A twelve-episode anime series
The year is 2307 A.D. Although fossil fuels have been depleted, humanity has obtained a new source of energy to replace them, in the form of a large-scale solar power generation system based on three huge orbital elevators. However, the benefits of this system are available only to a handful of major powers and their allies.
The three orbital elevators belong to three superpower blocs. These are the Union, led by the United States of America; the Human Reform League, led by China, Russia, and India; and the AEU, led by Europe. These superpower blocs continue to play a grand zero-sum game for the sake of their own prestige and prosperity. Thus, even in the 24th Century, humanity has yet to come together as one.
In this world of never-ending conflict, a private armed organization appears, dedicated to the elimination of war through armed force. Its name is Celestial Being, and it is in possession of "Gundam" mobile suits. With these Gundams, it begins armed intervention into all acts of war. - Summary courtesy of Bandai Entertainment's official Gundam 00 website
First off, I have to laugh at my own timing here. Originally I had gone to ANN for their summary, and had to smile as they are advertising the release of Awakening of the Trailblazer, which is being released today (July 5th) on Blu Ray.
Ok, on to the review. When I first reviewed season one, I was...well, really just enamored with the whole thing; the characters, their backgrounds, the insanely hard hitting battles and kick ass Gundams, that I failed miserably in my objectiveness.
The above synopsis sounds fairly simple, but once you get past the first few episodes everything starts to get complicated, so here's the rest of it. Two hundred years prior to the start of the series, a super genius named Aeolia Schenberg started planning for the future. He designed what one can assume (for a while at least) is a omnipotent computer operating system called Veda, which basically gives Celestial Being its orders from an unknown (until later) location. The series starts out with the testing of a new AEU mobile suit called the Enact, piloted by a young, cocky soldier by the name of Patrick Colassaur. Out of seemingly nowhere, Exia (GN-001), piloted by Setsuna F. Seiei, arrives on the scene and effectively demonstrates how superior his Gundam is compared to the new Enact. In the audience are Lieutenant Graham Aker and Technical Adviser Billy Katagiri, who, along with everyone else are stunned at Exia's power. (Meanwhile, Patrick is screaming about how "special" he is and how he's never lost a mock battle. ^^) Graham grabs some random guy's binoculars and focuses in on the name Gundam imprinted on the head. This is Graham verbatim, sub and dub: "Gun-dam..." After destroying the Enact, Setsuna leaves to join Lockon Stratos (pilot of GN-002 Dynames) help Lockon protect an HRL orbital elevator from terrorists. Once Setsuna and Lockon wrap of their maiden mission, a transmission comes over the airways of the world consisting of Aeolia informing the world of his plan and what is to come if everyone doesn't start behaving like hippies.
From here on out the majority of the season revolves around Celestial Being's interventions, while the three main blocs try to counter the Gundams' obvious power. Thanks to Graham's obsession with the Gundams and Colonel Sergei Smirnov's need to see a Gundam with his own eyes, it isn't long before mobile suits that are almost equal in their ferocity start being mass produced. (Amazing what a small sample of paint and metal can lead to.)
However, there is quite a bit of character development as well. There are many important characters in Gundam 00 as a whole, and almost all of them serve a purpose. Since the number is fairly high, I will focus on the Gundam Meisters.
Setsuna F. Seiei (real name Soran Ibrahim) is from a small Middle Eastern country called Krugis, which was destroyed in a war with neighboring Azadistan. To complicate things, a terrorist organization called the KPSA started recruiting children from Krugis to carry out various "jihad-like" missions. Setsuna often flashes back to the day when he pointed a gun at his parents and shot them both point blank, convinced that doing so would help him in carrying out God's will. Setsuna was recruited and trained by a man named Ali al Saschez. It is somewhat unclear how Setsuna came to join Celestial Being, but at the beginning of the series he is sixteen years old, already Gundam obsessed, and is seeking to find the source of why the world is so "twisted." (The sub says "distorted" I believe.) Throughout the series he has occasion to meet the Princess Royal of Azadistan, Marina Ismail who is trying to bring political and economic stability to her country. There are times when Setsuna seeks Marina's advice. Once, on his way to a mission he "drops by" her room in the middle of the night just to ask her about why the world is so distorted. Creepy? Yeah, pretty much. :D If memory serves, Setsuna was modeled after Heero Yuy of Gundam Wing.
