Bring us to Warp 6, Ensign Erde!

September 29, 2010

“Who are you? What is your purpose? Where are you from?! ANSWER ME!”

Setsuna F. Seiei, Gundam 00 The Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer


I went to watch the 00 Movie today. Best use of 2 hours in my entire life, whatever the UC elitists might say.

Most Gundam series, movies or OVAs serve to drive a point home. Notable examples include:

– The original Mobile Suit Gundam, which portrayed war in a relatively unsanitized manner in comparison to most programs of its day and age and hid the real truth, that was to move on and toughen it out;

– 8th MS Team, which took the former and combined it with the gritty and grey area that is reality, and within the bitter truth that is true warfare combine it with the power of the human heart to not only reject the logical outcome, but to carve out one’s future against all odds;

– Gundam Wing, which exposed the ugliness that is human nature to hoard power and prestige, and later to portray the other side of man, the one that is honourable and knows when, where and how to do the right thing;

– Both Gundam Zeta (the concept pioneer) and later Gundam SEED (the concept refiner) would accurately portray all-out multi-faction war highly reminiscent of the messy nature of Cold War-era politics, and how something that is seen as impossibly complicated can be overcome simply with the trust between common men;

– Gundam SEED, and later SEED Destiny (though it was eventually ruined, it started out quite strong) takes it further by pitting the very basic question of man, made for whatever the future might bring V.S. the future made by man for himself, with his own natural efforts. Essentially, the freedom to choose one’s life, and with it, the dangers of eternal conflict between fellow people, and the promise of eternal order and peace, and with it, the constant threat of stagnation arising from humankind’s inability for a small select group to control our race’s own development effectively;

– Both Turn A and Gundam X carried within them the inherent nature of man to wage unlimited war, and at the same time, they also carried the message that is the inherent nature of humans to rise up and defeat those among them who have choosen the violent way out. Don’t ask me how they did that. They just did.

The 00 Movie itself has been the subject of much hype. Most noticeable is the fact that the 00 Movie is the first to incorporate extraterrestrial beings into its storytelling. This has been hinted from way back in Season 1 of Gundam 00, but few, even myself included, thought that the director would bring the Movie to new and amazing heights in the franchise.

Gundam 00 has always had the portrayal of real-world, long-term conflicts as its central point. Indeed, it might be a source of dark humor to some that shortly after the ending of Gundam 00, the conflict in-between the real-world Sri Lankan government and the separatist Tamil Tigers came to a brutal and bloody end, although this time, there were no angelic deus ex machina descending from the heavens to placate both sides. We saw the same in Gundam 00 Season 2, where the various humanitarian and logistical problems that come from outside intervention in the name of peace can bring, especially to people who don’t, or are unable to understand the original intentions of the intervention, closely mirror the real-world U.S.A.’s efforts to democratize (I wonder if that’s a word…) the Middle East. It doesn’t help that whatever the starting intentions were, the intervention was never neutral to begin with; shockingly enough, for both the fiction that is 00, and for the real world as well. This has been part of the series’ charm, despite having a 4-man Gundam band and together combined they are carrying enough firepower to emulate the destruction of a modern nuclear warhead without the troublesome fallout.

While the first two seasons pride themselves on political relevance, this time, the tagline for the movie is “peace through understanding”, something that is today largely forgotten in the real world. Let’s see how.

With all conflicts solved, you might think that the 00 movie is now lacking in action; not a good trail to walk for a series already heavy on the politics and light on the action. But being a movie, this allows the 00 Movie to escape from being dragged down the path of becoming a “flash narration” series; a sped-up all-talk, no action series that movies are all in danger of falling into (being the on-screen equivalent of compilation short stories and all), and instead allows the show to more easily fit in the processes and happenings that lead to the eventual end of the movie, from how Earth comes under attack, to how Billy Katagiri and his new girlfriend the Nina-lookalike reach the logical conclusion of an alien attack, to even the little details of how humankind is managing having Innovades in in the midst of its ingenious population and the sheer logistics of the Earth Federation having to deal with just slightly less than six billion refugees. That is its first success point; to start out by introducing to the audience how the current world came to be. Childish it may be, the propaganda movie of the Earth Federation and Saji’s little after-show speech at the start served as a good memory-jogger.

