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Monday, May 24, 2010

ANIME CORNER - Mobile Suit Gundam 00 - DVD Part 3

Well, dear God. Gundam has been many things over the years—Preachy, action packed, contrived, groundbreaking; but never has the series been so relevant as it is with Gundam 00. This comes with an emotional presence that I’ve rarely felt over the series’ thirty-year run of Universal Century, Wing and SEED.

Though I was initially turned off by the inclusion of the Trinity Gundams, their storyline twists in to a very unexpected conclusion. Furthermore, I have to thank those characters for throwing Celestial Being in to self-serving situations that reveal more background about these fantastic characters. Setsuna and Lockon discover a very unsettling bond that actually strengthens their friendship and tightens the Gundam meisters’ relationships as a whole.

The supporting characters never seem to float to the center of the meisters’ lives, but they maintain their relevance due to how the Gundam’s actions affect them. Saji Crossroad (a non-too subtle name for a person inadvertently crossing paths with Setsuna) loses everything he holds dear due to the Gundam’s interventions—Both by Team Trinity and Celestial Being. His storyline should be the most boring and non-crucial arc in the entire series. I have to give the writers props for getting me to care about him and his life. Saji is crucial because his trials represent the flaws behind the Gundam’s actions. He is not a soldier. He’s not a man who will surely seek revenge against the Gundams and become a pilot in a clichĂ© move to be the next villain. He is a scared boy whose life was destroyed by a terrible string of world events and, like most people, he moves on. Never say, “it doesn’t concern me.”

On the flip side, Setsuna’s character reaches a half-hearted conclusion about his plan to fight fire with fire—It’s not assuredly strong, but it’s enough to keep the character going as we see some fan favorites get obliterated. A rather surprising swan song represents one of the best moments in the Gundam series and a demise for anime fans everywhere to remember. (I’m still cursing the sky over this one.)

Meanwhile, Team Trinity’s story is wrapped with much tragedy, escalating the battle against Celestial Being to new heights; placing adversaries in the perfect face-offs and closing the technological gap between Earth’s forces and the Gundam units. This is where the suspense begins to take center stage and the build-up is more than enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Suddenly the Gundams aren’t the god-like juggernauts we’ve seen and the meisters find themselves drawing the short end.

The final chapter to the season isn’t without faults though. Soma Peries, a supporting player I had initially despised, is showcased a great deal but doesn’t become the interesting character she should be until the show’s final moments. Oh, it's season 2 cliffhanger material for sure, but it would’ve been nice to pull that card earlier. The Trinity’s existence is somewhat glazed over. The pseudo-explanation was better than some of Lost’s attempts, but left a faint look of confusion on my face regardless.

Though nothing disappointed me more than Setsuna’s final showdown with Graham Aker. It’s as if the writers ran out of time and decided to slip in Graham’s vendetta at last minute. It was an unjust move for such a strong character, but at least the spouting of differences between him and Setsuna make for an interesting, though pretentious, commentary on the world.

It’s not without some glaring flaws and a lot of questions to answer in season 2, but season 1 of Gundam 00 ends with some intense action, gut-wrenching character closure and a promise that the next twenty-five episodes will be interesting indeed. Universal Century fans can revile it all they want for having powerful Gundams, or pretty-boy character designs. The fact is 00 pushed the series in to a new and relevant place. As good as Unicorn looks, I don’t think it will do the same.

***½ out of ****

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