Review for Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Part 2
Towards the end of last year, and the beginning of this year, the anime check discs just piled up, one after the other, as the UK anime distros loaded up on their 2020 1st quarter releases. There was just so much that I couldn’t get to it all. If there is one, ironic bright spot to a global pandemic, it’s that I can now get around to reviewing those releases that I missed out on at the time. Then again, there is a reason why I might have chosen to miss out on certain review discs at the time. If you’ve seen my review of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Part 1, you’ll know why I’ve been reluctant to face Part 2, or the Endless Waltz OVA.
Mankind colonised space, but such independence of spirit threatened the security of Earth. The United Earth Sphere Alliance acted to take control of the various space stations and orbiting colonies. In the year After Colony 195, Operation M was instigated, as rebellious forces on the colonies sent 5 infiltrators to Earth. But these infiltrators were armed with Mobile Suits of a sort unseen on the planet, and devastatingly powerful. They sent Gundams.
The concluding 24 episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing are presented across 4 Blu-ray discs from All the Anime.
26. The Eternal Flame of the Shooting Stars
27. The Locus of Victory and Defeat
28. Passing Destinies
29. The Heroine of the Battlefield
30. The Reunion with Relena
31. The Glass Kingdom
32. The God of Death Meets Zero
33. The Lonely Battlefield
34. And Its Name is Epyon
35. The Return of Wufei
36. Sanc Kingdom’s Collapse
37. Zero vs. Epyon
38. The Birth of Queen Relena
39. Trowa’s Return to the Battlefield
40. A New Leader
41. Crossfire at Barge
42. Battleship Libra
43. Target: Earth
44. Go Forth, Gundam Team
45. Signs of the Final Battle
46. Milliard’s Decision
47. Collision in Space
48. Takeoff Into Confusion
49. The Final Victor
Gundam Wing gets a 4:3 pillarboxed 1080p transfer, reflecting the original broadcast aspect ratio, if not the definition. But with this show from the mid-nineties era, back when anime was still being made with cel and paint, you can bet that it looks a treat on Blu-ray. The image is clear and sharp, colours are rich and consistent, and the animation and artwork comes across with splendid clarity. You can tell that the original film elements have seen some restoration before making their high definition debut, and it all has that authentic nineties feel of hand-drawn animation and the odd imperfection. The character designs hark back to the original series, as do the mecha designs, although maybe a little more complex, but the animation is of the era; there’s a lot less in the way of repeated animation and short cuts.
You have the choice between PCM 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with optional translated English subtitles and a signs only track. For the duration, I stuck with the Japanese audio, and was happy enough with the presentation. The action came across reasonably well, and other than a wobbly tape moment 4 minutes into episode 8, there were no glitches or dropouts to deal with. The subtitles were timed accurately and free of typos.
The four discs present their content with static menus, and each episode is followed by translated English credits. Disc 4 has two textless openings and 8:49 of Commercials.
I haven’t seen the physical extras that come with this release to comment.
I’m going to have to call this experiment a failure. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing should have been ‘my’ Gundam. If one show was going to get me into the franchise, this would be it. After all, it is a nineties show, from the era that got me into anime to begin with, and it should share the same aesthetic and storytelling sensibilities as some of my favourite shows. It’s also complete in and of itself in its 49 episode run, not counting the Endless Waltz OVA, standing separately from the UC Gundam continuity. A prior knowledge of the franchise isn’t essential here. I went into Gundam Wing fully expecting it to be my ‘in’ with Gundam. If you’ve read my review to Part 1, you’ll know that isn’t what happened, and if you’re reading this review now, expecting the revelation to have hit, the veil to have been lifted from my eyes. You’re going to be disappointed. I certainly was.
Gundam Wing isn’t a show I intend to revisit, not even to see if a second viewing will improve it. The same issues are still relevant, it’s a show that’s longer than it needs to be, just so you can get more robot on robot action in, the characterisations are abysmal, the giant robots get anthropomorphised, and the show is really quite tedious... at first.
That’s the odd thing that I found with Gundam Wing. Of its 49 episodes, the first thirty or so are just tiresome. To my embarrassment, I have to admit that I slept my way through quite a few of them, and some on this release as well. But then there are the final twenty episodes, and suddenly the story comes to life. It becomes interesting, downright compelling even. There’s something about the political to-ing and fro-ing in the narrative that turns this show into a binge-watch. I couldn’t put it away for the last few discs; it had its ‘one episode more’ hooks in me. That’s despite its characterisations still figuratively making me retch. It made me wonder just how good Gundam Wing might have been if it had decent writing. But the characters still contort themselves through narrative impossibilities to make the story work, switching sides on a regular basis, behaving irrationally, and then turning on a dime back into rational people.
You might remember my complaint about Heero Yuy and Relena Darlian (Peacecraft) and their first meeting, where as a complete non sequitur Heero threatens to kill her. In this collection, there comes a point where he does so again, only this time the story gives the words meaning and emotional weight. The trouble is that Gundam Wing blew the intensity of that moment on the earlier pointlessness. Now it just looks as if it’s being cute, referencing their first meeting, instead of investing the scene with the drama that it deserves.
With the first half of the series, I didn’t really see the big deal with Gundam Wing, but with this concluding half, I can see what might have drawn fans to it so strongly back in the nineties. The characters may be single note and driven by the narrative, but there is something to the story that grabs the attention. There is depth to the ideological conflict at the heart of the show, between pacifism and militarism that makes the show more meaningful as the story progresses, and I can see how that would appeal to fans. But for me, it’s still a load of giant robots hacking at each other with laser swords.
Gundam isn’t for me, and thankfully, I only have the Endless Waltz OVA to go before my dalliance with the franchise comes to a conclusion. But if Gundam is your thing, and especially Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, then these Blu-ray releases will be essential. The AV quality is top notch, and while I haven’t seen the physical packaging or extras, Anime Limited aren’t known to disappoint.