Its second success point is its capability to still reflect real-world problems, despite the world of 00 having progressed far further in terms of timeline. The Middle-Eastern people are now being exported as cheap labor across the Earth Sphere, and Marina Ismail is now the Mid-Eastern representative and Earth Federation envoy, and her duties encompass making sure that her cheap labor isn’t being valued at far lower than it should be. In short, it presents a problem that is quite real-world; the fact that many developed industries make, or once made, their profit off an imported labor force that was paid, and is still being paid, far less that they should be. It doesn’t matter whether the problem involved the Mid-Eastern people in a fictional setting or real-world workers from the poorest parts of the world. The problem exists, and Gundam 00, with its setting inside a world where weapons of war are as cheap as a private jet (which is to say quite damn cheap as far as bipedal weapons of war go), allows the series to also explore denial of labor force exploitation by the respective companies in a more straightforward manner; silencing the witnesses. Thankfully, Solid Setsuna in a sexy black suit is back, and this time, plays the role of Marina’s guardian angel in a sexy Flag.

The third point is one that I swear had the 00 team learning from the same people who made the Martian Successor Nadesico movie; getting the cast back together without making it painfully cheesy. While the majority of Celestial Being and the Earth Federation is already in space acting as the protectors of justice and all that is good, the question remains for characters like Allelujah Haptism and Soma Peries, whom we last saw hiking in what could be the foot of the Himalayas or Switzerland, and are now having the time of their lives in Mongolia, I think. We get treated to a nice escape scene as the two alternate dodging killer vehicles and a 3-minute sequence of Hallelujah being all sorts of acrobatic awesome. The Earth Federation gets some stage time as well, mostly in the form of the respectable Katie Mannequin and the cursed-with-awesome Patrick Colasour with his equally cursed-with-suck love life, and a surprising amount of time is spent on a character that in Season 2 was given no more than a villain template to work with: Billy Katagiri. Then Saji and Louise get respectable amounts of screen time given to them in order to illustrate their love for each other. You’d think that the 00 crew were trying to compensate for last season for something.

The fourth is the overall handling of the story. When the aliens arrive, their signs of arrival are shown first; anyone who has a chance to become an Innovator are quickly assimilated by the aliens, and it didn’t take long for the Earth Federation themselves to arrive to the conclusion of alien attackers (perhaps it would be surprising if they took longer than that, given that soon after the aliens arrive full-force), and the entirety of the Earth FederationĀ  goes into full combat alert, having spent a minor named character, a few squads of mobile suits, two warships and their latest technological breakthrough just in order to realize that the aliens are not here to sit, talk, and drink tea. Throughout it all, the crisis of Setsuna trying unsuccessfully to use his Innovator powers to communicate with the aliens first result in a number of notable sacrifices, first by Setsuna, then later by Tieria in his new body. Of course, this being Gundam 00, Innovade bodies are to Tieria what casual wear are to you and me. Pity the Gundam Raphel, which is not as readily replaceable as Tieria “Man-Cardigan” Erde’s trapliciously androgynous body, and unfortunately did not go Gravion Ergo Forme like I expected, instead being a flipped-role Seravee and Seraphim Gundam.

Skirted around is Setsuna’s personal life, as though to prepare us for the ending; Felt x Setsuna shippers will be sorely disappointed after watching the 00 Movie, and Marina x Setsuna shippers will be joining in for the funeral march for what must be the most awkward relationship that a Gundam protagonist has ever shown. In order to make up for it, at least Saji and Louise lived to see their relationship into the future, and I must also proclaim Patrick Colasour the most fucking luckiest non-Gundam pilot ever. Short of Yazan Gible Gable, I’ve yet to see someone who can beat cockroaches in terms of survivability. We also see recurring characters Graham “Mr. Bushido” Aker and Andrei Srminov, who, although their development got shafted this time round, have taken levels in badassery and learnt life’s important lessons over the course of Season 2. Such is that they get to be all sorts of screaming awesome are the stars of their own ends in the movie. While still miffed that Flag Shogun Aker is dead, I am satisfied to say that there is probably no better-suited end for them short of surviving the events of the movie, but with Tomino having a hand, no matter how small, in the production of the movie, I’m surprised that the majority of named characters get to keep their lives.

