G no Reconguista: to be a newtype is to be genki

IW: 2021-09-08
LU: 2021-11-04

Disclaimer. This post is heavily inspired by Urobuchi's take on G-reco (archive), but I do believe that it does expand on the matter (if only by providing examples) and does make Urobuchi's rambling easier to understand; this is because I think that what Urobuchi said has value.

If you can read Japanese I host the original piece on this website.

Contents

Stories as a mean of survival

We, as singles, are immersed in a world we cannot fully comprehend. As a case study consider how we make decisions. Of course anyone would like to fully comprehend any issue before making any choice; we don't want to mess up. However really knowing something is literally impossible (outside of mathematics, I guess): the number of variables is just too high. For every position you can find justifications, yet every justification comes with assumptions that have to be justified as well and so on, resulting in a never ending whirling dervish. Kids keep asking "why?", and they have a point.

Moreover the world does not wait for us. Every day, when we wake up, we have no idea of what's going to happen; of what's popping out today that will contradict what we knew yesterday. Maybe you'll have a random brilliant idea, find the love of your life or maybe your close friend will get cancer. What happens in another country can heavily influence your own life and you have no way to control or even predict it. This chaos is one of the major curses of the modern world.

However we still have to make decisions and plans; how can we accomplish that if complete understanding of the world is impossible? How can we defend ourselves from the randomness of reality? That's easy: humans, from the beginnings of history, have built machines to process the facts of the world into understandable bits and to fight the chaos around them. Such machines are ideologies, scientific theories, religions, moralities, philosophies and so on. Here we call them "stories". Through our stories we can categorize foods to be "safe to eat", "unsafe to eat" or even "maybe safe to eat", "60% safe to eat"; we can categorize people and actions into "good" or "bad" and act accordingly; we can vote for the "correct party" and so on. However, as useful as these stories might be, they can be "bad" (according to other stories) such as the stories that move murderers; and are incomplete by definition: our food-categorization story might indicate us to not eat a blackened banana slice while, in reality, it would be perfectly safe to do so. Stories allow us to live with less worries and provide us with great deal of comfort. That is great, but can some stories become double-edged swords, capable of trapping us in unexpected ways?

Mobile Suit Gundam: Reconguista in G (from here on "G-reco") is an anime usually described as an unintelligible mess. Entire scenes happen between episodes. Most of the "important" plot points must be deduced from throwaway lines uttered by background characters. When something does happen on camera the scenes are so fast that trying to keep up with what's happening is genuinely mentally taxing. Add to this the sheer number of factions involved (the biggest, I believe, of any Gundam show) and the constant switch of focus between them and you get a perfect terrain on which to build a story about the danger of stories.

Urobuchi Gen

A story is a method with which one separates things into good and evil via their imagination. It is a system needed for people to keep themselves sane and deal with the unreasoning chaos of reality. But while these stories are harmless as long as they're used to keep individuals calm, this changes when they're used as tools for a country or race. Stories like "jews are an inferior race that have to be purged" and "capitalists are devils and if you suicide bomb them you can go to heaven" brought about tragedies due to their popularity. [...] At times, stories are a poison that can drive a person mad. This presents a dilemma to us creators: If there are infinite possibilities in writing, is it possible to write a story about the potential danger of stories? A story that renounces stories? Yes it is. Reconguista of G did it.

The world of adults is the world of stories

One of the major themes of UC Gundam is that "adults are the [real] enemy". They are manipulative (e.g. Char, Scirocco), consumed by ideologies (e.g. Glemy, Full Frontal), they never see value in the ideas that are generated within the young and never do what an actual adult should, that is, offering his support to the new generation in order to help them grow (with notable exceptions in ZZ's Bright, Unicorn's Zinnerman, Otto and Daguza and Victory's members of the League Militaire in the epic ramming scene). The adults in G-reco are exactly the same.

Let's start with Bellri's mother: so obsessed with running the Capital Tower that only occasionally she remembers that Bellri, her son, is (as far as she knows) prisoner on an Amerian pirate ship. Moreover, despite holding a lot of political power (she does run the world's lifeline), her second biggest obsession, SU-cordism and the Ag-tech taboo, stops her from interfering in any way with the establishment of the Capital Army, their heavy production of mobile suits and the war they are fighting. Every time that she sees the Capital Army take another step towards more militarization the only thing she's capable of doing is screaming "but that's against the taboo!", "you'll be cursed for that!"; never concluding anything. Bellri's mother is a person that has been taken over by stories: she lives in them rather than through them, actively denying reality and running away from any event that might be a threat to her wonderful world of ideas. Ultimately, because of this, she cannot accomplish anything; either as a political figure or as a mother.

