Degwin Sodo Zabi is the Sovereign of the Principality of Zeon and a major antagonist in Mobile Suit Gundam. He is the patriarch of the Zabi Family and the ruler of Zeon following Zeon Zum Deikun's demise, though he leaves most of day-to-day running of Zeon's political affairs and its front in the One Year War up to his children.
He was voiced by the late Ichirō Nagai and Jin Urayama in the Japanese version, and by Eric Schneider, Simon Isaacson and Marc Thompson in the English version.
He came to power in UC 0068 after the suspicious death of Zeon Zum Deikun. Degwin was Zeon's chief of staff and claimed that on his deathbed, Zeon, with his dying words, declared Degwin his successor. Degwin Zabi may be responsible for murdering Zeon Deikun, although there is no evidence to prove it.
Char Aznable believe that Degwin murdered his father and this lead to Char's revenge. Later, Char got his revenge on him by having Degwin's son Garma killed.
Gihren, Degwin's eldest son, initiated a purge of Deikun loyalists while Degwin Sodo Zabi declared Side 3 colony the Principality of Zeon and himself as Sovereign. He reluctantly initiated a war with the Earth Federation and set up his four children up in high-ranking positions. Degwin is also consumed by the intra-familial feuding between his ambitious children, most notably Gihren and his daughter Kycilia. Degwin never recovers from the death of his youngest and most unspoiled son, Garma. He falls victim into a depression since Garma was his favorite child, and leaves most of the day to day operations to Gihren. As a result, Gihren effectively becomes the self styled "Fuhrer" of Zeon, taking all of his father's remaining power, leaving Degwin as little more than a figurehead.
Although Gihren dismisses his father as a tired old man, Degwin does not hide his disgust for Gihren's ruthlessness. Never having any respect for Gihren's lofty ideals, Degwin once mocked his son by stating that he would never be Zeon's idea of a Newtype, but only a caricature of Adolf Hitler. And he anticipated that as with Hitler, Gihren's own followers would eventually want to kill him.
Although Degwin gives Gihren approval for the Solar Ray laser project, Degwin is genuinely tired of war (brought on mostly by Garma's death) and arranges for a meeting with General Revil to discuss peace negotiations. When the two sides' fleets arrive at the neutral area for discussion, Gihren arranges for an "accidental" firing of the Solar Ray laser that incinerates Degwin and Revil's respective flagships and much of their accompanying fleets.
Though he is the head of a brutal, autocratic dictatorship, Degwin is an affable and approachable elderly man who cares for his family and seeks to do what is best for the cause of Zeon. He is the one responsible for turning Side 3's government from a Republic to a Principality, seeing it as the best way to unify the Spacenoids under one banner. His children (with the exception of Gihren) all seem to greatly respect and look up to him, even his ambitious daughter Kycilia. Despite his friendly demeanor, Degwin seems to be willing to employ force to further the ideals of Zeon, being the one to instigate the One Year War (though Zeon's war effort was mainly driven by his son Gihren). He also may have been the one to cause Deikun's death as a means for his family to usurp power in Side 3, showing signs of a crafty side to him as well.
While a believer in the ideals of Spacenoid independence, he is wary of the scheming and ambitions of his children, particularly his eldest son Gihren Zabi, worrying for the destruction he might bring about. Despite these reservations, Degwin seems incapable or unwilling to intervene to stop his children's ambitions, instead silently allowing Gihren to take away more and more power from him and reduce him to nothing more than a figurehead for his own ideals.
By the end of the One Year War, the loss of his youngest son Garma causes Degwin to fall into depression and become fed up with the One Year War, leading him to sue for peace with the Federation.
- "Sodo" is not Degwin's middle name. In Japanese it is an honorific meaning "lord" or "leader". In English, it might translate as Degwin Lord Zabi. Similar to how British writer Lord Tennyson is referred to as Alfred, Lord Tennyson. All of his children have the same, for example, Gihren Sodo Zabi. Sometimes it is romanized as "Soto".
- In the novelization of Mobile Suit Gundam Degwin Zabi actually survives the entire war and is removed after the deaths of Gihren and Kycillia and the takeover by Char Aznable.
Principality of Zeon