What They Say:
Mankind has moved into space. Thousands of people live on giant orbiting space colonies called “Sides.” However, the Earth Government, which rules the colonies, is unjust and cruel. A group of revolutionaries build five robotic weapons called Gundams and plan to send them to Earth to begin their fight for independence. Piloted by five young men, these Gundams carry the colonists’ hopes and dreams of freedom with them as they descend to Earth to begin Operation Meteor!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the previously created English language dub in stereo in PCM format. The show is one that plays well to the period where it has some minor directionality at times with the action and dialogue but it’s not going to be big or crazy with it since setups largely didn’t do all that much back in the mid 1990’s. The action plays well with some bigger sequences that go louder and with some impact, especially in uncompressed form here as opposed to the lossy DVDs we used to have, while the dialogue side of it mostly straightforward in its design. There’s not a ton of directionality or depth to be had there but it has a clean and smooth sound where the music, and especially the opening and closing sequences, have a richer and warmer feeling to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 1995 and 1996, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio.The twenty-five episode of this set is spread across four discs with six episodes per disc while the first has seven. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a strong look to it with some great and creative mobile suit designs, some solid detail in the backgrounds, and more varied character designs that hold up well. The traditionally animated series has some great warmth in the color design of the show and I love the fluidity of the characters when it shifts to bigger scenes and with the mobile suit fights themselves. The main takeaway here is that this is a strong improvement over the standard definition editions of the past while retaining the right kind of film feeling with the grain that doesn’t create additional noise or breakup to it.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case where we get the discs held on the two hinges inside. The front cover is a good one that uses the black background well to highlight the main cast of characters so they look intense and daunting, though still very much from the period in which they were created. The back cover carries over the blackness but fills it in with a few stars and several shots from the show as well as a larger mobile suit image. The downside is that the summary of the premise, which is small to begin with, is done with the old green text used for computers back in the day and it’s essentially unreadable in most lighting and that includes the breakdown of the extras on the disc. The technical aspect is done with a white text in a separate box that covers things accurately. While there isn’t a show related insert here we do get artwork on the reverse side with the left featuring a good image of the main mobile suit while the right breaks down the episodes by number and title.
The menu design for this release goes for the simple but effective approach with the static design. Each disc works the same kind of navigation piece along the bottom with the old school green text on black for the text that looks really nice while having the logo along the left of it. It doubles as the pop-up menu and works effectively in moving around and dealing with the setup and episode access. The bulk of each menu is the static piece that brings us different character pairings over the four volumes while set against some radar style imagery and a starfield to give it some additional weight. They’re not the strongest of menus in terms of flashy material but they’re solid and fit the theme very well.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the first two opening sequences and the first closing sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a whole lot of Universal Century material out there since the first series began nearly two decades before, Sunrise shifted gears further with the arrival of Gundam Wing, also known as New Mobile Report Gundam Wing. The series landed in the spring of 1995 and ran for forty-nine episodes over the course of its run. Under the guiding hands of Masahi Ikeda and Shinji Takamatsu, the team gave us another alternate timeline series that played to familiar ideas but twisted it up. The show was one that was the right time and right place kind of work but more so when it landed overseas. The series was one that launched a million ships for a million fans with its Toonami broadcast after Bandai Entertainment brought it out and it’s had a lot of time in the sun on broadcast TV in North America, essentially being a gateway series to anime for a lot of fans.
Gundam Wing is definitely interesting with what it does but it also follows the familiar pattern of many Gundam shows in that with a planned full year run it’s one that takes its time before it really “gets to the point” in a way. The show gives us a familiar setup with the solar system having been explored and plenty of space colonies out there that are being choked under the yoke of the United Earth Sphere Alliance that exists to deal with the main colonies that exist between the Earth and the moon. The push for independence is strong for the colonies but the interconnected nature of them and those planetside is strong and the authoritarian elements are in control. And, like so many wars that have gotten underway over the millennia, it’s an assassination that does just that with the pacifist Hero Yuy ends up dead.