Another prime example is Luin Lee a.k.a. Mask. At the root of all his actions there's the story of the oppressed Kuntalas: people that were used as food in the past. He seems to be living the revolutionary's dream: standing alone in the face of discrimination, fighting for what's right. However, in G-reco, no actual discrimination against the Kuntalas is ever shown; we only get a couple of derogatory sentences, uttered by random adults in the first episodes, but overall Kuntalas are a part of society as much as anyone else, no discrimination to be found. We even get a line from Raraiya in a later episode that is literally "that Kuntala stuff is ancient history". So, in the end, Kuntala's oppression only really exists in Mask's own head; this is the story that moves all of his actions and through which he interprets the world. Yet Mask is consumed by his story. He has to fit everything into it, so Bellri has to becomes the enemy regardless of his actual actions (to which we will be getting shortly) just because "it fits" the narrative well. But at the end of the day, to whose cause are Mask's actions really contributing to?

Mask

He's guaranteed a future as Operations Director because of his mother's influence. He's joined forces with the daughter of Ameria's Inspector General as well. He'll become a dictator!

We Kuntala, with out history of being eaten, are treated as lower than insects by his kind!

You're always given overwhelming power, letting you take it easy while you look down on us Kuntala! You'll be a dictator someday! It's in your blood! If I don't kill you, it will wound my Kuntala pride [story]!

The answer is easy: the Capital Army's; Mask's obsession with his own story makes him oblivious to the high-level political manipulations that are going on. He thinks he's fighting a war but in reality he is fighting another one, in which he has no stakes. Mask is made into a pawn by his story.

On another hand we have Cumpa Rusita; a true master of the power of stories. Himself moved by a story, that of "people in space have regressed, we need conflict to make them strong again", he creates other stories ad-hoc to move people how he wants. Cumpa Rusita is the one that allows Bellri, Aida and Raraiya to escape on the G-Self in episode 3, so that he can then use the story of Bellri being a prisoner (which, in reality, is false) to have the newly founded Capital Army attack the Megafauna. On another occasion he is able to send a spaceship to Sankt Porto, a holy location where warships should not be allowed (according to SU-cordism), by playing into the popularity of SU-cordism itself with the sentence "protecting the pope from the threat in space". Cumpa Rusita is a man that understands how easy it is to twist events and other people's words into a story (or to just make up one from thin air) powerful enough to allow him to get away with doing/to make other people do what he wants. He also understands how to exploit the stories that people already believe for his own interests; and does so unscrupulously.

There are similar characters to Cumpa Rusita such as Ameria's president Zucchini, general Notou Dorette and G-IT Lab commander Kia Mbeki; these people are the true villains of G-reco. Just like many despicable figures of our times (and from the past as well) they excel at putting people against each others so that they will engage in a battle of the have-nots and always fail to realize who is the real "bad guy" in the room. Moreover, as a side effect of this modus operandi, we obtain people such as Mask and Bellri's Mother which are, respectively, very dangerous or frustratingly useless. The question rises naturally: how can we, if not stop, at least protect ourselves from such people?

The show's own directing seems to indicate a way. As we already said the big picture is unintelligible; but the individual scenes, on their own, are very valid, memorable and (when needed) powerful. Examples are numerous: from the end of episode 2 to the death of Dellensen to Bellri's usage of the reflector pack or Aida's discovery of her real parents' photo. G-reco is "locally good" as opposed to "globally good": it's a show whose single scenes are good but the chain of those is an incomprehensible mess. This is meant to force a focus switch in the viewer.

What's better? Wasting away trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong or looking after your autistic friend and her goldfish? Living in the world of stories, fixing no real problem, or living in the real world, fixing some little problems around you?

What are newtypes? A new answer to an old question

The textbook answer is that a newtype is an "evolved human" capable of immiediate understanding of other newtypes/humans. The evolution of more and more people into newtypes would then lead naturally to an era of peace. However, with time, newtypes became a physical representation of the author's idea of what a proper man should do. Their actions are the actions that will push humanity toward a brighter tomorrow. Of course the newtypes in G-Reco are Bellri and the Megafauna's crew.

