Volume: The Complete First Season
Distributor: Bandai Entertainment
Genre(s): sci-fi, fantasy, military, mecha
Age Rating: 13+
Runtime: 625 minutes
Release Date: 02/07/2012
Perhaps one of the most perennial Japanese animated franchises ever made is Mobile Suit Gundam. The first series debuted in 1979 under the title of Mobile Suit Gundam and every series since then incorporates the title with another distinguishing name.
One could argue that the franchise established the "giant robot ships" genre for anime. I myself can claim a Gundam series for being partly responsible for my passion for Japanese animation. Gundam Wing was the first anime I bought on home video, and I watched it faithfully after school every day on Cartoon Network.
This particular release from Bandai Entertainment features the first season of the 11th Gundam series, Mobile Suit Gundam 00. One does not need to have watched the previous 10 series to enjoy Gundam 00. This is good, because the world of Gundam is very complex, including numerous timelines created in Earth's future history. Most of the series in the franchise follow a formula of sorts: the Gundams are piloted by teens; those teens, usually a handful of them, have various emotional issues; the characters generally fight against large governments to stop tyranny and oppression; and there is always an ambiguously bad guy who believes in the goodness of big government and that the Gundams are evil.
The story for Gundam 00 centers around 2307 AD, when the Earth has depleted fossil fuels and now relies on three major solar power arrays to supply the planet with near limitless energy.
The world's major powers have unified under three organizations: the Union (North America), Human Reform League (China, Russia, India), and AEU (Europe). They have almost complete control over their respective orbital elevators that serve the three solar arrays, leaving smaller nations to constantly fight over the remaining fuel and energy.
The chaos amongst the lesser nations and the monopoly owned by the three major organizations led to the formation of a private military group called "Celestial Being." Using mysteriously advanced mobile suits called "Gundams," their mission is to eradicate the world of war and lead humanity to unite in peace. There are four Gundams in this series, each piloted by youths called a "Gundam Meister."
The main protagonist is Setsuna F. Seiei, a 16-year-old boy with a dark and tragic past. This is typical of most Gundam series protagonists, and Setsuna fits the bill perfectly. Distant, cold, and completely focused on his task—Setsuna pilots the Gundam Exia. As a child, he survived being a child soldier in the war-torn Krugis Republic. He was required to kill his parents to prove his devotion to God by the leader of the child soldiers, Saachez. The experience left him deeply scarred.
The Gundams and Celestial Being are served by a mothership, called Ptolemaios, and its crew. The ship is led by a team of young men and women, captained by Sumeragi Lee Noriega.
They devise the missions for the Gundams and Celestial Being. One could also say that Sumeragi and some of the other female officers serve as "fanservice" for the series as well, for they often appear on screen with perhaps unnecessary focus on their generously animated bosoms. How necessary is it for us to have a momentary and seemingly unnecessary diversion to see them frolicking in revealing bathing suits on the beach while the Meisters are off in combat?
Any Gundam series is heavy on characters, and there are multiple secondary characters that serve as both antagonists and allies. Some of them make you question what their role is (like the two high school students) but ultimately, all characters become interconnected somehow.
In true Gundam style, Gundam 00 does not lack at all for action. I find that the series in this franchise do a good job of balancing the politics and the action to keep things from being boring and stale. However, as mentioned before, the franchise does suffer from being formulaic. You have the political scheming, then the Gundams show up, there's a battle, and then there's the political talk as result. Toss in the emotional drama between the Gundam Meisters, the soul-searching of the secondary characters, and the righteous vengeance by the antagonists and you've got a Gundam series!
The English voice actor cast was very well done, fitting each character pretty spot-on to their personalities. Brad Swaile ("Setsuna F. Seiei") does "depressed, moody, and detached" teenager in a way that doesn't seem fake. I couldn't help but think of "Heero Yuy" from Gundam Wing; they essentially feel like the same character. A comment in regard to one of my previous reviews, after I criticized one voice actor, had enlightened me to the limitations some voice actors have when working on a project. In that case, you could tell that the English directing for this particular show did the original cast justice.
Gundam 00's animation style has come a long way since the franchise's beginning. However, I did not feel it stood out or was in any way remarkable. The character design was good, much the same as my favorite Gundam Wing, but in keeping with typical character design these days in Japanese animation. The set design could be more detailed, but with Gundam it's all about the mecha and this series does not differ much at all with their Gundam designs.
Overall, Gundam 00 is a very worthy addition to the Gundam franchise. Judging by its second full season and feature-length film, plenty of fans feel the same. If you love mecha anime, and especially if you like Gundam, don't pass this show up!