Why our world is so terminally distorted?
Where did this distortion come from?
Why are there people who are unconsciously evil?
Why do they not realize that their evil hurts others?
Why is humanity an existence that only conflicts with itself?
Why are there people to rule, and those who are ruled?
Why do we wound each other?
In spite of all this, why do people go on living like they do?
–Setsuna F. Seiei
In the year 2307, the world has constructed three massive space elevators linked to an orbital solar array to address the growing demand for sustainable energy. These constructions demanded feats of engineering hitherto unseen, and the world unified around three power blocs: the Union of Solar Energy and Free Nations, Advanced European Union and the Human Reform League. While these blocs greatly benefitted from an nearly inexhaustible energy supply, nations unable to purchase access and sell fossil fuels fell into chaos. Amidst this changed world comes Celestial Being, a paramilitary organisation that claims to eradicate warfare. Armed with the highly advanced Gundam mobile suits, Celestial Being conducts armed intervention around the world, asssisted by their quantum computer, VEDA; Gundam pilot Setsuna F. Seiei had been a former child soldier and was selected to be a pilot. As he fights along the easygoing Lockon Stratos, rational and kind Allelujah Haptism and the serious, no-nonsense Tieria Erde, Setsuna realises that there is a greater meaning to what Celestial Being is doing. While the world is initially overwhelmed by the Gundam’s power and devise operations to capture the Gundams for research, Celestial Being members Alejandro Corner and his shadowy assistant, Ribbons Almark, deploys the Gundam Thrones, a group of pilots with a much more aggressive approach. They also leak the technology powering the Gundams to the world powers. With public opinion turning against Celestial Being, and the prospect of being able to fight the Gundams becoming more feasible, the world’s governments create joint task force between all of the blocs, unifying with the shared goal of crushing Celestial Being. Alejandro and Ribbons end up hacking into VEDA and seizes control of the system, leaving the Gundam Meisters at a huge disadvantage. During the combat, Lockon is killed, Allelujah is captured and Setsuna goes missing after defeating both Corner and the Union’s ace pilot, Graham Aker. In the aftermath, the world unifies under a single banner. Gundam 00 began airing during the fall season of 2007 and ran for a total of twenty five episodes. During its run, it became widely acclaimed for its portrayal of contemporary politics and the world’s reaction to the appearance seemingly unstoppable weapons whose operators claim to be fighting for peace. Gundam 00 was also notable for being the first Gundam series to be animated in native HD resolutions: compared to its predecessors, Gundam 00 featured incredibly fluid combat sequences and jaw-dropping visuals.
During its run, Gundam 00 had never been subtle about its themes: the idea of changing the world and acting on one’s own free will dominate the series. The Gundam Meisters each have their own reasons for stepping into their machine’s cockpit and challenging the world’s evils, as do the pilots for each of the Blocs and third parties. Whether it be for something larger than oneself, for money, glory or pushing one’s skill to the limit, each of the named pilots have a reason to be on the battlefield. However, protagonist Setsuna F. Seiei is different: while he initially fights to change the world and atone for his past sins, as he continues to pilot his Gundam, Exia, Setsuna becomes increasingly convinced that there must be something beyond fighting that makes his efforts meaningful. Indeed, he spends much of Gundam 00‘s second half pursing the meaning behind his actions, and comes to conclude that there are things in the world worth protecting beyond oneself, firmly setting himself apart from his foes, who fight for more selfish reasons. However, beyond the more obvious themes in Gundam 00 lie a very clever and thoughtful commentary on activism. The reason why contemporary politics figured so heavily is because Celestial Being’s interventions and actions can be seen as those conducted by activists, motivated by an ideal and a vision for the world. However, Celestial Being’s success in capturing the world’s attention can be attributed to their technology: the world has no answer for the Gundams initially, and can only watch as Celestial Being carried out its armed interventions. Activism today similarly depends on using technology to reach people in powerful ways and keep a step ahead of those who seek to suppress or silence a movement: social media platforms have become a means of swiftly rallying people. Much as how a Gundam represents overwhelming force, social media has similarly been a game changer, suggesting that it is by using the latest, mature technologies effectively that people can begin changing the world, reaching out to and inspiring people to rally behind a shared goal.
