Monday, January 3, 2011
Anime review: After War Gundam X
A sort of alternate outcome to the colony drop of Operation British from the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the events of the Seventh Space War in After War Gundam X leave the planet in a state of chaos after the spacenoids drop countless colonies onto Earth. Though the Gundams tried desperately to protect the Earth, they could only accomplish so much and those few humans who survived were doomed to wander as scavengers (or 'vultures' as they are consistently referred to) as society and government bodies attempt to rebuild. Garrod Ran, a young but resourceful boy, comes across the Gundam X while protecting a newtype girl named Tiffa Addil and ultimately joins Captain Jamil and crew aboard the Frieden. Throughout the course of the show, the Frieden has a number of encounters with other vulture groups, the new Federation military, and the mysterious Frost brothers who pilot the Virsago and Ashtaron Gundams.
Unlike many of the alternate universe series, Gundam X deals very closely with the idea of newtypes. Along the lines of their Universal Century counterparts, newtypes in Gundam X are much more capable in combat than the average mobile suit pilot, but are relatively few and far between in the grand scheme of things. Also akin to the UC timeline is the fact that newtypes and their origins are often associated with space, and in Gundam X this is a large part of the basis of the conflict between the Earth and Colony forces. While lead character Garrod Ran is not a newtype, his closest friend/love interest Tiffa Addil is a highly regarded newtype among both friends and foes of the crew of the Frieden.
The characters are a very interesting bunch with enough variety to cater to plenty of different viewers' tastes. There are certain episodes centered almost entirely around some of the secondary characters, either as a backstory or a subplot, and these make the story more fluid while exploring the lives of said characters beyond their roles as mobile suit pilots. While Garrod Ran may be one of the youngest lead characters in a Gundam series, he is by far one of the most entertaining, from his skills in battle to his attempts to impress Tiffa. Garrod also changes a fair amount over the course of the series, maturing as apilot but never losing his comedic charm. The other two Gundam pilots working aboard the Frieden are Roybea and Witz, pilots of the Leopard Gundam and Gundam Airmaster respectively. Roybea is a womanizer who plays the part of a traditional romantic to make women swoon, but is still more than capable as the pilot of such a heavy weapons-based Gundam. Witz is piloting for the sake of his family, who - since the death of his father - seems to have hit hard times financially. While Tonya may come across as a bit shallow of a character, the remainder of the Frieden's crew members are rounded out enough to fit their respective roles convincingly.
I found the antagonistic Frost brothers to be an annoyance after a while, however, as they constantly talk about some grand plan they have in store for Garrod and all other Gundam pilots, but don't ever really do anything significant to the plot. For the most part, the Frost brothers appear with Gundam Virsago and Gundam Ashtaron when it's convenient with the plot. They aren't up to par with other Gundam villains, as the Frost brothers are nowhere near as clever as someone like Zeta Gundam's Paptimus Scirocco, nor as evil as someone like Gundam SEED's Rau le Cruset. It's not that Olba and Shaiga are difficult characters to read by any means, it's just that they aren't particularly interesting.
Overall the series' pacing is quite good, though at one point late in the series things slow down briefly as Garrod travels to space. During this time, the action slows down and some time is taken to further explore the events of the Seventh Space War and the current state of tension between the Earth and the Colonies. The information presented here is important given the context of the last few episodes and is conveyed in a relatively interesting manner, but the series certainly feels like it has hit the brakes at this point as there is little to no action to balance with said exposition, and the series probably would have benefitted had this information been sprinkled throughout previous episodes.
The animation is a drastic improvement over the stiff motions and lack of detail in Gundam Wing and aligns itself much more closely with that of Turn A Gundam. Coincidentally, the soundtrack of Gundam X is reminiscent of both Turn A Gundam - with its sweeping emotional pieces - and G Gundam - with its upbeat and intense brass and percussion style. Though obviously an alternate universe series based on the exaggerated mobile suit designs/capabilities, many of the ships and tech pay homage to the universal century. Unlike Wing and SEED, battle scenes are never directly repeated and the strategies used by the crew of the Frieden and the Gundam pilots are nicely varied. A large part of this is due to how many different forces Garrod, Jamil, and co. find themselves facing, as well as the variety of environments they travel through, but the variation throughout works wonders for the series, as it makes the "recovering wasteland" that is Earth a far more interesting place to look at.
An interesting spin on an old classic, Gundam X is easily one of the stronger alternate universe series in Sunrise and Bandai's long-running franchise. With a phenomenal soundtrack and colorful animation layered over a strong story packed with a myriad of entertaining characters, there's bound to be something that will cater to every Gundam fan's preferences. Even anime fans who aren't quite as keen on mecha series may find Gundam X to their liking. It's not as drastically nontraditional as Turn A Gundam, but Gundam X does a nice job of breaking apart from the crowd without being too different or losing its identity as a Gundam series.
My rating: 8.5 (out of 10)