Mobile Suit Gundam: The Strongest (And Strangest) Newtypesby Lauren Orsini,
Whenever a group of people with better-than-human abilities appear in popular fiction, creators come up with cool names to explain them. In the Marvel universe, they're X-Men. In Mob Psycho 100, they're espers. And in Gundam canon, they're Newtypes.
The word "Newtype," which inspired the magazine of the same name, comes from Gundam characters with psychic or supernatural powers. Meanwhile, “Oldtypes” are people like you and me who live on Earth and have to rely on boring skills like instinct and experience to get by.
Enough about those boring people. Newtypes are fantastically talented, but they come in a lot of variations and differing abilities. Some of these people are really overpowered. Some are made with bioengineering. One is a dolphin. It's complicated!
Here's a list of the most bizarre and powerful Newtypes in the Gundam multiverse. Keep in mind there are some spoilers here—for shows that are at least 20 years old.
Lalah Sune, Mobile Suit Gundam
Newtypes are introduced in 1979's Mobile Suit Gundam. Protagonist Amuro is one, and it is heavily implied that his opposer, Char, is too. More powerful than Char or Amuro, however, is the woman over whom they are rivals in love, Lalah.
We first meet Lalah close to the climax of Mobile Suit Gundam, when she is introduced as Char's most promising ensign. In the additional background we get in Gundam: The Origin, we discover that Char lucked out, since he originally rescued Lalah as a child from an Indian brothel, and she is fiercely loyal to him as a result. This connection falters when she meets Amuro, but what's fascinating is that she and Amuro have only met in person once, instead deepening their connection through mental communion on the battlefield.
What makes Lalah especially amazing is that her long-distance telepathy isn't limited to within her lifetime. Long after Lalah sacrifices herself in order to save the two men she loves, her spirit returns again and again to haunt Char and Amuro into doing the right thing. Lalah remains the Universal Century's most pervasive spectre, making cameos from beyond the grave all the way into Gundam Unicorn, which takes place 17 years after her death.
Kamille Bidan, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
Starring in one of Yoshiyuki Tomino's darkest Gundam shows, it's no wonder that Zeta pilot Kamille Bidan believes himself to be emotionally stunted after all the horrors he's witnessed. However, for a self-identified “autistic child” who claims to be unable to cope with interpersonal relationships, Kamille has an uncanny ability to draw on the emotions of people around him.
Over the course of Gundam Zeta, Kamille sees a lot of people who are important to him die, often tragically during or after an argument so there was never a chance to make amends. All is forgiven in the end though, when Kamille's Newtype abilities strengthen to the point where he can tap into the Zeta Gundam's “Bio-Sensor.” Combined with Kamille's strong emotions while battling, the Bio-Sensor picks up the power of Kamille's closest friends turned war casualties. The mental energy is enough to kill antagonist Scirocco and badly scar Kamille, who proves to have the stronger mind simply by surviving this surge of psychological power.
Kamille is a prickly person, quick to act on his emotions, but his ability to absorb the strength of all the people he lost during the war shows that he made bonds with friends, family, and a lover that were powerful enough to withstand whatever conflicts they may have had in life.
Four Murasame, Zeta Gundam
We can't talk about Kamille's Newtype abilities without talking about his artificial psychic equal, Four. In Zeta Gundam it is revealed for the first time that scientists can mimic Newtype abilities (albeit with some nasty side effects). Four is the fourth person to undergo the experiment. Her abilities are groomed for combat use, helping her to sync with the powerful Psyco Gundam.
Dressed in a billowing poncho that evokes Lalah's flowing gown, Four gives off visual signifiers of clairvoyant abilities before they are even revealed. However, her soft appearance belies her thorny personality. Victimized by painful experiments to bring forth her abilities, Four puts up walls between herself and even people who just want to get to know her, like Kamille.
Two teens in the same place with similar abilities, it's no wonder Four and Kamille fall in love, or at least the Tomino version of what passes for love in the depressing Zeta Gundam. This budding relationship is portrayed as a natural, positive development in contrast to Four's ever-enhancing powers, which are shown as artificial and therefore negative—but both have an equally strong pull on Four. While Four is meant to show that artificial Newtype creation doesn't work out for anybody, her arc's unintended message is that the damage they can cause is just as great as anything a born Newtype can do.
Banagher Links, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
Fast forward twenty years, Gundam Unicorn is about how even decades after the One Year War (shown in Mobile Suit Gundam and referenced in Zeta Gundam), the Earth and colonies’ governing bodies still have no clue what to do about natural and artificial Newtypes. Here is a growing number of people with abilities that help them to outclass regular people by default, and nobody's sure how to integrate them into normal society—or whether they even want to. This is the stage on which natural-born Newtype Banagher Links is born.
Although he's a child of peacetime, Banagher's abilities taught him about violence from a young age. As a kid, he was subject to experiments designed to enhance his Newtype abilities, vague, half-remembered experiences that have me assuming the worst, like what Four went through. Banagher seems pretty well adjusted after that, or at least a fairly pliant vessel for goals and dreams of viewers (and for that matter, the adults around him). Because there's a lot of audience gratification in Banagher's neutrality. The typical Gundam plot of “seemingly ordinary boy gets handed the keys to the cockpit” is cranked up to eleven here when the Gundam is one of the flashiest, most powerful, and physically largest main suits ever seen in the Universal Timeline, while Banagher is strong enough from Day One to best other Newtypes.
