Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz: Special Edition (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, February 16, 2002
Release Date: Monday, February 26, 2001
Overall Rating: 4.4
(on a scale of 1-5)
English Acting: 4
When Gundam Wing hit Cartoon Network I decided to give it a chance. I'm not a huge fan of the mecha genre, but I'm often left wondering how and why some the best plots get put into this genre. Gundam Wing had me hooked with its twisty plot, interesting antagonists and it's philosophy on war. Not to mention it has lots of robots blowing each other and buildings up. Gundam Wing was a good solid show. When Endless Waltz was announced I preordered it, because I had heard that it gave a bit more insight into the main characters, and more stuff got blown up. Does this make me a mecha anime fan?
It seems that we got a close to perfect disc with this release. The picture and sound were just great. Even though I wasn't able to experience the full 5.1 audio, the sound was crystal clear. The menus work quickly and have lots of music and motion. The keep case will grab any Gundam Wing fan's attention. Of course with the words Special Edition all over the cover, you flip it over to see what you get. Well not only do you get the movie version but you also get original 3 episode OAV version. (the version shown on Cartoon Network will be released in a Regular Edition). You get the audio in English 5.1, and 2.0, not to mention the original Japanese 2.0. The case doesn't mention the other extras. You get an Encyclopedia of the five main Gundams, the enemy mobile suits, and the wild card Tallgeese. This encyclopedia gives you a bit of history about the suits and their specs. You also get several screen shots of the suits in action. The gallery is small and looks to contain promotional art and cover art from the OAVs. You also get a textless ending for the OAVs. Of course you've also got four trailers as well. A very nice disc if I may say so, the only slight is that a prospective buyer won't know about the extras from the keep case. But the promise of a 5.1 soundtrack and 2 versions of the show would be enough for any Gundam Fan.
***A note on reviews***
First let me start with a brief note on reviews. I was noticing that my grades were staying rather high, even when I felt the show was only O.K. (or worse). This is mostly due to the fact that many shows have high marks for music, animation, acting and sound, but poor ratings in plot. I've added a new rating, tentatively called entertainment. Basically this means, did I enjoy watching the show, or did time drag a bit. Also would I rewatch the show? I feel that adding this grade will make my overall content grade much more accurate, and will help even the score out a bit.
Endless Waltz can be viewed in two ways, as a nice wrap up to the Gundam Wing series, or as an attempt to squeeze more money and juice out of a popular series. Well I think we have a bit of both, but this is nothing new to anime (look at the upcoming Bebop movie, or the Escaflowne movie, or the Tenchi movies...) The trick with doing a film like this is that you have to add to the story or characters somehow, otherwise you end up with a rehash of the show. How are the creators willing to go to shake things up a bit? It's a gamble if you go too far, but it gets a bit redundant if you don't go far enough. It's hard to find a nice happy medium. Well, Endless Waltz comes close to it.
The basic plot starts one year after the end of the Gundam Wing television series. It seems like our fearless pilots feel that peace and stability are going to hang around a bit, so they don't need their Gundams. They decide to shoot them into the sun, except for the always contrary Wufei. Well, just as quickly as you can say "I told you so", peace and stability are threatened by a space colony who decides to break away from the newly formed government and take over the earth. Well we can't let that happen right? So our pilots leap into action, with Duo and Heero attempting to stop the space colony (without Gundams) and Quatre going after the Gundams hurtling toward the sun. But Trowa and Wufei seem to have gone missing . . . or have they? You get more twists as the plot unfolds, and of course all your favorite surviving characters come back from the Gundam series. I was a bit worried that Dorothy would be left out, but be patient she shows up. Will peace and stability be returned and at what cost?
Animation on this film is very good. You got definite OAV quality here and even some film quality in certain scenes. The battle scenes are more fluid looking and there is no use of stock animation. There are some scenes that contain computer animation (while Quatre attempts to save the Gundams hurting toward the sun). It works rather well, and only stands out a little bit. The redesign of the Gundams for this movie is big and showy. The main difference between Gundam and Gasaraki is that Gundam goes for showing off the cool looking mecha, and showcasing them. This film is no exception. The Gundams look bright and shiny and kick major butt. The character design is the same, the characters don't look that much older, but it's only a year later, so that's to be expected. All in all the animation is better than the TV show, but the only real redesign was for the Gundams, the rest is just more fluid looking.
The sound fares just like the movie. Most of the sound from the television series has been preserved and used, but it seems to be more specific and a bit cleaner. The sound fits more accurately in scenes and doesn't seem to be a rehash of a stock series of sound effects (the show suffered from this at times). It's good, but not much original sound work has been done, even for the new mobile suits in the film.
The plot is well thought out and directed well. It's got enough twists to keep you slightly off balance, but the only real problem is the lack of daring on the writers' part. Endless Waltz should have done just a bit more than it attempted. You basically have the pilots rallying forth to stop the destruction of peace and stability. Along the way some of the young men become disillusioned and fight with themselves and each other. But this was the same plot of the entire television series. A new dimension could have been added in this film. But instead we get a bit of the characters past, and for a couple of them new motivations are revealed, but the film ends basically where the series ended. In fact if the events of Endless Waltz never happened, the Gundam Wing story would have remained essentially the same. The series seemed to tie itself together fine, so nothing really needed resolving. This film basically creates a conflict and ends it in a little over 90 minutes, but doesn't really change anything. In a way, it's like the Tenchi movies. Actually the only character who got a bit more closure out of the film was Lady Une. But for me the main problem with the Gundam Wing series and with this movie is that the main characters are never really explored. The antagonists and secondary cast have more development, while the main cast stays mostly static.
The English acting is just like it was in the show. Some people couldn't stand it. I thought the cast did a fine job. Some supporting characters were a bit under or over played but most of the main cast and secondary parts were well acted. A heard some complaints about the accuracy of the dub on this movie. Well I watched it with the subs on and at least according to the sub script the dub is very close. Most of the cast should be familiar to anime dub watchers (some of them can be heard as supporting cast in Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star for sure).
The score for this film is great. The television show had very good music and this film keeps the same style of music. Its score fits the action perfectly. In fact it works better than the television score did. I think mostly due to the fact that the television score had to use a set group of music. In some cases the music used for scenes was too much. In this case the score works better. The end theme song is also very good. It's not as dynamic as the score for Mononoke, or as interesting as the score for the second Tenchi movie, but its strength is in supporting the visuals.
Did I enjoy this movie? Yes it was entertaining, but it didn't quite grab me as much as the television series did. I think the biggest problem was the fact that I kept waiting for the story to get really shaken up, or for a new thread to appear and it never did. This film has lots of action and lots of mecha fan service. But the characters that drive the plot are left doing what they did in the television series but on a smaller scale. The result is something that while it's entertaining just doesn't pull you in. I was very conscious of sitting and watching a movie for roughly an hour and a half. The television show always ended too early for me. I'll probably watch it again, if I decide to do a Gundam Wing marathon. But I don't think I'll just pop it in for the heck of it.
With that said, this is a good movie. If you are a Gundam fan this is a great movie. It has all the stuff you loved about Gundam but improves most of animation, sound and music. For those of you who enjoyed Gundam, but wanted a bit more from the characters, this movie does not deliver in that area. It's more of a rental. But I don't think Gundam fans will be disappointed. Either way this movie is worth seeing on DVD.
Roman J. Martel
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General Electric Performance Plus (25 Inch), Sony Playstation 2
Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 180
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing