What They Say:
The year is 2307 A.D. While the Earth’s reserves of fossil fuels have been depleted, humanity has obtained a new, nearly infinite source of energy to replace them in the form of large-scale solar-powered generation systems based on three huge orbital elevators. However, the benefits of this system are available only to a handful of major powers and their allies.
These orbital elevators belong to three superpower blocs: the Union, the Human Reform League and the AEU. These confederations continue to play a grand zero-sum game for the sake of their own prestige and prosperity. Thus, even in the 24th Century, humanity has yet to unite as one.
In this world of unceasing conflict, a private armed organization steps forward, declaring their intention to eliminate war through martial force. Using the power of their mobile suits combatively, a series of four high-performance machines each dubbed “Gundam,” the paramilitary organization known as Celestial Being takes the world stage, beginning armed interventions within all the world’s nations.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo and the previously created english language dub, both of which are done up in the uncompressed PCM form. The show is fairly standard modern Gundam fare in that there’s a strong mix of dialogue and action to it with both sides served well. The dialogue angle gets plenty of placement throughout through the use of various communication devices and being in space and the like. There’s often a decent number of characters on screen as well that gives it a bit more life too. The action goes for a bigger and fuller feeling overall with some good impact along the way, though a 5.1 mix would have added a good bit more of that. There’s a lot of solid directionality across the forward soundstage and placement in both action and dialogue which results in a really appealing and fun mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007 and 2008, 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-five episodes for this season are spread across four discs. Animated by Sunrise, the series has a really strong look to it when it comes to the visual design with colors that pop really with some great vibrancy throughout that lets it stand out compared to many of the prior series. There’s a fluidity that works really well and a whole lot of appeal in the character designs that Yun Koga provided for it that has a kind of languid and lanky feeling that oozes off the screen. The encoding here is a crisp and appealing one with colors that are strong and solid throughout and avoids problems such as cross coloration and noise. With the DVDs looking decent before that were released almost a decade ago, this is a significant upgrade that’s very worthwhile across the board.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than usual Blu-ray case where we get the four discs held on hinges entirely. The front cover artwork is a familiar piece with primary character visual material and the Gundam behind him, all set to the traditional white background that a lot of Japanese releases are like. It works well here with the colors of the character/mecha material and the brightness of the Gundam logo along the bottom to help offset it a bit. I’d have preferred something with more of the cast as a whole as opposed to just one here but it’s not an unexpected design choice. The back cover does a fun hexagon stripe down the right with lots of shots from the show there before we get a mobile suit overlaid on top of it. That leaves the rest of the cover to break down the extensive summary of the premise and layout the extras. The text is a bit smaller than I care for, especially with the shades of green used with the black text, but it gets the job done. The layout is good overall with some nice design effects with greens and blues to help tie it all together instead of just empty space.
The menu design for this release is pretty slick looking as it goes for an almost faux-widescreen approach with clips playing through the middle. The bottom is mostly white with some touches of green but the top has a really nice layering of green with the logo and the navigation strip. It has a kind of futuristic feeling that’s appropriate for the show and its design that connects well with the logo design. It may be a bit gaudy green in the eyes of some but I really like the look of it across the set. The navigation is simple but easy to navigate and works well both as the pop-up menu during playback or as the main menu with quick access and load times.
The extras for this release brings over some familiar pieces from the past incarnation such as the range of appropriate opening and closing sequences in clean form. We also get the tactical forecast preview pieces and a solid range of the original Japanese audio commentaries, which are always hard as hell to translate. The set also comes with a little more range such as the Gundam 00 “Daybreak’s Bell” Promotional Video and the very cute if all too short Gundam 00 Flash-like Chibi Short.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When you engage in the Gundam experience you can either stick to particular alternate universe timelines or you can often just engage with everything. I’m a big fan of Universal Century era shows but I’ve long been intrigued with what else they can do. How else can I admit to being so stupidly fond of G-Gundam? Reconnecting with a lot of this years after my initial viewings and getting a lot of shows I haven’t seen before it’s been quite the experience since they’re all coming out relatively quickly in comparison. It also helps in that we get them in larger season sets like this instead of the splits before. That really does alter how you view the shows, which was already quite different from the weekly episodic runs that most viewers got..
Gundam 00 is a series that starts it all again from scratch but borrows liberally from previous series. This particular incarnation has a lot of things going for it to be sure when it aired, such as a theme song from L’Arc~en~ciel, character designs from the cultish favorite Yun Kouga along with some very slick production values. When Sunrise works on a new Gundam series, they put a lot into it simply because there’s so much merchandise and ancillary things that can be taken into account. I don’t begrudge them that in the slightest as this is a business and they’re in a business to entertain and make money by doing so. And through it, fans can buy up copious model kits, toys and other knick-knacks that will delight.
