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The Ending Of Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island Explained

Contains spoilers for "Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island"

The 2022 anime film "Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island" is a remake and expansion of the 15th episode of the original 1979 "Mobile Suit Gundam" TV series. Series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino has not allowed any international release of this episode (it did get released in Italy in the '80s but was also pulled there in 2004). The reasons for this have never been officially explained but are suspected to have something to do with personal behind-the-scenes issues and especially bad animation due to lower production costs (via Anime News Network). This movie, directed by the original anime show's art director and character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, serves as a means to retell and expand on the episode's story properly.

Familiarity with the original "Mobile Suit Gundam" is recommended for enjoying this movie and getting the full context of the characters and the war they're fighting. The story, however, is essentially a stand-alone adventure. The basic set-up is that protagonist Amuro Ray (Tôru Furuya in the Japanese version and Lucien Dodge in the English dub) gets stranded on an island with Cucuruz Doan (Shunsuke Takeuchi and Mike Smith), a wanted Zeon deserter taking care of orphans, while Amuro's fellow soldiers on the White Base have to figure out how to save him.

As you might expect from a half-hour TV episode extended into a feature film, it's pretty straightforward and easy to follow, but here's a guide to what happens in the end and how the story fits into the greater "Gundam" narrative. Note that any direct quotations included in the article come from the English dub translation.

The White Base disobeys orders

In "Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island," the crew of the White Base is torn between following orders and doing what it can to locate and rescue Amuro and the RX-78-02 Gundam on the island of Alegranza. Direct Federation orders to return to the naval base in Belfast would seem to put a rescue mission on the back-burner, and the soldiers know they run the risk of being court-martialed if they choose to disobey these orders.

Lt. Sleggar Law (Tomofumi Ikezoe and Eliah Mountjoy), however, boldly decides he's willing to face those consequences if it means saving his crew's star pilot and its valuable and powerful weapon. Pilots Kai Shiden (Toshio Furukawa and Kevin T. Collins) and Hayato Kobayashi (Hideki Nakanishi and Kyle McCarley) join to pilot Mobile Suits along with him. Since the Gunperry can only carry two Mobile Suits, Sayla Mass (Megumi Han and Colleen O'Shaughnessey) agrees to fly the Core Booster to carry Sleggar in the RGM-79 GM — despite Sleggar's exceedingly crude, slap-worthy innuendos about "riding" her.

Ultimately, the whole crew of White Base ends up helping with the rescue mission. Even the newly promoted Lt. Cmdr. Bright Noa (Ken Narita and Christopher Smith) helps buy time by continually lying to his superiors with excuses about why the White Base can't fly out as commanded. These excuses offer some comic relief, but the stress increases when it's discovered Zeon ships are also heading to Alegranza.

Fixing the lighthouse

Doan, Cara (Fu Hirohara and Kimberly Woods), and the war orphans they care for live in a lighthouse on Alegranza in the Canary Islands (said lighthouse exists in real life). The lighthouse would be an ideal beacon for Amuro to make his location known — if only the lights actually worked. Generating electricity isn't the problem at hand, since the lighthouse is equipped with plenty of solar panels. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a battery around to make this electricity useable for the building.

The solution to this problem turns out to be a lot simpler than it might seem: Amuro quickly finds a working battery after opening a storage closet of Doan's he was told specifically not to look into. The kids are overjoyed to have the power back on (they can finally use the fridge to make ice cream!). Doan is decidedly less pleased when he comes back to see the lights on. While sabotaging the power the way he did may have been dishonest, Doan has good reason to want to stay hidden.

Would Amuro side with Doan?

Depending on your perspective, it's either awfully convenient or extremely inconvenient timing that just after Amuro turns the lighthouse on, both the Federation and Zeon ships arrive at the island. Zeon is bad news for everyone, but Amuro and Doan have very different views on what the Federation ships mean. For Amuro, it's a rescue. For Doan and the orphans, however, it's more soldiers — and they've made it clear they hate all soldiers, regardless of allegiance.

Doan is prepared to use his Zaku to fight off all the invaders and invites the eldest orphan boy, Marcos (Yūma Uchida and Paul Castro Jr.), to fight with him. Amuro, who knows that Doan has been holding his Gundam in a hidden base beneath the island, volunteers to join them. Doan, however, asks a pointed question: "Could you fight on behalf of these kids, to protect them even against your own comrades?"

The question leaves Amuro challenged. The war between the Federation and Zeon is not one of "good guys vs. bad guys" but rather two sides of varying degrees of badness that nonetheless have some good people fighting for them. Amuro sees his direct comrades on the White Base as being good people, but he decides he would fight them if he had to, accepting the challenge and making the decision to follow Doan.