However, technology can be used for both great good and great evil. If Celestial Being represents the activists who are responsible and self-aware, then the Trinities, Alejandro Corner and Ribbons Almark would be the radical extremists and self-serving individuals who view a cause as justification for sowing chaos in the world or advancing one’s own ambitions. While Setsuna and his team usually aimed to disable enemy mobile suits and did only the minimum amount of damage needed to accomplish their aims, the Trinities are seen using extremely brutal methods, completely annihilating bases and leaving no survivors. Meanwhile, Alejandro is disinterested in the politics merely seeks to rule the world, unconcerned with how much devastation occurs so as long as he attained what he desired. Unlike Setsuna and the other Meisters, who constantly are aware of what they’re doing is wrong but feel they are a necessary evil to bring about positive change in the world, the other factions relish in destruction and suffering. It is therefore unsurprising that Michael and Johann Trinity are killed, while Alejandro himself dies at Setsuna’s hands after a joint operation to destroy the Gundams is conducted. Gundam 00 speaks to the idea that in activism, there must always be a modicum of self-awareness; those who lack commitment to a cause’s true tenants can easily be led astray and be manipulated by others, bringing about their own destruction. The Trinity siblings were convinced wholesale slaughter was appropriate and ironically died at the hands of Ali Al-Saachez, a cold-bloded murderer, while Alejandro, blinded by his ambitions, failed to see that Ribbons had architected his demise from the start. Conversely, Setsuna and Allelujah, who continue to question what they’re fighting for and wonder if their own destruction is a part of the plan, eventually coming to realise that fighting for survival, to live, is also something important. In this sense, there is no point in giving one’s life up for a cause needlessly, regardless of how strong one’s convictions are. With its progression and outcomes, Gundam 00 thus suggests that in activism, radical thoughts and selfish motivations lead one along a path of self-destruction. Further to this, Gundam 00 indicates that there will inevitably come a point when one’s convictions and commitment to a cause will be tested; during this point, it becomes clear that as long as one knowing where to draw the line and live to fight another day will be beneficial both for the individual, organisation and their cause.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Gundam 00 was the first anime series I’d watched in full – I had finished Ah! My Goddess: The Movie a few months earlier with my school’s anime club and was hooked, but back in those days, options were limited, and I never did get around to continuing with Ah! My Goddess. When Gundam 00 began airing, I was mildly interested, but as the season continued, I became increasingly engrossed with everything, from the narrative to the fight scenes. The series opens in the war-torn country of Krugis, where a boy sprints through a battlefield. This boy is Soran Ibrahim, a child soldier who would become Setsuna F. Seiei, a Gundam Meister for Celestial Being. The fateful meeting here between Soran and the 0 Gundam would change the course of his life forever.
- To Soran, the arrival of a Gundam would change his world views forever, and the Gundam itself would come to symbolise a tool for salvation and represent hope itself. In every Gundam series, the eponymous machines possess a unique meaning, coming to be a metaphor for peace, possibility and power. Each Gundam series defines a Gundam differently. Universal Century Gundams were originally named because they were composed of a special alloy that rendered them much more durable than common mobile suits of the time (and later, any machine derived directly off the RX-78 II). Gundam Wing‘s Gundams were similarly named after their armour’s composition. In the Cosmic Era, Gundam is an acronym formed by a mobile suit’s operating system. The Anno Domini timeline presents Gundams as mobile suits equipped with a GN Drive, a special reactor that uses the products of particle decay to produce energy.
- When they were first introduced, Gundams in Anno Domini are an unstoppable terror for the world’s militaries, who have no answers for their technological superiority. After a successful first intervention against the AEU’s Enact, Setsuna and the Exia soar into the skies to deal with an attacking AEU Helion squadron. For me, this was the magic moment in Gundam 00 – I remember that on the day I first watched this episode, my school had some HVAC problems that required afternoon classes be suspended while mechanical teams sorted things out. I thus went home, and after finishing off a project for German class, picked up the first episode.
- In those days, anime wasn’t anywhere nearly as accessible as it was now, and the technology wasn’t quite up to the task, so I remember having trouble keeping up with Gundam 00 during its earlier episodes, rather similarly to how early in the season, Celestial Being is able to carry out armed interventions without any resistance. Setsuna fights Union pilot Graham Aker for the first time here – unlike Patrick Colasour, who was defeated in seconds, Graham puts up a much better fight. Setsuna later continues on with a mop-up operation in the Ceylon Islands and faces Sergei Smirnov for the first time.
- Saji Crossroad and Louise Halevy initially feel like tangential parts to Gundam 00 – their dynamics and everyday life feel more akin to that of a romance comedy than a military story, but as the series progress, their presence now is to provide grounding as to how ordinary people might handle the appearance of something like Gundam. A part of the dramatic irony presented is that, despite Setsuna and Saji being neighbours, Setsuna is careful never to disclose his secrets, leaving him a bit of a mystery for Saji and Louise.
- Besides the four Gundam Meisters, Celestial Being’s active crew include tactician and de facto commander Sumeragi Lee Noriega (completely unrelated to a certain onee-sama who troubled the military moé and Wargaming.net forums some years later), engineer Feldt Grace and communications officer Christina Sierra, as well as helmsmen Lichtendahl Tsery and Lasse Aeon. These individuals operate the Ptolemaios, Celestial Being’s transport ship, providing transport for the Gundams and act as a mobile home of sorts for the pilots while they operate in space. Here, Feldt and Christina manage an armed intervention in Moralia while Sumeragi oversees them.
