Greetings Moar Powah, hope you’re enjoying your new year, because I’ll be continuing “Gundam Week” with the first HD Gundam title, Gundam 00!
As I’ve mentioned above, Gundam 00 happens to be the first HD Gundam. Coming off the massively popular Gundam Seed mini-franchise (in Japan, not so much in the West), this new series had large shoes to fill in Japan. Similarly, 00 was often referred to as a modern reimagining of the classic Wing (which was a gateway series in the US), so many in the West were brimming with anticipation. With all this massive hype, you might be inclined to think that it failed spectacularly. I’m letting you know right now that Gundam 00 happened to be the first Gundam series split into two seasons, rather than a single fifty episode run: the verdict is really rather interesting, as a result.
Gundam 00 starts off with a really original premise. What if the main characters, the Gundam pilots, are actually terrorists, and the antagonists are just soldiers who defend their homelands? This premise, surprisingly, works really well, as the plot itself has some consistently good ideas that keep it working well for quite a while. The plot is generally gripping, and its secretive nature makes users ask for more. It’s got fantastic themes, with a morality system that truly does not have a perfect good or a perfect evil. There’s a ton of politics in the series, and interestingly enough, they’re clearly influenced by real world post-9/11 issues. Funnily enough, this system is a result of scarce resources in this timeline (which, by the way, is A.D. for the first time in Gundam history), as all the fossil fuels have burned up, and solar power fed from panels built on an orbital ring connected by space elevators provide power for “everyone”. This new system of energy has created both familiar and new power blocs, and that’s where the background stops. For a Gundam series, the lack of clear morals, a very somber political atmosphere, and a plot involving a good deal of secrecy is quite rare, and just the variation needed to help the series not only stand out, but actually be legitimately good. Of course, everything I said applies to the first season. The second season throws all of that completely out the window and settles for a setting that rips Zeta and Wing off too much. Gone are the terrorist organizations and the questionable morals, in are a secret police organization being evil for whatever reason and a rebellion group that is the bastion of hope, justice, and all that is good. The plot of the second season follows this rebellion in their quest to prevent the secret police organization from doing evil things. That being said, this new plot isn’t executed badly: the execution is standard for a Gundam series, actually. What’s disappointing about the plot is that they created an interesting setting in the first season, but proceeded to toss that out
of the White Basethe window. Oh yeah, there’s a new major theme introduced in the second season, but that’s handled pitifully. Overall, what started as a great story quickly turned south to something more derivative and mediocre.
The characters are an interesting lot. Many of the main characters are quite austere since there’s not much room for fooling around (and the only real fooling around is used to brighten the otherwise dark mood). Nonetheless these characters also have relative amounts of depth. Many of the main characters have their inner demons, and it’s evident that many of their actions are influenced by these flaws and regrets. However, in spite of this, many of these characters happen to be fan favorites. The Gundam pilots, in particular, have reasons for piloting their machines that are also rather original, and a bit more believable. Of course, all this goes out the window with the second season, again, as the characters somehow develop into either much less interesting people, or way too over-the-top parodies of cliches. The antagonists introduced in season two also happen to be extremely flat. I will commend the second season for at least keeping the serious nature of most of the characters, but at some points, it becomes somewhat too serious. Overall, another disappointment, but not as bad as what happened to the plot.
I can’t really comment on the art of Gundam 00 too well. The designs were pleasant, and nothing stood out (in a bad way). The mechanical designs are also a bit different than the Gundam standard, as the main Gundam, Exia, has a few design choices that separate it from the normal main Gundam procedure (such as the chest area). This being said, the mechanical designs are still pretty good.
As for animation, Gundam 00 has some fantastic animation for a TV series, which is even more impressive because of the new (at the time) HD format. Battles are highly dynamic and fast paced, and there’s almost never any stock footage (at least in season 1, season 2 dabbled in it a bit, but not too extensively), a problem that has plagued a few previous Gundam series. While some may say that the battles devolve into beam spam, it’s hard to think that the beam spam doesn’t at least look great. Overall, both the art and the animation are at the least, good, and luckily, they don’t take a hit in the second season.
Gundam 00 had some really great vocal songs. It’s hard not to like at least one of them: hell, it’s rather normal to like most of them. However, the BGM won’t get as much praise: the music is, by and large, forgettable, even though it has many good tracks, some even being stellar. While Kenji Kawai does a great job composing the soundtrack, I have to say that it’s not his most memorable performance. Meanwhile, the voice acting is pretty good, with most characters sounding very believable, though some sound extremely hammy and over-the-top, which doesn’t fit well with the setting. Overall, sound happens to be pretty good.
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