Everyone thinks Gundam Reconguista in G is a joke of a show. I thought G-reco was a joke of a show. We might all still be right, but for 14 seconds the joke was on us. This moment, a strange oasis of peace in the middle of running war, is mesmerizing.
I have not seen enough Gundam to say with certainty that this scene in episode 15 of G-reco is a patently Gundam scene (specifically, a Tomino Gundam scene), but when I was watching it I felt like I was being thrown back into the best moments of Mobile Suit Gundam and Turn A Gundam. Gundam may be a franchise about war and about big old robots blasting each other apart in the middle of space, but it’s really when Gundam highlights the spaces in the middle of war that it really blossoms into something I think is special about the franchise—as inconsistently as it indulges such things (at least as far as my experience takes me).
This scene, though. Possibly one of greatest scenes in any Gundam ever? It blew everything else G-reco has done so far out of the water for me. Not a high bar, I’ll admit, but it’s not my fault (nor the scene’s fault) the show provides so few comparable moments for me to compare it to. As near as I can get, even the show’s first truly great Robot Moment has nothing on this.
In quantifiable terms, I need no more than 12 screenshots (out of 14 seconds of footage and however many frames that equals) to demonstrate why. You can watch the scene in the video above, and probably understand why it’s so entrancing, but just watching it over and over again isn’t enough for me. So here we go.
In the video, you can hear the fading sound of deep horns from the previous scene, one in which the captain of the Megafauna is complaining about his superior officer from the bridge of the ship. We join Bell straight from the middle of the war, from the ship’s military command center, and the music vanishes, Bell’s yawn signaling the transition to the ambient background noises of human movement and the deep white noise of a large space.
As yawning and sleeping bag animation synchronize with the sounds and maintain a sense of naturalistic movement, Bell finishes his yawn and, without the camera turning away from him, we hear Raraiya’s voice cut in—clearly in the middle of a conversation with someone else. Bell turns toward the source of the sound, but it’s obvious that he’s waking up not at the start of this “scene” but midway through. Although Bell (the protagonist, as always) is the focal point of this scene, it does not revolve around him. The world has been spinning, even as he slept, and now it is time for him to rejoin it.
That’s the technical stuff, but the cumulative effect—and therefore the important conclusion—is the feeling that Bell has woken up where something has already been going on. The feeling is palpable and reinforced by every element of these five and a half second. And anyone who has slept over with friends and woken up (whether in the morning or later than night) to the others talking quietly and casually amongst themselves is likely to recognize it.
The second shot doesn’t put us exactly into Bell’s vision, but it’s close enough to give us the feeling of seeing what he sees from his suspending sleeping bag. From this view, everything established in the first shot is confirmed. Raraiya and Aida are sitting at a table together as Raraiya’s line carries over the cut and Noredo is on the move; Bell is breaking up the action of the scene, rather than driving it. But it’s a comfortable kind of walking into the middle of something.
Putting us in Bell’s place, more or less, also perpetuates the cozy feeling of familiarity, especially as the sleeping bag is still in view. While robots are visible in the background, they don’t impose on the shot, which allows it to feel like it’s happening in a pocket isolated from the rest of the world. An oasis for the adolescents in the middle of an adult war.
What’s also key is that Raraiya (who is suddenly sane, by the way) pauses, as she and Noredo have clearly noticed Bell’s movements. Her brief cessation of talking and Noredo’s gently obvious question welcome Bell into the scene, two indications of friendship that submerge Bell’s potentially invasive awakening into the casual intimacy of the pocket.
Even better is the way that Nordeo and Aida continue on with their actions in the background as Bell’s legs swing around in the foreground. There are very few ways to so subtly show acceptance of someone “outside” as effective as both recognizing and acknowledging their presence and being able to continue on with your own activities. Had the entirety of the scene swung around to focus on Bell, the hypnotic effect of joining the stream of motion would have been lost, but instead he becomes just one more element in the ongoing slow momentum.
But, at the same time, it wouldn’t have made sense to bring Bell into the scene only to ignore him, and so the third shot focuses back on him. There’s a lovely bit of incidental character animation as he clambers out of the sleeping bag, his hair’s flopping adapted to the zero gravity of space. Even here the shot frames him between a box and the background, and the tighter visual space dodges claustrophobia, instead feeling natural and serene. Again, the key feeling is that of becoming part of an existing moment. Bell being blocked in visually in this way lends the room physicality, even as his soft grunts and the tap of his feet hitting the floor provide aural weight.
Bell caps this shot with the rather droll announcement that he’s going to take a shower. Within the logic of this scene, such a mundane (and simultaneously rather personal) statement is a brilliant choice. It’s not just that it’s a natural and expected action for a recently awoken boy to take, it’s also that the mundanity of the narration signals his familiarity with the others. It’s relationship—and this is the kind of thing you do when you’re close with people.
We end with the shortest shot of the sequence, but it’s probably the most complex of the four. There’s Aida, drinking something (people in this show are real big on hydration) and with her hair up, more or less just passively being there are Bell and Noredo talk. There’s the random woman in the background sewing (and filling up the third level of depth to keep the shot from feeling empty), another indication of activity that going on independent of Bell. And, most importantly, there’s Noredo looking out of the shot and answering Bell’s statement with another, gentle (dare I say, shipper as I am, loving??) affirmation.
It’s all there, plain as day. Relationship, intimacy, calm within a storm, familiarity, comfort. You can read all of these out of the final shot, as you can out of the entire scene. Everything feels incidental, natural, at peace. And try as I might to describe it all, I can’t speak more for this scene than it can for itself. I find it entrancing. I watched it over and over again when I first saw it. It’s beautiful, homey, and I love it. The clip’s right up there at the top of the post—go watch it again and enjoy.