- For this mini-series on Gundam 00, I’ve pulled my screenshots from the Special Edition, which enhanced a few of the fight scenes. Lockon was given the biggest boost: when he engages Helion squadrons, he and the Dynames, a Gundam specialised for long-range combat, really gets to demonstrate the Dynames’ capabilities. Using both the beam sniper and pistols, Lockon decimates entire squadrons with impunity in high-speed combat that demonstrates that, despite his preference for long-range combat, he is able to do well in close quarters, as well.
- After the Exia, the Dynames is my second favourite of the third-generation Gundams: its typical loadout includes a beam sniper rifle with optics linked to a special camera mounted on the Gundam’s forehead, and for intermediate ranges, Dynames wields a pair of beam pistols. Dynames also possesses a pair of beam sabres and special missiles for special applications. When picking off distant foes, Lockon has access to a special gun controller, although the beam sniper rifle can be fired as a normal rifle, as well. Both Exia and Dynames share similarities in their frame design, featuring a glowing chest-piece and the iconic cone-shaped vernier for their GN Drives.
- Exia, Setsuna’s Gundam, is specialised for close quarters engagements, and to this end, is equipped with seven swords: the GN sword is a large, bladed weapon that can fold to expose a beam rifle, and the Exia also equips two GN blades which are capable of defeating a GN Field, as well as four beam sabres. As a last-ditch weapon, the Exia has a pair of beam vulcans mounted in its forearms. For defensive purposes, the Exia also carries a shield into battle. Of the Gundams, the Exia has demonstrated the most agility in its movement; Setsuna uses the Exia’s power to effortlessly destroy and disable lesser mobile suits.
- The Universal Century and Cosmic Era treated Gundam as experimental prototypes that could tip the outcome of battle when deployed properly, but were otherwise constrained by operational limits like battery life. By comparison, Anno Domini follows in After Colony’s approach: Gundams are immensely powerful, and their appearance is what brings about a change in the world. Early in Gundam 00, the Gundams that Celestial Being deploys are fully operational and do not appear to possess any weaknesses: the pilots that fight them quickly become terrified of their presence, and the anime takes the effort of portraying this to viewers.
- However, while the Gundams are extraordinary machines, they are limited by their pilots. Against exceptional foes, it is only the Gundams’ abilities allow the Meisters to escape a bad situation unscathed. In the Moralian conflict, Setsuna comes face-to-face with an Enact pilot who seems able to read his every move. Celestial Being’s intervention in Moralia had been to take out the PMC Trust, a cabal of private military companies that offered military services to other nations for a fee. They’d been interested in capturing a Gundam, but when the tide of battle turns against them, they quickly surrender and are eventually folded into the AEU.
- Ali Al-Saachez is one of the most interesting characters in the whole of Gundam 00: the antithesis to Setsuna, Ali Al-Saachez believes that warfare and profiting off chaos is the only way to live. Besides being an impressive pilot capable of fighting Gundams to a standstill in common mobile suits, Ali Al-Saachez is also a skillful tactician in his own right and is an expert with social engineering. It turns out that Ali Al-Saachez had brainwashed a group of children to join the KPSA, including Setsuna, and since then, Setsuna has renounced his religious teachings, intent on atoning for his past sins.
- While the Gundam Meisters are united by their conviction in ending warfare, they do not always see eye-to-eye: after Setsuna exits his cockpit mid-operation, Tieria Erde threatens to shoot him here and now for having nearly compromised Celestial Being. One of the aspects about Gundam 00 I particularly liked was seeing the Meisters become closer to and more trusting of one another as the series progressed: their shared experiences and burdens means that the world has foresaken them, but they begin to understand that everyone’s in things together. Indeed, when Allelujah and Lockon both face their respective challenges, the previously unsympathetic Tieria begins to understand why they’re acting as they are.
- In the aftermath of the Moralian conflict, the HRL develops a keen interest in capturing a Gundam and reverse-engineering Celestial Being’s secrets. Of the blocs, the HRL is the furthest behind in terms of military technology; their mobile suits are comparatively primitive, being based on the lumbering main battle tanks rather than the other blocs’ air superiority fighter designs. The design principles here stem from the fact that the HRL values reliability, and while the HRL is said to be developing a successor to their Tieren line of mobile suits, capturing a Gundam would accelerate this process, allowing the HRL to catch up.
