We all know Char Aznable! He's the clever, smug, delightfully smart and evil prick who we love from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, famous for going faster than everyone else, scoring a sick 360-no-scope, and having an epic hand-to-hand sword fight in a franchise known for giant robots shooting each other. He's also unfairly hot and got an '80s-ass hairdo for his next appearance in the currently unavailable to me Zeta Gundam, which I read a recap of to ensure I was up to speed for Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack.
So the basic premise of Char's Counterattack is this: Char is very, very pissed about Amuro Ray existing and also about humanity still oppressing Spacenoids. To this end, he deploys his eponymous counterattack: Dropping an entire colony on an inhabited area, Gihren-style. Then, as though that weren't enough, Char proceeds to send a giant fuck-off asteroid toward Earth to cause a new ice age and force everyone into space. (I think? His motives are kind of unclear and the movie starts in the middle of all this.)
Oh, uh, spoilers, by the by.
You see, Amuro, it's actually about ethics in Newtype journalism.
Thus begins Char's Counterattack, an entire movie building to the climactic final battle between Amuro and Char Aznable. In addition, we are introduced to a supporting cast, only one of whom will get their own section because everyone but Hathaway is fairly forgettable and he's got his own damn movie to cover. Basically, the supporting cast for the good guys, beyond some returnees from the original like everyone's favorite bitch-slap machine Bright Noa, is a few fairly bland newcomers. Chan Agi, who only replaces Amuro's other love interest due to executive demand and has almost no characterization, Kayra, who's a fairly standard Mobile Suit pilot who exists primarily to die horribly, Meran, who's... there.
The supporting cast for the bad guys is a bit more colorful, but not much more compelling. Gyunei Guss is one I'm gonna single out: There's an attempt to give him some humanization and depth early on, with him being the only one who opposes Char on genuine ideological differences, almost managing to serve the role that Char served to the Zabis in the original... this is quickly thrown out the window in favor of Gyunei's entire arc focusing on envy and a desire to romance a 13-year-old girl despite he himself being nineteen, which is utterly, utterly icky and makes him nothing more than a creepy prick who only ever talks about how he has to best Char to achieve that sordid goal, with any and all of his "only sane man" traits disappearing. Any attempt to create the the original trilogy's intrigue and conflict among the villains fails harshly for a simple reason: While Char was driven by a desire for vengeance for his father and a genuine ideological difference from the Zabis, Gyunei just comes off as mad that he can't have a 13-year-old girlfriend who doesn't want him in the first place.
Amuro... I'm about to do something really merchandisable.
Nanai Miguel is a pretty okay character, Char's second-in-command and mistress who I at least remembered not hating when the film was done. She's not especially memorable, and she mainly exists to create drama in Char's half of the plot, but it's hard not to sympathize with her when the guy she has to deal with on a regular basis is Char Aznable. Rezin Schnyder is a well-designed character with a solid premise, but goes completely wasted.
I came here to laugh at you. Again.
One thing I'll say to the credit of Char's Counterattack is that it's never boring. There's a ton of mecha action throughout the film, Char himself is a highlight most of the time, and the climax in particular is some of the hypest shit in any anime I've ever watched. Char's motives are somewhat vague, but they're sufficient in giving the audience what they're really interested in seeing: His final showdown with Amuro. In addition, there are some genuinely interesting aspects to the film in seeing how Char descends into being akin to Gihren Zabi, the man he once so despised for the murder of his father; by the end of the movie, it's impossible to deny that Char has become exactly what he once hated. The tragedy of his arc is clear and actually quite genuine in many ways. The man who once slew Zeon's ruler and fought alongside Amuro becomes the very thing he was sworn to destroy.
Unfortunately... there's one aspect of Char's Counterattack that really sticks out, that being a specific character, namely Quess Paraya.
Amuro... I have finally become the only thing worse than a murderous space tyrant: A Discord Mod.
