What They Say:
The actions of Heero and his fellow Gundam pilots have plunged Earth and its space colonies into political upheaval. The secret society OZ, which took over the world in a stunning military coup, has now split into warring factions and the Gundam pilots are caught in the middle. Only the pacifist Sanc Kingdom, now resurrected under Relena’s leadership, remains an oasis of peace in a world torn by war. But two powerful new Gundams, and OZ’s legions of computer-controlled mobile dolls, are about to escalate the conflict to new heights!
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 a more varied cast of characters rather than just the pilots where it interestingly enough uses Dorothy as the center. This one has more finery for costume design and that definitely stands out. 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 action visual from the show. 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 a pair of mobile suits 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 last two opening sequences and some of the Japanese commercials
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming back into Gundam Wing has been an interesting undertaking. When the series first was released it was the first Gundam TV series that I had been able to see as everything else beforehand was OVAs or movies, such as compilations and the like. This series was a big first for me and it came at a time when the Gundam franchise really started to get much better worldwide recognition beyond the modeling side and the niche fandom side because of the broadcast deals. I’ve seen a lot of Gundam since then, and a lot just in the last couple of years with Sunrise delivering it big time in North America with Nozomi Entertainment. That hasn’t really changed my view of the show but it has reaffirmed the kind of similar nature that a lot of these projects have that was already pretty evident.
The back half of the series, clocking in at twenty-four episodes, does a lot of what we’ve seen before. And I can’t fault them too much for that because it’s a successful formula that changes in some ways because of the casts involved. Working with the five young men here means more varied stories as their subplots work through the changing political/military structure of the solar system that dominates it, and is ushered in through the Romefeller Foundation and how Relena gets involved through her position in the Sanc Kingdom to try and bring peace about in whatever way possible. When you’re looking to save lives you sometimes have to make that tough choice of doing something bad to save a lot even though it goes against your other values. And in a war where the sides never feel clearly defined in a classic sense and there’s so much going on due to the scope of where humanity has spread out it just becomes even more complex and convoluted for one person to really manage.
The structure of this half of the series brings us back to Earth after a couple of episodes so we can deal with various events there while the Romefeller and OZ elements kick into gear and we see how Treize is handled before he shifts gears to his larger plans. We also see the reveal of who Zechs is along the way and his transition from pilot to unmasked leader is interesting, but it’s also an echo with changes from the UC timeline, something that hampers my enjoyment of this because it’s far too easy to make comparisons. The political turmoil is interesting and watching as some of the boys get caught up in it while others are out in the world doing their own thing, or struggling with memory loss as they become a clown in a circus, works well. Each of the characters get their own arc before you know they’ll inevitably come together to do the right thing but these are largely superficial arcs rather than something that feels deep. But it’s not the kind of angsty material from the UC timeline that we had with Amuro and Kamille and that helps immensely.
The reconnect of events on Earth works well to allow events in space to build up with how the colonies react to everything and especially the seeming unification of the various nations of Earth into one nation to deal with the changes that are coming. And those changes in space are intriguing, particularly as we get a lot more on the unmanned mobile suits and some really creative things for the time with how they operate, the weapons they use, and the kind of actions that unfold with them. The downside is that while we have some good leader types on the enemy side to connect with it never felt like we had a strong enough series of opponents on the mobile suit side, fostered by the unmanned aspect of it all. When we do get the boys back in action together, which takes until the final act really, it’s definitely a delight to watch because of the way space based combat works and the kinds of maneuvers they put into play. It’s enjoyable for this alone but I also liked the Libra weapon that was used as the scale of things have been nicely upped over the course of the series and coming up with something as big and powerful as this definitely feels like a natural progression.
Gundam Wing has earned its place along the top tier of Gundam projects and getting it in this great new release is long overdue. The show has a strong following and many fans for a reason and it definitely was the right show at the right time to be a gateway series to more anime for many fans. It holds up very well over time and can be a definitive version for many, though I’m still far more a fan of the UC timeline than anything else. There’s a lot to like here with the show, including its look from the traditional animation/film era that gives it a rougher and more raw feeling in some ways, and having it look as great as it does in as compact a set as we get is just fantastic. Very recommended for those wanting to explore this franchise.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Japanese Commercials
Content Grade: B+
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: 600 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.