What They Say:
For 2000 years, a separate race of humanity has lived on the moon. Known as “the Moonrace,” their technology is leaps and bounds beyond those that stayed behind on the Earth’s surface. Now seeking to return to their original home, the Moonrace send three teenagers – Loran, Keith, and Fran – down to Earth on a reconnaissance mission to test the viability of its environment.
After spending a year on Earth, Loran has become good friends with Sochie and Kihel, daughters of the prestigious Heim family, and he looks forward to fully integrating into Earth society. But before Loran gets the chance to make his report, the Moonrace launch a surprise attack. Earth’s primitive airplanes are no match for the superior power of the Moonrace’s mobile suits. However, in the midst of the initial attack, Loran and Sochie uncover a long-forgotten relic: a white mobile suit. As a Moonrace, Loran is quickly able to grasp the basics of piloting it, but by doing so, he inadvertently places himself in the middle of a war.
Contains episodes 1-25.
The audio presentation for this series is kept simple as we get the original Japanese language only in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. The show is pretty much a product of its time so we get something that works the forward soundstage in a simple way with both the dialogue and action sequences, though they handle both well. The show plays to a center channel design for the most part with the dialogue and there’s not much in the way of elements like directionality or depth to it, but it comes across well as everything is clean and problem free. The action side of it has a bit more impact overall and spreads a bit more to the left and right channels, but it’s still not one with a lot of really big impact to it that you’d expect for an action show. But it is pretty much spot on for what we got back then. The mix captures the design of the show well and the opening and closing sequences give it a bit more warmth overall, though not a lot more. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1999 and into 2000, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The twenty-five episodes included with this release are spread across six discs with four episodes per disc, outside of the sixth which has five. Animated by Sunrise, the show does a decent job overall with it wants to do as it carries its budget over quite a few episodes. The series is unlike a lot of other Gundam shows prior to this one in that it’s almost entirely Earth based for the first half of it and that keeps things in a familiar and somewhat agrarian civilization. The look of the show is one that’s decent, but it also has the usual kind of slim approach to things as a lot of Gundam TV shows do. Colors in the transfer come across well with some nice solidity to it without much in the way of noise, though there is some natural grain to be had here. The higher motion areas come across cleanly and without problems and in general it’s a solid looking transfer. The only area I really ran into some minor trouble with is that a few of the panning sequences has a bit line noise, but that’s part and parcel with materials from this time.
The packaging for this release keeps things nice and compact as we get a standard sized clear DVD keepcase that holds all six discs inside both against the interior walls and with a hinge for the rest. The cover artwork doesn’t look like your usual Gundam show and that’s a good thing because it stands out so well. What we get is something that is reflective of the time period its set in as we get something old school here but with some great colors and artwork that makes it look like it was just released today. With the image of Kihel striding along with the blue sky behind it, but also a lot of the technology of the time with the airship, the train and a plane as well as the Turn A Gundam itself. It’s got some great detail to it overall and it looks very current and modern, which is definitely a big selling point. The back cover goes for a more streamlined approach with a white background overall but one that brings in a bit of architecture that looks good with a soft approach. We get a clean look at the Gundam itself along the right while the left breaks down the overall premise of the show in a good way while listing out the episodes and extras. Add in a few shots from the show and a clean technical grid along the bottom that covers the bases. There’s a beautiful reversible cover here where it has a two panel spread of the main cast done in illustration form with great colors, making it a hard choice to pick one to face out. It also has the breakdown of episodes by number and title on the left so it works out on the back cover if you do reverse it.