The premise of Gundam 00 takes its cue somewhat from the ecological issues of the day as we’re thrown into the year 2307. Things have gone poorly for the world when it comes to its dependence on fossil fuels but there was something bigger and brighter out there for everyone to tap into. That thing is obviously the sun. Creative beings that people are, humanity developed an orbital ring around the Earth with three orbital elevators to the planet below through wish solar power is collected. The massive arrays around the planet take that power and distribute downwards to the people in the various countries. Some countries make out better than others which keeps some instability to help with the war profiteering that’s almost always going on somewhere.
Because of the amount of immense wealth and power necessary to sustain this kind of operation, the world has formed into three principle blocs of power. The America’s have largely formed into the Union, most of Europe has become the AEU and Russia and Asia have formed the Human Reform League. The powers compete with each other in different ways but also compete within themselves to maintain their power and control over the lesser nations of their blocs, leaving some with less power from the solar array than others and utilizing each of them to move forward in very different ways. And adding to the mix is the formation of what seems to be various mercenary groups that operate under a singular banner of being Private Military Companies that do a lot of the dirty work.
Though humanity has staved off the disaster that loomed because of peak oil, things haven’t changed so much that even with seemingly limitless energy supply, war and power still corrupts. After a twenty year Solar War and other events, the world has largely settled into where it is now with small offensives here and there while large swathes of the world find themselves in abject poverty, notably those who were once major fossil fuel players. Into all of this comes a new organization that seemingly came out of the sky called Celestial Being. Celestial Being launched its arrival with a swift and brutal attack that stopped a war that was happening. Rather than hide after making such an attack, the group revealed that they intend to intervene in conflicts around the world in order to put an end to war. It plays up the evil military industrial complex and offers to fight them with more violence and military muscle.
Celestial Being has a lot going for it as it only uses four mobile suits known as Gundam’s. More powerful than the mobile suits that the various blocs have, Celestial Being plays an interesting game of intervention and politics through its plans that are carried out by four young pilots and a “combat forecaster.” Each of the pilots has their own history which will be explored over time and owing to tradition, they don’t tend to get along well with others, including fellow pilots. Though each do eventually get equal time, the principal character of trouble seems to be young Setsuna, a man who group up in the midst of warfare that even murdered his mother and father because of the religious angle that was used to push him into service. Setsuna tends to find himself in situations where he goes beyond his orders that often threaten to reveal who he is puts his Gundam in danger of being destroyed or acquired, two things which would cause severe problems to the combat forecasters plans.
Over the course of these first nine episodes, we get introduced to the world at large and a number of players in it. With three blocs represented and a lot of political and military intrigue thrown in, there’s a lot to keep up with and most characters end up getting the short end of the stick. The Gundam pilots, called Meisters, get the bulk of the attention but their antagonists make out pretty well too. There’s a good supporting cast of characters in the civilian and military world that help to flesh out the various angles, some of which you know will be better used as time goes on as Gundam does adhere to traditional storytelling methods here. As learned in most other lengthy Gundam epics, it has highs and lows in how it tells its story. This isn’t a low here, but the foundation part of the series tends to be a bit slow and jumpy as it needs to introduce so much material and set the stage for what’s to come.
As we get into the middle of this season, the focus is still on Azadistan and the events going on there. That there’s a source of conflict brewing there isn’t a surprise, but they do mix in a few different aspects to it through the people involved with some mild religious and faith-based angles. Some of this feels really like they’re reaching, in that they’re doing something very superficial rather than something more detailed, so it lacks a certain depth to make it believable. The bulk of it though is centered on the fighting with the Gundam’s themselves as they’re going to get involved to try and stop the war, which is their stated goal after all. Having a series of desert sequences works out nicely, but there’s a kind of connection to it that feels like it’s lacking.
What becomes the most problematic during this arc is that the focus isn’t so much on Azadistan itself and its issues, though they are touched on. The focus is more on the various groups that are attempting to capture the Gundam’s themselves, even if it’s just one of them so they can figure out what’s going on and what’s really behind them. The various sides that are going after them certainly have good reason to do so, but every time they do it, it simply forces the Gundam team to expose something new that they didn’t want to show off yet in order to get out of the trap. The non-Gundam pilots are humiliated or killed pretty frequently and you have people like Colasour that are really being incensed by all of this to the point where they’re lashing out. How many times can they go through these motions before it gets tiring?
Where Gundam 00 managed to really annoy me and intrigue me is during one of these capture missions where a trio of other Gundam’s show up out of nowhere, piloted by three siblings named Throne. When the main team gets into a serious jam, they’re saved at the last minute by these three who end up potentially changing the game dramatically as they’re far more cutthroat and, well, serious. The two brothers and the sister seem to be working off the same plan as the main team, but their approach is more brutal and in some ways more open. Tiera, Lockon and the rest all have this sort of conscience about them and a method of doing their missions, forecasted missions no less, in which they’re trying to have an effect while also playing to the public so they can sway them over.