Bellri really only does a simple thing: he focuses entirely on what's strictly in front of him and tries to handle that situation the best he can. Taking a (long) break to fit everything into a story is simply out of the question: if Aida (or Klim, or anyone else) is in danger he simply goes out and tries to save them. If the Megafauna is being attacked it does not matter to him that the attackers are people of the Capital Army (people from his own country) or Towasangans or the G-IT Corps; he flies out in the G-Self at once. The Gundam itself only shows its hidden, newtype-triggered, powers when Bellri uses it in this way, as opposed to a tool for the sake of a story.

Note that this does not mean that Bellri is a story-free person; it just means that he is not overwhelmed by any of them. He does believe in SU-cordism as he does say they usual "you'll be cursed" when the taboo gets violated just as much as everyone else; he even briefly engages in a heated discussion about politics with Aida in an early episode. However his actions on the field are never driven solely by a story; they alway come from himself. This "local independence" is something to be proud of and Bellri is very much does so. It's the reason because he always refuse the invite to joint the Amerian army ranks but is very happy to be a member of the Megafauna's crew. The ship, despite being part of the Amerian forces, acts pretty much as a giant metallic Bellri: always on its own, it handles whatever comes its way (but nothing more) and enjoys a lot of autonomy, despite receiving orders from the Amerian government.

Aida's Father

Will the G-Self and G-Lucifer join up with the Amerian army?

Bellri

I'm happier staying as a crew member of the pirate ship Megafauna.

Aida's Father

Why the semantic gymastics?

The semantic gymnastic employed by Bellri here is critically important to him. It is an externalization of his distrust of the adults' stories and of how much he cherishes his own individuality.

Another example of the G-reco newtype mentality of handling only what's in front of you and forgetting about stories (and arguably one of the best scenes in the show) is Aida's reaction as she is told that Bellri is her brother and what the true mission of the G-Self really was.

Aida

Because of this system of yours, we have been forced to confront incredibly harsh realities. Because we could control the G-Self, my lover was killed and Bellri was... My brother was forced to bear the disgrace of becoming a killer!

You may have a duty... An ideal you strive for, but still... I will find such things for myself, and accomplish them.

New eras are not created by old people.

There is no heartwarming family reunion here, no tearjerking scene to be found; just Aida coldly staring into the eyes of the Rayhunton's servants, informing them of the damage they have done because of their silly story (showing, of top of everything, that stories can damage the very people they are designed to help). She declares that she will never uphold the story of another; that she will think things through by herself.

The final scenes of G-reco really shine at showing this new definition of a newtype in action.

The final battle between Bellri and Mask is very different from any other such scene you'll find around. It is not an epic showdown seasoned by a heated debate; only one side, Mask, is arguing dramatically. The other, Bellri, is fighting only because it has been attacked; he does not argue back (that, he understands, would be pointless; or simply, Mask's words seems like meaningless blabbering to him) and instead worries if the Megafauna made it back undamaged. The scene on a whole is very anticlimactic but, in a peculiar way, also very tragic. It's as if we're watching a man trying to take down a statue bare-handed. There is no way the man can succeed, so the thing feels bizarre, almost out of place. But the man itself does not show any intention of giving up; even if he's crying, even if his fists are covered in blood he blindly keeps punching. At that point tragicness starts to emerge from what, a moment before, only seemed stupid.

But it's the very last scene of the show that really sells it. Bellri abandons the Megafauna and, in his core fighter, flies into the sky. Strong enough to live without the lies provided by stories he can leave the battlefield behind and head for the future; a future that he will build around himself, with his own hands.

Such are G-Reco's newtypes: people aware of their surroundings, focusing just on what's in front of them and not on some cold and distant story and proud of their own individuality. Of course they are not perfect and make many mistakes ("If they tell me Aida's my sister, yeah, that's gonna drive me a little crazy!") but ultimately they are healthier people, strong enough to fight the chaos of the world. We even have some confirmation from Tomino (as much as the old senile's words matter) that this is indeed the message of G-reco (work is usually what's just in front of us at all times).

Tomino

[...] I can be sure that I will keep healthy only by continuing to work. Use your work as a way to keep yourself healthy, and get you work done with the goal of making others feel better. This is the message behind G no Reconguista.

Gen Urobuchi said "G no Reconguista made me genki"; I say "to be a newtype is to be genki".