The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gundam 00

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season Two: A Review and Reflection, Chasing Shadows and Taking Responsibility For Bringing About Change

“The only thing the past can change is how you feel about things in the present.” –Neil Dylandy

Four years after Celestial Being engaged the UN forces in a titanic battle, the world has unified into the Earth Sphere Federation and established the A-LAWS autonomous peace-keeping unit. Although their objective is officially to handle security and deal with rogue actors, the A-LAWS begin committing atrocities in the name of unity. Setsuna F. Seiei has been keeping an eye on the A-LAWS’ activities during these four years, and during an operation at a colony, encounters Tieria, who rescues him. After rejoining Celestial Being, Setsuna gathers Sumeragi Lee Noreiga and recruits Lyle Dylandy as the next Lockon Stratos. He also acquires the 00 Gundam, a next-generation machine equipped with a revolutionary power plant that renders it superior to all existing Gundams. After rescuing Allelujah and Marina Ismail from a prison, Celestial Being sets about disrupting the A-LAWS and assisting Katharon, an anti-government resistance. Tieria learns that a shadowy group of individuals, the Innovators, has been manipulating the conflict from the beginning. Saji Crossroad, a civilian who despises Celestial Being, was also rescued and ultimately joins Celestial Being, hoping to reunite with Louise Halevy, who had joined the A-LAWS to take revenge on those who killed her parents. After Celestial Being disables a powerful new satellite weapon known as the Momento Mori, the Innovators begin taking a more active role in the combat. Wang Liu Mei decides to entrust Setsuna with VEDA’s location, desiring a changed world at all costs. Realising that retaking VEDA could bring an end to the Innovator’s influence, Celestial Being embarks on a titanic operation against the Innovades, genetically enhanced humans originally intended to serve as the intermediaries between ordinary people and evolved humans, Innovators. Elements of the Federation government and Katharon also participate in the operation. After Tieria secures Veda, Ribbons Almark, leader of the Innovators, sorties to fight Setsuna, claiming that humans were meant to be ruled by superior beings. While both Ribbons and Setsuna fight to a draw and destroy their respective machines, they resume their battle in the first Gundams both respectively piloted. Setsuna ends up victorious, and in the aftermath, the A-LAWS are disbanded, while Celestial Being vows to keep an eye on the world and begin operations again should the need arise. Gundam 00‘s second season continues directly on from where the first season had left off, airing a mere six months later and delves into the details the first season had only hinted at to complete the story and bring closure to unresolved plot elements, from Ribbons and the Innovade’s roles, to the mysterious nature behind benefactor Aeolia Schenberg’s plans – it turns out he intended his technology to assure humanity’s survival and push the species to evolve.

Compared to its predecessor, Gundam 00‘s second season is considerably more black and white in terms of its conflicts. The A-LAWS and Innovades are undeniably the antagonists, irredeemable and hurtling towards defeat from the first episode. Respectively devoted to the idea that the ends justify the means, and acting in selfish interests, the A-LAWS and Innovades interactions with Celestial Being, as well as their relationship with one another, paints a very clear picture of how the world’s excesses are often a consequence of powerful individuals acting behind the scenes to manipulate events and perceptions, creating a certain narrative that is convenient for those in charge. While Celestial Being’s initial goals were simply to destroy the A-LAWS, it became clear that the A-LAWS themselves were a symptom of the actual problem; they carry out atrocities with the Innovades’ blessing, confident that they are building a better world, but when the A-LAWS proved to be an impediment, the Innovades have no trouble wiping them out. This is a phenomenon that has been observed in recent years with respect to contemporary movements; social media activists and proponents of cancel culture act in the belief that they are beneficial to the world, unaware that those financing or supporting their operations are only doing so out of convenience. Much as how Ribbons vapourised the A-LAWS fleet and allowed Celestial Being to crush much of their operations, individuals participating in some causes have found themselves in trouble after their benefactors disavowed them because it became inconvenient to continue providing their backing. The benefactors had achieved their goals, but those working under them would be made scapegoats. Gundam 00‘s second season thus serves to indicate that in a given cause, it’s wisest to work for the position itself and not for an ideology – Arba Lindt and Arthur Goodman are dedicated to their work but end up dying, while A-LAWS commander Homer Katagiri commits suicide rather than facing criminal persecution. Conversely, Kati Mannequin, a stern brigadier general by the second season’s events, fights for peace but joins the A-LAWS to keep an eye on their activities, eventually defecting to help Celestial Being defeat the Innovades: unlike the other leaders, Kati fights for what she feels is right, and as such, is able to make key decisions at critical junctures that allow her to live according to her own principles. Blindly devoting oneself to a cause is presented as being destructive, especially if one isn’t aware of what one’s superiors intentions are, and Gundam 00‘s second season expertly portrayed the consequences of what results from subscribing to ideology without having thought things through entirely.

