Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack is the first full-length Gundam animated movie released in 1988. Char's Counterattack is the culmination of the original saga begun in Mobile Suit Gundam and continued through Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, marking the final conflict of the fourteen-year rivalry between Amuro Ray and Char Aznable, and the end of the Earth Federation/Zeon conflicts.The year is Universal Century 0093: five years have passed since the end of the First Neo-Zeon War. The Earth Federation has recovered and created a new anti-colonial special taskforce to deal with rebel forces: Londo Bell. Elsewhere in space, Char Aznable reappears out of a self-imposed hiding with a declaration that he now commands his own Neo-Zeon movement. Unlike movements of the past, Char intends to force the emigration of Earth's inhabitants to space by bringing about an ice age through dropping asteroids onto the planet. Enter Amuro Ray, now a seasoned veteran of the Londo Bell, who will ensure his arch-rival will not succeed.The movie is noteworthy for having a rather unusual genesis. Originally, director Yoshiyuki Tomino was going to wrap up Amuro and Char's storyline in Gundam ZZ, but mid-way through production he was given the go-ahead to make a movie, forcing the plot of ZZ to be rewritten (details on its trope page). In the meantime Tomino wrote the novel Hi-Streamer, but when Sunrise gave him the green light, he went back and wrote a second novel, Beltorchika's Children, which he specifically wrote to be adapted into a movie. However, Sunrise instead chose to use Hi-Streamer, with the final film being a pretty straightforward adaptation of its second half. These two novels serve as the origin of the Hi-Nu Gundam (the finalized, "perfect" Nu Gundam) and Nightingale (a bigger, beefier Sazabi), which pop up in video games like Super Robot Wars and SD Gundam G Generation.
Tropes included in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack are:
The Ace: Naturally, Amuro and Char; the film ascends both men to such proportions that mooks, including Neo-Zeon Ace Pilot Gyunei Guss, are made short work of.
All There in the Manual: The novel adaptation as filmed actually contains only half of the original story. The first half took place in 0092 and detailed Char's return, his take over of Sweetwater, EGUM (a front organisation for Char's Neo Zeon) and the formation of Londo Bell. The film begins at the second part, during Char's take over of Fifth Luna.
Artistic License - Nuclear Physics: When the Londo Bell execute their Macross Missile Massacre with nuclear missiles hidden amongst them in an attempt to destroy the engines of the Axis asteroid before it can collide with Earth, Char and Gyunei use their mobile suits' funnels to destroy them. The missiles, predictably, go nuclear.
Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: A possible fate regarding Amuro and Char. The back stories of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn novels shed some light on Char - Neo-Zeon forces recovered the Sazabi's Psycoframe and created Full Frontal from the data likely stored in the cockpit. The Animated Adaptation, however, has yet to reach any conclusions about Frontal, as the producers indicated that his story may be changed. Thus far, Frontal did hint that Char Aznable, if he's still alive, would be more than human now.
Bittersweet Ending: Amuro and Char disappear through an overload of the Nu Gundam's Psychoframe. Of the named cast, only Bright Noah and his family and Char's lover Nanai Miguel survive. However, Axis is pushed away by the reaction of the Psychoframe in the Nu and Sazabi; it wouldn't have happened if it were not Amuro, who made a desperate push first-hand against Axis. Char even acknowledges the stream of hope and warmth Amuro has caused before the overload.
The Captain: Bright Noah; in Char's Counterattack, he leads the Londo Bell taskforce with their flagship Ra Cailum
Canon Foreigner: Some MS and characters from Hi-Streamer and Beltorchika's Children didn't make the transition into animation, including the RGM-88X Jeddah (the precursor to the Jegan), Glab Glass (whose role is filled by Gyunei Guss), and most obviously Amuro and Beltorchika's unborn child.
The Hi-Nu Gundam is probably the most famous example; originally it was simply the Hi-Streamer version of the Nu Gundam. Sunrise later worked it into the main Gundam universe after a fashion by declaring that it was actually the intended and completed form of the Nu Gundam, while the one seen in the film was rushed in order to get it on the battlefield in time to fight Char. This is actually where the name "Hi-Nu" comes from (itself being a nod to Hi-Streamer).
Captain Ersatz: For a character in the same series, no less. Gyunei was originally supposed to be Kamille Bidan, having undergone questionable brain surgery and cybernetic implants to cure the brain damage he suffered at the end of Zeta Gundam, but this was abandoned for various reasons. This concept is referenced in Dynasty Warriors: Gundams, where Kamille will occasionally be seen piloting Gyunei's Jagd Doga.
Chan is basically a stand-in for Beltorchika.
Car Fu: Londo Bell use a variant as one of their battle tactics, jumping off their Base Jabber transports as they hit the enemy line and letting them ram into their foes' suits.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Hit Sayla Masshard. Despite being the protagonist's one-time Love Interest and the antagonist's sister, she's only mentioned once in the film (referred to as her true name "Artesia" by Char in a flashback to the death of Lalah Sune) and never seen at all. What makes this particularly surprising is the cameo she had in Gundam ZZ was meant to foreshadow the movie.
Though it does make a bit of sense: it's made pretty clear towards the end of the original series that as far as Sayla's concerned, her brother is dead and Char's nothing more than the thing that killed him.
And yet, in the above cameo, she said she'd hate to sit on the sidelines and let Char go through with whatever he was planning.
You would think that Kamille and Judau Ashta would be there to help Amuro out in stopping Char...
Judau has been living on Jupiter for years by this point due to him being sick and tired of fighting for the corrupt Earth Federation (not to mention he never met Amuro or Char, either). Kamille, meanwhile, was just not presentnote He couldn't pilot another mobile suit after what Paptimus Scirrocodid to him in Zeta Gundam (Mobile Suit Gundam: Moon Crisis, a manga set six years after Char's Counterattack, claims he became a brain surgeon after recovering. However, given that Gundam Unicorn is officially part of Universal Century canon, this renders Moon Crisis non-canon).
Colony Drop: "Fifth Luna", the first asteroid seen in the beginning of the film (which was successfully dropped, by the way); narrowly averted with Axis-Zeon, both an asteroid and space colony.
Cranked Up to Eleven with Axis, as it has enough nukes to bring about a planet-wide nuclear winter.
Conspicuous CG: Notable because it's the first time CG has ever been used in a Gundam work.
Deus ex Machina: The Axis Shock at the very end. It comes out of nowhere with no foreshadowing except for a few seconds before it happens and it causes Axis to change course despite the fact that it has already begun atmospheric entry.
Doomed Hometown: Quess' homeland of Lhasa, Tibet is the first to be destroyed.
Expy: Chan is said to be a replacement for Beltorchika, after Tomino wasn't allowed to use the latter. Because of this, Chan was Killed Off for Real.
Face-Heel Turn: Anaheim Electronics was originally a major financial backer for the heroic Anti-Earth Union Group (AEUG), and only sold (inferior) suits to nastier factions to keep them off its tail. Since the AEUG has disbanded and most of the company's nicer members are dead, Anaheim is a straight-up war profiteer that openly backs both sides.
Flawed Prototype: The Nu Gundam, despite being one of the most incredible suits of its era, is still an incomplete, rushed version of Amuro's original design - the fin funnels are actually a last-second addition and just stick to a random latch on the backpack, while the controls are still dangerously oversensitive. Officially, the completed version is the Hi-Nu Gundam from Beltorchika's Children, which is streamlined to near perfection and better armed (it's "Hyper Mega Bazooka Launcher" is at least as powerful as the Wing Gundam Zero's "Twin Buster Rifle", albeit not portable, since it requires a hook-up to the reactor of the La Cailum).
Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: They were actually just starting the testing phase when Char's Neo Zeon fleet decided on a preemptive attack on the La Cailum. Because of the urgency of the situation, Amuro and his team basically threw it together, slapped on whatever weapons they could find, then launched without fine-tuning the instruments. This does come to bite Amuro in the ass during the Nu Gundam's second sortie against Gyunei.
Ultimately, this trope is what kills Amuro and Char, contrary to popular belief: their suits didn't burn up on atmospheric re-entry, but rather the resonating Psychoframes overloaded, which is what happens when experimental technology gets used in combat without prior testing.
Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Wouldn't be Gundam without it, particularly since Bright is in the movie. However, it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment - Bright does this to Hathaway; subverted, because it fixes nothing.
Gundam Fighter: Several playable characters, including variations of Amuro and Char.
Heroic Sacrifice: By the time Amuro takes the initiative to push Axis, Londo Bell, Federation army AND Neo-Zeon pilots do the same with their mobile suits. Sadly, because of the intense pressure and stress, their suits can't handle it like the Nu Gundam and implode.
I Surrender, Suckers: Char's strategy for defeating a war-wearied Federation. Ironically, they seem to be willing to give Char nearly everything he could possibly want, even after he launched an unprovoked attack on them.
It Is Pronounced Tro-PAY: In the dub, Char in his speech pronounces the Titans as "Tee-tahns", which is the Japanese pronunciation. Slightly justified as Zeta hadn't been dubbed yet, but it should have been obvious to the translators and dub team what the word is.
Kill 'em All: As per Tomino's M.O., Char's Counterattack kills nearly the entire cast except for Bright, his family and Nanai.
Knight Templar: Char intends to force all of humanity into space so they can evolve into Newtypes.
Little Miss Badass: Everyone assumes Char is after Quess because he likes young girls. The truth is that he just wants to use Quess to kill people since she's one exceptionally, powerful Newtype.
Lolicon/Ephebophile: 13-year-old Quess is an object of much sexual desire from the majority of the male cast. Only Amuro and Bright are immune, though how much Char is feeling and how much he's faking is anyone's guess.
Love Hurts: A significant portion of the cast dies because of the male portion's attraction to Quess. Gyunei (who's in love with her and is killed by Amuro), the mechanic Astonage Medoz (tries to stop Hathaway from going to find Quess, only to be killed by an explosion; his girlfriend Kayru Su had just died in the previous sortie) and Chan (who kills Quess and is offed by Hathaway since he had just succeeded to make Quess pull a Heel-Face Turn, until Chan ruins it.
Monumental Damage: The hypocenter of Char's asteroid attack on Lhasa is the Potala Palace, traditional home of the Dalai Lama.
Motive Decay: Gyunei goes from wanting to keep an eye on Char to "must bone Quess" with remarkable speed. Than again, he is a Cyber-Newtype, and if Zeta Gundam and Gundam ZZ are any indication, they tend to be a little unstable.
Never Found the Body: The fates of Amuro and Char are unknown in the film, but averted with Beltorchika's Children, which states both men are killed-in-action.
90% of Your Brain : Lampshaded in a conversation between Quess and Hathaway regarding the origin of Newtype powers - that people used only a fraction (said to be "half", not 10% as in the trope) of their brains while living on Earth, but began to use the rest when they moved into space. How seriously we are to take them is somewhat open to debate, in that they're teenagers, not scientists, and both spend the rest of the movie doing very little that one might consider "smart," or "well-thought out". Nonetheless, the franchise never openly contradicts this explanation.
Plot Tumor: Quess' subplot eats up huge amounts of screentime, derails Hathaway and Gyunei's characters, and contributes absolutely nothing to the story as a whole, while taking away the possibility of any Character Development for the rest of the cast. There's a reason she's as widely hated as she is.
Psychic Powers: A major plot point is the Newtype powers held by many of the key characters, including Amuro, Char, Quess, Hathaway and Gyunei. It's implied that Char's plan to drop Axis on Earth is to facilitate humanity's evolution into Newtypes.
