Gundam 00: Gundam Wing 2.0?
In cased you’ve missed the news, there’s a new Gundam show airing in Japan – Gundam 00. The series is set in yet another alternate universe (Anno Domini), and is currently nineteen episodes into its first season. A second season is already slated for this October, and so far its been met rather favorably overseas. That said, coming off of the disastrously annoying Gundam Seed I was highly skeptical of newer series in the Gundam universe. I was one of the (few) people who found Seed’s endless teenage angst to be infuriating. In addition, Kira was a main character that I simply couldn’t admire or even sympathize with, and I found the story mechanics to be extremely slow and repetitive. That’s just me, but hey. My article.
Thing is, I started to hear insiders draw parallels between Gundam 00 and personal favorite Gundam Wing – a flawed series to be sure, but one that always makes me break out the rosy lenses of nostalgia. Carl Kimlinger of ANN went so far as to say that 00 is a remake of Gundam Wing, in a similar fashion to the way Seed reinvented the basic premise, cast, and plot elements of the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam. If this was true, then maybe there was hope yet for a post-Endless Waltz world. Encouraged, I reluctantly broke out my dusty install of uTorrent and investigated the series, courtesy of fansub group Conclave-Mendoi. Here are my thoughts.
It’s 2307 AD, and naughty mankind has burned up all the Earth’s fossil fuel. To avoid major frostbite and the general collapse of civilization, the superpowers of the world have consolidated their power into blocs and constructed ‘elevators’ – basically fantastically tall spires that extend into space and collect solar energy. Alliances and treaties have formed around these elevators, and eventually three major factions have risen to power: the Union of Free Nations (USA), the European Union (duh), and the Human Reform League (Asia). These factions are now struggling with each other over control of the lifeline elevators and therefore world power. In the middle of all this chaos and destruction arises the Celestial Being, a fourth party dedicated to the elimination of war and the establishment of world peace by use of force. They are, in essence, peacekeepers who go around in four hyper-powerful Mobile Suits called…wait for it…Gundams, disabling or killing any army that puts its toe on the battlefield.
Piloting the Gundams are the laughably-named ‘Gundam Meisters’, the main protagonists of the series and the 00 equivalents to Wing‘s Heero, Wufei, Trowa, Duo, and Quatre. These Gundam Meisters (Setsuna Seiei, Lockon Stratos, Hallelujah Haptism, and Tieria Erde) and their simultaneously self-sacrificing, arrogant, and angsty exploits form the core of the series. The peripheral cast involves a lot of other Japanese names that wouldn’t mean much to you, but in general these characters are of the military/political bend, either caught up in the events of the story or secretly orchestrating them from behind closed doors. Think Treize, Gundam Scientists, and Relena, and you’ll get the idea.
At first blush the setup is indeed very similar. You’ve got an unaffiliated team of pilots flying custom Gundams against a host of factions and their mass-produced grunts. The pilots are dedicated, serious, and take no names in their struggle for peace. Their machines are ridiculously overpowered compared to the enemy forces, and each pilot has a distinctive combat approach. Most of the characters are intelligent, with lofty ideals and eloquent speech patterns. The comparison fails when you try to find 1-to-1 matches for each character, but overall there are far, far too many coincidences to ignore. Gundam 00 may not be a remake of Gundam Wing, but it is an updated take on the plot, dynamics, characters, and presentation. In short, you will feel strangely at home with this series if you were a Gundam Wing fan back in the day.
But in a lot of ways, Gundam 00 ‘rectifies the mistakes’ of Gundam Wing.
Instantly noticeable is the animation. Not only is 00 done in full HD, it also sports the gorgeous, 100% fresh animation that made Endless Waltz such a joy to watch. Both Wing and the more recent Seed suffered from a mind-numbing amount of recycled shots. Seriously, how many times did Heavyarms shoot in the same patterns with its arm and chest guns? How many times did Murrue Ramius’ breasts bounce all over the place when the Archangel got hit? At times, combat scenes in both of these series felt like random stock footage with no meaning whatsoever. Gundam 00 bucks this trend and painstakingly animates each and every shot, beam saber strike, grapple, and collision. In a lot of ways this is to be expected, since the series follows Wing by over ten years, but hey – Seed was just as lazy. It does my animation heart good to see Sunrise actually working hard for once.
Secondly (although we’ll have to wait and see if this holds up in the dub; I hope it does), the writing in 00 is leagues ahead of Wing‘s dawdling, confusing monologuing. It’s still nowhere near as concise and snazzy as, say, Cowboy Bebop, but most of the prententious rambling is gone. Unfortunately the tightened script also leaves behind most of the philosophical exposition that Gundam Wing is (in?)famous for. The end result is something in between Wing‘s loftiness and Seed’s mundane drivel. (It’s worth noting that while the cast of 00 is nowhere near as self-obsessed and spineless as Seed‘s, the main character Setsuna Seiei is still very emotional and prone to tiresome introspection. My guess is that this aspect is part of the ‘modern’ facelift. Oh, those angsty teenagers of the new millennium…)
Really, though the truth about Gundam 00 is that it really is its own show. Although it’s convenient to tie it to Wing, as you watch the series it feels less and less like Wing and more like…well, the best Gundam series *since* Wing. Gundam Wing might have laid the foundation for this latest iteration with its maturity, gravity, and grand scope, but 00 has its own style, its own approach, and in the end its own merit to thank for its quality. Hopefully that quality will make Toonami take notice. I think there’s a good chance of this one hitting our beloved block – Seed did fairly well under the circumstances back in ’04, after all. Who knows? This might be the long-awaited savior that can buoy Toonami back to weekday dominance, just as Gundam Wing helped initiate the first takeover back in 2000. Think about it: Happy Meals, action figures, model kits all over the place; Gundam craze sweeping the nation, courtesy of Toonami… Wing did it once; 00 could be the show to do it again.
And that’s a similarity I’d love to see.
Look for a full review of the series right here on Toonami Fan once the first season wraps up. In the meantime, give it a look yourself and share your opinion!
Update: After a couple of hours of fiddling around in Windows Movie Maker, I was able to create this mash-up of Gundam 00 and Toonami’s ‘In the Distant Future’ megapromo for Gundam Wing. Yes, yes, it would’ve have been better without subtitles but I have a life to lead and the lip sync makes up for it, in my opinion. At any rate, enjoy!