Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Operation 01 -

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Beez
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Operation 01

By Dani Moure     April 16, 2004
Release Date: March 25, 2002

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Operation 01
© Beez

What They Say
Centuries in the future, in the year After Colony 195, orbiting space colonies surrounds Earth. The colonists are cruelly oppressed by the Earth Alliance, which deploys huge humanoid fighting machines called Mobile Suits to control the populace. Behind the tyranny is the secret society called 'Oz' which has infiltrated the Alliance military and steered it towards its repressive course.

Now, the space colonies are ready to strike back. Five young pilots, equipped with advanced mobile suits called Gundams are sent to Earth to wage guerrilla war against Oz and its Alliance puppets. The war to decide humanity's destiny begins!

The Review!
After a moderate reception to the TV airings, Gundam Wing finally hit DVD with little more than a whimper, but European producers Beez manage to produce one of the strangest UK anime releases yet.

The audio on this disc is presented in three stereo tracks: English, French and the original Japanese. For review purposes, I watched the Japanese stereo track, which was a nice, if simple, mix with no noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback. Watching the Japanese track was an interesting experience, as I've seen the English version through several times, so getting used to the new voices was strange. Everyone sounds good, though, with a few less annoying voices, though Akiko Yajima's Relena is still rather grating, especially at first.

While a lot has been said in the past, especially during the first TV runs, about the English dub from Ocean, I've come to quite enjoy it. The use of Wordfit technology (to fit the voices to lip-flaps) leaves some lines with a flat delivery and sounding quite unnatural. The main casting for most characters is generally good, though Relena can still annoy at first (I guess it's just the nature of her character initially), and some of the additional voices are most bizarre (I've still got no idea what is going on with General Septum's voice). On the whole, though, the dub is quite listenable. I briefly checked out the French dub, but it only sounded a little amusing for a while, before I wanted to switch back to one of the other two languages.

This is where the disc gets interesting. There are several strange production issues, some of which affect the video, that are mentioned at the end of the content review. This includes the general exorcism of any Japanese text from the English presentation, as where the French overlays appear (like episode titles), they're cut from the English version altogether. The eyecatches are also missing. It's all highly undesirable and certainly loses Beez some points.

In general terms, though, the video looks decent if unspectacular. The print isn't entirely clean, with some noticeable nicks and scratches throughout. The transfer is also a little dark, leaving some colours looking a little washed out and lacking vibrancy. There's also some minor artifacting in the backgrounds at various points. It is worth noting that the UK release doesn't seem to suffer from the rainbows and cross-colouration that affected some areas of the US release.

The English subtitles are white, in a clearly readable font, but they contain some rather frequent and disconcerting mistakes. Conjoined words and random spaces in between what should be full words happen all too often, which mars the disc, and point to someone having transcribed the subtitles from the US release (as, excluding the errors, they're the same subtitles).

The front cover has a nice image of Heero standing in front of his Wing Gundam, looking his usual broody self, in front of a nice sunset-style background which extends to the stars. The Bandai and Beez logos are displayed in the top corners, while the disc is also labelled "Unedited version" at the top, which is misleading, even if they are comparing it to the edited TV dub. The back cover lists a brief synopsis and production credits, with a wireframe "spec" image of the Wing Gundam. The show's runtime is clearly listed along with it being identified as a "tri-language DVD", though it's not easy to see which three languages are included.

The main menu begins with a short animation which ends displaying the English logo, and then begins a looping animation of the opening, with the show's logo to the top-left, an image of the Wing Gundam plastic toy angled as though it's about to fly out of the screen to the right. Across the bottom, the four menu options are presented. The scene selection menu also contains some animation; as you move between episodes, a screen rotates around and display's that episode's preview. The "settings" option lets you choose from the three language and subtitle options on a static menu. The extras menu is laid out similar to the main menu, only with different music playing and an additional montage image of the Gundam pilots above the selection options.

The extras are a strange bunch. First up is the "picture" section, which gives you the chance to see some wire models of the Wing Gundam from various angles, and also some montages of images (set to music from the soundtrack) of the Gundams, Heero, Relena, Zechs and the Leo mobile suit. It's a fairly odd bunch, but they're quite decent. The "info" section gives a brief history and some text on character designer Yoshito Hishinuma. "Karaoke" is the textless version of the first opening ("Just Communication"), with soft-subbed romaji lyrics (in a yellow font). It's odd that they chose to subtitle the songs here and not in the actual presentation of the show, but it's a welcome addition. The last section on the extras is "summary", which is bizarrely where you get to choose from episodes 1 to 5, and end up seeing the next episode previews for the episode you select (except the first, which gives you the standard premise intro which appears at the start of all the episodes on this disc). Again, it's extremely strange and a little annoying that they don't appear when you watch the show itself, but at least they're on the disc somewhere. However, on the whole the extras aren't really all that beefy, especially given that some of them really should be included as you're watching the show instead.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gundam Wing hit the airwaves in Japan in 1995 capitalising on the success of shows featuring pretty boys, and it introduced a whole new audience to the world of Gundam. It was a change in the franchise in many ways, featuring plenty of teenage angst against the backdrop of war and politics. It also managed to polarise many of the franchise's existing fans, who didn't like the change in direction that Wing represented. Nevertheless, it was a big success, and was chosen as the series to introduce western audiences to the Gundam franchise.

And so, here we are with the first DVD volume of the series. With Wing running to 49 episodes, the first five on this disc serve to introduce viewers to the characters and the premise of the show, setting the stage for the things to come. As the series opens, tensions between the Space Colonies and the United Earthsphere Alliance are running high. The Alliance is becoming all too militaristic, seizing many colonies, and so rebels from the colonies counter with "Operation Meteor", sending five teenagers to Earth in mobile suits (the giant robots the franchise is famed for), disguising them as shooting stars. But the Alliance catches on to this, and the military organization OZ monitors their descent.