The Throne team has no such intentions. They’re here to carry out their missions without any extra fuss and apparently without any conscience either. Their goal is the same, to eliminate war from the world, but they’re doing it in an almost tit for tat way. What makes them interesting is that this is certainly one way to do it and one that you almost have to wonder if it’s the better way. If you’re not going to change the world through subtlety or peaceful methods, if you’re going to do it through acts of aggression, then should it go the somewhat restrained way that the original team has been doing it or do you do it with full force, overwhelming and with a sense of ultimate strength. Each has their pros and cons to them, but in a world like this with the tools that they have available to them, it really does make you wonder which would work the best.
As the series burns into the final arc we get a lot of familiarity with past Gundam works where they’re going to fifty-odd episodes and do a break in the middle. There’s a good crescendo of action and story here that set things up for the second half which has its pros and cons. Often the second season can lose a little steam because of this, but with how Gundam 00 ends here, they seem to have figured out a way to potentially avoid that problem since it’s left me intrigued to see what they’re really up to.
Gundam 00 has left me a little less than thrilled with it in comparison to some other iterations of the franchise, but as the last round of episodes plays out it offers me more that I do like. What threw me off previously was the introduction of the Gundam Thrones and the whole Trinity group themselves. Their introduction changed the dynamic and removed the Meisters we’d known from the picture for awhile as they opted to stand down while trying to figure out what it was that the Trinity group was all about since they appeared with solar reactors and real Gundams, things that gave them some amount of authority.
Their approach was certainly off-putting in comparison to how the Meisters did things and it changed how the world viewed the Gundam’s as well. While the Meisters managed to acquire some goodwill because of what they did, that was all erased by the Trinity and their wanton destruction in their goal of ending wars. There was a methodical approach to how Sumeragi organized her missions as they would win over some of the populace and that could be viral. The Trinity goes even further in these episodes as you see Nena attacking a party of all things when doing a flyover towards someplace else. That the party was where Louise is and her family is slaughtered before her eyes changes that young woman immeasurably, as well as affecting Saji and his relationship with her.
The arrival of the Trinity has set other things in motion as Tiera is intent on figuring out exactly who they are and what their goal is. That leads him to realize that someone is a traitor within them as information in Veda has been altered and sealed from him, something that shouldn’t be possible. The information coming out of there is being used on Earth as well as someone has secretly gifted some thirty solar reactors which gives them the ability to build Gundam’s of their own. This is certainly a game changer and much of the remainder of this set deals in this area with the various Earth nations forming under the UN in order to defeat the Trinity and the Meisters overall. But it rings hollow that as soon as they’re gifted and Gundam’s are ready, pilots are instantly ready to use them. That the Trinity and Meisters are able to push them back easily at first is a welcome sight since they have the skill on top of the superior firepower. But as the balance changes, we realize how much those in the Trinity were also depending solely on superior firepower.
There’s a lot of personal interplay throughout this set as well. One of the big changes is that Ali gets a lot more involved again and uses his special skills to actually acquire a Gundam. His time in the air with this device gets him talking with Setsuna again and that brings about an important discussion among the Meisters themselves later on as Setsuna reveals who he really is and why he stepped out of his Gundam before. The true identities of some of the Meisters figures into this and that there are enemies in the mix isn’t a surprise and watching them work through this new challenge while dealing with the larger challenges certainly makes it all very intense. When we get a flashback to two years prior when Setsuna came on board with the Meisters, it helps to illustrate what the group has been through a lot together in all that time and helps to ease some of the tension.
In some ways, I feel like I’m being too harsh with Gundam 00 but it was a fun show to watch overall. There’s a lot to like about it and it’s a pretty slick production. This series felt formulaic in a lot of ways at the time and that’s still there simply by the nature of how these are produced. There’s a lot to like here for fans and the release is put together pretty well for the most part, Gundam 00 presents enough to be intrigued by and sets up a lot of things which has me curious as to what will really have the most impact in the long run. The culmination of this season does give me all that I like from a Gundam series as it tries to change the world and the throws you for a loop by moving everything ahead four years. It’ll be interesting to see how the surviving Meisters look when the next season comes around. I’m still ambivalent about this series overall, but this set of episodes helped to up its appeal pretty well.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Endings, Tactical Forecasts, Japanese Audio Commentaries, Gundam 00 “Daybreak’s Bell” Promotional Video, and Gundam 00 Flash-like Chibi Short
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: July 3rd, 2018
Running Time: 625 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.