From augmented cyber Newtype Marida Cruz to veteran warrior Full Frontal, Banagher finds himself besting the strongest pilots in the world in a very short amount of time. His personality may be a thin veneer for wish fulfillment, but there's no denying how powerful he is. Since Banagher's abilities are exploited for combat rather than clairvoyance (at which he is also adept), he's a microcosm for the Newtype governance struggle at the center of the show. In wartime, Banagher is useful to Oldtypes, while in peacetime, he's more than a little bit dangerous—and it's going to take a new level of mutual understanding to resolve that.
Judau Ashta, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ
You don't have to be a good person to be a talented Newtype, and Judau Ashta is the poster boy for this statement. As skirmishes continue after the events of Zeta Gundam, Judau is only interested in ways that war can profit him personally. He and his friends cut class to steal mechs—sometimes still in use—and they're hardly more likeable than the Scooby Doo villains they defeat. Unfortunately, Judau is a boy on whom brilliant Newtype powers are wasted.
It's amazing that Captain Bright Noa didn't rip out his hair due to the stress of having Judau on board his ship. Bright certainly had his patience tried by Amuro and Kamille previously, but those previous Newtypes could be put back in line with a quick face slap. With Judau and company, Bright seems to have given up entirely, leaving the Argama in their questionably capable hands. On the one hand, Judau and his friends are selfish, undisciplined sociopaths, but on the other hand, Judau is arguably the most talented Newtype to exist in the Gundam timeline so far, according to a very reliable witness—Haman Karn.
Indeed, the most telling indicator of Judau's power is his ability to completely ruin Haman, a villain who can match Char in mental and physical combat. Normally levelheaded, upon meeting Judau, Haman becomes suddenly and uncharacteristically obsessed with convincing him to defect to her forces. His abilities, which allow him to combine three mobile suits at once without the help of the other two pilots, and to even form a barrier shield to resist attacks, are on a level we've never seen before. Though Haman is an immensely skilled pilot, Judau's triumph shows that even the most well-planned tactics can't beat out brute Newtype strength—even if you are the biggest jerk ever to grace a Gundam cockpit.
Kira Yamato, Gundam SEED
This one comes with a caveat: Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny take place in their own universe where the word “Newtype” does not exist. However, I'd argue that the “SEED factor” is the same darn thing. It's an ability that is considerably rare, assigned at birth, and assumed to be “the next stage in human evolution” which is exactly how Universal Century timeline shows treat Newtype abilities. Characters involuntarily activate SEED “mode” when they've emotionally committed to a battle, the same way that Newtype abilities tend to be awakened under extreme stress or pressure to succeed.
Just like with Newtypes, individuals who possess the SEED factor are not all created equal, and Kira Yamato seems to have the most power of them all. He is so overpowered that, had the writers not given him a pacifist attitude, there's really nothing barring him from annihilating everyone. Every conflict is the same—Kira doesn't want to fight, but piss him off enough and he goes to Murdertown. He's also a fan of what I like to call Gundam Diplomacy, in which he argues for peace behind a brandished beam saber. You won't stand down? Well then, face the wrath of Kira. After all, he's not doing it because he wants to. Basically, I think he's kind of a jerk in a completely different way from Judau, not in spite of his Newtype abilities but because of them. If Kira were less powerful than even one other person in Gundam SEED, he'd have to work harder to stick with his pacifist principles, rather than steamrolling everyone into his way of thinking.
Smart, sensitive, and uncommonly gifted, Kira is a character who has everything going for him—except the audience's sympathy. It's hard to relate to somebody this perfect, and here is the unplanned downside of an extremely talented Newtype protagonist. If you don't watch out, they become an irritatingly overpowered Mary Sue.
The White Dolphin, After War Gundam X
Nope, Newtypes don't have to be human. Gundam X features an aquatic mammal who is just as adept at operating military technology as any human on the show. The White Dolphin can communicate with people telepathically and shoot mental laser beams from her forehead to activate the Satellite System, the most powerful weapon in the Gundam X universe.
The White Dolphin makes cameos in just episodes 16 and 17 of Gundam X, but leaves a lasting impression on the series. For one, she demonstrates that the evolutionary traits of Newtypes can affect animals, and for another, that Newtypes of any species can compete on equal footing. The White Dolphin sure can't pilot a Gundam the normal way, but she can go head to head with Doza Bale, a poacher that's hunting dolphins from her pod to use their brains to pilot his D-Navi navigation system (yes, really). The White Dolphin tells another powerful Newtype in the show, the clairvoyant waif Tiffa Adill, that she hates humans and it's easy to see why. What's odd is that she's telling Tiffa, a human herself. It supports the idea that Newtype evolution transcends humanity, “dolphinity,” or what have you. They're not a girl and a dolphin; they're Newtypes first.
The idea of a non-human Newtype sounds like a joke, but Gundam X treats the White Dolphin's story arc with breathless sincerity. To the point where it's no wonder we laugh about it after the fact, the same way it's silly that in Star Trek IV, whales have the ability to communicate with aliens. It just goes to show that you don't need to have a good personality, or even personhood, to be a powerful Newtype, simply the luck and magic that comes from genetics.
These are just seven of the super-beings that inhabit, and often control, goings-on in the various Gundam universes. These may not be the best characters, but they're certainly strong. Your turn: which Gundam Newtypes actually deserved their powers, and who were they totally wasted on?
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