Gundam Wing Endless Waltz

May 10, 2004 on 6:02 pm | In Gundam Wing | Comments Off on Gundam Wing Endless Waltz

Now this is some nice Gundam Wing. The TV series was at times protracted; almost to balance, this three episode OVA at times feels contracted. However, it’s highly enjoyable at almost all times.

One year after the conclusion of the television series, everyone is at peace. Except for some upstarts who came from nowhere – as it always seems to go with Wing. They kidnap Relena, who still holds influence from her day as Queen, and say “Wahahahaha! We shall be the rulers of the universe with our puppet figurehead!”
Endless Waltz also details the original plan for Project Meteor and displays requests made to Izubuchi Yutaka for fetishistic uniforms.

A taut, eighty minute story follows. Very little time is wasted. There’s about three minutes of “peace”, then Relena’s “Hey, why am I the only one drinking tea?” scene comes up. Incidental events, like the conquering of Earth, are relegated to the ED animation. The story is good, and questions about White Fang and Operation Meteor are answered satisfactorily. Wu Fei at one point seems like nothing more than an obstacle created for narrative difficulty purposes, but generally everything is happy. Perhaps the character can rise above his cliché Hemingway existence. We’ll never know, but we can happily assume so.

Oddly, all of the characters get a conclusion except for Heero; even Wu Fei, who probably deserves it the least, has his own place. Heero, being “the heart of the universe” will always keep on beating the worn paths or something. Heck, even the dead characters from the Wing series get further conclusions.

The animation is awfully pretty, with excellent explosions. The Gundams have slight redesigns, with the exception of the Wing Zero, which has actual feathery wings. These stylistic changes don’t make narrative sense, but there’s not a lot that can be done. Everyone looks fundamentally the same, but just that much nicer. The “mysterious man” (given away by his credit! And his voice! And the totally obvious nature of it all) looks truly marvellous. The colours are more vibrant than the television series, and that makes most of the difference.
The only scary thing about it is the uniforms that the “Barton Youth” have to wear. Trowa and Wu Fei look like scouts in these uniforms … short shorts, odd ties … it’s shudder inducing.

There’s also a movie version, but it was not released in Australia. The OVA form was nice, as the EDs used the classic method of furthering the story. The Endless Waltz OVA is a nice addition to the end of the Gundam Wing series with excellent animation and wonderful followups on all of my favourite characters.
A fitting end to the franchise that features few of the flaws of the television series … and fortunately only one resurrection.
It’s still hard to grasp that the series and the follow up OVAs came from the same years as Evangelion.

Gundam Wing – episodes 31 to 49

May 10, 2004 on 3:07 pm | In Gundam Wing | 2 Comments

It’s finally over. Gundam Wing was a series that at times struggled with momentum and pace, resulting in something that wasn’t so much epic as it was long.

Things happen so fast and both and slow. A country can be form and dissolved in the space of a few episodes, a character can be crowned Queen and dethroned in less than one, and a character that was shot dead can awake from a coma twenty episodes after the fact. At times, it has been handled as if very little has happened despite the quite serious repercussions frequently effected.
It’s not until the episode 42 mark that the Gundam pilots actually form a team and act together, and the previous shifting dynamics become tiresome as Treize changes from “good” to “evil” with alarming frequency.

The final arc, however, fired in a positive way at all times. It was just confusing that Noin chose to dress as a space cowgirl after her previous regal efforts were no longer called for. A nice ending, and also some strong development for Dorothy, who eventually stopped coming across as a hollow villain. Wu Fei changed the least of everyone, however, and was as a result the least interesting up until his final sortie. In 49 episodes he must have received about two or three episodes’ worth of screentime: not a lot. Sally Po also had a tendency to disappear … as with the earlier episodes (and with the nations themselves), the problem had always been the lack of unification. Too much happened in too many different places, and characters presumed dead just suddenly reappeared without explanation. Those scientists, they could be anywhere!

Still, Gundam Wing was enjoyable. Nice performances all around, great costume design, some bland battles with a distinct lack of colour; but still good. The odd thing is that the main criticisms that are levelled against it were fairly invisible; there’s very little in the way of angst (some of the pilots drawing blanks a lot of the time) and the yaoi factor was very, very poorly played up – the fangirls had little to draw upon. Gundam Wing has its flaws, but the popular ones aren’t it.

