# Happy End (Gundam Seed 16)
I did not expect this. Maybe teenage me was dumber than I remember, because I certainly don't remember seeing this last time around. Even for 2012 animé it's daring (this would have been shortly after *Mirai Nikki* pulled a similar trick); for 2003 animé it's unheard of. (Then again, since this was my first animé, maybe I just didn't have that context and it seemed perfectly normal). The double fakeout is brilliant too: you wonder whether this could be where it's going, then see an underdressed woman in bed who turns out to be Ramius (spiced up by the minor reveal that she's sleeping with the mechanic), and then a minute later it turns out they're really doing this.
This is a fantastic episode all-round: plenty of action, balanced by plenty of, uh, "action". This fight brings a lot of new elements: a new opponent, new suits, new terrain, and then finally (spoiler alert) a new ally. (The one slight misstep here is the series expecting us to remember Cagalli at all - to the extent of naming the next episode "Cagalli Returns" - after only showing her for a few seconds almost a season ago). Waltfeld shows a lot of respect for everyone, setting him up immediately as different from - and perhaps smarter than - Le Creuset; his willingness to withdraw once he's achieved his objectives makes a real contrast to Le Creuset's single-minded pursuit. I thought of (of all things) Nathaniel Fick's autobiography, where he talks about how important - and rare - this is among real-world military commanders. Note also the contrast between La Flaga abandoning his coffee to scramble, and Waltfeld's smoother handling of his - a really clever piece of characterization. When a show shows that it's thought about things like this, I'm willing to trust it with cases where the payoff is less clear (Badriguel picking up the dropped cup, which just seemed weird - I guess it softens her character?), or when it pushes suspension of disbelief a little (Sai's "conversation" with Flay).
The battle situation is interestingly asymmetric: the Archangel is grounded (or at least restricted) but immensely powerful, almost a *Sink the Bismarck!* scenario. We watch Ramius and Badriguel reaching increasingly desperately for every option in their arsenal. The BuCUEs outnumber Kira but he (and the Gundam, with its phase shift armour) are simply *so damn strong* - culminating in shooting down an artillery barrage - ridiculous, perhaps, but his abilities have been established and built up to the point where it works. (Not to mention that even with all this, Kira ends up having to be rescued).
It's interesting to contrast this with the "gary stu" concept, as applied to recent light novel adaptations (I'll use *Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry* for a concrete example, somewhat unfairly - the reason I finished that show was that it's one of the better ones in the genre. But I digress); it's a criticism I've heard levelled at *Gundam SEED* too, (and even more so regarding the sequel series). But it's not a fair description of Kira, at least at this stage: he has any number of real, relevant character flaws. Indeed, the overarching point of this episode is that he's angry, he's making mistakes, and ultimately that he's being manipulated by Flay. He's impossibly good at piloting a giant robot, but that's ok - the story isn't really (at least for now) about piloting giant robots.
If I was to criticise one thing it would be the melodrama of Flay's portrayal. It makes some sense - a teenager, thrown into war, damaged by the loss of her father - but it weakens some of the ambiguity that was so fascinating about her. I still wonder whether she's fooling herself, but that interpretation is getting increasingly hard to defend. As I get older and more cynical - or perhaps less cynical - I see unequal relationships as less inherently problematic: everyone has things they like and don't, things they enjoy and things they tolerate for the sake of their partner. So if Kira and Flay have found an arrangement that works for them, more power to them. I'm honestly happy for them, and afraid to watch any more. Like all good things, this must end - but in the moment, they went further than most anime couples before or since, and they (and we) will always have that.
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