Iron Blooded Orphans: Alaya-Vijnana make better Newtype


Ach ja, about three weeks ago, I made a video about Gundam Unicorn and how its Laplace’s Box is, like, really good. I spend a good chunk of the video detailing what a Newtype is, simply because the concept is inseparable to the Laplace’s Box. What I also did, while not originally planned, was lowkey criticising the original Gundam’s use of the Newtype. And while I think my opinion on it was rather clear, let’s say the quit part out loud… very loud: The use of Newtype in the original Gundam is shit. Literal trash. Garbagio. There absolutely is an angle of “missed potential” or just uncertainty in the way of giving it meaning, but beyond that? Again, what even is a Newtype?

I tried to stay with the more diegetic reasoning behind the Newtype. What is the in-universe reasoning and what meaning can we extract from that?.. something I ultimately fail to be able to do so. Either I am (a) simply too cognitively challenged or (b)… the original Gundam might not be that good. We already know (a) to be true, so let’s look at the possibility of (b).
From a non-diegetic perspective, the Newtype look like a very easy to spot plot device for both the writer, as well as the viewer. Why can Amuro pilot the Gundam? Sure, he is a hobbyist mechanic and read the manual, but everything beyond starting the Gundam should be impossible. Solution, make him an Ubermensch. Why do all the important characters survive great odds, despite most not being that much better equipped? Solution, just make them better. How to make only a few characters important, despite the grand scale of the war. Simply justify a reason for their unproportionable importance. Want a character to defeat a whole army. Baaam, the Newtype makes it all possible.
Instead through certain characters values, Gundam goes the way of presenting its themes through the lens of a Newtype and making a Newtype represent those values. While not inherently bad, it causes problems when those values are not that clear or contradictory or barely comprehensible or the viewer gave up a long time ago by the sheer amount of not being able to care.
Whatever the purpose of the Newtype is, or if there even is one to begin with beyond the use as a plot device, your guess is as good as mine. It is not good and with some bad faith argumentation even problematic: “So, you are saying there is an objectively better race of people that would solve the worlds problems, but the big evil government tries to undermine their existence?”… honestly, the right-wing propaganda and conspiracy writes itself at this point.
Gundam may not be about the Newtype, but they sure are a part of it. I doubt many see the Newtype as inherently bad and there is a strong argument against a negative reading of the Newtype, aka. the entire plot, but it is that tactlessness, that even anime like Attack on Titan fall victim to. Carelessness may be reason, but definitely no justification.

Enter Iron-Blooded Orphans and the Alaya-Vijnana-System. Unlike Newtype, the Alaya-Vijnana-System is actually rather easy to explain, since it is a piece of technology and no… metaphysical something. The Alaya-Vijnana-System is a kind of human-computer interface, essentially giving one the edge as a pilot. It makes you more aware of your surrounding, increases your reaction time and so on, similar to the physical aspects of Newtype. And that’s basically it. It’s entire weight comes from the implication and use of that technology.

The Alaya-Vijnana-System initially found its use in the Calamity War, where pilots had to undergo the surgery so they could pilot the Gundam Frames to defeat the Mobile Armors. This technology was later forbidden, as Gjallarhorn were not that keen on human enhancements and more on the purist side of the humanity scale. 300 years later and we see the Alaya-Vijnana-System in use, as almost every character we follow has one. Tekkadan are child soldiers, who underwent the surgery to join CGS, a para-military organization willing to employ children. Now, that alone is already quite simple to read. Children being forced to get a surgery and then fighting a war they have no stakes in is obviously bad. But wait, there is more. The Alaya-Vijnana-System is created by injecting the top of the spine with nano-machines, resulting in the formations of spike-like tubes. Success of the operation lies at 60%. To make it a bit more cruel, the children are incentivized to perform the surgery several times, as more of those so called “whiskers” lead to better pilot capabilities… also, basically only children can undergo the process… also also those children are basically forced into it, as they barely understand the process, also also also some are literally literally forced to do so, as seen with the “Human Debris”, slave children used as canon fodder, who are seen having two whiskers. Then, there is Mikazuki with three of them.

The Alaya-Vijnana-System is not a good thing, so much should be clear, but it is the way it is used, that really nails the point home. Those children are basically reduced to human weapons, stripped from their humanity. Their whole purpose is to fight with no other alternative in sight. They have no future. And here is where the strenth of its meaning comes from. It is tragic, undoubtedly. At the same time, it is also really easy to see and understand. The Alaya-Vijnana-System is like being branded with everything bad in the world. Being a victim of poverty, of abusive adults, and politicians that do their best to make life worse for everyone else.

There is meaning behind it, and some quite effective one at that. By the end of episode 1, the Alaya-Vijnana-System has already trumped everything the Newtype was in the original. But wait, there is still more. To add to the tragedy and make things even more cruel, the Alaya-Vijnana-System can also paralyze you in an ironic manner, by taking away your abbility to move your own body, unless you are connected to the very same Alaya-Vijnana-System. There is a reacurring theme in the anime, that one is, at least by their own view, useless if one can’t fulfil their duty as a soldier. Those children don’t know anything besides fighting, so their self-worth is directly tied to it. Losing an arm and they wish they would have died instead. This gets extra clear with Mikazukis being happy that he doesn’t have to think of a life beyond the war, as by the end, he is now only useful as a weapon.

All this is framed in a very clear way. This whole situation is bad. Very bad. There is a character that frequently states just how fucked up the situation is those children have to deal with. And it is that clarity, that is so very welcome after the vagueness of the Newtype.

local_offer Gundam
folder Anime
calendar_today 2021