Kikeroga: Char’s Phantom Machine

If there’s one thing that you can count on in the Gundam franchise, it’s going back to the well. Usually, this involves new side stories in the original anime’s One Year War period (often including new RX-78 Gundam variants or Zeon super-prototypes), or new developments involving the ever-popular Char Aznable. Keeping that in mind, it’s a bit surprising that a mobile suit with the pedigree of being created by original Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, appearing in the One Year War period, and piloted by Char, has somehow managed to languish in obscurity practically since its creation in Gundam’s planning stages. Typically depicted as a kind of a cross between the Gelgoog and Zeong, this obscure mobile suit is the elusive Kikeroga.

Mobile Suit Gundam Record Collection 5
Mobile Suit Gundam Record Collection 5

The history of the Kikeroga begins with the original 52-episode outline of Mobile Suit Gundam, the latter part of which became known as the “Tomino Memo” when it was published in Sunrise’s Mobile Suit Gundam Record Collection 5 (1980). The Tomino Memo provides a breakdown of what was originally planned to have happened in episodes 37-52 of Gundam had the series not ultimately been truncated to a total of 43 episodes.

The Kikeroga makes two appearances in this span, the first being in episode 42, “The Road to Granada (Char’s Defeat).” It is piloted here by Char Aznable and described only as being a Braw Bro-like mobile suit. While the White Base is being resupplied at Luna II in preparation for a Federation attack on Zeon’s Granada moon base, Lalah Sune draws the Gundam out with her Elmeth mobile armor. Amuro Ray realizes too late he has been lead into an ambush when Char attacks him in the Kikeroga. However, despite the Kikeroga’s immense power, Char finds he is still unable to defeat the Gundam and retreats. This battle fills a similar role as the Braw Bro battle in the TV series’ 39th episode, as Amuro notices that the Gundam’s performance is unable to keep up with his growing abilities.

Char Aznable ambushes the Gundam in his Kikeroga mobile suit.

Just like in the TV series, the engineer Mosk Han upgrades the Gundam back at Luna II using his magnetic coating technology. Amuro is able to destroy Char’s Kikeroga the next time they fight. With the Kikeroga destroyed, the Federation forces are able to break through Granada’s line of defense. Char is rescued by Lalah in the Elmeth and retreats to his Zanzibar-class battleship. In the outline for the following episode, Char instead aids in Granada’s defense using an improved, spaceworthy variant of the Adzam mobile armor.

The Kikeroga’s second and final appearance in the Tomino Memo is episode 46, after Degwin Zabi has come to engage in peace talks aboard the White Base. Once he has returned to his Gwazine-class battleship Degwin, he attempts to enter Federation-controlled space and is attacked by a large force of Kikeroga mobile suits lead by a Memo-only character named Tableau. The Degwin and Kikeroga force are both destroyed in the ensuing battle.

The Degwin is attacked by Tableau’s Kikeroga force.

Needless to say, anyone familiar with the way Mobile Suit Gundam plays out in its final episodes will see some major differences in just the description of these events. Char also receives other mobile suits in the Tomino Memo after the Kikeroga and his space Adzam; during the battle where Lalah dies in the outline for episode 45, he uses a Galbaldy instead of his personal Gelgoog (later realized as part of the MS-X design series). Rather than the Zeong, Char’s ultimate mobile suit in the Memo is a still unrealized design, the Garaba. The Zeong ultimately goes to a Challia Bull-esque Newtype character named Gora who has something of an adversarial relationship with Char; Amuro perceives him as a “second coming of Lalah” when first encountering him. The Garaba and Zeong are both destroyed during a battle where the Solar Ray is first used, with Gora being killed in action.

The original 1984 debut of the MS-X line. The Galbady sports a Char-like color scheme.

While most of the mobile suits that were named in the Tomino Memo would debut as part of the 1984 variation design series and canceled model kit line MS-X, the Kikeroga was one of the few left out. In fact, its only appearance in this period seems to be a footnote in Shuttle Gundam, a prose piece about mobile suit development history in the Hobby Japan mook How to Build Gundam 3: Zeta Gundam (1986). The Kikeroga is mentioned as one of many new mobile suits Zeon was developing in preparation for the defense of Granada. The mention of Granada seems to be a reference to the role it played in the Tomino Memo, though unlike the Memo here it is mentioned it was specifically to be made for Kycilia Zabi.

The Kikeroga would finally receive an actual design a few years later via its appearance in Twilight of Zion [sic], the second expansion to the 1990 Tsukuda Sieg Zion [sic] tabletop game. In including the Kikeroga in this game, the makers of Sieg Zeon also contributed lore, a model number, and even a rationale for their design choices:

The first Newtype-use mobile suit to be developed and the prototype of the Zeong. Because of all the armaments on its small body, however, the design was a failure and did not proceed past the testing stage.

