What They Say:
2314 A.D. The new government of the Earth Sphere Federation is carrying out a program of peaceful reconciliation and preparing for the appearance of the Innovators who will lead the human race into a new era. But the return of a derelict Jupiter exploration ship marks the beginning of an unprecedented crisis. What are the alien entities known as Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shape-shifters? What do they want? And will Setsuna F. Seiei and his fellow Gundam Meisters be able to answer these questions before humanity is wiped out?
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in 5.1 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 with tha 5.1 mix handling the design well, especially with the bass in this arena. 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 2010, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Sunrise, the project 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 standard sized Blu-ray case where the front cover artwork is a familiar piece with Japanese theatrical poster material that features a lot of the cast together with the mobile suite behind them. 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. 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 are pretty simple as we get the promos and trailers for it in different forms and that’s pretty much it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the general success of the Gundam 00 franchise that brought in something of a different crowd, it was followed up with the compilation films as well as an original film. Directed by Seiji Mizushima based on a screenplay by Yosuke Kuroda, what we got here is something that wasn’t an “anyone can come watch this” film. It’s very much in the woods with the show itself and even after finishing up the TV series recently I found myself feeling a bit disconnected from parts of it simply because there are so many characters. That said, while there may be uneven aspects to the storytelling with the scale of characters to it and a lack of a strong villain, we get some fantastic looking battles and some welcome changes that were never really followed up on.
The premise for the film is fairly standard in a sense in that it takes place two years later and we get a world that’s largely come together in peace after the events of the TV series. There’s even a film of what happened with the Innovators and what they did, though as one of them notes it’s full of inaccuracies – but was fun in its own weird way. What you get the sense of is that there’s an uncertainty bubbling under the surface of the calm, the idea that things can shift at any point and return to what it was. There’s a lot of average happy people out there and cities rebuilding but it almost, almost, comes across as a facade. One of the more interesting areas that doesn’t get explored deeply since it is a Gundam film interested in action more than anything else is some of the displacement of people that ended up in space that want to return home. The problem is that the space side needs the laborers since they’re cheap and stuck and losing that is going to be problematic to say the least.
While we get some of the expected areas here where we catch up with various characters in a two-years-later sense, which didn’t really resonate too much for me even after wrapping up the TV series recently, I found myself really intrigued by the potential of the rest of the story. The story deals with the arrival of aliens as their opponents, though they never really feel like they connect in a strong way as a personal threat and more just as an overwhelming force. That works well enough for the film though as these beings, dubbed ELSes as they’re Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shapeshifters, bring Jupiter into the story in a big way and provides for some creativity in terms of design. Seeing the next generation of mobile suits coming online as this threat surfaces provides for some good action along with larger ships in the mix. Particularly as the ELSes can shapeshift and take on some of the aspects of their opponents, which may be a little too easy but I’ll admit to just enjoying the visuals of the fight around Jupiter.
The Trailblazer film is a mixed bag when you get down to it but it does something that I wish we saw more of. I liked the animation as it really is all over the place in a great way with the locations, the mobile suits, and the ELSes. The second half of the TV series didn’t grab me too strongly and some of that carries over here as it feels like it’s a world ready to fall apart but without the time to really dig into it or present it right. There’s some fun with the cast and the places they are but it’s kind of a placecard more than something lived-in for a lot of it. What really drives the idea for me is that we finally get a non-human threat, which they hadn’t really dealt with since the start, and that offers up so much potential that it’s frustrating that it hasn’t really been dealt with much beyond this to my knowledge/with what I’ve seen myself. I love the Gundam franchise and the movies are generally fun little add-ons for me and that’s what this film is. The release is solid in presentation with a great look and audio mix in a tight little package that delivers a fun experience.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Promotional Videos, Movie Trailer, TV Guide, and “Celestial Being” Movie Trailer
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: September 4th, 2018
Running Time: 120 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.