- It was with the HRL’s Operation Gundam Capture that I truly became enraptured by Gundam 00: to facilitate this operation, the HRL deploy a massive grid of communication units and use this to track the Gundams. The intent is to surround the Ptolemiaos and then separate the Gundams, allowing for Tieren teams to then surround, overwhelm and secure the unit. With Sergei Smirnov leading the operation, viewers get an idea of how vast the HRL’s resources are, but also additional insight into how Gundam 00‘s political antagonists are human: Sergei explictly orders his soldiers to be careful with their lives, contrasting leaders who view their subordinates’ lives as expendable.
- The HRL’s operation marks the first time the Gundams have been given trouble of any sort: Sergei surmises that the Gundams must have limitations, and uses his own resources to offset the Gundams’ power. By creating a distraction and diversion, he is able to split Kyrios and Virtue from the Ptolemiaos. Sumeragi is completely thrown off by this move, and in the ensuing moments, the HRL squadrons, lead by Soma Peries, are able to capture Allelujah and the Kyrios. Meanwhile, Setsuna and Lockon have trouble engaging the space-type Tierens, who are keeping out of range and moving constantly, preventing Setsuna and Lockon from dealing with them at their preferred ranges.
- The pressures induced by the HRL’s Operation Gundam Capture causes Hallelujah to manifest: unlike Allelujah, Hallelujah (his alternate personality) is sadistic and brutal, relishing death and destruction to almost the same extent as Ali Al-Saachez. After overwhelming Soma, Hallelujah slowly tortures an HRL soldier who’s sacrificed himself to allow Soma and Sergei to escape. It turns out that Allelujah is a failed super soldier from a top-secret HRL programme; that the HRL had been willing to resort to these means to maintain an upper hand over the Union and AEU shows the tragedy of warfare lies in the preparations for war as much as the fighting itself.
- Meanwhile, Tieria was forced to reveal Nadleeh, the mobile suit concealed underneath the Virtue’s heavy armour. Tieria regards this as a great tactical blunder, as he’d been aiming to keep the Nadleeh secret; benig his first failure with Celestial Being, the incident sets in motion the events that would allow Tieria to be more understanding of his fellow Gundam Meisters and what it meant to be human. When Allelujah proposes destroying the HRL’s super-soldier research facility, VEDA accepts the plan, and Tieria feels that this is an important step for Allelujah, who ends up completing his mission.
- Soma Peries is Allelujah’s nemesis throughout much of Gundam 00: she’s the single super soldier to have been successful, possessing greatly enhanced reflexes and the ability to use quantum brainwaves. However, while Allelujah’s alternate personality is uncontrollable and violent, Soma retains a very professional sense of restraint in combat. The idea of quantum brainwaves in Gundam 00 foreshadows the idea that humans are capable of evolving to new heights, and indeed, the HRL’s crude experiments do not sound dissimilar to those conducted to create cyber-Newtypes.
- Once Allelujah ends the HRL’s super soldier program, Gundam 00 shifts its focus over to the nation of Azadistan, a Middle Eastern nation that fell into civil war after Ali Al-Saachez captured Rasa Massoud Rachmadi in the hopes of creating social unrest. While a coup was planned, Celestial Being’s intervention would prevent things from boiling over: in the aftermath, both Princess Marina Ismail and Rasa Massoud Rachmadi would express that they’d work towards mutual peace. Throughout Gundam 00, Marina Ismail would come to become a motherly figure for Setsuna, genuinely interested in his well-being, while Setsuna would see her as someone whose kindness is what the world needs to move past its troubles.
- As Gundam 00‘s second half began airing, I was able to follow the series more regularly: I’d just upgraded from a beige IBM computer running a 600 MHz processor to a Dell XPS 420 with a 2.4 GHz Quad-Core, and with this machine, I had enough processing power to keep up with Gundam 00. After getting the XPS set up, I thus went back and swiftly caught up with the series with the time that was left during my winter break, and entered the new year ready to follow Gundam 00 with punctuality. The XPS 420 arrived right as Gundam 00 hit its halfway point, which saw Setsuna and Lockon secure Rasa Massoud Rachmadi from Ali Al-Saachez’s clutches.
- The fight between Setsuna and Ali Al-Saachez was one of my favourite one-on-one fights during Gundam 00‘s first half, really accentuating how far animation had come. Gundam 00‘s predecessor, Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny, had been criticised for recycling footage. Gundam 00 only appears to reuse launch sequences in its first season, and together with how fluid and well-choreographed fights were, the animation in Gundam 00 is said to be far ahead of its time to the point where even now, thirteen years later, the series still looks and feels amazing. Having said this, I am now going through Gundam SEED for myself, and I am finding it to be a very enjoyable, well-done series with its own merits.
- During the course of Gundam 00, Setsuna’s interactions and words with Marina have always left fans wondering if there had been anything happening between the two: Gundam is fond of pairing princesses with the protagonists (in other Gundam series, Banagher and Minerva, and Athrun and Cagalli come to mind), after all. However, speaking to Setsuna’s relatively lesser understanding of social convention and his objectives, I always got the impression that Setsuna sees Marina as a beacon of hope more than a romantic interest. Romance has always been a secondary part of Gundam, and I’ve remained largely neutral to it for the most part, since I watch Gundam for awesome space battles and story.
- After a protracted incident in the Taklamakan Desert exhausts the Gundam Meisters and pushes them past their endurance, three new Gundams arrive to drive off the combined HRL, Union and AEU forces, who’d been participating in an “exercise” that was really a front for exhausting the Gundams to the point where they could be captured. The operation lasts hours, and the Meisters are unable to leave the AO. By the time the sustained fire stops, Allelujah is once again captured, while Lockon is pinned down by Aker’s team, and Tieria has been taken by an AEU squadron. Setsuna is able to escape, but finds himself face-to-face with Ali Al-Saachez, who’s rocking a plasma-field equipped mobile armour called the Agrissa.
- The new Gundams that show up belong to Team Trinity, and their GN Drives emit a deadly-looking red particle. Nena Trinity takes out the Agrissa, while Johann Trinity snipes Patrick’s team before forcing Aker’s team to retreat. Meanwhile, Michael Trinity uses his Gundam’s Fangs to decimate the HRL squad that’s taken Allelujah. In a matter of moments, the combined exercise teams between the HRL, Union and AEU are broken, allowing the Gundams to retreat. The remainder of that episode was dedicated to reviewing Celestial Being’s performance up to that point in a bit of a recap episode, making the only time Gundam 00 went down this route. Unlike most recaps, however, this episode remained entertaining to watch because it created intrigue surrounding the Trinity siblings and their enigmatic Throne Gundams.
- The Throne Gundams differ from the standard Gundams in that they possess a Tau Drive, a GN Drive missing a special TD Core that allows the drives to semi-perpetually power its own processes: instead, these knock-off pseudo-solar furnaces are dependent on being externally recharged to maintain function, and would be rendered useless once their power was depleted. The particles these drives emitted were highly destructive and harmful to organic matter. As the Thrones carry out their interventions, their brutality is unmatched: unlike Celestial Being’s pilots, who only did the minimum amount of damage needed to send a message, the Thrones utterly decimate all those who oppose them, and even fire on a wedding that Louise is attending.
- The incident results in Louise’s parents being killed, and Louise loses her left arm in the process: owing to the highly toxic properties of the GN Tau particles, regeneration therapy is unsuccessful, and for Louise, her missing arm continues to remind her of the cost of war at the hands of those who have little desire beyond destruction. Despite their commitment to one another, Louise and Saji begin drifting apart. Both begin developing feelings of resentment and hatred for Celestial Being, although Saji eventually sets this aside and succeeds in his aspirations of becoming an engineer working on the space elevators.
- The Trinity’s actions eventually spur Setsuna and Tieria to fight them, making the first time GN Drive equipped machines had fought one another. At this point in Gundam 00‘s airing, contemporary events had begun focusing on the Summer Games, and one of my classmates had started a movement with the aim of boycotting the games. Back then, social media was still in its infancy, and so, far from the hundred-strong movement they’d been seeking, only a tenth of that showed up on the day of the rally in front of the consulate building downtown. This classmate’s efforts would never quite reach the critical mass: while a couple of people supported the movement, it didn’t have a tangible effect on getting people to boycott the Summer Games as they’d hoped.
- Fridays for the Future, on the other hand, is an example of a movement that a much larger reach precisely because the technology had now matured to the point where it was possible to reach a large number of people very quickly. This is why rallies were seen everywhere around the world: large followers and retweet counts made it easy for a message to spread and compel people to act in solidarity. Celestial Being had similarly been contingent on the fact that their GN Drive technology and Gundams were sufficiently ahead of the rest of the world’s technologies, while at the same time, be functional enough to operate as expected; had the GN Drives been deficient in any way, they would’ve been left at a disadvantage, unable to complete their goals.
- Celestial Being did have a number of aces up their sleeves on top of a mature technology: Schenberg had foreseen bad actors interfering with his plans, and equipped those loyal to Celestial Being with key failsafes, such as the TRIAL System, which allowed Tieria to remotely deactivate any Gundam connected to VEDA. During the duel with the Trinity Siblings, Tieria agrees with Setsuna’s assessment that the three are unworthy as Gundam Meisters and uses this system to put an end to the conflict. However, since Alejandro Corner and Ribbons Almark had gained access to VEDA, they were able to revoke Tieria’s clearance, deactivating the TRIAL System, as well.
- In the aftermath, Lockon discovers that Setsuna was a part of the KPSA, which mounted a terror attack that killed his family. While Lockon initially seeks to take revenge, Setsuna’s remarks, that he is utterly dedicated to Celestial Being, convinces Lockon to stand down: Setsuna has completely reformed and seeks to atone for his past actions by righting the world’s wrongs. Dialogue in Gundam 00 was the subject of no small debate during the series’ airing, and the versions I watched had dialogue completely inconsistent with what Random Curiosity blogger Omni had wrote out. In those days, internet speeds and storage media had reduced capacity compared to their modern counterparts, so with blogs like Random Curiosity providing summaries and screenshots, it allowed for fans to pick and choose which series they wished to pick up in a given season.
- While Omni was by no means an exceptional writer (preferring only to summarise and not discuss), he was known for its breadth, covering enough series to give readers an idea of what different shows entailed before they jumped in. Today, the site has many more writers and is more discussion-oriented, and while a few writers have fallen short of the site’s usual standards (Jaalin and Passerby come to mind), their writing is generally solid. Back in Gundam 00, after Alejandro leaks the location of thirty new GN Tau Drives to the world’s governments, each of the three blocs gains access to ten GN-X mobile suits. Far superior to anything fielded before, the GN-X proves its value when Sergei and Soma lead a full squadron in driving off the Thrones.
- Supplementary materials indicate that the GN-X had been designed in secret, modelled on the Thrones’ frame. Compared to the Gundams, the GN-X has inferior performance individually, but is a versatile all-around machine. With the playing field levelled, the Thrones find themselves on the back foot, and even the Gundam Meisters are overwhelmed when confronted with GN-Xes for the first time. Until now, Celestial Being had operated with near-impunity, and so, when confronted with machines that rival their Gundams in performance, things suddenly become a lot tougher.
- As it turns out, Alejandro Corner had secret ambitions to rule the world: he views himself as a god of sorts, and to this end, is the one responsible for compromising VEDA. During a critical battle between the newly-formed UN forces and Celestial Being, Alejandro and Ribbons seize control of VEDA from Celestial Being, shutting down the Gundams. Foreseeing this, Sumeragi had Christina and Feldt implement standalone OSes for the Gundams. This proved to save Celestial Being: after their Gundams were shut down, the backup OS kicked in, and Celestial Being was able to force the UN forces to retreat. However, Lockon became injured while protecting Tieria, whose Virtue was taking longer than expected to reactivate.
- The Trinity Siblings meet their doom at the hands of Ali Al Saachez: with VEDA compromised, the biometrics in the Thrones are disabled, allowing him to take control. He seizes the Throne Zwei after shooting Michael Trinity and then destroys the Eins. While the Thrones had been terrifying machines despite the GN Tau Drives’ limitations in the hands of the Trinities, they become an unstoppable monster with Ali Al-Saachez piloting. He’s able to hold off Setsuna despite being unfamiliar with the controls, and it speaks volumes to how folks who resort to extreme means (or endorse them) are still counted as expendable, and as such, the folks running their may wipe them out in the blink of an eye.
- Alejandro Corner’s gold-plated pistol mirrors his own hypocrisy: despite claiming to hate Celestial Being and Aeolia Schenberg for playing God, Alejandro views himself as a God, destined to rule the world and lead humanity in the manner of his choosing. However, his arrogance blinds him to the world around him: when he and Ribbons unlocks the last of the security levels in VEDA, a cryogenic chamber housing Aeolia’s frozen body. It turns out Aeolia had intended to revive himself at an appropriate time, but realising this, Alejandro shoots Aeolia in the head. However, Aeolia had foreseen even this: in the event someone had seized control of his plan, he would enact countermeasures to ensure that Celestial Being could continue operating, entrusting the Gundam Meisters with both the GN Drive’s full power and the schematics for a next-generation setup using the GN Drives.
- After the devastating battle with the UN forces, Setsuna and Lasse return to Earth briefly to investigate the HRL’s operations against the Trinities on Lockon’s suggestion. While the operation sounds difficult, Lasse suggests using the newly-acquired GN Arms; Setsuna takes the operation to also understand what the purpose of a Gundam is. When they arrive, Setsuna finds the Trinities exhausted and beaten: it turns out that Ali Al-Saachez managed to get there first. After shooting Michael, he swiftly kills Johann and destroys Eins, before prepareing to execute Nena.
- Despite being completely new to the Zwei’s controls, Ali Al-Saachez manages to completely disarm Setsuna. However, Aeolia’s death results in the activation of a new system called Trans-Am, which bolsters a Gundam’s performance three-fold by dumping out the GN Drive’s stored particles. Realising that this system was entrusted to them, Setsuna concludes that being given access to a Gundam’s true potential means that Celestial Being has a responsibility to see things through to the end. With this newfound power, Setsuna completely overwhelms Ali Al-Saachez, who is forced to flee.
