Mobile Suit Gundam 00 tv Review
The series is set in the years 2307-2308 AD of the Gregorian calendar. During this time, fossil fuels became exhausted and the distribution of fuels became imbalanced. Humanity must rely on an array of solar power generation systems orbiting the Earth, and supported by three orbital elevators, each one pertaining to one of the three “major powers” on the planet.
The Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations, consisting of the Organization of American States, Australasia and Japan, control the elevator located in South America. The Human Reform League, consisting of China, Siberian Russia, India, the nations of South Asia (excluding the middle-Asian states of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan), Mongolia, the member states of the ASEAN, Papua New Guinea, the Korean Peninsula, and Taiwan, control the elevator located in the Pacific Ocean. The Advanced European Union (AEU), consisting of Iceland, the islands of the Barents Sea, Greenland, Anatolia, European Russia and the entirety of the traditional continent of Europe, control an elevator built in the middle of the African continent.
With this infinite source of energy benefiting only the major powers and their allies, constant warfare erupts around the globe for fuels and energy. The nations that rely on fuel have plunged into poverty. Many believed that solar energy threatened the “promised land of God”. The chaos lead to the formation of a private military organization, called Celestial Being, dedicated to eradicating war and uniting humanity with the use of four humanoid machines called Gundams.
The series follows four mobile suit pilots termed Gundam Meisters, sided with Celestial Being. The protagonist is 16-year old Setsuna F. Seiei, a quiet, taciturn young man who grew up in the Kurdish Republic, and a Gundam Meister for two years. He pilots the GN-001 Gundam Exia, a high mobility mobile suit effective in melee combat.
Story & Characters
Although this is part of the Gundam franchise, I will treat this series as a standalone (which it is, you don’t have to have any previous Gundam knowledge to watch it) and not compare with other Gundam series. Also, this review is only for the first season. [ And I apologize in advance for the length, as I do not know how to write short reviews DX ]
It is year A.D. 2307, the world stopped depending on Fossil fuels and moved on to the endless supply of solar energy. Three orbital elevators were built, each with their own solar power generation system. These elevators are each controled by the 3 superpowers of the world: World Economic Union (the Americas, Oceania, and Japan), Human Reform League (China, Russia, India), AEU (European union). However, not everyone is part of those 3 unions, and those who don’t enjoy the benefits of the system resent it (of course, there’s always someone against the system). This of course, leads to conflict and war. Yes, even by the 24th century, war hasn’t ceased, (how surprising *sarcastic*)
Suddenly, an unknown, private oraganization named “Celestial Being” appears, consisting of 4 Gundam pilots (called Gundam Meisters) and a small crew, headed by a mysterious man named Aeolia Schenberg. After showing off the power of their Gundams, they announce to the world that they want to eradicate warfare by intervening in conflicts.
Now as much I consider myself as a pacifist, when Celestial Being first announced their goal, I laughed. It just sounds so ridiculous, idealistic, hypocritical, and contradictory. They want to stop violence with violence, and force their idealogy onto others. Really, like the world is goint to stand for that’s.
And at first, I have to admit that I didn’t like Celestial Being. Even though they’re fighting for a “good cause” to end warfare, it didn’t seem fair that they fought with Gundams while everyone else fought with less superior technology (I have a tendency to cheer for the underdogs I guess).
Needless to say, the world’s reaction isn’t too positive. While there are those who cheer for Celestial Being, there are those who like me, find it unbelievable. Some try to take advantage of Celestial Being and want to manipulate them to help out their own cause–which ended in epic fail; Celestial Being has its own agenda and doesn’t listen to anyone, others oppose it vehemently, by using terrorism on the innocent to get them to stop. And then there are those who are indignant and are jealous of their technology. Mainly, the 3 superpower nations. Thus, they start an arms race to build better technology, and to see who can get their hands on a Gundam first.
