Here we are in the desert sands of Zi once more, readers! This will be the last Zoids post I do for a while; I plan on writing at least a couple more before the year is out, since I want to make good on my promise from this review of Chaotic Century. The main thing is that the ball is rolling on this project, and that means I should be able to keep it moving forward.
So without further ado, let’s turn to today’s Spotlight! Here we focus on the mercenary Irvine, whom we first meet when Van and Fiona become lost in a sandstorm while searching for supplies. Seconds after coming face-to-face with the Irvine’s Command Wolf, Fiona and Van take an automatic step back out of surprise.
For Fiona, this is a bad move, since she ends up in a quicksand whirlpool and is nearly sucked under the dunes. Without a moment’s hesitation, Irvine pops the canopy on his Wolf and fires out a cable which he holds anchored, allowing Fiona to climb to safety. He then makes dinner for the two as night falls, listening to Van’s open, friendly prattle but saying little about himself in return.
Later, we find that Irvine wants to acquire an organoid so he can increase his fighting ability and strength. Setting his sights on Zeke, his first attempt at capturing Van’s friend ends in a two-on-one draw; this forces Irvine to retreat to fight another day. In the next two episodes he reappears, first as an unlikely (and disagreeable) ally in “The Protectors,” then again as a potential antagonist who becomes a fellow fighter in “Sleeper Trap.” He finally joins Van, Fiona, and Moonbay as a permanent member of the cast in the eighth episode.
While it appears that it is circumstances alone force Irvine into the position of collaborator for Van, these are not the only reason why he begins traveling with the boy. Despite his reluctance to admit it, he likes the kid. This is made clearest by his early kindess to Van and Fiona. It is totally unnecessary, after all; Irvine didn’t need to help them when he ran into them in the sandstorm. But he chose to do so, showing that he is not a villain at heart.
In terms of personality, Irvine begins the series as the voice of experience and temperance in battle. A sniper and an expert in all forms of stealth, he prefers saving his energy and using sleight-of-hand maneuvers to defeat the many enemies who go after him and his friends. Since he has hired himself out as an expendable target for some time, Irvine is well aware of what it takes to survive, and he does his best to drive this point home to Van and the others during the early installments of the series. His attitude during this time is often reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s “spaghetti Western” characters; Irvine is just too cool to blow his lid or charge off half-cocked.
But that’s in the first part of the series. From about the middle of season one onward, Irvine starts to show some of the traits viewers expect out of Star Wars’ Han Solo. In the second season these qualities become more pronounced, all but smothering his resemblance to Clint Eastwood. During the second season Irvine will rush into battle recklessly or cockily, something he often chided Van for at the beginning of the show.
This change in attitude could be due to the fact that Van quickly surpasses Irvine in skill, but it is hard to say for sure. It is possible that, once the boy no longer needs his enthusiasm checked, Irvine feels better about giving his own “wild side” more rein. This tends to cost him, as seen when Irvine banks on being faster than Raven’s new zoid which is large, heavy, and bulky. As he learns too late, this does not limit Raven’s speed at all. During the resulting fight, Irvine is injured badly while his Command Wolf is physically killed.
If he had held back this defeat might have been prevented, though it is likely that the Wolf would have been seized and destroyed regardless. Either way, Irvine’s foolhardy rush at Raven shows that he does have a tendency to leap before he looks, just as Han does. It seems he kept this facet of his personality under better control when he was responsible for protecting and giving preliminary combat training to Van. Upon the other’s graduation to full-fledged pilot, however, he seems to have felt he could relax his own guard and show off a bit more than was necessary – or safe – for him.
This leads us, neatly enough, into a discussion of his piloting skills. Clearly, when they first meet, Irvine is Van’s superior in combat, meaning he can defeat the boy easily. As time passes and the boy’s skill grows, though, he begins to outshine Irvine during the battles where they fight together against a common foe. While the mercenary’s piloting abilities continue to develop as the series progresses, they never again exceed his friend’s level of prowess. A born sharpshooter, Irvine’s talents are accented and sharpened when he becomes the pilot and owner of the Empire’s prototype Lightning Saix. Combining his accuracy with the zoid’s speed gives him a distinct advantage in combat that he does not hesitate to use.
In terms of his relationships within the series, Irvine quickly becomes attached to Van in an older brotherly fashion. Though he states at first that he is only traveling with the boy and his friends in order to steal Zeke, this is a thinly veiled excuse he uses to keep the others from pestering him. The simple fact is that Van’s innate goodness reawakens Irvine’s own desire to be the best person he can become. Eventually, Irvine drops all pretense of staying on just to find an opportunity to take Zeke. He stays because he knows that Van “is a pretty good kid” who is going to, somehow, someway, make a difference in the world. And that’s an adventure the older man doesn’t want to miss out on.
