About a week or so after the premiere, I managed to find the time to watch Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A wakening of the Trailblazer together with my friend Amos at the Alliance Francaise theatre last Sunday.
All this is thanks to the licensing efforts of Odex Pte Ltd, which has allowed Gundam fans in the little island of Singapore to have the privilege of watching it on the same day it premiers in Japan. To be honest, I am amazed that they managed to secure a same day premiere. One can imagine the many strings, ropes and ribbons they had to pull to pull this off (pun not intended). Still, its good to see they are at least making some effort to reconcile with local anime fans (read: Odex Saga), even though their merchandise is still bordering on prohibitively expensive. More after the jump.
The movie continues on from two years after the second season finale, where the oppressive A-Laws has since been defeated and replaced by a peaceable Earth Sphere Federation government dedicated to disarmament and eliminating conflict. However, a forgotten exploration vessel sent to Jupiter returns to Earth, carrying with it a dangerous alien life form, dubbed Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shapeshifters (ELS) by the government, where they begin assimilating humans and Earth technology. With humanity at the risk of extinction, Celestial Being once again makes an appearance to defend Earth from this new threat.
I haven’t watched too many Gundam movies (save for the Zeta Gundam compilation movies) so I won’t compare it against other movies from the Gundam franchise. I do love good action movies though and A wakening of the Trailblazer certainly falls under that category. With all new mobile suits for the protagonists to play with, the mechanical design team for the movie certainly did a pretty good job (Gundam Harute’s (piloted by Allelujah and Marie) design though is somewhat reminiscent of Gundam Seed Destiny’s Saviour Gundam). One of the high points of the movie is clearly the animation quality, especially in the fight scenes. It improves upon the rather good animation of the television series, with character designs and expressions a lot more clearer and distinct. Fight/battle scenes are a lot smoother as well with no obvious frame drop or errors.
The top notch animation quality and mecha designs is nonetheless unable to mask the rather simplistic plot and paper-thin characters. To the best of my knowledge, this would be the first time that Gundam has introduced belligerent aliens into the main story (the space whale fossil found in Gundam SEED notwithstanding) and the end result is a rather clichéd plot (Well, there are only so many reasons that “aliens” would want to attack us…). The myriad of characters in the story still remain rather one-dimensional and their relationships still lack depth. Despite several characters with potential like Ryo Katsuji’s Descartes Shaman, a true innovator working for the ESF government, they’re never truly explored in depth (Spoiler: likely due to Descartes meeting a surprisingly early demise thanks to the ELS). That said, one has to give credit to director Seiji Mizushima (Gundam 00 series, Fullmetal Alchemist) for his execution of the plot despite its lack of depth. Displaying his penchant for drama and action, his direction brought out the best of Yousuke Kuroda’s (Gundam 00 series, Honey and Clover) rather uninspiring script. A number of rather amusing scenes and new characters (Spoiler: The movie-in-a-movie scene early on and Rie Kugimiya’s Meena Carmine among others) peppered throughout the movie which make reference to both the original series and the Gundam fandom does add a dash of humour to an otherwise standard mecha/action flick. The film’s pacifist themes are somewhat reminiscent of what you might have already seen in other series like Eureka Seven and Gundam Wing. All of this leads up to an ending which you would either love or hate (BTW, I belong to the latter category). An additional epilogue scene shown after the credits does give some closure though, especially to fans of a certain ship.
Despite its flaws, its obvious that Bandai and Sunrise do have another box office hit on their hands. Opening at number 3 in the Japanese box office despite being only released on 88 screens shows that the Mecha genre (or more specifically, Gundam) is still going strong, at least in Japan. At any rate, it is a pretty decent anime film. Gundam and anime fans should take the chance to watch it while they can (especially since the local screening of the film ends on the 30th of September), viewers though shouldn’t expect any deep, engaging plot on the level of say, Evangelion 2.0.
Update: I just realised I totally missed reviewing the soundtrack of the film. Kenji Kawai (Fate/stay Night, Sky Crawlers) does a competent job, especially when building up to crucial moments of the movie. The tracks though, are mainly edits and remixes from what you would have already heard if you followed the series. The opening and ending themes are sung by THE BACK HORN and UVERworld respectively. I especially like THE BACK HORN’s opening theme song, Tozasareta Sekai, which I thought had a nice, fast beat and was a good build up to the movie.
Official English subtitled film trailers:
Tickets are available at Sistic (for the screening at Alliance Francaise) and Sinema (for the screening at Sinema Theatre). The movie will also be shown at the upcoming Anime Festival Asia 2010 this November.