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.
The audio presentation for this series is kept simple as we get the original Japanese language only in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. The films are pretty much a product of its time and origin as a TV series 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 and pulled together for the theatrical release in 2002, the transfer for these films are presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The two films are given separate discs where each of them runs about two hours each. Animated by Sunrise, it does a decent job overall with it wants to do as it carries its budget over quite well. The original 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 the two discs inside both against the interior walls. The cover artwork is certainly interesting and almost spiritual with what it wants to do as we get the Turn A Gundam in the middle with its arms essentially wrapping around the moon in the background. With the darkness of the night sky around it, we get the images of Kihel and Dianna on either side of it while Loran is in his pilot’s outfit between the Gundam’s legs. It’s an odd piece overall and definitely a lot darker than we usually get with a kind of softness to it that’s interesting, especially in comparison to the sharper, busier, and brighter covers of the TV series. The back cover goes for a more streamlined approach with a white background overall but one that brings in a bit of the mecha that looks good with a soft approach. We get a clean look at the Gundam itself along the right while the left provides a slate of shots from the show that are small but look good. The bottom half runs with the premise though it’s mostly just reusing a lot of what the first TV series collection material was, which makes sense to do. The bottom brings out the standard production credits and a clean if simple technical breakdown of what the disc has. There are no show related inserts included here and unlike the TV releases we don’t get any artwork on the reverse side.
The menu design for this release goes with a clean and simple look that works well as each disc gets its own static image using the mecha with a scene from that particular film. It adds some nice color and lets the mecha stand out as the primary piece as opposed to the characters. The navigation strip is kept near the bottom where it’s a bigger bar than usual with the logo along the left while the right half has four shots from the film that gives it some additional color and style that works well. The navigation itself is simple with nothing to it beyond playing the film and going into scene selection as there are no extras nor any language options – though you can turn the subtitles off on the fly.
When the original Gundam series came out and found a second life through the movie trilogy compilation, you can imagine that the desire to do it again and try and replicate that success was there with Turn A Gundam. The series is definitely its own beast, but it was also a property that took some of the lessons of the original and forged its own path, making it not quite as necessary nor as easy to compressed. Sunrise essentially takes the twelve-hundred-minute series and compresses it down to two movies at two hundred and fifty minutes total, which has its appeal as it really does stick to the core of things. But part of what made Turn A Gundam work was some of the character material and the whole greater understanding between the two sides through the main cast.
In a way, I was wary of this pair of films because I had just finished the TV series and so much of it was fresh in my mind. While I wasn’t going through it wondering where particular scenes were or anything, I found myself feeling like the films simply had to excise too much material – especially since it whittled it down to two films unlike the three for the original series. A lot of the original Gundam series was just varied battles and the like that added some overall nuance but not a lot of heavy detail and important plot points as they were trying to make something serialized but episodic at the same time. Turn A Gundam went more for the larger storyline and the mix of character arcs and experiences that grew over the course of it. So cutting out large chunks of that to streamline it takes out the heart and motivation for much of it.
If you’re looking for detail about each of the films, you can really just look at our reviews of the first half and second half of the TV series as it will give you the basic ideas and points with what works and doesn’t work.
What I found with these films is that it does give us this larger world, an interesting continuation of the UC timeline in a way that I suspect a lot didn’t figure on when they first started it. Looking at it in the larger theme sense, it plays to a lot of the ideas from the original but takes it in some interesting directions. I like that we get the Moon Race wanting to come back and claim a section of land from North America as their own after two years of failed negotiations. They’re looking to secure their own future at a time when things are dire and are willing to go the distance for it but have to deal with the restrictions that Dianna places on them even though she’s a rare leader due to the way she’s in hibernation so often. That area never felt like it was well explored in the series and is even weaker here. But that’s a regular complaint I have with far too many Gundam series. I love the ideas behind it but the execution never feels like it works well. There’ a rich and deep world of stories to be told and when it goes for something radical like it does here, moving forward two thousand years and really giving us a different kind of world, it skimps on the important world building elements. That leaves it more a traditional action/adventure piece that is tantalizing but never fully satisfying.
While a different beast from the original Gundam movie trilogy and how that came together and what it did for that series, the Turn A Gundam movies are an interesting project to see how you can take so much and try to whittle it down while still achieving the goal of telling a story. I think it falters in a lot of ways, but some of those faults are inherent in the design of the show. I really like the core ideas behind it and what it wants to do and the films go for a more top level view, which means lessening the character swapping that goes on and the will they or won’t they get caught elements and some of the more mindless action as well as some of the spiritual elements. But there’s a rushed feeling about it because it does have to compress so much. Still, if you’re interested in the show but don’t want to commit to a really long show, the films are the way to go to engage with this world and what it does. I suspect these films are more for the completist than the average fan, but I’m still glad they made their way over as I find these kinds of projects fascinating to see how they execute it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
Running Time: 257 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.