What They Say:
In After War Gundam X, what started as a single space colony’s war for independence turned into an all-out war between the space colonies and Earth. No one was safe from the conflict, and Earth, the home of all humanity, suffered heavy damage in the fighting. Almost all of Earth’s population – once as many as ten billion people – was lost. It’s only now, 15 years after the end of the war, that Earth’s environment has at last stabilized again.
Garrod Ran is a war orphan, but when it comes to mobile suits, he has superb knowledge and skills. He receives a request from a mysterious gentleman to rescue a girl named Tiffa; and so he sneaks aboard the Freeden, the land warship where she is held captive. With the girl safely in his care, he returns to the mysterious gentleman, but when Tiffa sees the man, she’s overcome with panic. Quickly judging the situation, Garrod takes her and escapes. Guided by her unusual powers, they end up at the remains of an old Federation factory, where they find the mobile suit “Gundam X”…
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which gets a stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. The show isn’t one that has a lot of big moments with what it wants to do, owing somewhat to the time period of its creation, so we get a fairly straightforward design here. There are some mild bits of directionality in the action that gives it a bit more life but it’s not a mix that will wow compared to some of the newer Gundam shows obviously. But it handles itself well and has a solid enough presentation here that it feels very in line with most classic Gundam shows. The dialogue side is naturally where most of what we get is at and that works a simple design that comes across cleanly and clearly throughout. There’s some mild placement from time to time and occasionally a little depth when there are enough on screen at the time, but mostly we just get a clean and clear mix with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1996, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The nineteen episodes of this set are spread across four discs with five per disc for the first three and four on the last. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a fairly standard look for the time as to what fans expected a Gundam show to look like as it adheres to the more traditional elements rather than truly going its own way like some others began to do not long after this. The source materials are in good shape overall as there’s not much in the way of damage but there’s a fair bit of grain that one expects from the time and there’s a small layer of cross coloration that’s present in a lot of scenes. It’s not big and bold as we’ve seen with some other shows from this era so it’s not anywhere near the distraction or problem it could be, but it is present. Line noise is kept minimal overall and the look of the show with its color design comes through well as it fits into that war torn apocalyptic world.
The packaging design for this release is definitely pretty nice looking as we get a standard sized DVD case that holds the four discs inside across two hinges. The front cover artwork gives us a good shot of Garrod in the foreground in action mode, controller in hand, while the background has a large shot of his Gundam in the same kind of pose. With the white background, that gives it a strong sense of pop to it with both character and mecha artwork that stands out nicely without being over the top. I also really liked the small design elements such as the way the volume numbering is done and the layout of the logo along the bottom in a simple and almost classic way. The back cover goe for an all-white background that serves it well as we get a look at the Gundam on the right with a full-length shot while the rest of it breaks down the release. With a solid premise that’s easy to read even with the small font as it’s black on white, we get a good look at what’s in store. The shots from the show are all mecha focused and work well while we get a segment devoted to the episodes by number and title. The technical grid along the bottom breaks it all down clearly and cleanly with how the set is put together.
The menu design for the release works off what the packaging does to good effect. With a split screen approach, the left side uses the light grid approach to fill up the white space where the navigation is, which is simple since it’s just a play all and submenu for episodes. I almost wish the episode selection was at the top level just to fill it all out a little more. The logo and stripe stretches across the bottom with the darker green going to light approach and that helps to tie the two halves together. The right side changes up disc to disc with some really good character artwork that has a lot of pop and vibrancy with the color and I like that it doesn’t actually start on Garrod or his mobile suit but shifts to the ensemble side a bit. The layout is easy to navigate and get around in and it all worked without a problem.
The extras for this release are kept to the fourth disc where we get the clean versions of the two opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While we get a good run of familiar Gundam series released that we’ve had come out before, the shows that have never been released are definitely exciting to see. I’ve seen the original Gundam show far too many times as well as the older OVAs and more. So when we get exposed to things like Turn A Gundam and Gundam Evolve, it’s definitely catching my interest and reminding me of the golden rule; judge not a Gundam show until you get past the halfway mark. A lot of these shows work a long game, ones that admittedly can be tightened up a whole lot, and After War Gundam X is definitely one of those shows. Especially since it’s one that got its order of episodes cut early on from the usual fifty episodes down to thirty-nine.
This series takes us to some familiar places in its setup early on as we get the standard war between those on Earth and those from the colonies. There’s naming conventions to be sure, but these are minimized overall as that’s not the story. This isn’t about the two sides to a good degree, at least not in this first half, but rather the fallout from it. We’d seen a colony drop in the past and how that radically altered the war that was going on but in this instance the fight takes a radically different turn. While those from Earth were fighting and pushing back using Newtypes, the colony’s could see that they were going to lose and opted for a total true scorched earth campaign. The sight of all of these colonies crashing down and decimating the world is powerful. It’s an image from the original Macross series that still stands out for me with how powerful it is. With billions of people dead and the landscape of the world altered, After War Gundam X sets itself up for a host of possibilities.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really dig into it and in fact comes across with the kind of post-apocalypse recovery that’s problematic. Realistically, this should have been the Road Warrior of Gundam series based on the premise. While they try to ply us with words about how coastal areas recovered first (well, presumably the new coastal areas after the chaos of tsunamis and flooding) and that interiors are taking longer, the fact that the series picks up fifteen years later and we essentially get a kind of quaintness about the civilized areas is off-putting. The world building in this series just rubbed me the wrong way because they make such a point of how difficult it is to survive early on but then show us an array of towns where people are sitting at cafes outdoors and other such mundane activities all while looking like they stepped out of a 90’s slice of life series. This is the background to the world and it conflicts with the narrative that they set for it, which can be jarring at times with what it wants to present.
With this first half all earthbound, we’re introduced to a young man named Garrod that’s got solid mobile suit skills as he works to collect, salvage, and sell the remains that he finds. He’s good on working on them and piloting them all in service of making money for his daily bread as he puts it. When he takes on a job that has him rescuing a young woman named Tiffa, he realizes that the employer of the moment has nefarious plans for her and he runs off with her. Tiffa’s kind of a blank slate to some degree early on as she’s almost in a daze, not quite sure of thing beyond knowing she doesn’t want to go with the mysterious man that has big plans for her. That has her bonding with Garrod well enough since she saves her and risks his life for her a few times in escaping from the Vultures, the scavengers that had her.
Where the show works its familiar trait in the Gundam-verse is that the pair end up connecting with a different group with an airship called the Freeden, which is captained by a man named Jamil. Jamil has a history connected to events from the war itself, of course, and fits a kind of Char-ish role that a lot of the early spinoff series tried to emulate in a lot of ways. His crew is pretty decent with a solid group of young men and women that work the ship and he has a pair of freelancer mobile suit operators as well that he draws into more full time as events progress. What really drives him to working with Garrod early on is seeing the power of the Gundam that Garrod ended up stealing from the Federation base where Tiffa was at. The thing has substantial power that really is impressive and brutal.
From there… well, it’s all kind of hazy. While most Gundam series have a larger arc that you can see relatively early on with defined sides, that’s not quite the case here. There are various factions that come into play where some are going after Tiffa because of what she is (a Newtype) while others want to get the Gundam because of its power. Some just want to kill Garrod because of the interactions in some of the early battles. But it lacks a kind of pressure from above that really gives it a strong narrative. Garrod’s main goal is just to protect Tiffa as he’s just totally into her – mostly because it seems like she’s the only other girl his age he’s ever seen. Tiffa has very little personality and is so standoffish for the bulk of this set that it’s hard to see the appeal, though you can say that about a great many relationships. Garrod’s youthfulness has him doing all that he can and there are fun moments with the older crew members of both genders that prod them along, but it’s kind of a limp subplot.
But really, beyond that, I’m hard pressed to really say what the main thrust of the series is. We do see a reveal as to Tiffa’s true nature toward the end that makes for an interesting moment and it opens up more about Jamil and his own past, but that just means more questions. There isn’t a lot of deep digging with the supporting cast, though the mercs get a bit here and there as they even get a standalone episode to themselves with some free time to clean up their affairs a bit. And in the case of Roybea, that’s a lot of affairs. Witz has some decent material himself that makes him more of an everyman to some degree but that ends up making him the less defined of the two when you get down to it. Both have their moments but they’re here just for support for Garrod and his battles in his super powerful mobile suit.
There are enemies to be had throughout but these are almost more one-off things, from the Orcs (sea-based Vultures) to your basic scrap thieves. There’s an interesting subplot for a few episodes about an artificial Newtype by the name of Carris Nautilus, but it’s the kind of piece that really needed to be longer and more embedded in the bigger storyline. Ennil’s the only other character that really sticks out from appearances from time to time as she’s intent on eliminating Garrod as she’s originally from the colonies and sees everyone that’s from Earth as the enemy, him more so because of his Gundam that was the catalyst for where everything went wrong. It’s not a bad arc as it plays out here but it suffers from not being able to really define itself in an engaging way.
I had no idea what I was going to get with After War Gundam X when it kicked off but I was really keen on it at the start for what it presented. The potential is definitely there but they took such basic routes that avoided really making it a fully realized world that everything thereafter felt superficial and plastic in a sense. There’s too much of past shows in this without enough of the real magic of creativity it needed, of a true defining vision, to get past that and be its own being. I’m definitely curious to see where the back half goes, especially since its order was cut and I hope a lot of fluff with it, and I’m always up for some decent mobile suit battle sequences. There are some decent ones to be had here but I kept hoping for more of a mishmash Road Warrior-esque version to surface with patchwork mobile suits and some really intense characters. This series simply feels too safe considering its setting.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Running Time: 475 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.