Gundam 00 (2007) Review…

Just recently my other half has gotten into making Gundam model kits by Bandai. Gundam are giant robot mechsuits worn by humans to fight one another. What’s not to like about that?! Chances are that if you’ve seen ‘Transformers’ or ‘Starfleet’ (I loved that show when I was a kid!) you’ll be pretty familiar with what a Gundam looks like. He wanted to check out the Gundam anime that the models came from, and found that it had been running in various different series since 1979… Impressive legacy. But ‘Gundam 00’ 2010 was recommended as the most accessible so we gave it a go…

Was it any good? In a couple of weeks we had watched both seasons of it. And the movie which gives the series one last hurrah. Yeah–it was good! It’s a sci-fi tale set on a global scale, a complex story of an organisation trying to bring peace to the world–by targeting any government or terrorist group that has a part in war.

The premise of the show is that it’s the future and Earth has (finally) realised that it’s reliance on fossil fuels needs to come to an end. Nations come together with a plan to build a solar energy collector that wraps around the planet, tethered to the surface of by three orbital elevators. They achieve this, but they can’t put their differences aside. The nations around the orbital elevators unite and the planet becomes three opposed power blocks. Scattered countries have resisted coalitions, but as a result they are cut off from free power and impoverished by sanctions enforced by the three blocks. War and terrorism is rife. But one man has a plan.

Aeolia Schenberg has a vision and creates a legacy that follows on after his death–an independent military organisation called Celestial Being formed of people who have suffered through being victims of war and terrorism as victim–or aggressor. Four of them are Gundam Meisters–operators of the eponymous Gundam machines. They are directed by the artificial intelligence, Veda, which pursues Schenberg’s ideals, and they have support from powerful investors and people of influence who believe in the Schenberg’s mission.

The show is not a kids show. There is gun violence, and terrorist bombings, and very adult themes thanks to the different moral perspectives on terrorism and war, and it doesn’t drip feed the viewer the world it has to offer either. I struggled to get into the show to begin with as there are so many different characters in all camps, and while some are given grounding introductions, others are just thrust at you and you don’t know how they connect to the different factions. However, if you like the worlds of machinations and intrigue of ‘Dune’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ then I think you’ll find something to enjoy in this, for many of the players–even within the noble and idealistic Celestial Being there are those with their own agendas they pursue through their distortions of Schenberg’s plans…

The main character is one of the Gundam Meisters, Setsuna F. Seiei, who was a child soldier brought up in Krugis, one the independent countries, but one that was torn apart by religious terrorism. His story is pretty heart breaking–at about 8 or 9 he had to earn his place in God’s army by murdering his parents and then became a child terrorist himself under the watch of their leader Ali Al-Saachez–a man that will become his nemesis. Setsuna was saved from being killed in a fight with the military by Celestial Being testing a Gundam. The GM drives that power the mobile suits cause them to emit a light–and Setsuna sees this and he experiences it as a spiritual experience, one that sets him on his course for becoming a Gundam Meister. His connection to Exia, his Gundam, takes on something of a celestial transformation in itself, with his reverance towards Gundam becoming something you might consider religious devotion, and later the relationship between Setsuna and Exia deepens as Setsuna becomes something else himself…

The Celestial Being cause sets the governments of the world towards working together–with one aim in mind, to defend themselves from Celestial Being. All part of Schenberg’s plan to bring peace to the world. However, a rival group of Gundam Meister’s–who seem to be part of the plan and kept secret from Celestial Being–have far more aggressive and arbitrary tactics, and Celestial Being begin to wonder whether Veda can be trusted and realise they are but pawns themselves. With the very people that are meant to be supporting Schenberg’s dream also vying for control of it, attempting to steer Celestial Being towards their own ideals, and behind it all, out maneuvering and scheming them all is one man who thinks that humanity has had it’s time…

There are lots of different characters and pretty much all of them have their own motivations and back-story which drive them through the show, and even those that get little actual screen time have a path they follow through the series. As you can imagine, the cause that Celestial Being is set upon, bringing peace through aggression, is one prone to contradictions and these are considered and drawn out through the corruption that surround and infects them also. Many of the characters who are allied through country, cause or just love are pulled apart through the way the world is shaped, so there’s plenty of heart within the global scale machinations.

The art and animation is great, but the only negative I would level at it is that the fights are often too fast to keep track of who is doing what to who and how. And with robot mech suits fighting each other with giant swords and beam sabers (lightsabers! Yeah, I know–robots with lightsabers–COOL!) I want to see that! Also, with a cast of so many characters I even struggled keeping track of the names of the four main Gundam Meisters and who is in what Gundam. They are distinctive looking, but when they are suited up in their space suits in their mobile suits it’s hard to know who is who, plus their suits have names, so I kept mixing their suit and character names up. With so many names from Star Wars and Doctor Who uselessly stored in my head, I’m usually pretty good at this too. So, we had lots of me making names up, like ‘lady boy’ and ‘Satsuma’ and ‘tits’. Which didn’t help me for this review…

It’s well worth tracking this show down. The movie that finishes the series is pretty good, as it pitches Celestial Being and the world against an alien threat, and quite a scary and well-realised one too–think T1000 from the Terminator 2 as spacehips that can infect and absorb other mech systems. Don’t expect a big showy battle that resolves the plot and closes the series though. It does have a big showy battle, finally pitching many of the different players together who have had grudges for two seasons, but it has a much more metaphysical show-down which ends everything abruptly–in a WTAF moment that pulled the rug from under me. But watch beyond the final credits for a bit more of an ending–oh and watch beyond the credits on all the episodes or you’ll miss bits. Like we did.

Seriously give this a go, and give it time, the characters and their situations, even if you rename them and don’t fully know their place, will interest you and they might even get under your skin as they did for me so that when one is threatened… or dies… Ugh.

If you’ve watched this, what other anime would you recomend? So far we’ve watched ‘Death Note’ and ‘Attack on Titan’ and enjoyed those, but wasn’t so taken with ‘Highschool of the Dead’ or ‘Full Metal Alchemist’.

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