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Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Once more the boys must fly.

What They Say:
After Colony 196. Tranquility has spread through the Earth Sphere and the colonies are at peace. The Gundam pilots find themselves attempting to rebuild their lives in this new era. No longer having need of their weapons of war, they have sent their Gundams into the sun to be destroyed. But suddenly, Relena Darlian, who has become a high-ranking government official, is kidnapped by a colony with aspirations of total domination. The Gundam pilots and their allies find themselves called into action once again. The Endless Waltz has resumed…

The Review:
Audio:
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. For the most part, that applies to the release in general but it should be noted that the movie version also has an English 5.1 PCM mix that ups the ante just a bit when it comes to the action, though Japanese fans with the stereo mix won’t miss out on too much overall. 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.

Video:
Originally airing in 1996 for Operation Meteor and 1997 for the OVAs and 1998 for the film, the transfer for this project is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio.The layout works well with the first two discs covering two episodes each of the Operation Meteor side while the third is the OVAs and the fourth is the film. 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 OVAs up things a bit in terms of animation quality as the action scenes feel more fluid and detailed but it all does its best to keep to the overall aesthetic of the TV series. 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.

Packaging:
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 my favorite of the releases that have come out as we get the boys in the foreground with great costumes and expressions and tied to their mobile suits in the background with a great color scheme that just oozes coolness. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening sequences and closing sequences as well as some of the previews for the OVA side.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the complete TV series having now been released, the final piece of the Gundam Wing experience is here with the Endless Waltz release. And it’s one that was definitely exciting back in the day in getting one more mission with the guys and seeing how some of the things shook out. It still surprise me to some extent that most of the various alternate Gundam properties aren’t utilized for long once the anime itself is done as you can easily imagine more stories in each of the universes and I’d actually kind of like to see a twenty years later kind of sequel series or web anime project for a lot of them just to see how they can be updated.

The Endless Waltz release is a little different from the TV series in what we get here as there’s a fair bit of material. We get the three OVAs that make up the property as well as the film version, but I have to admit as a weird completist I would have loved to have seen the Toonami edit included even in standard definition, even if I have little interest in watching it. Just from a preservation point of view. What really makes this set extra special, however, is the inclusion of the four-part Operation Meteor extra. These OVAs were released after the TV series finished and run just about an hour or more each and breaks out the stories of the characters in a kind of odd recap fashion where we see things from their perspective. The odd-numbered episodes deals with three of the boys, hence going a bit longer, while the even numbered ones have two of them. What makes this more than just recap is that there is new footage for each of them that shows what happens after the series, but I have to admit that in just having finished the TV series proper this was a rough experience because so much of it is recap before you get to that and it all turned into a blur.

That said, getting into the OVA side of the project with Endless Waltz brought back a lot of fun nostalgia and was just a visual treat even if the story itself is something of a mixed bag. In one sense I was really glad to see more new stuff with the boys and their Gundams, but in another sense, it all felt rather rushed compared to the sprawling feel of the TV series itself. The show starts in AC196, a year after the end of the war that brought everyone together in peace and harmony. The new government is celebrating with their new President, and just about everyone seems to be really upbeat about things. Quatre and Duo are prepping a storage ship to enter the sun that contains their Gundams as well as Trowa’s and Heero’s. They’ve all realized their place in the new world, as well as the lack of need for the Gundams, and have decided to part ways with them. Wu Fei, being who he is, has been unseen for a long time now and has kept his Gundam.

Things are all going hunky-dory at this point. Noin and Lady Une now head up a group called the Preventers which works for the new united government to try and prevent wars and other flare-ups. Relena has moved up to a Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. Most of the Gundam boys have gone into various jobs, with Trowa being the most obvious being back in his circus act.

During the celebration, however, things go quite awry. Relena is kidnapped while at one of the colonies. The Barton Corporation proves to be entangled deep with someone who is intent on seeking independence from this new government and uses the company’s money to build tons of mobile suits and mobile dolls. The celebration proves to be the perfect time to do it as well. With swift moves, the colony is taken under control and the Preventers begin their job of heading to the colony to save it. The boys go into overdrive in trying to retrieve their Gundams and dealing with the new enemy suits.

But not all is as it seems, as the upstart ruler is not what was expected. The seven year old girl named Mariemaia introduces herself and her plans; to follow in the footsteps of her father and complete his dreams. Who is he? None other than Treize himself. Mariemaia definitely has the look and the coldness about her while still having some hint of the charm, even at such a young age. The show then progresses to run through the cycle of why wars happen and whose real responsibility it is to prevent them and to hold the peace, soldiers or citizens. Wu Fei throws in his lot with the Mariemaia forces as this question is the most pressing to him, which brings him into direct conflict with his old comrades.

In terms of the story, I’ve got mixed feelings about it. It feels sort of tacked onto the end of the TV series as an excuse to get some more cool toys made and make some great looking animation. The plot at times really does feel secondary to the animation and depending on how you view the ending of the TV series, something that doesn’t really feel in the same theme of it.

There’s also a fair amount of backstory provided for the series in the revelation of what Operation Meteor was really supposed to be all about. This comes when you meet the original Trowa Barton and learn about his desires to avenge Heero Yuy. It’s all rather interesting, but even after just finishing the TV series I’m still not sure that it all fits in all that concisely with it or whether it’s a revisionist thing with some gaping holes to it.

Where the show does succeed in a way similar to the TV series is that it really does shine in the absolutely stunning fight sequences, especially in the space ones with the Tallgeese and the Wing Zero. The animation is gorgeous and amazingly fluid and vibrant. If the show really is nothing more than just an excuse for more Gundam fights, I’m not about to complain when they’re executed this beautifully and even more so this time around in high definition.

In Summary:
It’s been a quick and fast binge session in a sense in the last month or so going through the full TV series and then this, which certainly colors my view a bit since four hours of this release is all about recapping the show with some additional bits mixed in. I’m beyond thrilled that we did finally get Operation Meteor as it was one of those few holy grail missing pieces that never felt like we’d actually get it. For me, the meat and potatoes of this set is Endless Waltz itself and having both versions to sink your teeth into is great since there are little bridging elements that make the movie interesting while I’m admittedly more of a stickler for the “as presented” OVA side that I had seen initially. Nozomi has put together a great run with this property with Sunrise and this capping feather definitely is worth the price of admission for fans for something that looks and sounds so great. They deliver here, big time.


Features:
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: December 5th, 2017
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 440 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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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