White Base vs. Zeon

Sure enough, the simultaneous arrival of the White Base soldiers from the Federation and the Zeon Southern Cross Corps special mission results in the first of three major battles in the film's third act. This battle starts off in the air, with mobile suits either riding or hanging from ships trying to shoot each other down. The Zaku pilots escape by dropping down into the water, but two of the Zeon ships get shot down by Sleggar in his RGM-79 GM.

While Sleggar is still in the air, the other Federation pilots are getting overwhelmed on the ground by the Zeon Zakus. Sayla has to do a crash landing, breaking the head off Sleggar's GM. Hayato escapes from his Mobile Suit before it blows up, while Kai's RX-77 Guncannon gets its legs cut off. Things are looking bleak for the White Base team until another party enters the fight.

Doan vs. Zeon

The battle between the Federation and Zeon soldiers gets cut off when another party arrives: Doan in his Zaku. This comes as a shock to the Zeon forces, who weren't sure if the infamous deserter Doan was even alive. Doan warns them he doesn't want to fight, but Egba Atler (Atsushi Miyauchi and Gianni Matragrano), his former commander, specifically wants him dead, and so the next big fight scene begins.

Doan is basically a one-man army, effortlessly dodging attacks from even High-Mobility Zaku units. Danan Rashica (Yuu Hayashi and Andrew Kishino), the Southern Cross soldier with that weird newt tattoo on his cheek, is so thrilled to be fighting Doan that he doesn't even get angry when the legendary fighter kills him. Selma Livens (Shizuka Itou and Dawn M. Bennett), the one woman among the Southern Cross crew, questions Doan why he's gone on this path as her Zaku explodes. Egba is the last fighter standing and relishes the fact that it's now his "turn" to get revenge against Doan.

Amuro retrieves the Gundam

While the Federation vs. Zeon battle is happening, Amuro, Marcos, and Doan swim to the secret base beneath the island. Amuro passes out along the way, and Doan leaves with his Zaku for his own battle, but Marcos is thankfully there to make sure Amuro is able to wake up and retrieve his Gundam. This retrieval mission requires stealth, as two of Southern Cross Zaku pilots, Yun Sanho (Koji Yusa and Nicholas Andrew Louie) and Wald Ren (Yōji Ueda and Crispin Freeman), have also made it to the secret base.

Once Amuro gets in the RX-78-02, he's able to kill both of these enemy fighters. Yun dies inside his Zaku as Amuro stabs it with the Gundam's beam saber. Wald, who isn't in a Zaku, faces the even crueler fate of being stepped on by the Gundam. These deaths are played for horror; Amuro's own discomfort is highlighted both during and after these kills. Flashbacks earlier in the film to Amuro's uncomfortable reunion with his anti-war mother (Kaho Kouda and Larissa Gallagher) — from Episode 13 of the original series — only emphasize the themes of war making monsters of everyone involved.

Catching Blanca the goat

In the midst of all the "horrors of war" business, "Cucuruz Doan's Island" still makes some time for some more lighthearted moments. The orphans going into the basement to hide from the fighting starts off seemingly an intense moment, but once Blanca the goat starts running away, it becomes a weird bit of comic relief, with jaunty music playing as the kids run after the disobedient animal.

The sillier tone continues with the slapstick beats of Kai falling face-first out of the Guncannon, only to see the prancing goat over the horizon as one of his first sights. The goat beats the crap out of the Federation pilots. This wackiness does serve an actual narrative purpose, however: the orphans searching for the goat end up meeting the White Base team.

The orphans might be raised to hate all soldiers, and Kai recognizes them as the same kids who threw rocks at his Guncannon in the film's opening sequence, but their shared connection with Amuro becomes a force to unite the two different groups. The orphans and Cara agree to help the White Base team find Amuro.

Amuro saves Doan

As their Zaku battle heats up, Egba chases Doan into the crater of the island's volcano. When they make their way to the crater, the orphans excitedly root for Doan, while Cara is wisely more afraid for him. This fear proves fully justified when Egba slices the hand off Doan's Zaku with his beam saber. Egba is ready to deliver a final killing blow, with Doan unable to do any real attacks beyond throwing rocks at the enemy Zaku. But just as Egba is screaming "PREPARE TO DIE," a surprise fighter shows up shooting at him: Amuro in the RX-78-02 Gundam!

Thus begins the film's final big battle, with the Gundam showing up triumphant at the edge of the crater and slowly approaching the Zaku while wielding dual beam sabers. The movements of the Gundam are cool and controlled compared to Egba's more chaotic piloting of the Zaku.

The fight takes the two Mobile Suits to the edge of the island's cliffside. Gravity would probably be enough to defeat the Southern Cross pilot, but Amuro doubles the damage by slicing into the Zaku with his beam sabers just before it falls off the cliff, resulting in the Zaku exploding halfway through its dramatic fall to doom.

