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Many of your fathers and brothers have perished valiantly in the face of a contemptible enemy. We must never forget what the Federation has done to our people! My brother, Garma Zabi, have shown us these virtues through his own valiant sacrifice. By focusing our anger and sorrow, we are finally in a position where victory is within our grasp, and once again, our most cherished nation will flourish. Victory is the greatest tribute we can pay those who sacrifice their lives for us! Rise, our people, Rise! Take your sorrow, and turn it into anger! Zeon thirsts for the strength of its people! SIEG ZEON!
~ An excerpt from one of Gihren's speeches.
Gihren Zabi (in Japanese: ギレン・ザビ, Giren Zabi, also spelled Giren) is the primary antagonist of the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, as well as an overarching antagonist in several of its spin-off OVAs Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket and Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team.
One of the leaders of the Principality of Zeon, Gihren is the oldest son of Degwin Sodo Zabi, Sovereign of Zeon, and the instigator of the war with Earth. Gihren was gifted with a high IQ (240) and ingenious oratory abilities. He and his sister Kycilia were constantly at odds with each other as both had similar political goals but different methods.
Although Gihren was successful in reducing his father's role to that of a figurehead ruler, he still endured Degwin's criticisms and scorn. Degwin saw Gihren as little more than an updated version of historical dictator Adolf Hitler, a role that Gihren was all too happy to take to heart.
He was voiced by the veteran seiyu Banjo Ginga in the original Japanese version. In the English dubbed series and OVAs/film adaptations, he was voiced by Hiro Kanagawa and Doug Stone respectively.
With the death of Degwin's favorite son Garma Zabi in battle, Degwin withdraws from day to day duties as Zeon's leader which effectively made Gihren the leader of Zeon. Gihren later gave a speech at Garma's state funeral. This speech was notable for being the debut of the trademark salute "Sieg Zeon!" (literally translated as "Victorious Zeon").
In an effort to circumvent the Antarctic treaty (which forbade nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well as colony drops on Earth), Gihren launched his most ambitious project, the Solar Ray cannon. This consisted of a hollowed-out colony cylinder rebuilt into a giant carbon dioxide laser with the ability to destroy entire fleets. Gihren later learned that Degwin, tired of the war, decided to take his personal fleet to a designated area in space where he would meet the fleet of Earth Federation representative General Revil and discuss peace negotiations. Gihren arranged for a firing of the Solar Ray which destroyed Degwin and Revil's entire fleet. However, this may have cost Gihren one of his tactical advantages, as the aiming of the laser had to be toward a direction which can only destroy 1/3 of the EFSF fleet, instead of the most effective direction that can destroy 1/2. The laser had to be recharged and thus did not have the chance for a second firing before the EFSF decided to rush their attack, fearing the laser will wipe out their fleet if they delayed.
Kycilia eventually learns that the death of her father was no mere accident and personally executes Gihren for the crime of patricide. As a result, she takes over during Battle of A Baoa Qu, resulting in many Gihren loyalists withdrawing from the battlefield. However, the bulk of the withdrawal, including the Delaz fleet, left when the Dolos class ships sank, before she officially took over and announced Gihren's death. In the novelizations by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Gihren did arrange an aiming of the colony laser that killed many friendly forces but Degwin (who apparently survived the war) was not among them. Gihren, however, was still killed by Kycilia for his treachery.
Gihren's own father compared him to the real-life dictator Adolf Hitler, which may not be completely inaccurate. Like Hitler, Gihren appeared to believe in a "survival of the fittest" mentality and that the "Superior Race" should rule over the inferior ones (the superior race being Spacenoids from Side 3 and the inferior the Earthnoids). He also shared Hitler's gift for oratory and manipulation, taking the reins of power from his father behind the scenes the way Hitler did with the German president of his day. Unluckily for Gihren, he also had a number of Hitler's personality flaws, such as an over-reliance on miracle weapons to turn the tide against numerically superior foes. By this logic, the assorted super weapons such as the MA-08 Big Zam and Apsalus Project Mobile Armors can be seen as analogies of the V1 and V2 rocket bombs used by the Third Reich. Like Hitler, he also greatly overestimated the capability of his forces. This was shown during the final battle of the One Year War, when despite his claims of superiority his forces were overcome by those of the Federation.
We have lost a hero to our glorious and noble cause, but does this foreshadow our defeat? No. It is a new beginning. Compared to Earth Federation the military resources of Zeon is less than one thirtieth of theirs. Despite this major difference, how is it that we have been able to fight the fight for so long? It is because our goal in this war is a righteous one. It’s been over fifty years since the elite of the Federation, consumed by greed began a war against our blessed empire! Never forget the times when the Federation has trampled us! We, the blessed children of God almighty, have had a long and arduous struggle to achieve glory for our great nation. Our fight is sacred, our cause divine. The war is at a stalemate. Perhaps many of you have become complacent. The Federation has polluted our most cherished systems for merely the sake of their own greed! We must send them a message, but not composed of words. We have wasted too much time with words. We need action now. The Earth elite must be taught a strong lesson for their evil corruption. This is only the beginning of our war. We have been putting more and more money into our efforts towards making our military stronger than ever. The Federation has done the same. Many of your fathers and brothers have perished valiantly in the face of a contemptible enemy. We must never forget what the Federation has done to our people! These Brave men have shown us these virtues through their own valiant sacrifice. By focusing our anger and sorrow, we are finally in a position where victory is within our grasp, and once again, our most cherished nation will flourish. Victory is the greatest tribute we can pay those who sacrifice their lives for us! Rise, our people, Rise! Take your sorrow, and turn it into anger! Zeon thirsts for the strength of its people! SIEG ZEON!
American Rock musician Andrew W.K. dubbed a famous speech of this character in his cover album Gundam Rock released during the 30th anniversary of the Gundam franchise.
In addition to being inspired by Adolf Hitler, Gihren was also partially based off of Hideki Tojo, the prime minister of Japan during most of World War II, as well, particularly in how he massacres the people of the colonies he claims to be liberating and uses the Sovereign of Zeon as a figurehead for his own political agenda.
He is often compared to Grand Moff Tarkin from the Star Wars franchise, given their shared Machiavellian tactics and usage of superweapons to crush dissent. Interestingly, Gihren's usage of the Sovereign of Zeon as a figurehead mirrors an earlier plan in Star Wars for the Emperor to be a figurehead for the Imperial Moffs.