The central theme Gundam 00‘s second season presents to viewers through Celestial Being is the idea of atonement: it was Celestial Being’s actions that gave justification to the A-LAWS’ existence, and in a way, Celestial Being can be seen as equally responsible for the massacres the A-LAWS perpetrate. Setsuna, Lockon, Allelujah, Tieria and the others were aware of this, feeling that their actions would lead the world down a worse path before things could look up, and indeed, Sumeragi openly states that they’re responsible for what happened since their appearance before the final battle with the Innovades. She resolves to make up for these sins by defeating the Innovades and guiding the world back along a more desirable path. These sentiments have their parallels with activism: such movements are born of noble goals, typically with the betterment of humanity in mind, but as movements progress, people can lose sight of what these goals were originally, increasingly resorting to violence and force on the assumption that the ends justify the means. In time, the movement becomes distorted, removed from its original goals, and the world responds in kind with an equal and opposite reaction that can have far worse consequences than the conditions the activists sought to address. While the world has unified in Gundam 00, the A-LAWS routinely suppress dissidence with force, trivialising human life in the name of peace. Celestial Being had not meant for this to be the outcome, which has affected billions of lives. Rather than kicking back and calling it quits, Celestial Being owns the consequences of their actions and willingly put their lives in harm’s way to set things right. Goals do change when it comes to activism, and one of the challenges any cause faces is having a well-defined end goal. Celestial Being had achieved its goal for unifying the world, but not a unified world where people were routinely subject to unfair treatment, and in the name of easing this suffering, Celestial Being sets out to free the world from the Innovade’s grip. Here, Gundam 00 speaks to the necessity of being aware that getting what one wants might not necessarily be the end goal, and further to this, that it is important to possess the willingness to step up and do things correctly when things do not turn out as one envisioned.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A half year after Gundam 00‘s first season ended, the second season began airing. Right out of the gates, I was treated to an immensely captivating episode: the incidental music when the Federation’s new model mobile suits appear indicates that the world has definitely changed since the events of the first season. In this time, Setsuna F. Seiei’s left Celestial Being to pursue his own path, but at a colony called Proud, he steps out of the shadows and encounters Saji Crossroad, who is being detained on suspected anti-government activity. After rescuing Saji from military automaton, Setsuna sorties in the Exia to fight the A-LAWS’ squadrons.

  • While the Exia looks menacing with its red eye and cape, and Setsuna’s improved as a pilot, the Exia hasn’t been well-maintained in the past four years. Setsuna finds himself being bested by the Ahead, a new-generation mass-production mobile suit modelled after the former HRL Tierens. With superior output compared to the GN-X III line, the Ahead here cuts through Setsuna’s GN Sword, demonstrating beyond any doubt that Setsuna will need some new hardware if he’s to make any sort of difference. Tieria’s timely arrival forces the A-LAWS to scatter, and Setsuna rejoins Celestial Being, intent on righting the wrongs that had resulted after Celestial Being’s actions four years previously.

  • After returning to Celestial Being, Setsuna successfully recruits Neil’s younger brother, Lyle, as well as convincing Sumeragi to return to their ranks. Sumeragi is initially reluctant to rejoin, feeling personally responsible for the deaths of her crew four years earlier. However, upon seeing what is at stake owing to the A-LAWS and the atrocities they commit, Sumeragi would turn around and find her reason for fighting anew. For now, with the A-LAWS hot on their tails, Setsuna returns to the Ptolemaios II, a hulked-out version of the Ptolemaios with dedicated catapults and a weapons system.

  • With Setsuna’s return, Ian was able to finally test the 0 Gundam and Exia’s GN Drives for the powerful new Twin-Drive System, where two GN Drives synchronise their operations to effectively square their output. Tests insofar had been unsuccessful, but when Setsuna decides it’s time to fight the A-LAWS head-to-head, he uses Trans-Am to kick start the system, which stablises and renders the 00 Gundam fully operational. The subsequent launch is a spectacle to behold, being set to Kenji Kawai’s appropriately titled track, “00 Gundam”. Kenji Kawai scores the incidental music to Gundam 00, and it is therefore unsurprising that elements from Ip ManHigurashiDark Water and The Ring can be heard.

