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.]
“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]’”
My thoughts exactly! For all the pretty shininess, it lacks that in-depth connection you’re supposed to feel for the characters. Sure, there are cute girls, angsty bishounen, intriguing politics and really well animated set pieces but, like you, I’m still undecided on this one.
As for Gasaraki, it’s a quintessential post-Eva mecha show that takes itself very, very, seriously. I quite liked it actually – it’s slow going in places but earns the rare honour of being a mecha show that feels realistic and always has something complex to chew on while watching it.
Congrats on finally getting you own anime blog too – I wish you the best of luck! :)
Thankyou. I think the irritatingly attractive appearance of the characters, coupled with their emptiness, may neatly encapsulate the show’s nature: pretty on the outside, but hard to really feel anything.
I’m gradually collecting Gasaraki on DVD at the moment, but (like the show) it’s a slow process.
The image captions in this post make me happy. :D
“Whatever technology it is which is used to produce raws has reached the point where it feels like watching a DVD.”
If they’re HD rips, then it’s far beyond DVD quality. Yet another reason why the DVD is a broken and obsolete distribution model.
Ah, HD. I’m not properly au fait with television technology, but I’m not especially surprised to hear that broadcast quality is outstripping DVD quality. It’s an almost frightening speed of progress, though – it doesn’t seem so long ago that DVDs themselves were something of a mystery to me.
The two Gundam Meisters in despair at the end of Gundam 00 episode 10 were a downer. Usually at this point any decent series will have you feeling some pity, but as Allelujah has had superficial development and Tieria next to none, I’m just standing back staring at the whole thing with an increasingly cynical look about it all.
I’ll probably watch the entire season though. There’s something about mecha porn that can’t be fulfilled otherwise…
Pingback: tabula rasa: Macross Frontier « The Animanachronism
I agree with the comments about the characters’ prettiness; I recently rewatched the 8th MS Team, and it was so superior it put me off watching the rest of this series (I’m sure I’ll make it through at some pont though). Shiny mecha and people whose hair is perfect even when they’re completely terrified works great for something like Macross Frontier, which is awesome, but what other Gundam I’ve seen was good for a different reason.
The battles are done brilliantly, as are the occasional unsettling moments where he suddenly starts hallucinating bombings and deciding he is Gundam.. in fact there’s almost enough to hope the characters will start to become interesting to watch..
…but if a few minutes of 90s animation of someone getting the crap beaten out of him in a scratched mass-production mech is more memorable than anything in this series so far, then they’re going wrong somewhere..
But meh, I never got past the 3rd episode of Seed for the exact same reason, so maybe I’m just not part of their target audience.. :/
To be fair to The 08th, it may have 90s animation but it’s proper OVA quality, with plenty of attention to detail. It helps that The 08th‘s story is pretty cast-iron: it is, in a sense, easier to get the audience interested in the characters (and therefore their battles) with something like the traditional Romeo and Juliet story than with 00‘s wacky War for Peace.