But it’s not a quick rush to war but one fostered in secret with a distinct plan as organized by a group of scientists. These five men have recruited young pilots to handle the mobile suits that they’ve created and to send them to Earth in order to wreak havoc as part of the larger plan to win independence and freedom. They’ve also initially part of something larger that people can latch onto with OZ, which is known as the Organization of Zodiac, that gains a lot of trust before revealing the true nature. The scientists that we discover along the way have left that organization for their own goals that will come to fruition some twenty years later. And for those pilots who were unaware of the larger plans and instead focusing on their more personal goals this is a kind of slap in the face as more of the truths slowly come out as they’re exposed more to not only each other and their disparate personalities but also those on Earth and in the colonies.
With its sprawling nature and lack of connection to past incarnations it has a lot of cast to fill up and does so nicely. But it’s also a welcome shift from past incarnations because it deals with the younger pilots and their own struggles having been trained for this and coming from diverse backgrounds. And just like past incarnations we also get some murky aspects to the organizations and the characters therein as some are familiar echoes, such as Zechs and his mask that reflects an uncertainty as to his true allegiances, but also some welcome nudges where we get Relena, a daughter of a politico, who gets very actively engaged with the actions of the pilots as she tries to figure out ways to defuse things while seeking justice. There are areas where you can essentially call this a remake of the original series and you wouldn’t be far off but it was also the kind of remake that adjusts for the time in which it came and helped to usher in the period of the group of young boys taking the lead that would attract a lot of female viewers to the property and others.
I enjoyed the series during its original run – and watching the DVDs five episodes at a time back during the early 2000’s every month or so – and it definitely holds up better when marathoned as you see the various threads and character arcs come together more. My main frustration with it is similar to ones I’ve had with just about all other Gundam franchises in that it does its world building slowly and awkwardly, almost as if it’s just something to get out of the way without enough detail, and that it spends most of its first half on Earth. There’s usefulness to this but it’s frustrating to watch unfold, especially since this series could have been really diverse due to its use of the group of boys and how they could be spread into their own storylines more thoroughly. Heero naturally gets most of the attention and they all get their own stories and arcs while also functioning as a team, but a lot of what’s done here is why I’ve gravitated more toward the works that have stemmed from novels or more “serious” attempts at rewriting the Gundam framework.
That said, Gundam Wing is entirely a product of its time and is definitely a strong work because of that. Gundam Wing was a series that I enjoyed in the past and totally get the adulation and love it has as it’s a first-exposure for many and it came at a time when English language dubs were really starting to be a very positive thing. I can still vividly recall the experience of the actors at the first Anime Boston and how it was like a hugely popular band panel with the questions and intensity of the audience that ended up building some long term interest in the medium but also the actors, which in turn gave them and the studios more incentive to up their game and deliver even more as time went on. Gundam Wing was a transformational show for the North American market and its being out of print for so long, and just on DVD, has finally been fixed in a big way.
Gundam Wing has long earned its place within the greater sphere of what anime has accomplished, especially in North America. It’s been almost two decades since I last saw it and it does hold up pretty well overall, avoiding coming across as quaint but hitting up the nostalgia side a fair bit. The evolution of the franchise since its inception has shown a lot of growth, and a lot of falling back at times as well. But this is one of those shows that delivers well with a strong and varied cast of characters, some nice twists on familiar tropes within the franchise, and some great designs for both the characters and the mobile suits. The first half of it is more earthbound than I care for overall and I wish it had dug deeper into the world building side of things but it delivers a fun story with characters that are unpredictable. This release gives us the best looking and sounding version of it to date in North America in one hell of a compact package compared to what we’ve had – and at a far better price for what’s involved. Fans of it will want to grab this right away and if you’re battling the nostalgia you’d best just give in and enjoy it because that’s what it does best.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment/Sunrise
Release Date: November 7th, 2017
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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.