  • On its maiden sortie, Setsuna and the 00 Gundam shred through the pursing A-LAWS formation without any difficulty: after one-shotting an Ahead with its GN Sword II’s beam rifle, Setsuna cuts a GN-X III in half after its pilot boldly claims that he’s got the edge in CQC. Saji has accompanied Setsuna and is confined to one of the holding cells on board the Ptolemaios II, but Lasse and Mileina (the latter is Ian’s daughter, a youthful but skilled mechanic) provide Saji with a laptop that gives him insight into what had happened four years earlier. Reading this information helps Saji to understand what Setsuna and the others are doing, and over the course of season two, Saji becomes an integral member of Celestial Being.

  • Ribbons Almark is firmly established as the antagonist in Gundam 00‘s second season: a genetically enhanced human known as an Innovade (equivalent to a Cyber-Newtype), Ribbons leads his group of Innovades with the intention of ruling the world. He is responsible for the events of the second season, and while originally a staunch believer in Aeolia Schenberg’s plan, came to resent his role as a placeholder. While supremely confident in his own skill and power, Ribbons is easily unsettled when there are surprises, such as the existence of the Twin Drive System. Ribbons is voiced by Tōru Furuya, the voice actor for Mobile Suit Gundam‘s very own Amuro Ray.

  • With the 00 Gundam activated, Celestial Being sets about recovering Allelujah, who had been captured and detailed at a HRL prison. This bold operation sees Sumeragi orchestrating Celestial Being’s actions, and she assigns Lyle to provide support. While Lyle indicates he’s a novice with mobile suits and combat, he manages to shoot down several GN-X IIIs here. One of the biggest questions early in Gundam 00‘s second season was Lyle’s loyalties; he’s a member of the anti-government group, Katharon, and initially, there was always the chance that Lyle might betray Celestial Being for Katharon if the need had arisen. However, this would never materialise, and Lyle would come to fully accept his duties as a Gundam Meister for Celestial Being.

  • Now a member of the A-LAWS, Soma Peries is sent to secure Allelujah after Setsuna frees him. The connection between Allelujah and Soma had been a major point in the first season, where it was shown the two had known one another. Because Hallelujah is Allelujah’s alternate personality, it stood to reason that Soma must also have another personality, Marie. However, there’s no time for a reunion, and Allelujah boards his new Gundam, the Arios, promising to free Marie in the future.

  • Setsuna also was able to retrieve Marina from the facility; I imagine that she was held because she was suspected of having knowledge on the whereabouts of her former political advisor, Shirin Bakhtiar, who had left for Katharon. Once Marina is recovered, Celestial Being figures it would be safest to have Katharon look after her: Azadistan had been burned to the ground when Ribbons sent Ali Al-Saachez there. For now, Marina remains with Celestial Being on board the Ptolemaios, which comes under siege from the A-LAWS, who are seeking them out for destruction.

  • With all four of the Gundams operational, even the A-LAWS find themselves sustaining losses as the Union, AEU and HRL had previously: GN-X IIIs fall quickly to the Gundams, and even the A-LAWS vaunted Ahead struggles: while the third generation Gundams were weaker than an individual Ahead, the upgraded Gundams have been given updates that leave them a step above. Prior to the second season, there were numerous debates as to whether or not the Cherudim, Arios and Seravee were all-new Gundams or rebuilds. Official documentation would later clarify this: the Gundams seen in season two are all-new machines.

  • While standard Aheads have troubles fighting the Gundams, the A-LAWS also begin developing customised units as well: Graham Aker, now “Mister Bushido”, seeks out a one-on-one with Setsuna, resolute in his belief that Setsuna stripped him of his pride and disgraced him. Things are at the point where Aker refuses to fight anyone else, and will even spare Setsuna if he suspects that the 00 Gundam isn’t in top condition. Aker’s one-sided rivalry with Setsuna means that viewers are treated to some of the most impressive duels in Gundam 00 whenever the two clash: even now, the combat scenes in Gundam 00 hold up very well.

  • Even compared to Gundam 00Gundam 00‘s second season was very light on the fanservice: Sumeragi’s being fetched the Celestial Being uniform in the wrong size is about as far as it gets, and the first season only had Sumeragi, Christina and Feldt show up in swimwear while on break between operations. The infamous mammary oscillation only happens once in season two with Sumeragi, when a Trilobyte mobile armour assaults the Ptolemaios: this stands in contrast with Gundam SEED, where Marrue Ramius seems to suffer from this every time the Archangel is hit. I’m now halfway through Gundam SEED, and I will say that I’m enjoying the series far more than I initially thought: SEED is on par with 00 in terms of enjoyment for me.

  • Allelujah’s promise to retrieve Marie is sorted out early in the second season: after the pair crash, Soma suffers from the same debilitating headaches that Allelujah did when the pair were in close proximity, and her Marie personality is restored. The pair reconcile, and Sergei Smirnov, who’d shown up to rescue Soma, decides to allow the pair their happiness, having seen how much war can take away from people. Despite being a dedicated soldier, Sergei is also an honourable individual, understanding what Soma wants. He subsequently allows Allelujah and Marie to depart, promising to note in his report that Soma was shot down in combat to keep the A-LAWS from pursuing her.

  • Tieria learns that the enemies controlling the world aren’t the A-LAWS, but rather, the Innovades. Gundam 00 has the characters refer to them as Innovators, but after A Wakening of the Trailblazer, I’ve defined an Innovator as someone who naturally developed the powers similar to that of a Coordinator or Newtype. Instead, the Innovades are artificial humans made to assist with Schenberg’s plan. Over time, they began pursuing their own interests, resulting in the conflict seen in season two. Tieria, being an Innovade himself, initially hesitates to tell Sumeragi and the others about this, fearing they might reject him, but with this information, Sumeragi is grateful, knowing now what their foe is.

  • Setsuna delivers Marina to a Katharon task force, where she reunites with Shirin. Fans have long wondered what the relationship between Setsuna and Marina would be during the first season, and the second season suggests that Setsuna views Marina as someone admirable, whose conviction in peace and desire for a normal life stands in stark contrast with his own experiences. While romance never explicitly happens, Gundam 00 does show Setsuna as being pulled by Marina: during an operation, his thoughts briefly stray to Marina’s invitation for him to set down his arms and return to Azadistan with her once they rebuild.

  • Ali Al-Saachez and the Throne Arche make a return, overpowering and damaging the Seravee while simultaneously fighting 00 to a standstill. My best friend remarks that Ali Al-Saachez’s return in the second season was quite unnecessary, since he represents Neil’s inability to let go of the past. This makes sense from a narrative standpoint, but I imagine that positive fan reaction to Ali Al-Saachez and Keiji Fujiwara’s excellent performance meant writers brought him back to life. The Arche is a highly customised machine for aggressive close quarters combat, enhancing the Zwei’s loadout further for Ali Al-Saachez’s fighting style. Lyle and Allelujah later arrive to back up Setsuna and Tieria, and Setsuna explains he was once in the terror cell that killed the Dylandys.

  • Lyle is disinterested in revenge, and instead, his biggest struggle is internal: he strives to set himself apart from Neil. After eluding an A-LAWS patrol, the Ptolemaios II returns to space and a hidden Celestial Being facility to pick up new crew and the 0 Raiser, a support unit meant to bring out the 00 Gundam’s true power. Meanwhile, the A-LAWS test an orbital laser called the Memento Mori, wiping out a Middle Eastern nation called Suille. The series really began to pick up here, and from this point on, it’s a non-stop ride to the end as Celestial Being squares off against the Innovades. However, at around this time, blogger “Dark Mirage” took it upon himself to proclaim Gundam 00 as the worst series of the franchise, more interested in selling models than telling an “authentic and mature” story by incorporating period events. He thus announced his intention to drop the series for the reason, and I quote, “due to real-life circumstances unrelated to World of Warcraft“.

  • What Dark Mirage had failed to understand about Gundam 00‘s second season was that, after Celestial Being had united the world, they created a simpler dynamic where things were more black and white. This is why the so-called geopolitical paradigm is simplified: the world has become simultaneously simpler to deal with (fewer in-fighting factions) and more complex to address (shadowy benefactors manipulating things behind the scenes). Dark Mirage was a bit of a famous blogger a decade earlier, widely respected for posting frequently about wide range of anime and was envied by many. Dark Mirage’s comments sections certainly gives the sense that many treated his word as gospel: after Dark Mirage announced his intention to drop the series, numerous people praised his decision and decided to follow suit. Why people would follow suit when someone popular does something remains a mystery to me, and while I constantly remind viewers to always make their own judgment, I can remark that this is a problem I’ve never had with my readers because this blog was nowhere near as popular as Dark Mirage’s.

  • While Dark Mirage gave the impression that he was an extraordinary writer with unparalleled insight into most everything, I found this to be quite untrue. Dark Mirage’s writing style was impeded by a jarring combination of elitism combined with self-deprecating humour, and his ramblings always came across as immature rather than helpful. Particularly egregious was a post about his declining some scholarship in a long-winded post because he did not intend to enter civil service (which is what the scholarship was for). This came across as a fine display of ostentation, making a seemingly self-critical statement that was actually meant to highlight how brilliant he was. Dark Mirage took similar tones towards Gundam 00, claiming that “[Gundam 00] is not going to suck just because I say that it sucks. It will suck on its own merits. There’s no need to argue about it on this blog because I am not the authoritative voice on anything”, implying that he was indeed the authoritative voice on things. Back in Gundam 00, following the Memento Mori’s test shot, Tieria finally makes the revelation that he isn’t a human, and instead, is an Innovade, specially made to interface with VEDA and carry out functions to assist Aeolia Schenberg’s plans.