Lockon Stratos (real name Neil Dylandy) comes from Ireland, although a town, city, or even region is not specified. (From his dialogue, I'm guessing Northern Ireland simply because the writers make a point of mentioning the Real IRA.) Neil's parents and little sister were killed when a child soldier from the KPSA blew himself up in the middle of a busy shopping center. Neil's only known living relative is his identical twin, Lyle whose whereabouts are unknown until season two. I am told that in the manga/side stories, Neil was an assassin before joining Celestial Being, hence his Gundam, GN-002 Dynames which is a long range stealth mobile suit equipped with a massive sniper rifle with high altitude firing capabilities. Personality wise, Neil is the most normal, and friendly of the entire cast. He acts as the unofficial team leader during interventions, and is always willing to offer advice when his comrades need it, thus leading to fans referring to him as the "big brother" type. At twenty four years old, Neil is one of the oldest out of everyone on board Celestial Being's mother ship, Ptolemaios. (Incidentally, in the fandom Neil is affectionately referred to as "Stupid Sexy", meaning so sexy even straight guys want him. Speaking personally as a female, consider me a cougar. ^^;;)
Allejujah Haptism spent his childhood as a test subject of the HRL's Super Soldier Institute. Allelujah joins Celestial Being with the intention of bringing peace to the world so that super soldiers like himself are no longer needed. He has a split personality that apparently came about during the experiments he endured earlier in his life. This alter ego, Hallelujah is basically a homicidal maniac who loves to kill, and enjoys it even more if he can make sure his victims suffer. While Allelujah is the weakest of the two personalities, he maintains control most of the time, however when Halle assumes control all bets are off. Allelujah/Hallelujah pilot GN-003, Gundam Kyrios, which in flight mode looks quite a bit like Wing Gundam's Neo Bird Mode. Personality wise, Alle is is reserved and quiet, and basically good natured over all.
Tieria Erde is all about the mission and following Veda's orders. In the beginning, he is uncompromising and arrogant to the point of being willing to eliminate anyone that gets in the way of Veda's plans, even his fellow Meisters. (Poor Setsuna gets a gun pointed at him at least four times during the whole series, once by Tieria.) Not much is known about Tieria until much later in the series. Even he has no knowledge of his past or where he comes from. There are key events that lead to Tieria becoming much less abrasive, and by season two he almost seems normal. In season one, Tieria is Meister to GN-004, Gundam Virtue, which can transform into the more powerful Nadleeh.
As far as the story, I personally feel that there is so much going on that the flow keeps getting interrupted quite a bit. There's infighting among the Meisters, the view points that come from three civilians in particular who do in fact end up being directly affected by Celestial Being's interventions, the emergence of three new and previously unknown Meisters whose tactics are in direct conflict with the original fours, the politics in different parts of the world, and of course the military aspects as well.
Ultimately, season one of Gundam 00 leaves off with a doozy of a cliffhanger. The three blocs decide to unite their military strength with the sole intent of eliminating Celestial Being, and of course hoping to capture one of their Gundams and/or Meisters in the process. This comes about through the execution of Operation Fallen Angels which, in the end leaves the Ptolemaios with three dead crew members, one Meister who has been captured, and one that is KIA. If that weren't bad enough, the Ptolemaios sustains significant damage, and the remaining crew is left with serious morale issues.
All that said, Gundam 00 first season is quite a ride. While the story leaves much to be desired (there are just too many important issues that never get explained), the visuals are outstanding. Watching this series in a home theater setting is almost mandatory, and surround sound speakers are a must. If you watch it in low light, sunglasses may be a necessity to avoid sensory overload.
As I've said before, I prefer the dub track for high action anime, and Gundam 00's is quite good with a few exceptions. Scott McNeil has always made me cringe whenever he voices anything, mainly because of how forced he sounds. Unfortunately, he plays a few main characters as well as some minor ones. On the other hand, one is a villain, and the other I doubt most people cared about much at all. Many of the voice actors that worked on Gundam Wing are in this, the first and most notable being Setsuna's voice actor Brad Swaile who also voiced Quatre Winner. Another is Billy Katagiri's voice actor, Kirby Morrow who also voiced Trowa Barton. The music is fantastic too. After re-watching the series just this week, I can't get the opening and ending themes out of my head. Lastly, I do recall that there are some decent extras on the series DVDs, however this time around I watched this on YouTube, so I don't recall exactly what they are.
(I wanted a pic of the girls for you guys, but I can't really find any that aren't either normal series pics, or just plain smutty. Sorry.)
What did you think of this review?
A twelve-episode anime series
Movie Follow-up to the Anime Series
Director: Hayao Miyazaki; Release Date: April 15, 2003
Anime & Manga movie