2307AD. Fossil fuels have long since been exhausted, and humanity now relies solely on a massive array of solar power generation systems orbiting the Earth, supported by three orbital elevators. Of course, the decline of fossil fuels shifted economic and political power significantly, leaving Earth split into three major alliances, namely The Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations, The Human Reform Alliance and The Advanced European Union.
However, despite this infinite source of energy now available to humankind, warfare inevitably breaks out across the planet, between the various factions and impoverished nations trying to gain exclusive access to the elevators. This constant state of warfare has however prompted the creation of Celestial Being, a private military organization, forged in secret and unleashed upon a very unsuspecting and unready world.
Their mission: eliminate all conflict on Earth through the use of their overpowering and unstoppable four ‘Gundam’ units – humanoid mecha powered by the mysterious force known only as GN particles. Four Gundam Meisters currently head the fight, four young men that each have a shattered past and their own demons to quell, who now only live for one thing – the completion of their mission and the elimination of all weapons of and desire for war!
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (better known as Gundam 00) is the latest anime series in Sunrise’s long-running Gundam franchise and is the first Gundam title to be fully animated in High Definition and be set in a non-fictional era. The first 25 episode series was released in 2007 and a second season has been announced for 2008.
As with every other Gundam title, Gundam 00 is more of a drama than any other genre. Sure it has tons of amazing action sequences and even the odd comedic or romantic moment, but at the heart of it all it is a solid human drama. Which is unfortunately exactly where it falls over for much of the series’ run. The level of drama, both on a global and personal scale is so overwhelming, overwrought and just plain stupid, that it actually becomes a pain to watch the show! In fact, if it wasn’t for some awesome mecha designs and great battle animations, most people would leave the show after the first couple of episodes.To make matters worse, the first half of the series also happens to be a complete waste of time anyway, because the Gundam Meisters are given such a powerful advantage over everyone else that it becomes just one completely pointless, one-sided battle after another, with a lot of political and emotional wrangling in between.
Lastly, just to rub salt into the wound, because you have four main protagonists in the four Gundam Meisters, the Celestial Being ship crew, leaders of the various nations and unions plus a completely unrelated side story of two engineering students caught up in the effects of Celestial Being’s actions, you have such a myriad of characters to keep track of that you end up not getting attached to a single one of them even if you wanted to. And if you do manage to keep track of a character, you’ll find it ends up being pretty pointless because these happen to be some of the most two dimensional characters that I have come across in a very long time.
It is almost as if the show’s writers were tasked with coming up with the mother of all shows, eclipsing the previous Gundam works that have come before it, something so grandiose and epic that it puts all others to shame, except that in so doing managed to create a bit of a mess which in the end not too many people care about anyway. Thankfully though the writers did get the message and manage to pull things together towards the end of the series and shift the show’s focus to a more action-orientated show that although still dripping in drama, manages to up the ante by at last putting everyone on equal footing when it comes to battling.
Strangely enough, my first impression of Gundam 00’s visuals was less than admirable. For such a highly touted show, I found the character designs surprisingly simple and a little unattractive when it came to the faces, thought I have to admit that this was more than made up for by the simply sublime mecha design and animation. As it has always been, Gundam is primarily about its giant fighting robots and in this regard Gundam 00 can do no wrong. As always the Gundam units are as brightly coloured as a khoi fish, but their basic designs are all unique, detailed and simply awe-inspiring as is the rest of the non-affiliated machinery they need to battle against.
Being animated in high-def shows and the big scenes are a marvel to behold. Awesome CG, splendidly fluid and detailed artwork and simply spectacular colouring makes for a visual treat, despite the little nit-picking that I have over the character faces, and it is certainly one of the better looking big robots beating on each other titles out there.
Also, seeing as this is a big budget production, the producers went all out to pick up some of the best voice seiyuu that they could find and certainly everyone does a topnotch job of voicing their respective characters. On the same note, big names like L’Arc~en~Ciel and The Brilliant Green provide great opening and closing tracks, while the very established Kenji Kawai delivers a more than competent score.
In summary, Gundam 00 starts out painfully badly with over the top dramatics, characters you simply can’t care for and a plot which is so weak and paper thin that it hardly seems worth the effort of watching. Apart from the awesome mecha designs and battle sequences, this show really does struggle to hold your attention and if it wasn’t for the radical shifting of gear towards the last third of the series, I wouldn’t even bother recommending it to you.
As it is, you just need to be patient to get through the drivel that is the first two thirds and once you’ve gotten through that, sit back and enjoy as the show kicks into high gear, the drama suddenly becomes relevant and you actually have a action-packed, political commentary laden anime on your hands that is actually good enough to leave you disappointed when you realize that it is only the first season that has ended once the final credits roll.
In any event, even if this is not the greatest of anime series in the world, that innumerable legion of Gundam fans across the world will lap it up anyway. Your choice on this one then.