- I’ve always been fond of the Ptolemiaos’ crew: they represent a considerable departure from the mature crews seen in the Universal Century, bringing to mind the youthful and inexperienced, but determined and spirited crew that operated Gundam SEED‘s Archangel. Sumeragi reminds me a great deal of my secondary school fine arts instructor in appearance and manner; my old arts instructor was very friendly and supportive, going above and beyond her obligations to provide support and advice where I needed it. I was always welcome to hang out in the arts room, even during classes, and towards my final year, I spent many a spare here studying or drawing for fun.
- With the Trinities out of the picture, the UN’s attention returns to the original Gundam Meisters. While a handful of GN-Xes have been destroyed, the UN forces still have access to most of their machines. Their fighting force is further bolstered by the fact that Ali Al-Saachez now pilots the Zwei. The odds against Allelujah, Setsuna and Tieria seem impossible, but fortunately, Celestial Being mechanic and engineer Ian Vasti has a few surprises. Besides the Dynames and Exia’s GN Arms, the Kyrios is given a powerful new Tail Booster which increases the Kyrios’ mobility and firepower, while Tieria receives an extra GN Bazooka, doubling his already impressive firepower. Even then, the combat is gruelling, and Allelujah is finding it difficult to keep up with Soma Peries, now that she’s got a GN-X.
- In Gundam 00, Lockon rejoins the battle with the GN Arms but remains the only Gundam to never use Trans-Am. The Special Edition, on the other hand, has him use Trans-Am to trivially destroy the UN carriers. The GN Arms were a special support unit designed to greatly augment a Gundam’s individual combat characteristics against overwhelming enemy numbers. The Dynames’ GN Arms provides a double-barreled beam rifle for long range combat and a large missile container carrying enough missiles to engage a small fleet. While immensely effective for bombardment, the Dynames’ GN Arms ultimately prove inadequate against a single mobile suit.
- Unable to let go of his hatred for Ali Al-Saachez and the KPSA, Lockon risks everything in a duel against his nemesis. Spurred on by raw emotion, Lockon manages to sever the Zwei’s right arm, but ultimately is disabled when Ali Al-Saachez quickly realises Lockon is unable to see out of his right eye. Deploying his fangs, Saachez puts the Dynames out of commission, leading Lockon to retrieve the gun controller and wire it to the still-functional GN cannon from the remains of the GN Arms. Lockon’s story is that of tragedy, and through him, Gundam 00 meant to show that rightous or not, fighting for the past would have detrimental consequences. While easygoing and amicable, Lockon is the opposite of Setsuna.
- While both Lockon and Setsuna have lost in their pasts, Setsuna fights because he feels this is the way to atone, while Lockon is driven purely by vengeance, to use overwhelming force against those who wronged him. It was very easy to empathise with Lockon’s way of thinking, but his death really drove home the idea that one can only fight for the future, if their heart is genuinely about using power to guide an outcome towards what one desires. Lockon’s death marks the first of the Gundam Meister to be KIA, and for many fans, this moment counts as one of the most poignant in the whole of Gundam 00‘s first season.
- Allelujah, on the other hand, struggles to deal with Hallelujah: his conflict is the classic tug of war between the rational and primal self. As Hallelujah, Allelujah is more than capable of fighting Soma and Sergei to a standstill on his own. He does end up besting them using his own innate skill and Trans-Am, but later realises that he recognises Soma as a fellow test subject. Allelujah and the Kyrios are ultimately captured: Allelujah is sent to a secure HRL prison, while the remnants of the Kyrios were brought to a secret research facility. Allelujah had managed to eject the GN Drive to keep Celestial Being’s secrets safe, but acquisition of the Kyrios gave the HRL a massive leg up in mobile suit development.
- During the course of the penultimate episode, Tieria’s Nadleeh is disabled when Alejandro Corner opens fire with his mobile armour, and the Ptolemiaos suffers catastrophic damage, killing Christina and Lichtendahl. Feldt, Sumeragi and Ian manage to escape. During this fight, Setsuna and Lasse engage Alejandro, although early on, even the firepower conferred by the GN Arms is insufficient: Alejandro’s Alvatore was a mobile armour purpose-built for firepower, sporting a flexible beam cannon with firepower far surpassing anything seen previously. Setsuna realises that Exia’s Seven Swords system was purpose-built for such an eventuality, and uses his swords to punch through the Alvatore’s GN field.
- Once the Alvatore is destroyed, Alejandro emerges in the Alvaaron, a mobile suit derived off the 1 Gundam (successor to the 0 Gundam). Despite being a powerful all-purpose machine, Alejandro is ultimately defeated when Setsuna uses Trans-Am. Up until this point, Gundam 00 had remained in the realm of plausible with its portrayal of mobile suits, but once the GN Tau Drives were introduced, things quickly begin escalating. The Alvaaron’s design was highly distinct and stands out: despite only showing up in the finale, the Alvaaron sported a design that was quite over-the-top.