One final threat: six nuclear missiles

All of the Southern Cross forces that invaded Alegranza might be dead, but that doesn't mean the Federation can celebrate just yet. Before he died, Yun activated the rocket launcher in the secret base beneath the island, and the timer goes off just after Amuro's defeat of Egba. Suddenly, a giant rocket launches out from the ground, which splits open after it flies above the atmosphere and releases the six nuclear warheads to fly out on their separate paths.

Federation ships try to shoot the missiles down, but they're unable to lock onto the targets. It seems hopeless ... until the missiles start to explode out in space, one after the other. To the orphans down on the island, the explosions end up looking like they're shooting stars. Cara speculates that the failure of these missiles to hit their intended targets has to have been the big secret project with Doan was working on. Inside his Zaku, Doan shows a look of satisfaction, confirming that his sabotage is responsible for saving millions if not billions of lives from Zeon's cruel plan.

The missile subplot is original to the movie and not part of the original "Mobile Suit Gundam" Episode 15. The added stakes help expand the story into something more cinematic and worthy of the extended length, as well as giving Doan an additional moment of heroism as opposed to the TV story focusing primarily on Amuro saving everyone.

Is Paris burning?

"Mobile Suit Gundam" was never subtle about comparing the corrupt leadership of Zeon to the Nazis, with Ghiren Zabi directly connected to Hitler. Those Hitler comparisons become a significant part of several scenes from the missile subplot of the "Cucuruz Doan's Island" movie, in which Col. M'Quve (Takumi Yamazaki and Ezra Weisz) makes direct threats to destroy multiple Earth cities if the Federation doesn't cut off its current planned attack against Zeon.

In a video conference between M'Quve and Federation leaders, this is directly compared to Hitler's plan to burn down Paris. Though the accuracy of the story is debatable, the "Gundam" characters bring up the story of Hitler asking, "Is Paris burning?" only to find out the city was spared by a disobedient general unwilling to destroy the city's rich cultural treasures. Early in the movie, M'Quve claims he has no such traitors under his command.

Of course, M'Quve wasn't counting on Doan, one of Zeon's strongest and most heroic traitors, being situated on the same island where the nuclear missiles were being held. In the end, those "Is Paris burning?" quips prove to be yet another case of history repeating itself: Just as Paris was supposedly spared due to men disobeying orders to protect civilization, so too was the world spared from nuclear annihilation in the Universal Century Year 0079 due to a disobedient hero.

Freeing Doan of the smell of war

After all the big crises of the day have been resolved, Amuro has a proper tearful reunion with his crewmates, in particular his childhood friend Fraw Bow (Misato Fukuen and Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld), to whom he apologizes for making her worry. Marcos acknowledges Amuro's strength, while the other orphans celebrate that Doan made it out of the battle alive and well. One of the kids claims to "not be scared of war anymore" after this victory, but Doan warns them that they should still be scared of war. War is indeed scary — and it's something Doan needs to free himself from.

Amuro tells Doan, "The smell of war is still there clinging onto you, and it's what keeps drawing the battle to you." The young Gundam pilot offers to help "remove" this smell from Doan, which in practice means using the Gundam to lift up Doan's Zaku and throw it deep into the ocean. The kids are confused, with some of them crying, but Doan assures them that this was the right thing to do. The White Base finally takes off for Belfast, and the film ends with the kids watching the giant ship fly above the island.

What happens next in the series

So how much do the events of "Cucuruz Doan's Island" actually end up mattering for the greater "Mobile Suit Gundam" narrative? Not much, really. There's a reason all the official international releases of "Mobile Suit Gundam" have been able to get away with skipping the original episode: Like many of the show's episodes in this arc, it's basically a stand-alone story.

This film adaptation specifically does a good job reflecting the series' main themes about the horrors and moral ambiguities of war, as well as fitting with Amuro's character development up to this point, but if you skipped it, you wouldn't miss any big or new developments. "Mobile Suit Gundam" Episode 16, "Sayla's Agony," directly follows it in continuity and is an unrelated story about Sayla trying to learn if she's related to Char Aznable (the fan-favorite villain who doesn't appear in this film outside of a voice cameo, played by Shūichi Ikeda and Keith Silverstein) ... and also salt. The White Base needs salt, and it eventually finds salt.

Doan himself is never seen in any subsequent "Gundam" stories, so you can choose to see him as one of the relatively few former soldiers in the Universal Century timeline to live happily ever after. For those who want more of his character, however, there is the "Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin MSD: Cucuruz Doan's Island" manga written by Junji Ohno, with character designs by Tsukasa Kotobuki and mechanical designs by Hajime Katoki. As of this writing, the manga has only been released in Japanese.