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After War Gundam X Collection 2 Anime DVD Review

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After War Gundam X Collection 2 CoverIt’s the final push as the Spacenoids make their entry back into the show.

What They Say:
In After War Gundam X Collection 2, the remnants of the old government have reorganized to form the vicious New United Nations Earth. The new government seeks complete control of the planet, in order to reignite the war against the Space Revolutionary Army. One side sees Newtypes as the future of humanity, while the other sees them as weapons threatening its very existence – and with the Frost Brothers manipulating the situation, the fighting is quickly spiraling out of control.

Hoping to stop the war before it starts, Garrod, Tiffa, and the crew of the Freeden continue their search for Newtypes. If they bring enough Newtypes together, will they find a path to peace?

The Review:
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 twenty episodes of this set are spread across four discs with five per disc and the few extras on that last volume. 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 Tiffa in the foreground in action mode, controller in hand, while the background has a large shot of the Double X 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 various clean openings for this half.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After War Gundam X certainly worked some interesting ideas in the first half of the series that had me curious at the start. Focusing on the world after such devastation can be done well – even haphazardly, such as the final arc of Macross that was a last minute add-on extension to the show. There’s a lot of material to mine in such areas and After War certainly had the potential for it. With its focus on largely Earth-based adventures, which only shifts in the back half or so of this set, it kept things grounded and had the ability to dig into a lot of areas. But it just couldn’t seem to wrap its head around what it wanted to be and we mostly just had more of the same kind of on the run material that substituted the Freeden for the Argama. And coming into this after watching Gundam ZZ just reinforces certain elements like this.

Honestly, I’m fairly conflicted about this series because I really wanted to like it and get behind it. Even with the problematic copying of characters from other shows as you can see both Amuro and Judau in Garrod and plenty of Kamille as well with some of the recklessness that we had early on in dealing with the Vultures. The concept and idea is one that can be handled well but it needed the OVA type crew to dig into it rather than a TV run because it just ends up being too spread out. This set also has to cope with the change along the way where the series order got shortened down to thirty-nine episodes and you can tell that made an impact as certain side stories got shortened up and rushed so that they could largely do the final ten or so as intended, which in itself is a big space based adventure that reminds us that, yes, there are Spacenoids out there still after the way the war went.

Prior to that, the Freeden finds itself mostly getting mixed up in a lot of odd adventures. After spending so much time seeing the way the world works, what better way to shake up all this small regional powers than to introduce a new United Nations group that is made up of various power players from before the war that have survived and consolidated their own power. This starts the massive power grab across the landscape to consolidate things so that there will be a single planetary government to deal with what threats they view coming from space, naturally, and it also tends to focus on some expansive fighting in Southeast Asia, as one might expect. This throws the Freeden and others into that mix and it’s a lot of back and forth, with on smaller nation in particular with a young president, that they get caught up with and have to work through some minor political shenanigans in order to try and set things right. Not that they do in the end because the new government body ends up winning out.

Frankly, if the man taking over as the world leader is named Bloodman, well, you know they’re telegraphing things. Especially with the visual design that just makes him even more cartoonishly villainous. This in turn makes the Spacenoid side fare better since they’re not as cartoony, though it’s the usual bluster that you expect from leaders in the Gundam universe that come from a military background. The push to get into space comes from Tiffa being taken there and Garrod following, even turning over the Double X Gundam that he acquires along his adventures here, and that opens up a kind of initially chaotic series of events. What it feels like is that there was going to be a series of skirmishes between two sides in space that would have one win, which becomes the Spacenoid Revolutionary Army, which is taking its fight to Earth because of their belief in Newtypism and that they’re the rightful curators of the world so it can be brought back to health. That fight is seemingly done mostly off-screen however so that we can get right to the SRA and Garrod’s time trying to break free of them while Tiffa ends up showing them just how powerful Newtypes are.

There’s a lot of predictability here in how the fight plays out between the two sides as Earth and Spacenoid go at it, especially with a third party spoiler in the mix with the brothers that never feel like they connected well in the series, but it also spends a heap of time in these final episodes on Newtypes themselves. I’ve talked about how poorly realized they are in the UC series that we have out there and this one just takes it in its own direction as everything is funneled toward Tiffa bringing everyone to a place called D.O.M.E. that’s located on the moon. The show wants to push the idea that this is where the First Newtype ended up once they shed their physical form and essentially gently berates all those that come before it that they should be tired of war at this point. The reality outside the moon shows that mankind is not tired of it, nor are those on Earth that continue to war even after being pushed from 8 billion to 100 million people. So it digs into this in a weird way that also circles around on DOME essentially saying that Newtypes are an illusion and people have the ability to change the future. All well and good, but it feels like it undercuts everything else that this particular series has done with Newtypes and just kind of goes, “hah hah, just kidding. Newtypes are for chumps.”

Then again, I’ve felt that way in the UC series out there as well because of how weirdly and inconsistently utilized they are. After War Gundam X doesn’t do anything radical here overall even as it brings us the epilogue material after the sprawling space battle above the moon with characters that I felt just never connected well. Some of the epilogue material is decent, I liked the callback to the boastful soldiers from the first episode, and the mild nod toward romantic interests finally getting their due as well. But even that just felt tacked on since it was given a cursory nod at best here and there and you never really felt like these characters had a true connection with each other because the focus and scripting certainly wasn’t there. It’s mostly a ni send-off though, at least compared to all those that died along the way.

In Summary:
After War Gundam X is one of those series within the franchise that I never heard much about over the years. Coming after some big Universal Century timeline shows and films it’s easy to see why. Conceptually, the show has a lot to offer but it falls by never truly exploiting or exploring those options, instead essentially copying the template of past series and hoping that the minor tweaks and changes would carry it. That the episode order was cut as it was shows that it was poorly received and it’s not hard to see why. There are kernels of good ideas in here, some good battle sequences, and some fun in getting this kind of crew as the main one compared to the more military oriented ones of other series, but it doesn’t gel together in the way that it should. The 90’s weren’t easy for mecha fans and After War Gundam X was one that made it hard to rally around the franchise with.

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: July 5th, 2016
MSRP: $49.99
Running Time: 500 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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