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Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: DVD Operation 1

review by Wayne A.

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Starring Hikaru Midorikawa, Toshihiko Seki, Shigeru Nakahara, Ai Orikasa,

Ryuzo Ishino, Akiko Ajima, Takehito Koyasu (Japanese), Lisa Ann Beley, Ted Cole, Michael Dobson, Paul Dobson, Brian Drummond, Saffron Henderson, Mark Hildreth (English)

Studio: Sunrise (released through Bandai Entertainment)

Written by Katsuyuki Sumizawa

Directed by Masashi Ikeda

Retail Price: $24.98

Features: Scene access, character/mecha information, previews

Specs: Standard 1.33:1, 2.0 Dolby Digital English, 2.0 Dolby DigitalJapanese, English subtitles

The Gundams are coming to Earth!

Well, to the US DVD market, anyway. Gundam is one of the most well known of Japanese anime; it's also one of the longest running animation franchises in Japan, and is the granddaddy of the mecha-genre of Japanese animation. It would be safe to say that if there were an anime pantheon, Gundam would be in it. However, despite its popularity, American anime fans' contact with the series has been through copies with homemade subtitles (fansubs). It's only recently that gundam has been released in the US on VHS (Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory) and now on DVD with Gundam Wing. (As an aside, bear in mind that Gundam Wing takes place in an alternate timeline than original Gundam series, Stardust Memory, Char's Counterattack and so on. For newbies, I suggest they checkout http://www.gundamproject.com to get an explanation on how the timelines differ -- beware, though, because the Gundam Wing timeline contains spoilers.)

Also of note is the fact that this is the uncut version of Gundam Wing, but there isn't much different between this, and the explicit version shown late night on Cartoon Network.

The first DVD of the set includes the first five episodes ("The Shooting Star She Saw," "The Gundam Deathsycthe," "Five Gundams Confirmed," "The Victoria Nightmare," and "Relena's Secret.") of 49. The inclusion of five episodes per disc is probably not a coincidence; the overall story includes mini-arcs that conclude, more or less, in five episodes.

The story in the five episodes contained on the first disc deal with the arrival of five gundams, or mobile suits, sent to the earth by the colonies orbiting the earth. The giant robots were sent, originally, as agents of revenge against the United Earth Sphere Military Alliance, a junta that seized power on earth and in space, and now imposes its will on the colonies. The five gundams are each piloted by a teen-aged boy, none of whom initially knows there are other gundams operating on the earth, with similar missions.

When the suits were sent to Earth, Relena Darlian, the daughter of a foreign minister assigned to the colonies, sees one of them entering the atmosphere. The gundam is shot down by an Alliance mobile suit pilot, Zechs Marquis, and the pilot, Heero Yuy, is forced to ditch his gundam and hide as a student in a school Relena attends. The other gundam pilots begin their missions against the Alliance, and Heero plots to destroy his gundam before the Alliance can capture it.

Relena's father is sent to the colonies, and she follows. On the colony, Relena learns the Alliance may not be the only political power on earth, and learns about her past.

Sound complicated? At times it is; Gundam Wing is more like a political soap opera. This is not to say your kid brother won't enjoy it, or that you need a doctorate in political science to understand it. It's not as mature as Cowboy Bebop, but it's an interesting tale wrapped in political intrigue and giant robots. Who wouldn't like that?

 

As most readers are probably aware, Gundam Wing has been showing on the Cartoon Network. The video transfer, however, is much better than the quality shown on TV -- we're talking night-and-day different. The video is clean and crisp. In a lot of occasions, it's almost amazing how much the transfer on the DVD differs from the Cartoon Network's broadcasts. If you're a fan of the show, buy the DVD, and you'll never want to watch Gundam Wing on Cartoon Network again.

The audio is just as clear. The English sound is a tad bit clearer, but the difference is so slight that it may just be due to equipment.

Traditionally, anime fans have been forced to decide if they want a dubbed or subtitled version of their shows. DVDs have allowed them to have both. Personally, I'm not a purist on either format -- I've seen shows with horrible subtitles and shows with horrible dubbing.

For the record, I'm not that impressed with the dubbed version of the show. The subtitles also sometimes sound stilted and awkward in their translation as well. This is the major bone I have to pick about Gundam Wing -- if the script for the dubbed and subbed versions had been worked out and polished, this could have been a very, very good show. I know this is possible -- the dub and sub of Trigun and Cowboy Bebop are excellent (in fact, I prefer the dub to the sub on those titles).

The extras are lacking and thin as well. The information about Heero, Relena and the Wing Gundam aren't anything you couldn't learn from watching the DVDs. Information from the Endless Waltz novelization and Episode Zero would have filled in interesting gaps in their past the series does not cover.

Also of note, though it's not really a feature, is the inclusion of the original opening and closing credits for Gundam Wing, which you don't see on the Cartoon Network. The opening is the Japanese pop group Two-Mix's very danceable "Just Communication" and the end credits feature the sappy, though in a cute and cuddle sort of way (though isn't all J-pop cute an cuddly?), "Just Love."

Gundam Wing has a strong story, with a complicated storyline that would keep any intelligent person preoccupied. Like other examples of fine anime, the series deals with honor, personal sacrifice, and poses poignant questions in this case, the nature of war and peace, the price of peace, and means of peace. The stumbling block for this series from being excellent is the dub and he sub script. As I've said before, if the script had more polish to it, it would be excellent.

This is still, however, a very entertaining series. Pokeman it ain't, but I'd rather watch giant robots kick each other's butts then Pikachu any day.

(4/5, NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(3/5)

(2/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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