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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ANIME CORNER - Mobile Suit Gundam 00 - DVD Part 1

When you’re watching a Gundam series you better buck up for some heavy-handed, anti-war sing-along. It’s inevitable. Whenever a Gundam rears its samurai inspired head it tends to glare at current events in a battle for relevance. Mobile Suit Gundam 00, tends to be the heavier hitting of these shows. It sports the most obvious post-9/11 storyline yet, but it isn’t so downbeat to not remind us how cool giant robots are.

Bringing ethnicity, religion and moral obligations in to the forefront, 00 manages to drench its audience in enough back-story to send even your grandma to wikipedia. Thankfully if you just sit back and watch the show everything will be revealed. What’s the fictional country they keep mentioning you ask? Wait ten minutes and the three, sexy female characters will reveal all! (And my God, Feldt has enormous mammary glands for a thirteen year old! Apparently every girl in 2307 A.D. will be 38C by age ten.)

In all seriousness though, Gundam 00 has a fantastic hook. The series blasts off immediately with robot-kicking action and saves the explanation for episode two. But nothing is spoon-fed immediately. Every character is harboring some deep secret that leaves the audience wanting more. It’s like Lost, but it won’t take thirty seasons just to know what a character’s tattoo means.

The instant grab is, of course, main character Setsuna F. Seiei; a name so suave you want to whisper it during sex. This would-be Heero Yuy clone actually has more depth to him than a constant bid for suicide. His consistent distaste for God, brought on by his previous occupation as a brainwashed child soldier, is clashed with the angelic salvation of a Gundam. Years later he finds himself piloting a Gundam of his own and embodies the infatuation every boy has with these machines. It’s nice to know there’s finally a series where the kid is as obsessed with giant robots as we are.

The rest of the characters, Lockon Stratos, Allelujah Haptism and Tieria Erde, have equally interesting mysteries obscuring their past. Unfortunately very little is revealed in the first nine episodes. Instead we’re introduced to a plethora of supporting players that are good for the story, but not very interesting characters. (Except for Graham Aker. I can see him spinning into the realm of baddassery later on.) Lockon tends to be another favorite of mine. It’s nice to have a Gundam pilot whose age doesn’t begin with the number one. Meanwhile Tiera is a little too flamboyant for my tastes. I’ll wait until I know his backstory, but as of right now the guy is a dick. I mean pink shirts? Really?

But what about the Gundams, gun-dammit? Are they worth snapping together for your model kit collection? They are, in fact, sleek and cool, with some design aspects I’ve never seen before. The animation is also incredible—Guaranteed to make any mecha-phile explode their pants. They’re also pretty much invulnerable. I mean come on; you didn’t expect them to take on the world without getting God’s blessing of dent proof armor no matter what hits them. At least the GN-drive is a worthy and mysterious device for their superiority over enemy mobile suits—For now anyway. That could change when we know more about it.

When Part I ended with an aggravating and surprisingly edgy cliffhanger, I declared Gundam 00 as a positively epic and thoughtful addition to the Gundam series. And why the hell shouldn’t I? Every politically motivated episode is accented with some explosive surprise whether it comes from the characters’ mouths or the end of a beam rifle. U.C. Gundam fans will revile it, but if you’re a little more open minded about the Gundam series you might find it’ll rock your socks.

***½ out of ****

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