Irony: Despite Char's insistence that Newtype evolution will lead to greater understanding between humanity, he and Amuro, both Newtypes, are completely incapable of understanding each other. Amuro doesn't see why Char would drop Axis on Earth and dismisses his act of sportsmanship leaking out the Psychoframe data to him for use in the Nu Gundam as a way to fight even and to "look down on him". Char, in turn, doesn't understand Amuro's treatment of Quess or his bond with Lalah. They both die at each other's throats, no more enlightened as to the other's motives than they were before.
Rank Up: Subverted, in a realistic sense. Amuro, last seen in Zeta Gundam, was a Lieutenant. For the Londo Bell forces, he's been promoted but only one step up to Lieutenant Commander. The Federation doesn't trust Newtypes and doesn't want to give them too much rank in the military. And Amuro is a pilot, not command material.
Space Does Not Work That Way: The climax of the movie where mobile suits are trying to push Axis away from Earth somewhat falls apart when you realize that the mobile suits are pushing it in such a way to decelerate it, which would only make things worse.
The dialogue, however, is correct: everyone is freaked out when Axis decelerates, and are really happy when it is re-accelerated by the mobile suits and Nu Gundam.
Spell My Name with an "S": Is it "Londo Bell" or "Rondo Bell"? "Londo" is the official romanisation, but "Rondo" (a term for a musical form) makes more sense when paired with "Bell".
Too Dumb to Live: The Earth Federation leadership's attitude in this movie can be summed up thusly - "Okay, Char, we'll give you a huge suitcase full of money and a giant space rock, just as long as you promise not to drop any more giant space rocks on us." *Several minutes later* "DUDE, C'MON! WE HAD A DEAL!"
Londo Bell is an independent paramilitary organization that fights colonial threats against the Federation. If that sounds familiar, it should: it's the same purpose the Titans served! Is it any wonder why Char doesn't trust them?
Unfortunate Names: Because of the way the lower case "nu" is written, the Hi-Nu Gundam looks like it's the "HI-v Gundam", which is why there's usually a dash separating "Hi" and the "nu" symbol.
Warrior Therapist: Taken to ludicrous extremes, as Amuro and Char discuss the latter's Oedipus Complexwhile the former is attempting to hold off Axis in atmospheric re-entry singlehandedly with the Nu Gundam.
What If?: Episode five of Gundam Evolve, written by Tomino himself, is a more positive spin on one particular event from the movie, namely Quess pulling a Heel-Face Turn after destroying Hathaway's Jegan (but not killing Hathaway) and receiving encouragement from him and Amuro to deal with her directionless anger before it causes real damage.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Gyunei's obsession with Quess maybe the result of his Cyber-Newtype enhancements. There is evidence in previous series this isn't that uncommon. Makes more sense when you recall that Quess is not just a normal Newtype either, but one that got her powers enhanced as well. No wonder why Gyunei feels they're Birds of a Feather.
Worthy Opponent: Even after all these years, Char still believes the only person worthy enough to be his rival is Amuro. To that end, he leaks the Psychoframe data to the Londo Bell for Amuro to specifically use, so they can have an even fight. Lampshaded during their duel, after Amuro pulls a surprise attack when Char is chasing after him.
"You're worthy enough to be my rival."
At this point in time Char is just deluding himself when he considers Amuro his rival. Whether as a Newtype or a mobile suit pilot, Amuro is easily among the strongest characters in the entire UC Gundam timeline, if not THE strongest; it's all Char can do just to keep up with him.
Your Size May Vary: The Sazabi's cockpit ball changes size wildly between the scene where it's loaded into the mobile suit's head and when the Nu Gundam grabs it after ejecting from the Sazabi's shattered remains. Proportionately speaking, given that the Sazabi is about as big as the Nu Gundam, the size the cockpit is when Amuro catches it is more likely to be the correct size.