Thursday, April 22, 2010
Anime review: Gundam 00 (Season One)
Gundam SEED and its subsequent sequel series were launched in the early 2000s as a sort of revival of the Gundam franchise. The results were a mixed bag, with some praising this new spin on Gundam, while others felt things were too over-the-top and the characters uninspired. Either way, Sunrise took a bit of a hiatus in the following years, releasing Gundam works such as MS Igloo but putting more hype around new series like Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. In 2007, Gundam returned with the first series set in the Anno Domini timeline, titled Gundam 00. The series featured four lead pilots, known as Gundam Meisters, who initiated a plan constructed by Aeolia Schenberg’s computer program Veda in order to change the world and bring about peace.
The four Gundam Meisters are brought together after being chosen by Veda. Lockon Stratos, pilot of the Dynames, was orphaned after his family was killed at the hands of political/religious extremists. Lockon is calm and calculates his every move on the battlefield, but as the series progresses it is revealed that he can be bitter towards people. Still, he acts as a moderator and peacekeeper between the Meisters, breaking up arguments and telling Tieria and Setsuna to cool off when things get too heated. Setsuna F. Seiei served as a child soldier in the Middle East, abducted at a young age by a man named Ali Al-Saachez. At the time, Setsuna was doing what was necessary to survive, but now that he is older, Setsuna regrets his actions and wants revenge on Al-Saachez. I can’t help but feel a similarity between Setsuna and Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing, as both characters come off as rather cold and unfeeling. Allelujah Haptism was part of a child soldier program, amongst other candidates who were experimented on. Because of this, he developed a secondary persona known as Hallelujah. Hallelujah is the embodiment of all of Allelujah’s rage and frustration, having no regard for human life and wanting only to cause chaos. Allelujah, on the other hand, is very reserved and tries to find ways to relate to the other Meisters and crew of the Ptolemaios, though this is not always an easy task for him. Tieria Erde is the most temperamental of the four. He reprimands Setsuna on more than one occasion, and even goes as far as to recommend to Sumeragi Lee Noriega that Setsuna be removed from the team. Tieria’s background is left almost completely unexplored until the second season, and as such he doesn’t feel like a well-developed character in season one. The diverse backgrounds and characteristics of the main characters play larger roles during the second half of the season, and in some cases, come to a major head.
Sumeragi Lee Noriega is the tactical forecaster for the Meisters and spends most of her time onboard the Ptolemaios. She is one of the elder crew members, and as such acts as a parent character from time to time. Sumeragi uses alcohol to cope with all of the pressure put on her, which becomes a problem for her later in the season and in season two. Feldt Grace is a tactician onboard the Ptolemaios and is very reserved and quiet. She does open up to Lockon on a few occasions and it is revealed that she has some strong feelings for him. However, Lockon refuses to carry their relationship further due to the danger he puts himself in each time he goes into battle. Opposite Feldt is the outgoing and enthusiastic Christina Sierra, who plays hard-to-get with co-pilot Lichentdahl Tsery. The two play relatively minor roles throughout the series until a very minimal amount of their stories are revealed near the end of the season. Ian Vashti and Lasse Aeon are both introduced in season one as mechanic and co-pilot of the Ptolemaios respectively, but neither character plays much importance until season two.
The members of Celestial Being realize that they are intervening and combating with military forces, and as such do not hesitate to kill pilots within enemy mobile suits. Because of this, the series feels a lot more intense, though the lead characters do fall short of completely defining themselves in the first season due to a heavier focus on mobile suit combat and the Meister’s intent to change the world.
As for secondary and tertiary characters, Gundam 00 sports quite a variety. Saji Crossroad is Setsuna’s neighbor, though he knows nothing of Setsuna’s true identity. Saji is romantically involved with Louise Halevy. Between the two, these characters are incredibly stereotypical. Saji is the nice guy who is always looking out for Louise’s best interests, even if she acts spoiled and sour towards others. By the end of the series, Louise does a bit of growing up, while Saji changes little overall. The main reason for their inclusion is to give viewers a feel for how the Gundam Meister’s actions affect everyday people.
Ali Al-Saachez is included as a major obstacle for Setsuna to overcome from his past. Graham Aker, on the other hand, fits into Setsuna’s present day life and is more of a rival than an enemy. Team Trinity, though still a faction under Celestial Being, acts as the polar opposite of the Gundam Meisters. They too are fairly stereotypical, with Johann being the level-headed eldest sibling, Michael being the brother who feels a need to prove himself (in this case, through bloodshed), and Nena being the youngest and most peppy sibling layered over with creepiness.
The four main mobile suits are specifically designed to fit a different combat focus in relation to their pilots. Setsuna’s Gundam Exia is best suited for close-range melee attacks, and is equipped with a shield, mounted GN blade, two GN swords, and an assortment of beam sabers. Exia breaks the mold of the main Gundam being significantly stronger than the others, such as Wing Zero or Shining Gundam, but is given the most screen time out of the four. Often working in tandem with Exia is Lockon’s Dynames which is equipped with a sniper rifle and two pistols to achieve precise and long-range attacks. Allelujah pilots the transformable Kyrios, which is an obvious nod to both Wing Gundam and Zeta Gundam. Kyrios opts for hit-and-run style combat, and is equipped with a short-range rifle and shield that transforms into a claw weapon. In flight mode, Kyrios is able to carry extra weaponry, such as a missile rack. Virtue is Tieria’s mobile suit, built for heavy hitting with its backpack-mounted blasters. Virtue is able to shed its armor, however, in order to exchange defensive capabilities for maneuverability as Gundam Nadleeh.
As for the other mobile suit designs, they are far from traditional, but I think the art staff has really flexed their creativity with this aspect. The Flag is able to transform from a jet mode into a thin and rather lanky mech. The Tieren is much bulkier frame and is equipped with both a shield and cannon mounted on its frame. The Enact may be the most uninspired of the three, largely resembling a flag minus the transformation ability. Each of these units has countless variants and evolutions that appear as the series progresses.
The art style is clean and looks up-to-speed with current day anime, though it isn’t exactly over-the-top. The soundtrack is one of the more memorable of any Gundam series, which has been a rather weak feature of the franchise in years past. The soundtrack relies heavily on brass instruments, drums, and vocals, conveying that something huge is on its way for the show’s characters. As with most any Gundam series, the English voice actors do an excellent job in conveying the emotions of their Japanese counterparts.
Gundam 00 is a welcome revival of Gundam and a great starting point for newcomers to the franchise. It is an alternate universe series, but falls somewhere between the more fantasy-inspired flair of Gundam Wing and the ordered and military story of series from the Universal Century. A few twists here and there keep the story chugging along at a good pace, and while some episodes are more interesting and entertaining than others, there is no filler or repetitive content. The plot will force the members of Celestial Being to question who they are really fighting and why, as well as put their trust in one another to the test. The season finale leaves a massive cliffhanger, though the end credits do a decent job of foreshadowing coming events. Though it isn’t perfect, Gundam 00 is one of the best alternate universe Gundam series to date, sporting plenty of creativity in tandem with realistic consequences.
My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)