The Story of Redemptive Violence, or Gundam Will Continue Forever

Make Love, not War?

Redemptive violence is the bigger, badder, more brainy term to describe violence justified. This ranges from executions to “eye-for-an-eye” to even a war to end all wars and even using violence to protect someone and catch criminals. Gundam 00 throws a nice, juicy fat herring from the get go, tying terms like “dunamis” and “kyrios” (Greek for Holy Spirit and Trinity) with “oh noes I’m a kid fighting a terrible war excused by religious reasons and there’s no god poo hoo”?

Sigh, I feel like an 8th grade kid trying to explain to random internet people the point behind faith and love.

And thankfully, most Gundam shows do make a point to talk about faith and love (or maybe just hope and love?). Because it’s only in these incredibly human, idealized feelings like faith and love that we can even stand, point and laugh at the folly of war, of greed, and the tragedy of looking at people not as people. (And also, I’m sure, that the producers feel the moral burden upon them, with all those 8th grade kids watching their shows.)

Most Gundam shows also do make a point about Gundam as some kind of idol, too. The whole “I want more power/to be stronger” nonsense goes hand in hand with the “there’s someone I want to protect” nonsense or the “this world sucks” nonsense. In fact this probably explains why a lot of anime have crappy endings, not limited to just Gundam shows.

Still, I think unlike a lot of other stories told in popular media, Gundam tells a much more elaborate, and philosophically complex stories about redemptive violence (and, even showing the myth of it as well) by actually telling you these things up front, instead of using characterization and theme to explain things to you. For better or worse, this gets the message across faster and clearer usually.

That said, it’s probably unfair to pin so much of Gundam into the pigeonhole that is redemptive violence. A lot of other people have said their piece about Gundam’s stories, their motivations, and the intent behind them. And indeed, Gundam means a lot of different things to everybody. And it doesn’t help that the franchise has gotten to a point, that each series keeps on repackaging the same story, myth, legend, troupe, and theme that I am never so sure what it was saying at the end.

Maybe that is why to date Turn-A has been my favorite Gundam series in how it walks that tight rope between redemptive violence and redemption itself, that war is never the answer to anything besides “how do we kill a lot of stuff real fast and make a lot of trouble for everybody.” That the feeling to protect someone is only going to make the person you protect into a bitter, old maid as the other lover of the person you died protecting ditches her because your death made things complicated. That by loving your enemy’s hairdo as your own is the first plank to build a bridge for reconciliation and peace. Or cross-dressing. I’m not sure which works better.

I hope 00 makes a similar effort to tackle the core moral dilemma instead of pandering to mere drama. That’s what makes the Gundam franchise more than just a nice boat (even if the roots are rather nice boat-ish). As the myth of redemptive violence perpetrates today’s society in its core, the ongoing saga of the Gundam franchise will continue and draw a lot of attention for being the marketplace and battleground of ideas between pacifism and the school of redemptive violence. Maybe eventually it’ll surprise me with a valid answer?

Or at least get all their fancy-pants Greek Gundam names to match. What’s Exia? Exegesis? I mean that’d be the poetically fitting reference.

2 Responses to “The Story of Redemptive Violence, or Gundam Will Continue Forever”

  • Mike

    Uh…not that my Greek is all that good (heaven knows I need to review my grammar again) but “dunamis” (also romanized as “dynamis”) simply means “power” or “ability,” and “kyrios” (as in Kyrie Eleison) means “lord.” They’re actually generic words with no specifically Christian meaning though they do appear prominently in the New Testament to be sure.

    Unless it’s the show that made the mistake, which wouldn’t be a surprise with characters with names like Allelujah Haptism! Gotta love misspoken religious references in anime. :)

  • omo

    I thought they were very specifically generic words with special Christian meaning, at least according to google. Especially in today’s context.

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