Sunday, August 1, 2010

Anime review: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz

One year after the conclusion of Gundam Wing, the people of Earth and the colonies have adjusted their way of life in the wake of the White Fang vs. Oz conflict. Relena Peacecraft has successfully managed to promote her pacifistic ideals to many groups of people, though not all are convinced of her methods. Thus enters Mariemaia Khusrenada, Trieze’s daughter, who kidnaps Relena and, under the watchful eye of Dekim Barton, intends to continue the cycle of war, peace, and revolution – an endless waltz.

While the setup might sound a bit cheesy, these events are executed in a tense and suspenseful manner that it ends up as very intriguing, latching onto Gundam Wing's 'spy vs. spy' methodology. Though Mariemaia is still a child she is very collected and intelligent, having made accommodations for a number of possible outcomes should the Gundam pilots choose to intervene. Unfortunately Relena doesn’t play much of an important role until the film has neared its conclusion, mainly due to the fact that she is being held hostage from the start.

Mariemaia’s plan to drop a colony onto Earth should they refuse to surrender to her evokes a variety of responses from the Gundam pilots. Quatre and his team decide to chase down the carrier containing the Gundams, as it is currently headed for the Sun, and redirect the carrier’s path back towards Earth. Wufei and Trowa both infiltrate the ranks of Mariemaia’s forces, but with distinctly different initial objectives in mind. Trowa hopes to assassinate Dekim Barton while Wufei sympathizes with Dekim and Mariemaia to an extent. Heero and Duo team up to infiltrate Colony X-18999, with some assistance from Sally Poe and Noin Lucrezia, and have every intention of preventing the colony from falling to Earth. A few characters presumed lost or forgotten during the events of Gundam Wing make returns and add a handful of interesting twists to the plot.

The element that really helps the plot along the most, however, is the inclusion of flashbacks to events preceding the original Gundam Wing. Finally, viewers are able to witness Quatre, Heero, Duo, Wufei, and Trowa before they became Gundam pilots and understand their reasons for taking part in Operation Meteor. These flashbacks provide some much-needed human characteristics to the Gundam pilots, making it easier for viewers to relate and sympathize with them.

On top of the improvements to the story are the improvements from the voice actors. The Japanese cast doesn’t seem as ridiculous or over-the-top as in Gundam Wing, though they still could have benefitted from toning things down further still. But the English voice actors are borderline fantastic this time around. Their performances – in particular, those of the Gundam pilots – are a complete polar opposite of how they portrayed their characters in Gundam Wing and that aids Endless Waltz in a huge way. The combination of greater explanation on the characters backgrounds and the improvements in voice acting strengthen the character-driven story to great extents.

The soundtrack of Endless Waltz is easily one of the best to accompany any Gundam work. The pieces pay tribute to the soundtrack of that of the Gundam Wing series, but are far more complex and fitting to their respective scenes. A variety of sounds ranging from brass, woodwinds, piano, synthesizers, and electric guitar mesh together incredibly. The animation is top-notch and really puts the series to shame due to how great of an improvement Endless Waltz achieved in little over a year between the two. The coloring and lighting effects are phenomenal and a great amount of detail was put into the mobile suits, backgrounds, and characters. Granted, Endless Waltz is a separate OVA/film project, but compared to it the animation in Gundam Wing series looks rather pathetic.

There are a few nitpickings that could be made here and there with Endless Waltz and it’s true that Bandai and Sunrise could have pushed the envelope even further with this project. But despite the fact that Endless Waltz falls short of perfection it is a vast improvement over Gundam Wing. The balance between action sequences and story progression is solid. Things are less convoluted and yet still complex enough to keep the plot tense and entertaining. The characters are given many more human elements while the soundtrack and animation are greatly improved upon. Endless Waltz truly puts the Gundam Wing series to shame and (though there are currently only three released to date) is arguably the best of the standalone Gundam films.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

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