The five boys ? Heero, Trowa, Quatra, Duo and Wufei ? all land in different areas, and none of them know the identities of the others. On her birthday, Relena Darlian, the daughter of the Vice Foreign Ambassador of the colonies, is returning from space with her father for her party. But given the intense political situation, he is forced to meet with the Alliance, and so she is left to go home alone. But she soon finds a body washed up on the shore outside the spaceport, and it happens to be Heero. Relena is totally intrigued by him, and spends most of the first disc trying to get to know him more and longing for him, despite his constant rejections. Of course, it doesn't help that as part of his cover, he joins her school.

The other pilots all work on their own, too, though they all encounter each other throughout this set of episodes. Trowa joins a circus as part of his cover (and he's good with the animals), while rich boy Quatre has his own private group of supporters to help him search for the other pilots. Duo ends up on a ship, running into Heero several times, and Wufei spends much of his time brooding as the loner he is.

Meanwhile, OZ's Lt. Zechs reports to his superiors that the mobile suit that he shot down was not run-of-the-mill, but was actually made of Gundanium alloy. They soon confirm that all five objects that came to Earth were Gundams, and the hunt is on. The Gundams start taking out military targets, always managing to one-up the Alliance with the superior technology of the Gundams as opposed to the mass-produced mobile suits the Alliance employs. The head of the OZ organization, Colonel Treize, has his own agenda and sets things in motion by having one of his minions, Lady Une, assassinate Relena's father. This only unearths more mysteries though, since he makes some startling revelations on his deathbed.

While it's easy to mock much of what goes on in the first five episodes, they're actually a well-paced setup of the story, which will take many twists and turns before it comes to a conclusion. Of course, as we barely scratch the surface with many of the characters here, they're easy to stereotype and don't really do much to break out of their roles during these episodes. Unfortunately, the Gundam pilots suffer most from this initially. Heero is your typical brooding hero, Trowa is the one that doesn't want to get too attached to anything, Quatre is the spoilt rich kid who wants to find all the others like him so he can have tea with them, Duo is the cool friend that latches on to Heero and tries to help wherever he can, while Wufei is little more than a spoiled brat that runs around causing damage wherever he can. Despite these characteristics, there are the occasional moments where you get a glimpse of how they might change, and it doesn't make Wing any less captivating to watch.

In many ways, the supporting characters are more interesting at this point. Relena, who spends most of the first four episodes whining and pining after Heero, finally gets a bit of bite in the last episode when she witnesses what happens to her father. Zechs is most intriguing, as he seems to have his own set of views on things, and he seems quite an honourable person to be working for OZ. We don't get to see much of Noin here, though her relationship with Zechs should prove interesting (even if, at the moment, it's again quite stereotypical). Treize, meanwhile, clearly has his own goals for OZ, and there are several hints throughout at bigger things that may come as a result. His trusted sidekick, Lady Une, never seems to waver from that position, but manages to come across as a ruthless uber-bitch in the fifth episode.

But while things haven't quite settled yet, as some plot points and characters are still being introduced, there's something highly enjoyable about Gundam Wing. It's fun to watch, and having seen the whole series before, it only gets better as the journey continues. With a long series, it's always going to be hard to get into the groove in the first five episodes, but already it's clear that this series isn't one to go lightly on the characters and that the political story is only going to get messier as the movements continue. The action is first-rate, and there's plenty of it sprawled across these episodes. Explosions, deaths (though nothing gruesome), mech action and more is here in spades, and helps make these episodes more appealing.

It really is the schizophrenic production of this disc that makes it a little off-putting. Loading up the DVD allows you to choose French or English, but either way you don't get the full version of the show. The English version, as mentioned, has any Japanese text (so, the episode titles and eyecatch) removed entirely. The removal of the titles is jarring as the music often stops dead where its cut away from. The English version does give a full opening and ending for each episode, albeit with a lack of any song subtitles during the episodes themselves. Strangely, the next episode previews are also missing, having been shunted to the extras section where they're accessible, but again cut off before Japanese text appears.

The French version, which I checked out to satisfy my intrigue, is even more odd. It presents the full opening, with French credits, and the episode titles are intact, just with French overlays (though you can play the English track to find out the episode titles?), but the ending is massively abridged so it lists a few credits and stops abruptly after about 35 seconds. It's all most odd, but it makes me hope that Beez don't attempt a tri-language DVD like this in the same way in the future. It doesn't help that sometimes, if you do a but of skipping even within an episode, it will switch from the English version to the French.

When you add in the subtitle issues, it all seems a bit hastily put together and sloppy, which is a shame as it could've been so much better. I've no idea why the Japanese text was removed all over the shop, especially since the titles and eyecatch appeared on the broadcast version of the show. The only reason I can assume is that they were working from the French masters and decided we wouldn't like to see French text. Hopefully, future discs from Beez will resolve the production issues.

In Summary:
The first five episodes of Wing might not be the best ever, but they do show promise for those able to look past the more pretty boy/teenage angst driven parts of the show. By the end of the disc, the story and characters start to gel and things begin to fall into place, while the action sequences, always important in a series such as this, are great throughout, with plenty of tension, and really set the tone for the massive battles that are to come. The problems with the disc's production can be off-putting, and make it a more difficult recommendation, but those looking for some good science-fiction/mecha action good do far worse than Wing.

Japanese Language,French Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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