Quess Paraya is a 13-year-old girl and perhaps the one aspect of this film holding it back from being as good as the original trilogy. I'd already heard bad things about her, and when the movie started, I was like "Wow, this character isn't nearly as bad as people make her out to be." And then she was. At first, Quess is remarkably tolerable, being the daughter of a rich asshole and a young girl with some sympathies for Char. She's, in essence, a fairly humanized Char fangirl at first. Unfortunately, that Char fangirling goes too far when Amuro and Char fight. Amuro has the opportunity to put Char down and end the conflict for good, and Quess stops him and runs over to Char's side on the basis that Amuro "isn't fighting fair."
Yeah... it's that kind of character.
Basically, Quess is extremely powerful as a Newtype, but nothing but a nuisance who eats up tons of screentime. She's obsessively fangirling over Char, who I should repeat is a mass-murdering dictator for childish reasons that I'd find unacceptable coming from a 6-year-old. She's a fundamentally childish, poorly-written character. In addition, she's written to be hated, with it being completely intentional... which leaves it questionable what the film's intent even is with her.
Oh, and did I mention she's madly in love with Char... and he takes full advantage of that?
Now, Gundam and younger women being with older men isn't a new thing. The film even makes a crack about it at one point. Char's love interest in the first show was a 17-year-old, and if I recall correctly from the recap, Scirocco, one of Zeta's villains, seduces a teenage girl as well. It seems to be a rather peculiar quirk of the franchise. Now, it's hardly the first Japanese franchise I've seen with a quirk like that, but it's probably at its most annoying in this entry. An extremely large portion of the plot is taken up by the love triangle over Quess between Char, Gyunei, and Hathaway only the last of whom is close enough in age for it to not be creepy. Char isn't actually interested in Quess, mind you-- but the imagery of a much older man seating a 13-year-old girl on his lap and intimately reassuring her is nonetheless just gross and puts a damper on not only the whole movie but especially Char himself. Characters fall all over themselves to make the plot about Quess. She's an unlikable character who takes up a huge part of the movie, and the writing outright forces her into other characters' development, detracting from the tension of the climax between Char and Amuro. In addition, the plot treats her relationships with Char and Gyunei as though they are very serious love triangles rather than creepy, with Char's mistress even developing some level of jealousy for poor Quess and the plot taking way too long for Char to just tell Gyunei "I don't drool over little girls like you do."
I almost feel bad for saying this, because I see Quess get a lot of misogynistic hate and the like for her Char fangirling, which I don't think are the problems with the character. The issue is that she's poorly written, with her moral depth being exceptionally shallow due to her deliberately unsympathetic and genuinely uncomfortable presentation. She adds nothing to the plot and overcomplicates things, taking otherwise interesting characters and making them creepy for fawning over her. That said, that's hardly on her... she's just a poorly written character and I actually think her use in Hathaway is vastly superior to her use in this film, all things considered. In theory she might be interesting, but in practice she represents the movie's biggest writing issues.
The other major issue with Quess is that her overuse robs the rest of the supporting cast of opportunities to develop or be memorable. Hathaway is a road sign that leads her to the next plot point and Gyunei is reduced to a jealous creep, all while the screentime she takes leaves the other side characters without much depth, meaning the emotional connection the audience will have when they die is borderline nonexistent.
What was I supposed to do, Amuro? Not manipulate the nearest teenage girl? We all know what I'm about!
So... overall verdict? It's still pretty good. The mecha action is universally cool, Char himself is good when Quess isn't part of the plot. The side characters are mostly forgettable, but Amuro and Char themselves actually have quite nice development, and the climax is absolutely epic. In addition, it's nice to see Char, a more morally gray antagonist, in charge of a Zeon faction, which heralds many more entries delving deeper into the already-present corruption in the Federation and the apathy among their leadership. It's a decently-written movie, but it's bogged down by a lack of emotional depth and focus on side characters who exist just to die. If Quess had her focus cut down and we instead looked at other members of the supporting cast, something the original trilogy is fantastic at doing, with arcs focused on Kai, Garma, and Sayla, Char's Counterattack would be a solid Gundam movie perhaps even worthy of standing alongside the original trilogy.
The third and final entry in the Blogger Suit Gundam trilogy is going to focus on Hathaway, the first movie in the Hathaway's Flash adaptation trilogy. Blogger Suit Gundam III will be coming soon. This has been Riley1sSpook on Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack.