Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 1 Part 1 (also w/Special Edition) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 39.98/49.9
  • Running time: 225
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 1 Part 1 (also w/Special Edition)

Big Robots, Big Egos and a World at Stake

By Chris Beveridge     July 15, 2009
Release Date: July 21, 2009


Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 1 Part 1
© Bandai Entertainment

To set the world right, Celestial Being puts itself above others and uses its Gundam suits in order to intervene in wars, putting them to an end. But at quite a cost.

What They Say
The year is 2307 A.D. While the Earth's reserves of fossil fuels have been depleted, humanity has obtained a new nearly infinite source of energy to replace them, in the form of large-scale solar powered generation systems based on three huge orbital elevators. However, the benefits of this system are available only to a handful of major powers and their allies.

These orbital elevators belong to three superpower blocs: the Union, the Human Reform League and the AEU. These confederations continue to play a grand zerosum game for the sake of their own prestige and prosperity. Thus, even in the 24th Century, humanity has yet to unite as one.

In this world of unceasing conflict, a private armed organization steps forward, declaring their intention to the eliminate war through martial force. Using the power of their mobile suits combatively, a series of four high-performance machines each dubbed Gundam, the paramilitary organization known as Celestial Being takes the world-stage beginning armed interventions within all the world's nations.

The Review!
Audio:
The bilingual presentation for Gundam 00 is about what can be expected with the series as it works well with the action, music and dialogue but nothing that truly stands out. The two audio tracks are done in a stereo mix encoded at 224kbps and there are some decent areas of directionality across the forward soundstage, but most of it is fairly straightforward and almost a little pedestrian. Gundam is a show that I really wish Sunrise would do some 5.1 work with in Japan since it is a marquee title, but they continue to skimp on that area like so many others. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the music, particularly the opening and closing sequences, make out the best overall with a full dynamic feeling to them. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:

Originally airing in late 2007 and early 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set is made up of nine episodes done in a five/four split which gives it a good amount of room to work with and they have really good materials in their hands. Unfortunately, some of the show at times just doesn’t look as good as it should. There are noticeable moments of line noise during panning sequences that seem stronger than some other shows and there’s a softness to a lot of scenes that feels out of place. By and large the series looks good, lots of vibrant colors and good fluidity with the action sequences without any break-up, but it also doesn’t feel as sharp and strong as it should either. The softness sometimes leads to some mild noise and blocking in the backgrounds but this is few and far between. Overall there’s a lot to like here, the opening sequence alone shows that, but there are a few smaller areas that really don’t shine as well for such a marquee title.

Packaging:
This two disc edition is in a single sized keepcase which doesn’t have a hinge inside to hold one of them. The cover artwork is straightforward and typical Gundam material with a shot of Setsuna in one of his more standard outfits as he stands in the palm of the Exia. It’s a decent shot of both of them with the addition of a slightly cloudy blue sky behind them but it doesn’t really do much to push the strengths of this series in a simple piece. It’s simply more Gundam fanservice for the diehards. It’s not bad, but it’d be nice to see them try to break out of the mold a bit. The back cover is very, very text heavy as it has a length rundown on the premise of the show and a full listing of the episode numbers and titles alongside the basic DVD features. There’s a very small strip of just four shots from the show before it shifts over to the discs extras, production information and a good technical grid. There really isn’t a lot here used to sell the show with actual material from the show, instead it tries to push the marquee name itself, some familiar artwork and a lot of text to cover the premise. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for Gundam 00 is relatively straightforward as it has a streaking background design with some appealing shades of blue-green that helps keep the attention on the main area. That main area is a small series of hexagons through which clips from the show play to some decent instrumental action music from the show. The left side of the hexagons has the very basic menu navigation structure which can be a little hard to read sometimes since it uses white on a mint green color and yellow for the actual selection tag. Submenus load quickly but I was disappointed to see that the discs didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with no subtitles.

Extras:

There’s a couple of extras to be had on each volume that are good to see here as they do help to give you a bit more value added content. The first volume has a pair of promotional videos that run briefly with clips from the show used to promote it before it aired. There’s also a clean vesion of the first opening sequence. The second volume features two more promotional videos and a clean version of the first ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This past year has been interesting when it comes to Gundam for me because I’ve run the gamut in the different kinds there are. And that tends to show their strengths, weaknesses and similarities. Every show must stand on its own is something that I’ve always felt but I also plainly admit that coming from a particular “generation” there are aspects I like more than others. I haven’t seen everything Gundam that’s out there, but I know what I like and I always want to see more, as well as new spins on it. I’m a big fan of Universal Century era shows, but I’m intrigued with what else they can do. How else can I admit to being so stupidly fond of G-Gundam? In the last few months, I’ve gone back to a lot of UC OVAs and did the Gundam Seed Destiny movies.

Gundam 00 is a series that starts it all again from scratch but borrows liberally from previous series. This particular incarnation has a lot of things going for it to be sure when it aired, such as a theme song from L’Arc~en~ciel, character designs from the cultish favorite Yun Kouga and some very slick production values. When Sunrise works on a new Gundam series, they put a lot into it simply because there’s so much merchandise and ancillary things that can be taken into account. I don’t begrudge them that in the slightest as this is a business and they’re in a business to entertain and make money by doing so. And through it, fans can buy up copious model kits, toys and other knick knacks that will delight.

I simply wish they’d borrow less from previous incarnations and do something new.

