Spawning a thousand ‘Am I Eva now, Mum?’ comments . . .
We’re ten episodes into Gundam 00 and I find myself as undecided on its merits as I was when the show started. As might be expected, spoilers ahead.
The Animanachronism has a penchant for mecha action. In the same way that other humans become irrational about cars, sculpture or grammar, the sight of large, well-drawn robots taking each other to pieces makes me go gooey-eyed, g00ey eyed one might say. Atrocious puns aside, this show makes me feel schizophrenic. Half of me is going ‘Everything apart from the action seems terribly underdeveloped’, but the other half is going ‘Did you see that? With the sword! And then it exploded! Woohoo! Yeah! [cue endorphin release]‘
I feel guilty (well, guiltier) about watching fansubs which look so good: the fight scene animation, mechanical design and broadcast quality are great, even if the battles are unbalanced. Whatever technology it is which is used to produce raws has reached the point where it feels like watching a DVD. Gundam 00 is The Don of mecha visuals right now (despite stiff competition from the final battles of Tengen Topa Gurren Lagann). Given that this is Sunrise’s flagship mecha metaseries, it’s no surprise that they’re making an effort.
But . . . despite being beautiful it somehow feels empty. Gundam 00 has a relatively large (and tiresomely beautiful) cast, and unfortunately we don’t really know very much about them after ten episodes. There’ve been snippets here and there, and the odd flashback, but development has been rather thin on the ground. This might not be a major problem if it didn’t apply to our hero, Setsuna, as well as the supporting characters.
Currently our picture of Setsuna is extremely (as I would put it) external; we’ve seen that he was a child soldier/kinslayer, we’ve noticed his determined denials of God’s existence and his capacity for irrational decisions when faced with people linked to his past (see below), but we’ve yet to learn what he thinks or feels about his situation. I would be prepared to argue that Saji and Louise have been sketched with more interior detail, and they have so far been about as involved in the plot as Nishizawa is involved in the plot of Hayate no Gotoku! (which is to say, very little).
A gentleman would use [spoiler] tags when speaking to Marina
Portraying a hero as a near-impenetrable cypher is not a new idea, and it’s not necessarily a problem. Gasaraki‘s Yuushiro has a shockingly low amount of dialogue for ten episodes, limited mostly to angst, but then the series is attempting to portray him as the implement of others (primarily his family); in Gasaraki‘s case, an external portrayal is a technique not a flaw. But Gasaraki was always going to be an acquired taste with an even more limited audience than most anime. I’ve no idea what Sunrise’s planned target audience for Gundam 00 is, but something tells me it might be broader than Gasaraki‘s. And if there isn’t much else to sustain the series’ drama, an impenetrable hero can be a serious flaw. While I’m on the subject, both series feature a lot of politics away from the action: Gasaraki more convincingly but Gundam 00 more excitingly.
And yet. There’s still the potential for Gundam 00 to become very good. If the same level of action eye-candy is maintained, and on top of that something is actually done with/to the characters, then I’ll be as happy as a hippo in mud. There’s a lot of mileage in the fundamental concept of the series, in the sight of the Gundams descending, gods from a machine (well, spaceship), to attempt to right the world. A sight neatly undercut by the rather broken nature of the pilots, sorry, Meisters themselves. So the jury is still firmly out. It’s rare for me to feel this ambivalent about a show after ten episodes, but there you go.
Scratch that, I don’t care about the writing; just give me more explosions as pretty as this . . .
[Some links to the Gundam 00 archives of four other bloggers who are covering this on a more episodic basis, by way of a bibliography (blogiography?):
- Crusader on THAT Animeblog, who produces a hilarious bombardment of words on each episode
- DarkMirage, who's involved in fansubbing (poacher turned gamekeeper or gamekeeper turned poacher?)
- Anime History, where Kaoishin blogs on Gundam 00 with all the advantages of an enthusiast
- . . . and Mr Miao's approach is, as always, idiosyncratic ('Will this be the first Gundam series to start giving carbon footprint specs for all the mobile suits?')
Provided I don't drop this before the first twenty-five episodes are up, I may, in the fullness of time, produce a full-series review.]