Now, you may remember that in my post about Fiona that there was some mention of nostalgia being a factor in Irvine’s relationship with her. This is because, as revealed in the episode “Run, Wolf!” that he is not an only child. He had a younger sister named Helena, but she died of a fever when they were both young. “Run, Wolf!” shows that Irvine never really got over this loss. It also hints that losing his sister may have been one of the driving factors in his decision to become a zoid pilot: he wanted to become stronger in order to prevent as many such losses in the future as it is humanly possible to do.
This leads me to the conclusion that Irvine’s near-instant attachment to Fiona comes from the fact that she reminds him, to some degree, of his baby sister. His protective, caring, and gentle attitude toward her, along with his unwillingness to hurt her or see her be hurt (even when he is playing the bad guy) implies this is true. Their relationship does not change when Fiona becomes an adult. Although he may raise his voice when speaking to her, Irvine never says or does anything which could be seen as the slightest bit harmful to Fiona.
Another aspect of their relationship is shown here as well; when Fiona reaches adulthood in the second half of Century, she demonstrates that she still possesses a certain power over the mercenary. This is made blatantly clear in “The Black Lightning,” when Fiona begs Irvine to let another character attempt to save his Command Wolf. Though he clenches his fist in frustration, pain, and anger, Irvine does not – he will not – allow himselt threaten or hurt Fiona. She still knows exactly which buttons to push to make him listen to reason and to her, but she does not over-rely on this ability. Neither, it should be noted, does she abuse her power over him, something she could definitely accomplish if she chose to try it.
Finally, we come to Irvine’s relationship with Moonbay. Having met her prior to the beginning of Chaotic Century, it is hinted that the two had a fairly memorable encounter. What it was is anyone’s guess, though, since the two only make brief allusions to this meeting in “Sleeper Trap.” After this show, it is never mentioned again. But while the two do a regular amount of good-natured, half-serious flirting during the series, I think it unlikely their first meeting was of a romantic nature.
This goes for their relationship overall; the writers for the show leave the question of mutual attraction between Irvine and Moonbay openended from beginning to end. Whether they were, are, or will become a couple is a question that is never answered. It is up to the individual viewer to decide, at the end of the series, whether they go their separate ways or tie the knot and stay together for the rest of their lives. (Because I am a romantic sap, I subscribe to the latter theory – although I could imagine them not marrying. That image is disappointing, though, so I don’t dwell on it much.)
While the two butt heads on occasion, for the most part they each act as Van and Fiona’s surrogate parents for the first half of the series. They also show a good bit of concern for each other and are able to talk candidly about their fears for/pride in the two kids they take on as pupils or surrogate children. Throughout the show they remain completely honest and upfront with one another – even when saying something the other does not want to hear.
No description of Irvine’s character would be comprehensive if it did not mention how he felt about zoids. Up until the episode “Deploy the ZG!”, Irvine seems to consider most zoids as nothing more than tools or weapons of war. The possible exception during this period might be his Command Wolf; as I said before (somewhere), the relationship between a pilot and his zoid is reminiscent of the bond between a cowboy and his horse. Where everyone else sees just another mechanical animal/stallion, the pilot/cowboy sees his best friend.
This means that Irvine’s attitude toward zoids in general and his Command Wolf in particular undergoes a drastic change in “Deploy the ZG!”. Having snuck into the Republican base at Mount Osa in order to steal some equipment to do battle with Raven, Irvine discovers the base’s last, best weapon against the Imperial Army. This is a Gojulas – the “ZG” from the title – which the soldiers within Mt. Osa managed to cobble together in a last ditch effort to prevent the Imperials from taking over their capital city.
Now, the Republic did have other Gojulases in their arsenal. But since these zoids are fearsome, hard-to-overcome tanks, it appears that most were kept in the Republic’s capital as the ultimate, final means of defense for the Republic’s citizens. There were very few Gojulases on the front lines of the war at the beginning of the series.
So Irvine, who had never seen a Gojulas up close and personal, was awestruck when he stumbled on the one stored in the Mt. Osa base. That is where Colonel Kruger (more about him another day – I promise!) found Irvine and scolded him for losing his last battle with Raven. Immediately, the younger mercenary rounded on the man, but Kruger managed to calm him down by comparing his current attitude with the look of awe and excitement he had shown when he “first laid eyes on the Gojulas.” Kruger went on to give a memorable speech about zoids, which I have paraphrased and reused in my previous posts on this series because it explains the wonder of these mechanical animals so well.
Although his meeting with Kruger was brief, Irvine clearly took the old man’s words to heart, and revered him as a valuable teacher and fighter in later episodes. From “Deploy the ZG!” onward, the mercenary never again considers zoids to be mere machines. Instead he learns to see them the way that Van does. And after this episode, Irvine became as protective of his Command Wolf and his Lightning Saix as Han was of the Millennium Falcon.
If you get the chance, check out Irvine and the rest of the gang by either picking up the series on DVD through Amazon, or swing by www.watchcartoonsonline.com to learn all about zoids yourselves, because now I must keep my promise and “see you on the battlefield” another day.
Until then, “Catch ya later!” 😉