- The final, final fight of Gundam 00‘s first season was with Graham Aker, and this fight felt like it came out of the blue; while Alejandro is ultimately defeated, Graham appears out of nowhere to duel the Exia. The two clash, exchange opinions about the state of the world and then destroy one another. While perhaps unnecessary, the final fight between Setsuna and Graham was thrilling, a final bang to close off the first season. Gundam 00 led me to approach current events and politics a little more differently than I had previously: and I ended up concluding that a lot of the things that we value are often misrepresented. In particular, I adamantly reject the idea that because everyone has their own unique traits, they become “special”. I assess people based on not who they are, but based on how they treat others, their choice of actions and ability to keep their word to others.
- As it stands, thirteen years after Gundam 00‘s first season ended, I believe I’ve got at least some answers to the questions that Setsuna posed to Marina: I find that the world’s ills originate from greed and laziness. These two traits account for why conflict exists at a very abstract level, why people are willing to commit atrocities for their own ends and why people desire power even if it comes at a terrible cost. Building any sort of meaningful future requires selflessness and hard work, but people accustomed to an easy life will vehemently object to the idea that hard work is a necessity, not a nice-to-have. This is further compounded by the fact that those same people often have aversions to seeing other people succeed through hard work: this is why inequalities exist. When arbitrary rules are put in place that punish or hinder people based on who they are, they exist purely so those in power can retain it (and avoid working hard as a result).
- When coupled with the sense of entitlement resulting from the idea that being “special” renders one exempt from the social contract, a set of responsibilities and obligations that accompany rights and freedoms, the stage is set for discontent and conflict. There isn’t exactly a silver-bullet solution, but I find that addressing the root causes of these problems, and encouraging the idea that people aren’t special, but rather, team players, would go a ways in helping people to be more selfless and accept that others can succeed, as well. At the end of Gundam 00, I was left with a cliff-hanger: a second season was announced. In the four years that pass, the world unifies under one banner, one step closer to Aeolia’s dream of a unified world, but the world faces new problems. Celestial Being, meanwhile, has developed a next-generation Gundam, ready to advance Aeolia’s plan to the next step.
- With this, the first half of my Gundam 00 revisit is complete, and my next post will deal precisely with the second season. Up until now, I do not believe that there’ve been very many comprehensive discussions of Gundam 00 out there, and I note that even mine do not fully capture every detail or thought I’ve had surrounding events within the series. It’s been a challenge to keep these talks concise: since Gundam 00 was my first-ever anime that I watched in full, the combination of solid story-telling and reminiscence means I could go on for days about the things that made Gundam 00 so enjoyable for me.
Beyond a superb story possessing political relevance (and, with the benefit of hindsight, was a very accurate bit of speculation on how the world would turn out), Gundam 00‘s great strength lay within its artwork, animation and mobile suit design. Gundam 00‘s fight scenes set the bar for mobile suit combat, being highly fluid and fast-paced. One-on-one fights convey the weight of every blow and the tenour of every emotion, while large scale battles smoothly demonstrate how powerful the Gundams themselves are. Even today, Gundam 00 has aged gracefully: the fights still look amazing and crisp. No discussion of Gundam 00 would be complete without mention of the characters: Setsuna F. Seiei is quite unlike Amuro Ray and Kira Yamato, resembling Heero Yuy in manner, but despite his taciturn mannerisms, he, like the other Gundam Meisters, undergo a great deal of development that make them more sympathetic to viewers. Gundam 00 also similarly features antagonists that are both honest and likeable (Graham Aker, Sergei Smirnov and Patrick Colasour), as well as menacing and clearly difficult to sympathise with (Ali Al-Saachez, Alejandro Corner and the Trinities). With such a large cast, the twenty-five episode runtime worked very well for Gundam 00, providing plenty of opportunity to build up the characters’ stories and create a convincing world to explore notions of activism, discovering one’s own reasons for being and building up a potential direction for humanity, as well. In conjunction with a stellar soundtrack from Kenji Kawai, Gundam 00‘s first season was an exceptional experience that acted as my gateway into the Gundam universe: all of the different elements in Gundam 00 worked together in a fantastic manner and, while I had been a little slow to start, by the time Gundam 00 hit its halfway point, I was following the series weekly. While it’s been thirteen years since the first season aired, returning to this series has found that the story and animation hasn’t aged a day: Gundam 00 still looks absolutely amazing and holds up very well in terms of visuals, while thirteen years of life experience hasn’t altered my final thoughts on the themes and messages Gundam 00 sought to convey during its run.