What They Say:
Flit Asuno, driven by his hatred of the Vagan, has sworn to exterminate the enemy. Asemu Asuno, in his neutral role as a space pirate, tries to preserve the balance between both sides. And Kio Asuno, hoping to end the war between the Earth and Mars Spheres, is taking action. Their respective desires have had a great effect on the course of the war. Can the desires of these three people halt the dreadful plans of Ezelcant, the ruler of the Mars Sphere?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as does the English language mix, both of which are done up in uncompressed PCM. The series works the forward soundstage the way most Gundam shows do with some good placement and a sense of movement during the action sequences and more straightforward designs during the dialogue side. That area gets a little more from time to time when the characters float across the screen or amid the action as they move about, but that’s not all that strong overall. In general, it’s a solid forward soundstage design that plays as you’d expect from a TV series with no surprises. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011 and 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-eight episodes are spread across three discs with seven episodes per disc for the first two and six for the final. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a good look go it though I’m less sold on the character designs. In terms of mecha there’s plenty to like as we get something that feels like it’s adhering to the traditional concepts but bringing in a few at that time new modern concepts with how the screens would work and the like. There’s that sense of the familiar with minor changes so that it doesn’t stray from what works. It’s the characters that are a bit simpler in their design, particularly the hair, and it comes across as a little more kid-friendly to some degree. The encoding for this is definitely well done as colors are rich and vibrant where they need to be and more earthy in those areas. Details hold up very well with no problems and the more fluid action sequences definitely stand out well. All the space-based scenes look great with solid backgrounds that don’t show anything in the way of noise or breakup.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case that holds the three discs across the hinges within. The front cover gives us a mix of characters from the three arcs with the Gundam in the background and it’s bright and colorful, showing what a good part of the show is like both in the look of it but the age of the characters. The back cover works a darker background with a few small shots from the show included. There’s some good mecha material along the bottom but the UE mecha blends a little too much into the darker background and the purple elements. The premise is covered decently without giving away too much and it has a solid breakdown of the extras included. While there are no inserts included with the release there is a nice show of the Gundam on the reverse side against a blue sky that spans both panels while the left one also breaks down the episodes by name and title.
The menu design for this series is pretty nice as we get some good combination mecha/character stills across it that reflects the episodes that each disc contains. There’s some good technical framing to it and I like the colors used as well as the block style tabbing system along the bottom that’s for display. With the backdrop of Mars underneath it all there’s a good science fiction feel here without it feeling like it’s over the top or too forced with what it’s doing. The navigation is simple and straightforward with easy to use selections and a pop-up menu that has some nice elements that are fun when playing over the show during playback itself. Everything works smoothly and without problems making it a fun and straightforward experience.
The extras for this release are minimal but very welcome ones as we get the two clean versions of the opening and closing sequences that are pretty well animated with some nice design work. We also get a small collection of original promos and TV commercials for the series that I like seeing in how the show was marketed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first set of this series bringing us twenty-nine episodes, it worked through the first two of three arcs that the series as a whole runs. It was interesting to see the generational approach applied here in shorter form as other series have done that with fifty-odd episode runs for each generation. There’s something to be said for the shortened arcs and I’m actually quite behind this idea of the generational approach to how war plays out, particularly within a family where many members have served but all have suffered. The unfortunate part is that the suffering side isn’t covered much as those related to the leading men get a super short stick here and we’re left with focusing on just the three main men and an assortment of other men that are running the war on both sides. There are a few women in play throughout it but they’re very much in the supporting side and usually in service to the men. It’s all very one-sided.
The first ten or so episodes here focus on the third generation cast which is headed by Kio, the son of Asemu and Romany. We see when he was born as that came at the same time that Asemu was heading into space to deal with a new mission but one that he viewed as his last in order to focus on other things. Naturally, he disappeared and that left Kio to grow up without a father but still largely follow in his footsteps. There’s some minor variation on his path but the ten episodes show how he ends up with the Gundam because of who his grandfather is and the kind of cross-generation ability that exists there combined with a massive even that kicks things off as Kio hits thirteen. The destruction of the Big Ring in Earth orbit that served as the command center for Federation defense puts everyone in full on war footing and Kio’s connections makes it easy for him to be drawn into it.
There’s a lot going on across this run of ten or so episodes as it does the setup for who Kio is, which feels like a slightly more thoughtful version of Asemu and one that even more so wants to end the war. We get a good feel for the kind of war that the Vagan are waging with them having gone even more militarized and introducing the idea that there’s a kind of genetic superiority angle playing out by their leader in order to push humanity into evolving more. This is something that Zeheart gets wrapped up in, coming from the freezing that they still do to extend lives on this side, but the Vagan arc overall is one that never feels like it comes together well. The reveals we had previously on how they had been treated by the Federation got a lot of this moving and they end up in this weird place without enough time to really make it feel natural since the bulk of the time is still spent on Kio’s family and all the drama there.
It should be no surprise that the final ten episodes are like every other Gundam series in that it’s a clash of sides with a ton of action. What we get with this series is a third party in the mix with a group of pirate-like mobile suit operators that Asemu is revealed to be a part of. It’s not a bad idea in a sense but it’s so flawed in its execution that it left me frustrated. Asemu’s group is like if Gurren Lagann suddenly showed up in the series as we get more pirate-like outfits and the mecha are all sorts of shapes and sizes, including some skull stuff and the like. It’s not that I expect it to all be militaristic like the Vagan and Federation aspects, but what it does here just doesn’t work. It also doesn’t help that Asemu’s reasoning is pretty flawed as to why after being rescued he stuck there and left his family behind, even upon learning the truth of the war with Vagan. It’s like he took himself out of the fight for too long before rejoining and acting almost as a spoiler for it.
The back half of the series works two main arcs in giving us Kio’s story and then bringing all three generations together to deal with the larger fight between the sides. It’s well-executed overall and an interesting change from past projects in the franchise that worked the generational aspect differently. I think it fell a bit flat in some areas and Kio got the short end of the stick when it came to screen time compared to the other two leads in their respective arcs. And the women are just disastrously used throughout, making it a problematic show in general. There are ideas that I like and there’s some neat creativity but it also extends it too far with the pirates in this part of the series as it ended up not feeling as cohesive as it was up until then. This release is definitely strong throughout with a solid dub, a great looking and sounding presentation, and a tight package that keeps it all together.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings, Commercials
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment / Sunrise
Release Date: June 5th, 2018
Running Time: 525 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.