The menu design for this release does keep things rather simple, but it’s not a bad thing for this release because it’s also colored with some really great pieces. It works a white background overall, though not a stark white, and along the left side we get the logo as well as the episodes by number and title to select from. The right side has a beautiful piece of illustration material from the Japanese releases that changes with each disc, providing for some great images to set the tone with. There’s the right kind of feeling about it to make it feel like it’s top quality kind of stuff, which really makes me wish that they were offered as postcards with the set. Other than the extras on the first disc, there’s nothing here besides the show, which is monolingual anyway, so it’s a quick and easy use kind of menu/
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a lot of material that focused on the Universal Century timeline of the Gundam universe, Sunrise began to expand more outside of it in order to find new ways to present the same thing and hit some familiar tones that also allowed them to create a lot of new model kits. Turn A Gundam arrived in 1999 for a fifty episode run that really went in a very different direction in terms of setting, but it hit a lot of familiar plot points and several characters that felt like they were just slightly reworked versions from the other timeline. Focusing on the Correct Century timeline here, an amusing little bit of wordplay in its original Japanese form, Turn A Gundam goes big in concept but keeps it very small in terms of what it really wants to do.
The world setting for Turn A Gundam is an interesting one as it takes place some two thousand years after a cataclysmic event that ended up destroying the world for the most part. Referred to as the Dark History with it and the time before, it’s become mostly stories and lore. Over the next two thousand years, the people that survived spent their time working the land and bringing it back to life bit by bit, which now has them at an essentially pre-industrial agrarian kind of culture with technology starting to play a bigger part in things. While progress is being made and we see some men are building towards an industrial future, there’s a complication in that when the Dark History was at its worst, some of those left Earth and went to the moon in order to survive. Now known simply as the Moonrace, they’re wanting to come back and, supposedly, help finish nursing the world back to health and bringing some advanced technology with them.
The negotiations with it all have been going on for a couple of years, mostly out of the public eye, but it’s been happening. The Moonrace has quietly set down a range of people over the years to report on what the world is like and adapt to being on Earth, but it’s interesting to see how a good number of them have really taken to it and have opted to live out their lives there without revealing who they are. It does get more complicated along the way as we learn more of how the Moonrace has interacted with Earth over the years, as it turns out that Queen Dianna Soriel of the Moonrace visited some seventy or so years ago and fell in love with a man there, but ended up returning to the moon and going into stasis when she was recently awakened to bring closure to the talks. But she still manages to be a young woman, albeit one with a history that feels like it could be really interesting if explored well. The Moonrace side itself doesn’t get a lot of exposure here as we only see what they bring when they come to Earth with their advanced mecha and technology and we don’t see anything of where they are on the moon itself, which feels really weird and unusual.
Where the series wants to focus is on a trio of those that came down two years prior to the start here as an assignment to investigate the Earth. While we get some time throughout with Keith, who becomes a baker, and Fran Doll who works as a newspaper reporter/photographer, the main focus is on Loran, a young man who finds himself working for the Heim family, a wealthy if smaller family involved in the mining business that has a lot of connections, including to one young lord that’s position to take on a powerful leadership role in government some day. Loran ends up getting close to the family with its two daughters, Sochie and Kihel, and really invests in becoming a part of the society even as just a simple servant. With the coming of age ceremony, we see how he is good friends and a solid young man, one with technical skills that lets him catch the eye of others, but it’s the events at the ceremony itself that causes his life to really change. With the arrival of the Moonrace and the first flush of combative events that get underway, the ceremony itself is performed at a place where buried underneath it is the Turn A Gundam, which they don’t actually name until halfway through the first half of the series here. It’s usually called the Moustache, which just makes it comical.
Because of his connections to those he knows, he ends up falling in with the militia easily enough and it begins a long series of events that twist and turn as the two sides face off, though there’s a lot of pauses of a sort in it where we have attempts at peace being made. Of course, there are soldiers on both sides that are just itching for a fight, and even Sochie is invested in it due to her losing her father from a Moonrace attack. There’s a solid cast of supporting characters introduced over it, and a lot of back and forth elements with the way rivalries are setup, and it retains a lot echoes of past Gundam shows, though Harry is now Char when you get down to it. There’s a lot of characters that pop in and out for awhile, some that come back in interesting ways, such as the Moonrace pilot Corin Nander, who is a pretty outgoing and aggressive initially but after things go sour, he returns later in this set as a monk that’s seemingly lost all memory of who he is.
Turn A Gundam focuses heavily on Loran as he tries to find a balance for the two sides to figure out a way to coexist, which is a good thing since he feels he’s truly of both worlds. But he has a strong tie to the Moonrace, especially when it comes to dealing with the Queen as he’s properly deferential. There’s also some fun along the way as Loran gets “mistaken” as Laura due to his name, and that’s how the Moonrace knows him as the pilot, so he gets to do a little cross dressing from time to time for good measure. Loran’s not a bad guy at all, he’s pretty much your standard character that wants to do good all around, but he’s mostly ineffectual when it comes to achieving it. But he does figure out the Gundam the more he works at it and as other pieces of it come online, such as the tactical side, beam swords and other weapons, so there’s some nice growth for him to work there, especially as more and more mecha from the Dark History are excavated and come online for all of them to get involved in.
One subplot that kicks off about halfway through the first half here is one that you expect from early on as when Queen Dianna finally arrives on the scene, she’s practically Kihel’s twin. The two end up interacting a few times due to politics and connections, but there’s the eventual switcheroo scene that comes into play that they do as a bit of a prank. What you end up waiting for is for one of them to get killed and having to run with it from there, but it doesn’t happen. Instead, the two get separated relatively quickly and Kihel has to play at being the leader of the Moonrace while Dianna ends up learning a lot more about Earth than she ever imagined – or could. It works well to provide insights into both worlds and a greater understanding, and you can see why it was done even if it is the kind of obvious route to go. What becomes fun is that Kihel ends up really taking to the role of leadership and finds some creative ways to keep things from getting worse while Dianna ends up attached to Loran after awhile and she learns a lot about the world and its people, getting her hands dirty and finding out a lot about the brief time she was on Earth before, decades ago, and just how many things have changed. It plays longer than I expected and has some amusing moments as they cross paths while trying to get things back on track.
The world design is what really intrigued me about the show. It take place in the US for the most part, though some of it is uninhabitable at this point still because of the cataclysm. It’s mostly spent in the south in what’s termed the Sunbelt and we get some amusing name reworkings, such as North Ameria, Lousana and Florina as locations where things take place. Setting these regions up as little fiefdoms of sort with various lords works well, though it’s kept light on the details and real structure. What I really enjoyed though is that as it goes on and the Moonrace begins landing and claiming area in Florina for themselves, we see them setting fences and preparing ideas to declare statehood in order to solidify their position. There’s a lot of allegories to real world situations with it, though it avoids religious aspects, but it plays well in dealing with it and making it an interesting road to take as it separates itself from how the previous Gundam series played in many ways.
If there’s anything that frustrates me here, it’s something that frustrates me with a lot of Gundam shows and a lot of anime in general. Here, amid the war that’s brewing and all the issues associated with it and the personalities, most of it is very black and white in how people act and feel. Which doesn’t make for a lot of compelling material in a way. There’s no nuance, there’s no attempts at understanding for most of them, and it lacks any real introspection or attempts to put themselves in others shoes. While for some like Sochie, with her loss, it’s somewhat understandable as it drives her to what she does. But for most, it’s all kept to very simple and basic motivations. Loran doesn’t provide much as he’s just trying to get everyone to get along, and we do get some nuance from Kihel and Dianna as they’re forced to look at both worlds, but the way most react is just so basic and formulaic that it’s frustrating. War is complicated and a situation like this with all that’s involved, it could be so much more.
Turn A Gundam has been a series that I’ve been eager to see for years, since it was a show that was licensed once before but didn’t make it out due to the company going under. Getting it here at long last, in a solid, tight and compact release, it’s great to finally see it and the way that we get the Gundam franchise turned in a different way, but still familiar. While it doesn’t sprawl across the solar system or involve colonies in the traditional way, the themes are here in full, just more grounded in a literal sense. There’s a lot of intriguing material with the Dark History that’s slowly unearthed and what it could mean and the first half of this series presents a lot of material to take in with the cast, the setting and what’s come before that may still impact the present. Turn A Gundam is an unusual series when you get down to it in some of the design choices and look of it, especially after the Universal Century, but I find myself really intrigued by it and what it might do in the second half where it goes really big. This is a very fun release that I imagine must have been difficult to swallow early on considering how much it diverged from what fans were used to.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.