It was a long journey, and generally worthwhile (particularly for the price point), but at times Gundam Wing was hard to take and sadly the pilots themselves weren’t gifted with too much in the way of character. Still, the secondary cast led rich and interesting lives … and certainly no one was the same as when the series began.
If you choose to watch two series at once, don’t make both of them long.

Gundam Wing – Episodes 22 to 30

April 27, 2004 on 6:51 pm | In Gundam Wing | Comments Off on Gundam Wing – Episodes 22 to 30

Some of the best episodes so far! It took a while to get around to them. New music accentuated the dramas. Zechs reappears, but in a capacity that I am happy with. He mentions that he himself has a dual personality, but he is more conscious of it than Lady Une – who turns it on and off probably without realising (although understanding the triggers).
Her duality is such that she probably doesn’t even recognise her other self … and her dedication to Treize’s ideals, rather than any political faction, is admirable.

Seki Toshihiko’s performance when he thought he was dying was extremely well done, and the ambiguity of the scientists, and the ambiguity of now even Treize. The only person who seems to be a straight and clear character is Relena; her singlemindedness is actually admirable rather than annoying.

The rest of the story here is fairly interesting, with each of the pilots co-existing for purposes other than giant things.

After a ten episode absence, Relena makes her return to the stage. That translated to two and a half months without Relena, as the crow flies. Her return comes in the form of a recap episode. The episode after that was also a recap. The presentation made up for the shortage of new material. The first episode featured voice overs from Relena and Heero, which were nice reflections of the characters, and the second featured the same from Treize and Zechs. The new material is naturally the most interesting part, particularly Treize’s reflections on Lady Une, who became one of my favourite characters once promoted to diplomat status.

The Sanc Kingdom episodes introduce the most blatantly evil character in town, Dorothy. That’s the only problem with pacifists; they’re too trusting … and if they’re not they’re secretly building up armies of robots just in case. Old habits die hard, it would seem; although Noin would like to live in peace, she can’t see how that can happen without war.
Relena’s youth allows her to become the leader in world pacifism, because she has not been conditioned by years of politics; as it has been said, if one does not know that they are incapable of doing something, they may very well do it.

The meeting of Sally Po and Noin was also an excellent occasion; rallying the two strongest female characters together was a marvellous idea.

To write up Gundam Wing in such large quantities is difficult, espcially as among so many it means I’m writing without credibility. Gundam Wing constantly changes; its march of development and lack of stagnation makes it entirely worthwhile.

Gundam Wing – episodes 13 to 21

April 19, 2004 on 1:01 pm | In Gundam Wing | Comments Off on Gundam Wing – episodes 13 to 21

The Gundam pilots, and the story, have started their shift from Earth to space. These episodes become more focussed than any before, and for the most part are highly compelling.

In the earlier episodes, the writers compensated for the fact that the five pilots and their opposing factions weren’t really geographically or contextually placed near each other by writing in short scenes of exposition which did little other than to tell the viewer that that character was still there. Now the only characters featured are those relevant – so Relena can disappear for six episodes at a time, or there can be episodes almost entirely about her. It’s a much better way to approach the series because there’s a greater concentration – two or three character groups per episode, rather than five, six or seven.

As for the content of the episodes, the characters get to say more and are breaking out of their moulds as the dolls of Treize. Even Zechs, who actually works for Treize, is starting to act independently. The way that each of the five work both independently and as a group allows for many interesting dynamics, and the pairs are always shifting. Allies in one episode can be enemies for the greater good in the next, as not just
Zechs’ turns are great, as his own moral code is revealed, which is precisely what one likes to see in a “villainous” character. Zechs and Relena are two of the more interesting characters – they both have histories, which is more than can be said of the pilots, who chief appeal seems to have lied in their blank canvas nature.
Noin’s handling of a delicate issue between the two was rather awkward, and sadly Relena has not been seen since – and of all the characters, she has the most room to grow.
The symbolism in the Zechs scenes was meaningful without being cloying. His flight towards inevitability, perhaps freedom, was almost moving. I’m hoping that Zechs won’t be showing up again.

