Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Vol. #01 (of 10) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, May 16, 2000
What They Say
Mankind has moved into space. Thousands of people live on giant orbiting space colonies called "Sides." However, the Earth Government, which rules the colonies, is unjust and cruel.
A group of revolutionaries builds five robotic weapons called Gundams and plans to send them to Earth to begin their fight for independence.
Piloted by five young men, these Gundams carry the hopes and dreams of freedom of the colonies with them as they descend to Earth to begin Operation Meteor.
Just days after the completion of the highly successful broadcast run on Cartoon Network, Bandai has released the first of 10 volumes of the series on DVD.
Gundam Wing: Operation 1 contains the first five episodes (all discs will have five episodes except for the last, which will have four) and is on a dual layered disc to make sure there's plenty of space to encode the show properly. This disc has one immense advantage over the VHS releases; it's the only place to get the original Japanese language and subtitles for the series. The disc contains both languages in a simple stereo format as it was originally presented. It's not a terribly dynamic stereo track and depending on how you have your gear set up, a lot of will be coming through the center channel. We spot checked both tracks throughout and were pretty pleased with the results.
Originally released in 1995, the series isn't too old but with it on DVD, there are some definite advantages. After watching the entire broadcast version, watching the DVD version is like lifting a sheet of gauze from in front of the screen and seeing things in a new light. Don't bother keeping your time shifted copies on VHS, the DVD is definitely the way to go. The colors aren't oversaturated and we didn't notice any bleeding. There were a few instances of some minor pixellation and there are a few shots in the ending sequence that exhibit some very faint rainbows, but nothing that will detract in any way from the show. We didn't even notice the rainbows until the fourth time we watched the ending.
The packaging is pretty nice, with the front cover artwork showing off the main attraction of the show, the Gundam. The back section is well designed and gives a very brief introduction to the show and has all kinds of little bits of information scattered about. The insert is nicely laid out with one interior page summarizing each of the episodes with a picture from it while the opposite has a technical picture of the Gundam. The disc has some light silkscreening, but nothing too elaborate, but better than just a simple etching.
The menus will probably be somewhat divisive among fans. It's all based on one template, that being the interior view of the Gundam. The four screens facing front, at an angle, have all the various selections you can make. This works well for most of it, but some of the screens cause things to be really compressed and can be a bit hard to read depending on your distance from your screen or TV. Selections are accessed quickly and the layout makes plenty of sense. Other than that bunching up of a few pages, it works well.
So we've got a solid stereo track for both languages, above average video and some good theme menus. What else do we need? How about one great show. I admit it, I'm a big Gundam Wing fan. I had seen a few episodes before it was licensed in the US and was very excited when I heard Bandai was not only bringing it over but going to give it a run on the air. When Bandai does things themselves, they tend to be a lot more protective of their properties, and the extremely minimal number of cuts and the above average dub for the broadcast showed some good love for the show.
Keeping the original background music, the eye catches and even some of the Japanese lyrics in the songs later in the series is something I hope will really pave the way for future anime shows on TV. That's not to say that the show was flawless, as there will always be debate about the English voice actors. Overall I thought that the main cast did quite good after a few episodes of getting into character and that a good portion of the secondary characters were average to poor. Thankfully most of the really bad ones were killed quickly.
One of the things that was cut, much to my disappointment, was the opening and the endings from the broadcast version. Presumably for time constraints (after all, Cartoon Network had to get in their 5 minutes worth of ads), these were sorely missed to me. Thankfully both of these are presented on the DVD. The opening contains the great song by Two-Mix, "Just Communication" while the ending has lots of Relena shots.
Speaking of the ending, I'm really pleased that Bandai did it right. I was wondering how they'd list the dual credits since this was the only subtitled release, and they did the original cast justice by giving them top billing when the credits rolled. After all the original cast and crew credits went by, the folks behind the English language version and translation got their full due. Hopefully we'll see this done more by all the studios in the future.
As for the story, if you've missed out on the countless net reviews and daily essays on the newsgroups, is rather complicated as it goes on with various factions in the year 195 After Colony. It's a solid science fiction show that deals with five young men, around 15 years old, who get sent to Earth to stop those who are trying to start wars to gain control of both the Earth and the colonies.
Each of the Gundam pilots are introduced in these episodes and parts of their background for some are brought to the front. More factions involved with the main governments are planting the seeds for their own plans of world conquest, or just control of those who will gain power. The fun thing with this show is that things change fast and power shifts quickly in future episodes. Revisiting this early episodes and finding things I missed the first time around has definitely helped.
One thing that I really enjoyed about this series is the attention to detail with the uniforms. Be they the school uniforms or those of the Alliance and Oz soldiers, they're very well done. Throughout the series as different groups attain power, the styles used for the uniforms changes and evolves. It's something that I've always found to be a real joy with science fiction anime since the classic Legend of Galactic Heroes series.
Gundam Wing: Operation 1 is a solid disc that is definitely worth upgrading from whatever VHS version you have, if any. With five episodes for a low retail price of 24.95 and being the only way to get it in its original language with subtitles, this is an easy choice. It's essential collection bound for sure!
English Language,Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Character information
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing