What They Say:
Wishing to turn the tide of war, Guin Rhineford leads the Earth Militia into space aboard the Willghem. His hope is that a solution for the conflict might be reached once they arrive at the Moon. However, Queen Dianna’s absence has caused disarray for the government she had left behind and created a power vacuum in the Moonrace leadership.
Meanwhile, for the sake of his friends, Loran Cehack continues to assist Guin Rhineford by piloting the Turn A Gundam. But as his knowledge of the machine’s operation grows, so too do his concerns about its terrible past recorded in the Dark History. Under what circumstances could a weapon this powerful have come to be forgotten?
Contains episodes 26-50.
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 first 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 for the first installment was one that definitely caught the eye while this one is a bit murkier and not quite so distinctive. We get a partially obscured visual of the Turn A in the background with a circus tent on fire around it while the foreground gives us Dianna and Loran together. The whole countryside aspect is decent but considering how much of this set takes place in space I had hoped for something from there. The back cover goes for a more streamlined approach with a white background overall but one that brings in a bit of the countryside 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 another beautiful reversible cover here where it has a two-panel spread of the main cast done in illustration form with great colors. It goes for some great design style and there’s going to be plenty of appeal with both Dianna and Kihel. 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 change 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 basic extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. What we also get along the last three volumes are the three parts of the Syd Mead interview. These run about twenty-five minutes each and provides for some really great material to enjoy as he talks about the process and the show/
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Turn A Gundam was a pretty interesting experience with the first half as it gave us a very different look at a Gundam world than what the Universal Century gave us. While I’m seeing this fifteen years after it had originally aired and have seen a number of different alternate universe storylines, there’s a lot to like with this particular iteration. And what helps is that after taking the time to adjust to what this world was like the last time, this time around we just go right into it and get some good expansion into the moon side of things as well. That said, the show is still dealing with some of the same problems that a lot of Gundam shows do, particularly with Tomino based iterations of it, where there’s a superficial aspect to it when it comes to the politics and interactions amid all of it.
While there are Gundam series that shake up the way things are done from time to time, such as Build Fighters and G-Gundam, Turn A Gundam largely plays to the overall story style and design that made up a lot of the Universal Century pieces. This half of the season starts to ramp up the scale of events and it works well to make the threats in place feel more ominous towards the future of the species. The war on Earth has gone at an awkward pace to be sure with how it unfolded and what the return program that Dianna had set up was about, but that’s par for the course in this franchise. It works with the ideas but doesn’t truly flesh them out. So seeing that the war is going all over the map here and that more of those that are fighting for the Moonrace are getting conflicted about what they’re doing means that there are a lot more stalls going on with it, which in turn frustrates some of the commanding officer sides of it as they’re becoming fiercer the more time they spend on Earth. A problem that gets nudged a bit more as it progresses.
The Earth side only has one real story of note for me in this set until it gets to the end battle with all the various sides in focus. That story is one that has some potential but is just weirdly played as we get some of the Moonrace forces ending up connecting with a militia excavation that in turn reveals the discovery of several nuclear weapons. These aren’t world ending ones in terms of scale, but they’re quite deadly and we see just how powerful they are very quickly. But the welcome angle that we get is that one of the Moonrace soldiers realizes just how terrible this all is and absconds with the other two and tries to get them to Loran since he knows that he, and the militia, in general, won’t go that route. It’s not something you’d expect to some degree but it helps to paint the picture of the Moonrace side not being quite as far over the edge as some might believe and that they’re becoming more attached to the lands and the people here.
With that serving as a wake-up call for the militia forces, since having more materials from the Dark History come to the surface is a scary thing, that has a small group making their way to the moon with Dianna and Kihel along with Guin to try and broker a peace of some sort. The show has done very little up until this point to really give us a view of how things work, especially since Dianna is called a queen but is only thawed out infrequently. Who is really running the place? How many people are really up there and living? With millions of people in cold storage, what kind of social issues are there with this? The whole place is ripe for exploration and deep digging into how it all could work yet we get things done in a very superficial way, unfortunately. There are intriguing personalities to be had there, such as the warrior Gym Ghingnham, who has been researching a Turn X Gundam, and Agrippa Maintainer, who is the governor of sorts that handles things for Dianna as a chancellor. But with his own minor power play here in an attempt to keep things safe for the people we end up getting more divisions but nowhere near enough material to really make it feel real.
What makes this half of the season even more complicated after adding what we get with Agrippa and Gym and the various minor subplots attached to them with their own plans and supporters is that I still get mixed up regularly as to who is who when it comes to Dianna and Kihel. Even those around them have problems at times associating who they were with once the truth starts to come out and that makes you question what you know even more. Both are working hard to secure a peace and to understand the positions of the other and I really like that we get Kihel telling Dianna just how deep she dug in order to understand her while posing as her, something they did as a lark at first but turned far more serious with the secrets Kihel learned. But it just makes things quite complicated when there are so many factions at play. Even more so once it’s revealed that Guin has his own ambitions (beyond bedding Loran/Laura it seems), and seemingly strikes an alliance of sorts with Gym. I never felt like I truly understood what he was after beyond securing his own position and future though and amid all the other events it simply weakened the whole.
If there’s an area of the series that I really enjoyed in this half though it’s the time where the truth of the Dark History comes out. While I imagine that it’s more complicated than they let on in some ways, establishing that the events of Turn A Gundam take place a thousand (or thousands according to one person) years after the events of the Universal Century storyline is definitely something that I like. That takes this from being an alternate timeline to a far future where mankind rose and fell and has been struggling back up ever since. The revelation of the past, using footage from the UC shows, gives it a grander feeling overall even as some wonder why it should make an impact. Others see it as a reminder of what they’re trying to avoid while some see it as a realization of what they’ve already become. But that moment where they see a colony dropped on earth and realize how far people can go is humbling for many, reinforcing the need to find a way to bring all of this to an end. It’s a great motivational piece and I really liked the firmer connections to the established past.
In the end, Turn A Gundam is a series that really leaves me conflicted. There’s a lot that I like about it and what it sets out to do, especially with the Dark History reveals and the larger scope and scale of it all. But at the same time it suffers in the way so many Gundam shows have for so long in that it paints with a broad brush and isn’t capable of really building something complex in terms of characters, structure of story and the events that take place within it. I thoroughly enjoy the Gundam world but a lot of the UC and this series, as well as others since, have felt hampered by the inability to really build as opposed to recreating familiar events or playing to the sweeping ideas. A lot of it feels like it’s just written as it goes and not plotted deeply enough to bind it all together. That said, the ideas here are certainly interesting to work with and I like a lot of what it does but just get frustrated by the execution. Most importantly though, I’m beyond glad that I’m finally able to see it for myself and soak it up. It’s a solid release through and through, especially with the Syd Mead interviews, and it has me even more excited to see more of what’s to come in the world of Gundam releases.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, 3-part Interview with Mechanical Designer Syd Mead, Clean Opening and 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: August 4th, 2015
Running Time: 625 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.