The best thing that has come out of space so far is Lady Une. When she first appeared, my first thought was ‘ooh, new character’. It was a total shock when she introduced herself as Lady Une. Instead of the vicious, singlemindedly loyal woman of Earth, she is attractive, kind, pacifistic and persuades with more than explosives and firearms.
The fact that she herself can’t reconcile her dual nature is sincere and perhaps the most compelling plot point so far. It’s difficult to see the resemblance between the two – Sayuri even altered her voice (Une is, they say, stronger in her uniform).
Lady Une is also the source of the series’ most confusing Japanese – it seems that Lady is actually part of her name, rather than a title. In the first episode featuring her, she was called “Miss Lady”, and later on she is referred to literally as “Colonel Lady Une”. The subtitles artfully dodge this issue, but it’s still audible.

Now that Heero is starting to voice opinions and act on his own initiative, Trowa is becoming more ambiguous, Duo becoming dangerously angry, Quatre becoming less pacifistic and Wu Fei … more without place, Gundam Wing obscures as it reveals, giving more reason to go boldly forward.

Gundam Wing – Episodes 9 to 12

April 16, 2004 on 7:32 pm | In Gundam Wing | Comments Off on Gundam Wing – Episodes 9 to 12

These episodes are so far from my original take on the series that it’s very hard to finish the old words at all. I’ll just say that the first eight episodes were good enough to warrant pursuing the series to completion, and from then on it has become really enjoyable.

After all five Gundam pilots got to know each other, Gundam Wing found firmer footing. Until this time, it was a series of plot threads that were interesting and hinting at cohesion, but really the episodes had a distinct formula: the first half of the episode would be about Heero and Relena, and following the eye catch there would be short scenes for all of the other characters.

That Zechs actually got to fight the Gundams gave him more of a reason to be. And although soon thereafter the pilots disbanded again, there is more of a sense of unity about the thing.
The splinter factions continue to be interesting, and now it feels like the whole thing is going somewhere. The bishounen aren’t too broody, although Wu Fei’s philosophy makes little sense. Relena is also a much better character now that she has focus and doesn’t talk to herself all the time and demands that Heero come out and kill her.

The potential of the earlier episodes is starting to be realised. Before I couldn’t consider it as approaching a space opera. But now, it’s well on the way.

Gundam Wing – episodes 1 to 9

April 13, 2004 on 9:27 pm | In Gundam Wing | Comments Off on Gundam Wing – episodes 1 to 9

This is coloured because I could not finish it until after I had seen later episodes.

Gundam Wing is the Gundam that, if you listen to what “they” say, you aren’t supposed to like. It’s the Gundam that brought the franchise as a whole to the US, despite being one of the series least representative of Gundam as a whole.
It’s not as bad as people make it out to be, and it’s certainly not the dreary anime purgatory that has been suggested in the past.
This is a 49 episode series with a three OVA follow up, so it might take a while.

The story goes something like this: people left the Earth in order to live freely in colonies in space. The Earth government then tried to impose themselves on the colonies, and so the colonies retaliated by dispatching bishounen in mecha to sort out all of their difficulties. At the same time, the Alliance that runs the Earth is undergoing major shifts to repair relations, and the evil OZ organisation is attempting to overrun the whole damned system.
The idea of ‘Pretty Boys from Outerspace’ might seem laughable, but there’s a bit more to the series than this. There are several political factions, and each has several splinter factions. There’s enough to keep interest piqued beyond the simple brooding teens also on offer.
Zechs is the most interesting of all the characters, and it’s clear that he will be a splinter of OZ. The mixed morality of all of the “villains” is a good source of intrigue, although it’s clear that not all of them are quite so ambiguous, to the benefit of some characters and the detriment of others.
In these episodes Noin seems to be a very strong, moral character, but Lady Une seems to be nothing more than a vicious woman without reason.

The mechanical encounters are very basic affairs at first, posing no threat to the Gundam pilots at all. Only in episode nine, when Zechs takes on Heero, does there seem to be any tension at all.
There’s more than enough “action” in Wing, but the motivations and manipulations are far more interesting. The Gundam pilots are always getting themselves lured into traps – they fight, in the end, for the benefit of their opponents. Luckily enough, they eventually catch on. Plot devices eventually fade away as, of all people, Wu Fei tells the others what fools they’ve been.

The music, from favourites like Two-Mix, is a definite highlight. It gives a romantic, electric feel – like most other things in these early episodes, it hints at a greater promise.

These episodes should be compelling enough to convince people to continue watching Gundam Wing; it gets much better.

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