The premise of Gundam 00 takes its cue somewhat from the ecological issues of the day as we’re thrown into the year 2307. Things have gone poorly for the world when it comes to its dependence on fossil fuels but there was something bigger and brighter out there for everyone to tap into. That thing is obviously the sun. Creative beings that people are, humanity developed an orbital ring around the Earth with three orbital elevators to the planet below through wish solar power is collected. The massive arrays around the planet take that power and distribute downwards to the people in the various countries. Some countries make out better than others which keeps some instability to help with the war profiteering that’s almost always going on somewhere.

Because of the amount of immense wealth and power necessary to sustain this kind of operation, the world has formed into three principle blocs of power. The America’s have largely formed into the Union, most of Europe has become the AEU and Russia and Asia have formed the Human Reform League. The powers compete with each other in different ways but also compete within themselves to maintain their power and control over the lesser nations of their blocs, leaving some with less power from the solar array than others and utilizing each of them to move forward in very different ways. And adding to the mix is the formation of what seems to be various mercenary groups that operate under a singular banner of being Private Military Companies that do a lot of the dirty work.

Though humanity has staved off the disaster that loomed because of peak oil, things haven’t changed so much that even with seemingly limitless energy supply, war and power still corrupts. After a twenty year Solar War and other events, the world has largely settled into where it is now with small offensives here and there while large swathes of the world find themselves in abject poverty, notably those who were once major fossil fuel players. Into all of this comes a new organization that seemingly came out of the sky called Celestial Being. Celestial Being launched its arrival with a swift and brutal attack that stopped a war that was happening. Rather than hide after making such an attack, the group revealed that they intend to intervene in conflicts around the world in order to put an end to war. It plays up the evil military industrial complex and offers to fight them with more violence and military muscle.

Celestial Being has a lot going for it as it only uses four mobile suits known as Gundam’s. More powerful than the mobile suits that the various blocs have, Celestial Being plays an interesting game of intervention and politics through its plans that are carried out by four young pilots and a “combat forecaster.” Each of the pilots has their own history which will be explored over time and owing to tradition, they don’t tend to get along well with others, including fellow pilots. Though each do eventually get equal time, the principle character of trouble seems to be young Setsuna, a man who group up in the midst of warfare that even murdered his mother and father because of the religious angle that was used to push him into service. Setsuna tends to find himself in situations where he goes beyond his orders that often threaten to reveal who he is puts his Gundam in danger of being destroyed or acquired, two things which would cause severe problems to the combat forecasters plans.

Over the course of these first nine episodes, we get introduced to the world at large and a number of players in it. With three blocs represented and a lot of political and military intrigue thrown in, there’s a lot to keep up with and most characters end up getting the short end of the stick. The Gundam pilots, called Meisters, get the bulk of the attention but their antagonists make out pretty well too. There’s a good supporting cast of characters in the civilian and military world that help to flesh out the various angles, some of which you know will be better used as time goes on as Gundam does adhere to traditional storytelling methods here. As learned in most other lengthy Gundam epics, it has highs and lows in how it tells its story. This isn’t a low here, but the foundation part of the series tends to be a bit slow and jumpy as it needs to introduce so much material and set the stage for what’s to come.

Not unexpectedly, Gundam 00 plays to the audience of the day, many of which won’t be familiar with past incarnations, even recent ones. Watching this series after watching the Gundam Seed Destiny movies was a bit annoying because they both play the angle of having to deal with the big corporations that run everything and are creating wars in order to sell their wares. It’s an accurate enough idea to be played with, but it feels very familiar at this point after having such a lengthy Gundam Seed series overall. There are nods back to Gundam Wing with the pilot layout as well as we get the core group of four, though these guys do feel like they might be a bit more interesting overall, even as young as someone as Setsuna may be. I think what bothers me most with Gundam at this point is that they do continually reboot it instead of taking something that can be sprawling and epic and really working with it. A lot of the appeal for older fans with the UC material is that we saw many aspects of a war that felt like it really had impact on the lives of those involved. With many series since, especially in this decade, it comes across as too slick and glossy and without enough humanity. There’s little desire to build upon what happens here, and when they do, we get something like Gundam Seed Destiny that feels like the wheels came off the entire project. It’s hard to imagine Sunrise doing anything as ambitious as the various movies and OVAs done in the UC timeframe for any other Gundam series since then.

There are things I like about the show to be certain as I enjoyed it overall, even with the familiar aspects. The core cast of characters is interesting and the Celestial Being concept is being played well as it does have me intrigued about its’ apparent found that could be a couple hundred years old. Their larger mission is what could be the real hook when it’s finally unveiled, something that will take time I’m sure as most Gundam series really start to get going when they’re in their twenties. The character designs are quite good and I like the overall direction of it, though sometimes Tiera is annoying simply because of his color choices. And what’s not to love about a gaggle of Haro’s, especially one that seems particularly attached to the Meister known as Lockon?

In Summary:
I feel like I’m being too harsh with Gundam 00 but it was a fun show to watch overall. There’s a lot to like about it and it’s a pretty slick production, but the last few iterations have all been pretty slick productions. It’s now fully in a formulaic phase it feels like when it should be something better than that. But after all these years, it’s little surprise that such a thing would happen. There’s a lot to like here for fans and the release is put together pretty well for the most part, but right now for me I’m in standard Gundam operating mode in that I’ll be withholding serious judgment until much further in the series simply because of how past series have played out. Gundam 00 presents enough to be intrigued by and sets up a lot of things which has me curious as to what will really have the most impact in the long run.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, PV Tactical Forecast, PV Mission 00, PV Mission 01, Clean Opening, Clean Closing,

Special Edition: Gundam OO Manga Vol. 1 (Adaptation), Gundam OOF Manga Vol. 1 (Side Story)

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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