What They Say:
Wishing to turn the tide of war, Guin Rhineford leads the Earth Militia into space aboard the Willghem. His hope 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 been forgotten?
The Yoko Kanno powered soundtrack captures the unique time period of the show perfectly. Blending the sweeping orchestral tones paramount to Space Opera with folk-like acoustic and chanting pieces paint the cultural differences between those residing on the Moon and the Earth with a deft hand. Kanno’s own personality can be seen flickering through the notes on occasion as well, especially in syncopated pieces like “Barbarian” and “Drum Head”. This may also be one of the largest individual soundtracks in the Gundam family, with some songs being reserved for a single moment.
Mix-wise, everything sounds polished thanks to the lossless LPCM 2.0 track. Being a relatively unknown (and
vastly underappreciated) entry into the series, Turn A was not granted an English dubbing; but for those out there who really want an English Loran, he did receive a dub in the Gundam variant of the popular Dynasty Warriors franchise of video games.
Turn A II depicts Loran’s evolution as a pilot and with it an evolution of its animation. Now that pilots on both sides of the battle have grown, conflicts play out in a way that is much more exciting to watch compared to the copious amount of still frames used in the previous collection. Turn A’s colors are organic and lively in a way only the handed painted cel technique can accomplish, with this iteration being the last of the mainline Gundam entries to utilize mostly analog means. Syd Mead’s designs still carry that avant-garde feel today as they did when this show first released over 15 years ago, and his extensive interviews shine some light on his collaboration with Yoshiyuki Tomino in creating this steampunk themed universe.
Visually, this may be my favorite of all the Gundam shows and movies. What it lacks in a high budget like Thunderbolt or Unicorn, it more than makes up for in personality; the mobile suits aren’t just variations of previously established designs with a new coat of paint or weapon soldered on, these are completely unique. Granted, the design we see of the White Doll in the show isn’t actually the first or preferred of Syd Mead’s creations, but when working with the original creator of Gundam certain compromises must be made. Besides, that design was actually shifted over to the main antagonist’s machine rather than thrown in the dustbin so we still get to see it in action!
The standard blue plastic case houses three very handsome BluRay discs depicting various characters from the series in handpainted style. There is reversible art on the insert that lists the episodes, but it may be a bit NSFW for those with families out there.
Minimalist in both video and audio, the menus give the simple choices of “Play All”, “Episode Select”, and “Special Features.” This is all done in silence, which is not something I encounter very often. So infrequently, in fact, that I felt compelled to check to make sure I had my system on and switched to the proper input. This is disappointing in that the music for this series is so good that I wouldn’t mind listening to it during my menu excursions.
Syd Mead’s interview is the gold medal of special features, consisting of 3-parts of commentary about his inspirations and work with Tomino in designing the world of Turn A Gundam. Being one of the only foreigners to ever work on a Gundam series in this capacity, Syd’s previous work with movies such as Blade Runner and Tron make him more than qualified to pursue this venture. It is rare to get this insight into a series’ designs, let alone from the perspective of someone not intimately involved in the industry such as Mead. Other than the interviews, part II comes packaged with clean openings and closings, standard affair in most releases.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sharing time between the Earth and the Moon, the second half of Turn A wastes no time cutting right to the core of the conflict. Gone (mostly) are the meaningless villains and pointless skirmishes Loran & company toyed around with, replaced by the feverish rush of military and political consequences brought on by nuclear death. The consequences of the Dianna Counter’s greed are swift and harsh as their mining expedition quickly turns into an explosive (HA) battle over a newly discovered nuclear cache. Seeing her forces swiftly turn on her, Dianna is soon imprisoned thanks to multiple betrayals, and the series quickly devolves into an “every man for himself” scenario. This is the strongest aspect of the second half, the Amazing Race feel of every character seeking an end to all the animosity gives everyone their own time in the spotlight no matter how nuanced their views may or may not be.
Turn A’s strong suit (especially compared to other Gundam iterations) has always been touted as its strong female characters, and the second half shows exactly why. Complex in their motivations and roles, the women embody good virtues regardless of whether they are queens such as Dianna or housekeepers like Anise Bell. My favorite character of the show, ace pilot Sochie, is altered by the nuclear impact of the opening episodes. Normally content with battle for the sake of defeating her hated enemy the Moonrace, Sochie’s intense level of confidence and vigor is tempered by witnessing the devastating consequences of senseless combat. This rounds her out to become the ultimate warrior on the battlefield, both confident and calculated in her actions. She obviously isn’t the only member of the (40+!) cast to be changed by the explosion, but her changes feel the most pronounced and advantageous in the flurry of battles that is the second part of the series.
Possessing such an enormous cast of characters, Turn A is masterful in making them all feel relevant as the show winds down to its action-packed conclusion. As the classic saying goes, war is hell, and each character takes full advantage of the crumbling factions caught in the middle. Fraught with paper-thin alliances and desperate grasps at power and control, Turn A’s ending is chaotic as can be and clearly demonstrates that conflict and humanity now and forever go hand in hand until our extinction as a race.
A masterclass in balancing character building and action, Turn A Gundam demonstrates a maturity in storytelling that is seldom seen in the franchise. Taking place in a refreshing steampunk atmosphere, the time period of this series alone makes it a standout from the sci-fi trappings typically employed by its siblings under Sunrise’s umbrella. The Gundam for those out there with a flair for the unconventional, Turn A simply can’t be missed in its BluRay release.
Clean Openings and Closings, Three Part interview with Mechanical Designer Syd Mead
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: A, the Mead interviews are simply excellent.
Released By: Sunrise & RightStuf
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
MSRP: $74.99 USD
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Samsung 46” 1080p LED TV through Playstation 4 & Yamaha 5.1 Surround Sound system