The most important ingredient in any Gundam show? Adding more Gundams.
What They Say
The year is 2307 AD. The world is in a state of confl ict between three superpower blocs, each possessing one of the three orbital elevators which grant them an inexhaustible energy supply through a solar power generation system in satellite orbit.
The private armed organization known as Celestial Being, whose declared goal is to eliminate war from the world, is well on its way to success thanks to its amazingly advanced mobile suit weapons called Gundams.
But now, the most resourceful military forces of the Human Reform League have launched a grand operation to trap and capture these mysterious mobile suits in the depths of space. As the four young pilots who call themselves Gundam Meisters fight back against this formidable enemy, their emotional fragility and personal secrets begin to come to light.
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.
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.
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 about as expected with a group shot of the four main pilots with one of their Gundam’s behind them standing tall. The background is surprisingly bland which doesn’t help to give it a sense of energy and excitement, which sort of mirrors my feelings on the show in general so far. 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.
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.
There are 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 version of the second opening sequence. Another feature found on this release is the Japanese commentary for episode seventeen which certainly starts off in a wacky way before they get mildly serious for a bit.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gundam 00 serves up another set of episodes, this time eight, to bring us through the halfway mark of the first season of the series. After all the introductions and initial stage setting in the first nine episodes, the intent here is to firm up what’s happened, the methods and tease about a bit more to come. Naturally, there are some surprises to be had as well as they’ve opted to introduce another group of Gundams that are operating with the same plan as the group we know, but without any sort of conscience to them. And in a way, it’s really hard to say which group you like more because of the situation itself.
The first main storyline of this set involves the continued actions taking place in Azadistan. That there’s a source of conflict brewing there isn’t a surprise, but they do mix in a few different aspects to it through the people involved with some mild religious and faith based angles. Some of this feels really like they’re reaching, in that they’re doing something very superficial rather than something more detailed, so it lacks a certain depth to make it believable. The bulk of it though is centered on the fighting with the Gundam’s themselves as they’re going to get involved to try and stop the war, which is their stated goal after all. Having a series of desert sequences works out nicely, but there’s a kind of connection to it that feels like it’s lacking.
What becomes the most problematic during this arc is that the focus isn’t so much on Azadistan itself and its issues, though they are touched on. The focus is more on the various groups that are attempting to capture the Gundam’s themselves, even if it’s just one of them so they can figure out what’s going on and what’s really behind them. The various sides that are going after them certainly have good reason to do so, but every time they do it, it simply forces the Gundam team to expose something new that they didn’t want to show off yet in order to get out of the trap. The non-Gundam pilots are humiliated or killed pretty frequently and you have people like Colasour that are really being incensed by all of this to the point where they’re lashing out. How many times can they go through these motions before it gets tiring?
Where Gundam 00 managed to really annoy me and intrigue me is during one of these capture missions where a trio of other Gundam’s show up out of nowhere, piloted by three siblings named Throne. When the main team gets into a serious jam, they’re saved at the last minute by these three who end up potentially changing the game dramatically as they’re far more cutthroat and, well, serious. The two brothers and the sister seem to be working off the same plan as the main team, but their approach is more brutal and in some ways more open. Tiera, Lockon and the rest all have this sort of conscience about them and a method of doing their missions, forecasted missions no less, in which they’re trying to have an affect while also playing to the public so they can sway them over.
The Throne team has no such intentions. They’re here to carry out their missions without any extra fuss and apparently without any conscience either. Their goal is the same, to eliminate war from the world, but they’re doing it in an almost tit for tat way. What makes them interesting is that this is certainly one way to do it and one that you almost have to wonder if it’s the better way. If you’re not going to change the world through subtlety or peaceful methods, if you’re going to do it through acts of aggression, then should it go the somewhat restrained way that the original team has been doing it or do you do it with full force, overwhelming and with a sense of ultimate strength. Each has their pros and cons to them, but in a world like this with the tools that they have available to them, it really does make you wonder which would work the best.
After seventeen episodes, Gundam 00 still hasn’t really grabbed me. I appreciate its visual style, I like the surface of the characters that we’ve seen and I’m intrigued by this new group. But it feels like it’s missing a certain cohesiveness in storytelling to tie it together properly. There are a number of mysteries floating about and plenty of action, but it isn’t compelling yet, and definitely not compelling like some of the past incarnations of the franchise. As is the case with a lot of Gundam shows though, it’s not until the halfway mark or thereabouts that each series tends to really find itself, so the next set will be the telling one for me to see if it can pull off what it wants to do and get me excited for it or whether it’ll just be spinning its wheels.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Tactical Forecast, PV Mission 02 and 03, Clean Opening, Audio Commentary
Special Edition: Gundam 00 Vol. #2 Manga
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.