As for this Kikeroga, since it was a mobile suit meant to appear after episode 40 when Gundam was cut short, details on its appearance are unclear; this one is completely original. It was supposedly a Braw Bro-style machine, so we mixed together the Zeong and the Braw Bro, then added some Gelgoog to it. To tell the truth, we put this mobile suit in thinking that, well, one data counter would be fine—but the data counter aside, the unit was what gave us trouble, taking up quite a few more for its hands, wired beams, and the like.

The Kikeroga’s unit counters from Twilight of Zeon.

More than its appearance in the original outline for Gundam, Twilight of Zeon informed all the Kikeroga’s rare subsequent appearances, as it tried to reconcile the mobile suit’s existence with the way Mobile Suit Gundam actually ended by tying it to the Zeong. Oddly enough, the model number they chose, MSN-01, was already being used by the MSN-01 Psycommu Test High Mobility Type Zaku II, which had debuted years earlier as part of the MSV design/model kit series.

SD Kikeroga
SD Kikeroga from a G Generation Zero poster.

Most awareness of the Kikeroga probably comes from its appearances in the PlayStation installments of the original SD Gundam: G Generation strategy game series. First released in 1998, G Generation carried over Twilight of Zeon’s design of the Kikeroga while also attempting to reconcile any previous lore written about the mobile suit. Here is its profile as it appears in the MS encyclopedia on the expansion disc G Generation-F.I.F.:

A Principality of Zeon Newtype-use test mobile suit.

A mobile suit that was said to have been developed when the Principality of Zeon was preparing for the decisive battle in their territory at the end of the war. It is also said it was a mobile suit version of the Elmeth, but details are unknown. It is a psycommu-equipped suit, and its arms are wired psycommu beam cannons. It also has two large mega particle cannons equipped on the shoulders, giving it high firepower.

The Kikeroga’s attacks in G Generation.

Many things are unclear about its development history and specifications, and it is even unknown whether a test machine was produced or if it saw actual combat.

Also, its model number MSN-01 overlaps with the Psycommu High Mobility Test Type Zaku. It is thought this is due to it being developed independently or to some confusion amongst the many Zeon weapons development groups.

This is largely the final word on the Kikeroga. The mention of it being a mobile suit version of the Elmeth rather than the Braw Bro is probably because both possible required unit combinations for developing it in-game include the Elmeth. While not playing any substantial role, the Kikeroga could be developed in all three PlayStation G Generation games and even appeared in some promotional materials for G Generation Zero (1999).

The Kikeroga’s most recent and seemingly final notable appearance was in 2002, once again in a Hobby Japan mook: Gundam Weapons: Master Grade Model MSN-02 Zeong “Char Aznable” Special Edition. Gundam Weapons proudly declares the Kikeroga’s model kit debut, based on the Master Grade Zeong kit and built by Kazuaki Kojima. This too uses the Twilight of Zeon and G Generation design, though far more likely its inclusion was inspired by its multiple G Generation appearances since its accompanying text misidentifies the tabletop game as a PC game. Gundam Weapons also offers up the rare romanization of the Kikeroga’s name, presented as “Ciceroga.” This is likely due to the fact that the historical figure Cicero’s name is actually pronounced “Kikero” in Japanese, closer to the original Latin.

Considering its origins and the focus of recent Gundam productions, it’s odd that the Kikeroga has been left by the wayside for over a decade. The Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn OVA (2010) and several Gundam Build Fighters anime productions reveled in their inclusion of cameos of an abundance of obscure MSV never before seen in an actual Gundam anime series. Unicorn featured the debut of fellow Tomino Memo MS alumnus Gigan, while the first Build Fighters TV series (2013) debuted the Kikeroga’s Psycommu Test Zaku sister unit. The Psycommu Test Zaku would then reappear as an actual MS (rather than a model) in new footage created for the Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt compilation movie December Sky (2016).

Veteran Gundam sage Mark Simmons’ design for the “MSN-X1 Ciqueroga.”

Most recently, the web-novel and ONA series Mobile Suit Gundam: Twilight Axis (2017) centered on characters that had developed and tested personal mobile suits over Char Aznable’s entire career since the One Year War. Gundam: The Origin’s MSV line Mobile Suit Discovery has a particular focus on MS development and weird half-step prototypes, a seemingly ideal venue for a redundant, mothballed Zeong prototype. In light of these missed opportunities, the lack of any merchandise ever having been produced, and never having received any official lineart, the Kikeroga seems to be very much forgotten.

Japanese materials were translated for this article by Andrew Prowse.

Tomino Memo scenes were commissioned for this article and illustrated by Rideth Mochi.

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