While there’s plenty of action and battle scenes (read: mecha fanservice), I didn’t find the story all that interesting and engaging at first. I was drawn to keep watching more by curiosity (because I’m somewhat of a Gundam fangirl) than the story itself. It was too political for me to enjoy. While I enjoy philosophy and seriousness here and there, I don’t like so much politics. We get that enough in real life. There’s also a lot of explanation of technology of their world. While that’s important to know to understand the story, it’s sometimes hard to follow and digest (a pause button helps a lot). Also, I found it hard to keep track of who’s who at the beginning, with the 3 main superpowers, other little countries and factions, and all the characters that belong to their respective factions (or maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention). I wish they’d focus more on character and plot development than setting up the situation (which is what the first few episodes felt like to me).
However, around episode 7 or 8, once things are set up, the story does move on, and the characters do get developed more or less. I’m glad I kept watching, because the story picked up pace and variety. It’s not just “what conflict shall we intervene in this time” anymore. And gradually, I found myself warming up to Celestial Being. While I still think their goal is idealistic and hypocritical, you get to see more of their side of the story. Particularly, the stories of the Gundam Meisters and why they’re doing what they’re doing. We see that they’re just as human as anyone else and that they’re not just bullies who want to force their idealogy onto others as they first seemed. I found myself even cheering for them, because as other factions get stronger, they’re no longer the most powerful and seem like they’re picking on others; they become the underdogs instead.
Even though the beginning is somewhat boring, the story stays focused. It doesn’t wander off or do anything too unnecessary. There are funny parts and sad parts, but mostly the tone of the story is serious; don’t be expecting outrageous humour or sappy drama.
With the many different alliances in this series, there are many characters that belong to each one. That is, Gundam 00 has a fairly big cast of reoccuring characters; I will just touch on a few of the main characters. What I like about the characters and the factions is that although there are many, almost none of them are shown in a totally positive or negative light. Everyone has their own reasons and justifications, as well as their own faults and sins.
Gundam Meisters, the 4 Gundam pilots:
Setsuna F. Seiei – Pilot of GN-001 Gundam Exia. He is the youngest of the Meisters. He grew up in the Middle East, and war and conflict are nothing new to him. Because of the environment he grew up in, he finds the current world “twisted”, and wants to change it with his Gundam. A serious boy with few words, he is usually calm. He is very dedicated to Celestial Being’s goals, and seems obsessed/attached to Gundam (he repeats “I am Gundam” a lot), which he views as a symbol of justice.
Lockon Stratos – Pilot of the GN-002 Gundam Dynames. The oldest of the Meisters. And as such, he often acts as team leader and a big brother to the other pilots, and tries to smooth things over when there’s conflict between the other pilots. He is Irish, and his parents and little sister were killed in a terrorist bombing when he was young. Because of this, he hates terrorists, and joined Celestial Being to change the world. He is a sniper with very good aim. Lockon is usually easy-going, and seems to get along with pretty much everyone in Celestial Being.
Alleluja Haptism – Pilot of the GN-003 Gundam Kyrios. He is a kind and gentle boy of 19 (at the beginning of the series). When civilians on a floating space station were in trouble, he was willing to help, because he sympathizes with them. He is presumably an orphan, who has been turned into a “super soldier” through brain wave enhancement by the Human Reform League. Because of this, sometimes he gets a little unstable, especially when his life in in danger. His alternate personality Halleluja takes over when this happens, or when Alleluja is conflicted about having to kill people. Halleluja is the total opposite, the other side of his split personality; he is violent, unsympathetic, and trigger-happy.
Tieria Erde – Pilot of the GN-005 Gundam Virtue. Tieria is very arrogant, cynical, and cold. He has a close connection with Veda, the computer/AI of Celestial Being, thus he feels that he’s superior to all the other Meisters. An unforgiving person, he can’t stand it with people make mistakes (which to him means straying from Veda’s instructions and Celestial Being’s goal), including himself. He is not very trusting of the other Meisters, thinking that they’re “unfit” to be Meisters because of their mistakes, and is willing to shoot his teammates in the back if they make more mistakes. He is very loyal to Veda, and doesn’t seem to understand human feelings. However, through his interactions with the other Meisters, mainly Lockon and Setsuna, he starts to be less arrogant and cold. I think Tieria is the most developed characters in Gundam 00.