Lest I forget, the animation quality and action. The only comparable quality work to date is the Gundam Unicorn OVA and maybe the 00 series, though the 00 Movie sells its actions on beamspam, everyone’s inexplicable ability to use GN Fangs and six-in-one-shot kills. Exciting, to be sure, but Your Mileage May Vary, since I found the constant use of flash-by battle scenes and the thick use of background beams and explosion slightly old by the end of the movie. Then again, the aliens aren’t terribly creative when it comes to melee combat, and there are only so many ways you can shoot something. About some of the truly worth mentioning are Doublellujah’s acrobat action during the initial alien attacks and Setsuna’s expertise with handguns and plastic explosives.

And the ending. Bittersweet, to be sure. But there is no other way; Setsuna, who has always been portrayed as a man with bloodied hands, took this quite literally in the movie, and took it upon himself to understand the aliens, effectively saving the collective asses of humankind, and allowing them to develop into a far superior race that has managed to cast off their prejudice. When he returns, he has paid the price of his sacrifice, keeping his life, but not human, nor Innovator, but something else, which has seen the end of life and the beginning. His final scene with and aged Marina is quite possibly something that won’t be replicated in the Gundam franchise for a long while to come, either because the scope of the story is different (Gundam Unicorn) or it was never intended to be serious in the first place (Gunpla Builders).

The movie also scores points for using the doomsday scenario for the aliens, with a situation that our scientific community have actively promoted for a while now; come a few billion years, our Sun will explode and expand in its fiery fury, consuming everything up to Mars at least. While the cynics argue that we would have nuked ourselves into oblivion by then, they are ultimately guessing at a scenario that their descendants will never see for the next few million generations or so, at least, and the same applies to those who guess that we will eventually leave the Solar System in search of not only a new home, but new friends. Why not belive in the good, since you lose nothing by being an optimist?

And finally, the message of the show. “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”

These words were said by Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds to grace the mortal plane during the 20th century. It is sad that the 00 Movie’s entire point is this, and that all over the world today, this simple fact is ignored. Just go to CNN and take a look at their comments on a Middle-Eastern news article. If “Moslem” is the best they can spell, then god forbid these commentors be allowed to speak in public.

The 00 Movie isn’t perfect. There are a few plot points, namely the killing off of secondary characters with established character traits, and the incredibly lucky endings given to others (not counting Patrick, the hacking whore), and other nitbits I leave to you to find out. But nevertheless, the Movie carries two important life lessons; one is the aforementioned Einstein quote.

The second is one older than Einstein, and is portrayed by the 00 series and Movie over the course of 300 years (and ironically, taught to smarter viewers at the end of Gundam SEED in a twisted manner): How permanent a solution is, is directly proportionate to the time invested to fix the related problem. And with that, I leave you your choice; you can skip the most politically correct Gundam work in a decade to come, or you can watch it and congratulate the 00 development crew on a job fucking well done. Suck that, you AU haters!

Finally, a little afterword to bore you all. Most of you who visit this blog more than once might have come across some pre-post quotes that have no relevance nor reference, titled “Project T.I.T.A.N.”, and seemingly spread out across several “series”. In one of them, the plotline (written about a good four years ago) is directly inspired by a crazy overstirred brew of Muv-Luv Alternative, Halo, Macross, and though unintentional, with an ending strangely similar to the 00 Movie, with a difference that I’m a sucker for happy endings, so I let the main guy vanish for 10 years instead of 50. Main point is, the series makes understanding each other the major point. The fact that the 00 Movie has though that important enough to base 2 hours of animation on it gives me hope that out there there are people who think the same.

If they do, I give you my blessings that the people whom you may meet or follow you, whenever and wherever, will support you in your endeavours to bridge gaps, whenever or wherever they might be.


One comment

  1. […] Other than that, CF at B-07 has done a very comprehensive review of the movie which you can find here. […]

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