuro is now the near unstoppable war machine, and it is Char, who’s an immature kid throwing a tantrum (Even if this tantrum is kinda justified and does result in him shooting lasers at Nazis which most tantruming children don’t do). This role reversal is of fundamental importance. Amuro doesn’t fall into the same vicious traps that have ensnared Char. Char can’t see Amuro as anything but a tool for war, but Amuro sees Char as another person with the same goals as he has. They both want to see an end to Space Nazism.
The finale of the movies sees Amuro diverging from Char. Rather than dedicating himself to vengeance and war he believes in the peace and understanding he learnt from Lalah in her last moments, he cares for his adoptive family at White Base. He just wants the war to be over. The last shots of Amuro in the movie are of him saving his comrades, something Char was never able to do. And Char. Char just explodes the final Space Nazi with a laser cannon. His death is admittedly left ambiguous, but in terms of his narrative role, he’s done. Amuro has outgrown him. Mobile Suit Gundam, for all of it’s explosions, internal politics and blatant depictions of corruption on both sides, is a show about peace. About acceptance. And about making the future a better place. It is the children in the show who stand the best chance of achieving that. Amuro, Sayla and Lalah’s efforts to understand others will be their best shot of achieving that. That is what Newtypes are best at after all.
(The Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy is avaliable till September 21st at Gundam.info. All screenshots are taken from that youtube stream. However I would personally recommend buying the series or movie discs if they are available, as I personally experienced large pixellation during moments of fast movement which makes some vital scenes in the third movie unwatchable.)