Saturday, April 24, 2010

Anime review: Gundam 00 (Season Two)

As season two of Gundam 00 begins, Tieria Erde and Ian Vashti are testing the GN drives on the new mobile suits. Tieria feels he can find Setsuna F Seiei, and shortly thereafter provides an escape for him from the mining colony Proud to the Ptolemaios II, with Saji Crossroad onboard the damaged Gundam Exia. Setsuna then agrees to bring the members of Celestial Being back together. He first manages to contact Sumeragi Lee Noriega, who has been living with Billy Katagiri, a former classmate of hers and Union engineer who works closely with Graham Aker. After Sumeragi leaves with Setsuna, it becomes abundantly clear to Billy that he had been lied to the entire time. Lockon Stratos (aka Neil Dylandy) died at the hands of Ali Al-Saachez at the end of season one, but his twin brother Lyle Dylandy apparently survived the terrorist attacks on their family years ago. He joins Celestial Being, though it becomes clear as the season progresses that he is doing this for his own personal reasons rather than feeling sympathy for the members of Celestial Being. Allelujah also survived the events of season one, but was captured and held prisoner at a high-security prison on Earth, guarded by the newly-formed Earth police force known as A-Laws.

With Saji now onboard the Ptolemaios II, his former relationship with Louise Halevy becomes a problem for the Meisters, as she is now a pilot for A-Laws. Setsuna has matured greatly since season one and is no longer brash and impulsive with his reactions. There are a few episodes in season two that put a large focus around Setsuna, but as he received a major focus in season one, he jumps in and out of the spotlight as season two progresses. Allelujah’s story puts less of a focus on his alter-ego Hallelujah, but brings into play Soma Pieres (aka Marie Perfacy) from season one, whom he previously knew during his time as a child test subject. New Lockon becomes a major focus from time to time, much like Setsuna, though he does ignore orders in exchange for his own personal interest on multiple occasions. As such, the other pilots have a difficult time accepting him as the new Lockon at first. Tieria is arguably the most prominent of the four pilots and has become a far more understanding character, though his true loyalties and reasons for fighting are brought into question many times. While virtually nothing was revealed about Tieria in season one, season two explains that there is good reason for this, as his story opens up a whole new storyline and brings plenty of new characters into play.

With season two set against a backdrop of a dystopian-style Earth, the events that takes place are much darker and the consequences of each character’s actions much more meaningful. Whereas the interactions of the Union, AEU, and HRL super-nations fueled the conflicts in season one, season two focuses on a resistance group known as Katharon who is fighting against the corrupt methods of A-Laws. In siding with Katharon, Celestial Being somewhat switches sides in season two, though the cause they are fighting for still remains largely the same underneath everything – bring about world peace. Celestial Being also faces the threat of the Innovators. Essentially a new spin on the Newtypes of Mobile Suit Gundam, Innovators are humans who have much faster reflexes than average humans and are able to communicate through a sort of telepathic means. At the head of the Innovators is Ribbons Almark, who briefly appeared in season one as an assistant to Alejandro Corner.

Many of the side characters, such as Sergei Smirnov, Ali Al-Saachez, and Graham Aker receive fitting conclusions to their stories in season two. As for the crew of the Ptolemaios II, their dynamic remains largely unchanged, despite the fact that there are a few changes in the crew members. Feldt has opened up more to others, though she does not get along well with the new Lockon Stratos. Ian plays a dual role as the ship’s mechanic and a concerned father, as his daughter Mileina has joined the crew.

The four lead mobile suits in season two are essentially upgrades of their season one counterparts. As such, they fit similar mission roles, though 00 Gundam fits the position of the more powerful lead Gundam and is far more well-rounded, equipped with a plethora of long-range and short-range weaponry. The other mobile suits in the series are a combination of new and old. The Flag, Enact, and Tieren models have been phased out by their respective militaries. Katharon now utilizes these last-generation mobile suits to strike at A-Laws. A-Laws, on the other hand, has upgraded to the Ahead mobile suit, as well as various mobile armors in order to maintain peace through questionable means.

Much of the events of season two occur in space, and as such the lighting is vastly different than in season one. The art style is also comprised of considerably darker shades, fitting for the overall darker mood of the season. The soundtrack is even more appropriate to respective events than its season one counterpart, a major step forward for the Gundam franchise. The entire cast returns to voice the characters, and do a splendid job at that, both in English and Japanese.

While the story is much stronger in season two of Gundam 00, there is nothing sacrificed in the action sequences. Rather, these are far more impressive than in season one, from the destruction of Heaven’s Pillar to the Gundams’ strike on Momento Mori to the Miester’s final battle against the Innovators. Sequences where the pilots leave their Gundams in order to perform espionage missions play a significant role in their fight against A-Laws and the Innovators. The Trans-Am system may be over-used a bit in season two and a few of the side characters could have had their stories wrapped up sooner, but all in all season two is an improvement over season one, which was impressive in and of itself. The final episodes of season two deliver a very satisfying conclusion and the series as a whole is executed beautifully.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

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