Thursday, December 29, 2011

Anime review: Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer

Picking up two years after the end of the show's second season, Awakening of the Trailblazer paints a picture of a world on the way to global peace. The Gundam Meisters have nearly disappeared from the public eye, though rumors of their actions against A-Laws still remain. New mobile suits are still being produced for Celestial Being, but any intervention on their part is kept in the shadows, only providing assistance when absolutely necessary - for example, Lockon's preventing an assassination attempt on Princess Marina.

There are a few points, primarily regarding the Innovators and Innovades, that see quick but satisfying wrap-ups that were not covered in the series. The Jupiter Incident, which was briefly explored in the show, takes on a significant role, as the long-forgotten research ship makes a return to Earth seemingly by itself. Though the Earth forces are able to destroy the vessel, some pieces fall through the atmosphere and attach themselves to trucks, trains, and even humans. As it turns out, the ship had been assimilated into the consciousness of the ELS, a collective of metallic shapeshifting aliens.

The Gundam Meisters head to Earth hoping find out what the ELS want, and quickly discover they are drawn to the quantum brainwaves of Innovators and supersoldiers like Allelujah. While Setsuna is still wrestling with the semi-recent discovery of his identity as an Innovator, he also finds his thoughts and reactions on the battlefield hindered by the ELS. This new threat to the Earth sphere - something predicted by Aeolia Schenberg, but not expected for many more years - prompts Tieria to assume the body of an Innovade and join his comrades to fight once more.

The film is very well-paced, allotting the better part of the first hour as setup for what is to come. Aside from Celestial Being and the military forces, the story also revisits Saji and Louise, both of whom serve dual roles - examples of what happens to those with Innovator qualities in this new world, and some of the first to experience the psychological blocks brought on by ELS presence. Even the inclusion of Kati Mannequin is merited as she fronts the defense against the ELS, though her husband Patrick Colasour is still as obnoxious, incompetent, and stupid as ever.

Some of the action scenes drag on a bit longer than necessary, and evoke some cheesy dialogue from the main characters. This is something the series did well to avoid, and it's disappointing to see the film lean toward that predictable territory. On the other hand, the non-combat scenarios are greatly executed, portraying the uncertainty with what will become of humanity in the future, as well as the personal relationships between characters like Allelujah and Marie or Setsuna and Feldt.

The animation still retains the same style as in the 00 series, though there are some notable improvements in the attention to finer details. The occasional 3D models are incorporated seamlessly in the midst of battle sequences. The soundtrack is largely the same as in the show, with a few new variations here and there.

Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer takes a lot of risks as a Gundam property. While the Innovators and Gundam Meisters tie it back to the plot of the series, the ELS carry it into brave new territory. The film has some hit-or-miss segments, though many of these are grounded more in execution than the actual plot. It may not be as perfected a formula as seen in the show, but Bandai and Sunrise should at least be commended for their first inclusion of extraterrestrial life in the long-running franchise.

My rating: 8.25 (out of 10)

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