|“||I'm gonna teach you that your mobile suit has its limits my friend, when it goes up against the Red Comet.||„|
|~ Char Aznable|
Char Aznable, born Casval Rem Deikun and commonly known by the nickname "The Red Comet", is the most prominent villain from the Universal Century (UC) timeline of the Gundam anime franchise. He is best known for being the eternal arch-nemesis of the original Gundam pilot, Amuro Ray.
One of the Principality of Zeon's most top feared mobile suit ace pilots, Char is actually the son of Zeon Zum Deikun, the true founder of the Republic of Zeon, and is thus the true heir of Zeon. His nickname "The Red Comet" stems from the personal trademark colors of his customized red mobile suit, and his ruthless high-speed attack tactics, with him notably destroying five Federation Magellan-class battleships at the Battle of Loum.
Char's role throughout the Gundam universe varies from different series. In Mobile Suit Gundam, he is one of the main antagonists of the series, clashing repeatedly with Amuro Ray and the White Base crew time and time again, all while carrying his own hidden agenda of revenge on the Zabi family. In Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Char becomes somewhat of an anti-heroic figure, helping to co-found the AEUG (Anti-Earth Union Group) resistance movement and later becomes one of its leading members under the alias Quattro Bajeena, fighting alongside many of his former adversaries (including his archenemy Amuro Ray) against the Earth Federation's corrupt Titans task force and briefly the re-emerging Axis Zeon movement.
However, by the time of the movie Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, Char declares himself supreme leader of Neo-Zeon and becomes the main antagonist of the film, seeking to achieve his father's dreams of emigrating all of humanity into space by dropping asteroids onto Earth, and to settle his score with his nemesis, Amuro Ray, by fighting against him in a mobile suit duel for the last time.
He is voiced by Shuichi Ikeda. In the English dubbed version of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime and of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, he is voiced by Michael Kopsa. In the English dubbed version of the compilation movies for the anime, he is voiced by Steve Blum. In the English dubbed version for Zeta Gundam, he is voiced by Tom Edwards.
Char is a mysterious figure whose charisma makes it easy for him to command respect and obedience from his subordinates. His charisma and skill at acting also helps him mask his underlying intentions and vengeful nature, as Char is someone who does not let go of grudges easily. He is shown to hold grudges for a very long time and is ruthless in his pursuit of them, having plotted revenge on the Zabi Family for years for supposedly killing his father. His skill at acting also makes it easy for him to get close to his targets, he was able to pretend to be Garma's friend for years in order to get close enough to him in order to betray and see to his death. In that respect, Char is less of a long-term manipulator and more of an opportunist who waits for the right moment to strike. In addition to his desire for revenge on the Zabi Family, Char also develops a rivalry with the pilot of the RX-78-2 Gundam Amuro Ray which eventually blossoms into a deep enmity between the two after the death of Lalah Sune.
By the time of the One Year War, Char seems to have developed difficulty in empathizing with others. Though he feigns care for his men early on, towards the end of the war Char is revealed to view them as little more than tools as he drops the facade and stops pretending to mourn their deaths, instead being more concerned with the resources lost when one of them is shot down. While Char does have people he genuinely cares for, such as his sister and Lalah Sune, his incapacity to empathize often leads to him manipulating and mistreating them, such as when he handed Lalah over to the Flanagan Institute for testing that drove her insane. Despite this, Char seems incapable of admitting any fault and when Lalah sacrifices herself to block Char from an attack from Amuro, Char casts the blame entirely on Amuro and refuses to admit that his conditioning of Lalah is what led to her doing that.
During the Gryps War, Char's personality seems to have softened following the end of the One Year War, as he takes a more benevolent role as one of the leading members of the Anti-Earth Union Group. He is shown to treat his men better and acts as a mentor figure to the pilot of the Gundam Mk II, Kamille Bidan. While he is now working alongside many of his former enemies in the One Year War, Char shows little difficulty in cooperating with them. While he and Amuro still both bear their grudges against each other from the One Yer War, they are able to suppress them in favor of fighting against the common enemy they have in the Titans. Also, despite his vendetta against the Zabi family in the One Year Char, Char is shown to have genuinely cared for Mineva Lao Zabi during the time he spent at Axis prior to joining the AEUG and was disgusted when he saw that Haman Karn was using her as a figurehead. In addition, Char seems to have become more of a believer in his father's ideals and is shown reiterate that humanity should move out into space several times, though whether this is because Char genuinely believes in it or is just using it for his own ends is not stated.
While his piloting skills are shown to have diminished from the One Year War, one skill Char retains from his service in the Zeon military is his charisma. When the AEUG crashed the Earth Federation Assembly in Dakar, Char was able to deliver a speech convincing the Assembly members of the AEUG's good intentions and of the Titans' tyranny, in part aided by the Titans crashing the meeting and trying to kill the nonviolent AEUG members. However, in spite of becoming more heroic and selfless, Char is still unable to fully empathize with others, which leads to him alienating several of his allies, such as Reccoa Londe. At the end of the series, out of possible remorse for his past actions, Char attempts a suicide attack on Haman Karn that fails and leaves both of them alive. During the First Neo Zeon War, Char went into hiding out in space and was not seen for the majority of the conflict.
By the time Char resurfaces in the Second Neo Zeon War, he is shown to have become noticeably more unhinged, displaying signs of mental illness and a glaring lack of regard for the lives and feelings of others. Char still retains his charisma and manipulative nature, able to rally Neo Zeon into believing that rendering the Earth inhospitable in necessary in order to fulfill the Zeon ideal, though he is shown to have become more deluded and nihilistic, with his focus being almost entirely on fighting and settling his score with his nemesis, Amuro Ray. Despite this, Char is shown to still value having a fair fight with his arch-enemy, leaking the psycoframe schematics to him for him to modify his Gundam with so they can fight on equal fighting. Ironically, Char also shares a number of similarities with Gihren Zabi at this point, being a dictator who preaches a master race philosophy revolving around Spacenoids and uses colony drops as a military tactic, despite Char's previous vendetta against the Zabi family for corrupting the Zeon rhetoric for their own ends. During his final battle against Amuro however, Char would imply that he does not actually care about fulfilling the Zeon ideology and instigated the entire conflict simply as an excuse to have a final confrontation with Amuro. Though the conflict cost the lives of millions, the loss of Kamille and everyone else he cared for seems to have deluded Char or made him apathetic to the fallout from his actions and instead solely focused on settling his rivalry with Amuro.
- Although the English dub of Mobile Suit Gundam is pulled before it could complete its run on Cartoon Network, Char Aznable was voted 6th place in Toonami's second "New Year's Evil" poll in 2001, leading the final episode of Mobile Suit Gundam to be aired that December.
- Char is as popular in Japan as Darth Vader is in the west, with most, even those who have not even seen Gundam, having some idea of who he is.
- Char's popularity as an iconic character has led to numerous analogous characters sharing his traits in later Gundam works, termed "Char Clones" by the fans. These include Jerid Messa, Carozzo "Iron Mask" Ronah, Cronicle Asher, Master Asia, Zechs Merquise, Rau Le Creuset, Neo Roanoke, Graham Aker and McGillis Fareed.
- Char's name is a reference to the French singer and songwriter Charles Aznavour.
- While Char himself has spawned many characters copying him, he ironically was based on Prince Sharkin from Yoshiyuki Tomino's earlier giant robot series Raideen.
- He was also partially based on Darth Vader from the Star Wars franchise.
- Char is also partially based on Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron". Aside from the similar nicknames, both were ace pilots known for their customized red vehicles.
- Bandai has capitalized on Char's popularity by licensing out his name to various products. There has been a Char-custom laptop, Char-custom Nintendo Gamecube, and a Char-custom motorbike helmet. All these products have a red satin finish, and have the goldleaf Zeon insignia or the emblem of Char's Neo Zeon emblazoned on them. A Char-custom Game Boy Advance SP was also created in Japan.
- In a planned spaceflight for 2006, Soyuz TMA-9, a Japanese internet investor named Daisuke Enomoto had asked to dress up as Char Aznable. However, medical restrictions prevented him from participating in the flight.
- On July 25, 2006, GE Consumer Finance released a Char Custom credit card, which receives three times as many bonus points per 1000 yen spent compared to their other Gundam-related credit cards
- Toyota also formed a branch called Zeonic Toyota planning to issue a series of special cars, the first one being Char Aznable special Auris.
- Char has also been parodied and referenced in many other works of anime and manga.
- The second-season opening of the anime Genshiken is also a parody of Gundam, featuring the character Harunobu Madarame dressed in Char's uniform and helmet.
- In the manga Air Gear, many storm rider helmets are derived from mobile suit designs, and in one occasion showing Char's helmet.
- In Zoids: New Century Zero, Naomi Fluegel also uses the alias "Red Comet".
- An episode of School Rumble features an extended Gundam parody, most notably introducing a character named Harry McKenzie. Harry is modelled after Char, including his appearance (highly similar to Char's Quattro persona), sunglasses, penchant for wearing red, and ownership of a red motorcycle with the kanji "Hyaku" (from the MSN-00100 Hyaku Shiki). Harry is friends with Tougou Masakazu, who resembles a younger Anavel Gato and shares Gato's penchant for rousing speeches.
- In a sequence in episode 46 of Gintama, Umibouzu is seen talking to Char and then seen leading a Zeon rally alongside Char.
- In Gintama Live Action, a middle aged Char has been taking his red Zaku to be repaired at Gengai's shop. The protagonist Gintoki and Char then exchanged multiple Gundam references as Gintoki begged to borrow his Zaku to defeat his enemies.
- In the live-action adaptation of Hana-Kimi, a character named Sekime Kyōgo is apparently dressed up as Char to help woo the girl who is the target of his affections. The cosplay ploy is a success as the girl is a Gundam fan and considers Char to be a really cool character.
- In an episode of the anime Urusei Yatsura, the character Perm is dressed as Char in a costume party; there is also a character wearing a blue Zaku mask.
- In the xxxholic manga series by CLAMP, a visual reference to the Red Comet title is made, with the character of Mokona depicted with an ornamental head piece similar to Sazabi, stating that he can drink "3 times as much".
- Detective Conan character, Akai Shuichi, was named by combining Char's alias "Red Comet" (赤い・彗星 Akai Suisei?) with actor Shuichi Ikeda's name who voiced both characters. Akai's alias Moroboshi Dai also comes from Char's birth name Casval Rem Deikun (which sounds like Dai-kun) and Moroboshi can also means falling star, another reference to Red Comet. Akai's other persona, Okiya Subaru, was named after japanese reading of Casval (kyasubaru). In addition, Akai's rival Rei Furuya's names and alter egos were named after Toru Furuya, who voices Amuro Ray.
Principality of Zeon