Other main characters
Graham Aker – Union’s ace pilot. From the moment he first saw the Gundam (Exia), he became “infatuated” with it (as his friend Billy put it). This fascination turns into obsession as the series goes on. He has a sharp preception, good leadership, and charisma, and other Flag pilots look up to him.
Sergei Smirnov – Nicknamed the “Bear of Russia”, he’s a veteran of the HRL. He was assigned the mission to capture the Gundams. A good strategist with honourable values, his men look up to him as a leader.
Soma Peries – A “super soldier” sent to work with Sergei, she is a loyal and no-nonsense soldier. It seems that she has a connection with Alleluja.
Patrick Colasour – Self-proclaimed AEU ace, this guy has a big ego, even though he doesn’t seem to actually do much. I think he’s there more for comic relief than anything else. (that would hurt his ego if he heard that)
Ali al-Saachez – A gruff mercenary who has his own agenda. He has a connection with Setsuna, and not a positive one.
Saji Crossroad – A Japanese student. His sister works as a journalist, and he often watches the news about Celestial Being with his girlfriend Louise Halevy. He views the Gundams with fascination, awe, and curiosity, but he’s still just a student, and more concerned about school, jobs, and Louise than the state of the world. He is a kind boy, somewhat of a pushover really, especially when it comes to Louise.
Marina Ismail – The inexperienced Princess of a Middle Eastern country. She is somewhat idealistic, but has good intensions and wants the best for her country. She believes in peaceful solutions rather than war and violence.
There are all sorts of character types, so chances are, you’ll find someone you like or can relate to. My only concern is the lack of strong female characters, there are a few, but most of the focus is on the men.
The character designs were done by Yun Kouga, who is best known as the artist for yaoi manga series like Loveless and Earthian. I’ve seen her previous designs, and the characters are too pretty: they look very very feminine (especially in Earthian DX). So with a show like Gundam when most of the cast are male, when I first heard that she was designing the characters, I got a little scared we’re gonna see very feminine and pretty guys piloting Gundams (even though it’s the fad these days in mecha series, first Code Geass is designed by CLAMP…). When I first saw the character designs, I admit, I thought Tieria was a girl; when I was told that he is a guy, I could not believe it (he wears a pink sweater!).
However, watching the actual animation, it’s not as bad as I thought (not any worse than any other mecha series’ character designs). What I really like about the character designs is that, unlike a lot of other shows whose characters look like they were formed from the same mould and identical except in eye colour and hair colour/style, Gundam 00 characters have slightly different face shapes, eye shapes that make characters different from another. Even though the art is in the same style, the characters don’t look like they formed from the same mould.
The animation is directed by Fullmetal Alchemist’s Seiji Mizushima. According to Animenewsnetwork, Gundam 00 is the first Gundam series to be produced and broadcast in high-definition format. And the high-def shows; the animation and art is smooth, clean, crisp, and pretty consistent. I found the Gundam battles particularly impressive. Even though I’m not a mech fan (I watch more for story and character than the mech), I was still impressed by the animation and movement of the mecha, as well as the shiny special effects. I like how the effects don’t go overboard and end up looking cheap (like using 3D animation that looks waaay out of place). Also, I like the fact that there isn’t any recycled footage, at least, I didn’t pick up any in particular.
Very good quality of art and animation, even if some male characters look feminine *coughtieriacough*.
The first opening song is DAYBREAK’S BELL” by L’arc~en~Ciel. It’s a pretty fast-paced song that gets you pumped for the episode, and I actually like it (even though I’m not a L’arc~en~Ciel fan *gasp*). The lyrics fit the theme pretty well; “Hey, why do human beings keep repeating their sins? I hate this blood that flows in everyone’s body without any evolution” fits Meisters’, especially Setsuna’s, thoughts pretty well. The first ending song is Wana (Trap) by The Back Horn. I’m not too fond of this song; maybe it’s the (strange) singing style, or maybe it’s just the tune of the song.
The second opening is Ash Like Snow by the brilliant green. This is my favourite song from the series. It’s upbeat, with drums and electric guitar, and I like the animation that accompanies the start of the song. The second ending is Friends by Stephanie. This song is more relaxed and laid-back almost, to wind you down I guess. The animation that goes with the song is a little… random I guess. But I like this ending better than the first one.
As for background music, the songs are appropriate and fitting, but not really outstanding. Although during a couple of dramatic sad scenes, the insert song Love Today by Taja is played, and it made me want to cry.
The voices were done by a stellar cast (trivia: most of the main cast haven’t been in any previous Gundam series). They all did an excellent job with the voices, particularly the Meisters. Each voice fits with the character’s personality; Mamoru Miyano as Setsuna has a calm voice that perhaps may be a bit deep for his age, but Setsuna does act very mature for a 16-year-old; Shinichiro Miki makes Lockon sound playful and laidback; Hiroyuki Yoshino as Allelujah Haptism sounds young and almost innocent sometimes, but crazy as Hallelujah; and Hiroshi Kamiya as Tieria sounds condescending and snotty (and no, he does not sound feminine, despite his appearance). Even Haro, Lockon’s mechanical partner (and longtime Gundam mascot), is given a “personality” through his adorable voice.
[According to Animenewsnetwork, Mamoru Miyano (also Light Yagami of Death Note) won the best lead actor award from the 2nd annual Seiyu Awards in March 2008, and Hiroshi Kamiya won best supporting actor.]
At first, Gundam 00 isn’t all that interesting; it didn’t really draw me in (feel free to disagree, but that’s just my opinion). Really, the first few episodes to me are just “mecha fanservice and politics”. I started to think that it’s just another Gundam/mecha series, nothing too special, and only kept watching out of curiosity and hoping it’ll get better. While it’s important to set up the situation and introduce and explain the technology (which they did, but I still find confusing), I didn’t like how characters aren’t developed until later; they were introduced, but you don’t get to know then until later in the series, and that just doesn’t have as much impact as if they were developed earlier.
However, if you do manage to get through the first 7 or 8 or 9 episodes, then the rest of the series kind of makes up for it, because it does get better and more interesting. The pace picks up; there are many plot turns, developments, and revelations. You get to know the characters better, especially Celestial Being’s crew, and start feeling attachment for them and cheer for them. The last 10 or so episodes are just one “wham episode”* after another.
Most of the issues and twists are resolved by the end. Even though there is a 2nd season coming out soon, the first season is somewhat self-contained, and is more like an arc of the story rather than the beginning of a long story.
I’m glad I stuck with the story, because the last 2/3 of the series is worth the wait at the beginning. Also, the beginning isn’t totally worthless, because it does help you understand the rest of the story better (and rewatching it helped me pick up little details and hints here and there).
To comment on the themes of Gundam 00, they reflect the current world situation and ideals. A lot of focus is on anti-terrorism, which is a big issue in today’s world. The Middle East countries, although are made-up, still reflect what goes on in that area today (religious conflicts for example). Another big focus is in the energy systems. The world in Gundam 00 relies mainly on solar power, having used up all the fossil fuel. This reflects our increasing focus on more “green” sources of energy and our reliance on fossil fuel (how we really will run out one day). There’s also the themes of space exploration (in terms of orbital stations and orbital elevators, which are actually possible in theory; I didn’t know that when I started watching, and thought they were impossible and ridiculous) and arms race to create better weapons of war. Along with these contemporary themes, Gundam 00 is set in the AD calendar (unlike previous Gundam series which are more like alternate universes), so this can be seen as a “prediction” of humanity’s possibilities in the future (perhaps minus the Gundam technology, I don’t think they’ll ever be possible).
Or you know, I could be just reading too much into that. But the point is, Gundam 00 tries to be “realistic” to an extent. Whether that’s good or bad for an anime, it’s up to you to decide.
The art is fairly good, the music and sound are well-done, and the story is pretty good, looking at the big picture, you just have to be patient at the beginning. It’s not my favourite mecha series, but objectively, it is pretty good in terms of quality and consistency.
Would I recommend this series? It depends on where your interests lie. If you like mecha and war stories, or just even a serious story with a tight storyline, then I think you should check Gundam 00 out. However, if you’re into romance and humour, you won’t find too much of it here.
[* term from TV tropes, it refers to when an episode suddenly moves in a different direction and surprised the viewer]