  • Dark Mirage ended up being wrong about virtually every aspect of Gundam 00‘s second season: Memento Mori represented the extent of the A-LAWS and Innovade’s desire to rule the world, and it is not a single-shot weapon, instead, being able to fire multiple times on both surface and space-based targets. The existence of such a weapon spurs Celestial Being into action, but with A-LAWS and Innovade forces closing on their base, Celestial Being takes a gamble on the 0 Raiser. After Ian is injured when one of the Innovades fires on the Ptolemaios, Saji decides to deliver the craft to Setsuna instead: while Saji had been vehemently opposed to any operation where there were human opponents, he begins to take on a more active desire to help keep those around him safe.

  • Once the 0 Raiser reaches 00 Gundam, Setsuna initiates the docking sequence, and with the stablising gear connected, the 00 Gundam’s Twin Drive system finally works at full power on the battlefield. The docking sequence brings to mind how the Strike Gundam’s striker packs could be switched out mid-battle, as well as how Tony Stark’s Mark VII suit could automatically adjust itself to be equipped. With the GN Drives now reading maximum output, the 00 Gundam’s true potential is brought out: until now, Setsuna had really been fighting with a Gundam that only slightly surpassed the Exia in terms of combat effectiveness.

  • Setsuna’s first kill with the 00 Raiser is on Barack Zinin, the Ahead pilot who’d totally wasted the Exia during the first episode. Barack’s story is a bit of a tragic one: he joined the A-LAWS to keep the peace after his wife died to a Katharon attack and genuinely believes in his assignment, but in the end, this conviction amounted to nothing of note: the 00 Raiser gains such a considerable boost in performance that Setsuna is able to fly around the asteroid and emerge behind him for the kill. Once Barack is downed, Setsuna single-handedly destroys Bring Stability and Revive Revival’s mobile suits with ease, taking Ribbons by surprise.

  • The Innovades are forced to retreat, taken aback at their defeat, and the Gundam Meisters set off to destroy Memento Mori. A Katharon fleet is already on the attack, but lack the firepower to breach the A-LAWS defensive fleet. They begin taking losses from the Memento Mori and A-LAWS’ combined firepower, but Setsuna arrives ahead of the Ptolemaios to assist them. In return, Katharon sends Setsuna what data they have on the satellite weapon. This episode remains one of my favourite Gundam episodes ever, being reminiscent of the Rebel Alliance’s assault on the Death Start in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

  • As Setsuna mops up A-LAWS mobile suits and fights Hiling Care to a stand still, the Ptolemaios II arrives on station, travelling along the orbital ring to avoid the Memento Mori’s beam. This operation gave Lockon a chance to shine, as he’s tasked with targetting the optical resonator that regulates the weapon’s power supply. This also marks the first time that Cherudim deploys its shield bits, remote shields that also possess beam guns that make them highly versatile in offensive and defensive roles. Lockon counts on the on-board Haro to manage these, using them to great effect.

  • Once Memento Mori is destroyed, an unknown mobile armour attacks the Ptolemaios II and forces it to surface. From here, Setsuna is separated from the crew. He encounters Ribbons face-to-face for the first time and learns that Ribbons was the 0 Gundam’s original pilot, before very nearly killing Ali Al-Saachez in a fight shortly after. Meanwhile, the Ptolemaios receives assistance from Katharon and sets about defending themselves from yet another A-LAWS assault. However, the situation quickly changes when Pang Hercury, one of Sergei Smirnov’s friends, directs a coup d’etat and seizes control of the Africa Tower.

  • While it seemed little more than a detour at the time, the Africa Tower Coup represents the first time where those in the government express their discontent with the Earth Federation’s decisions and actions. In a manner reminiscent of Gundam 00‘s first season, the coup demonstrates the fact that warfare and conflict exists in shades of grey rather than the black-and-white Celestial Being versus A-LAWS fight. Pang’s rationale is to demonstrate to the world what the A-LAWS have been doing. To cover up the incident, the A-LAWS authorise a strike on the tower, and despite the 00 Raiser’s power, Celestial Being are unable to stop the Memento Mori from firing on the tower, causing it to purge its outer walls as as safety measure.

  • As the tower begins discarding its layers, the Katharon, Federation and A-LAWS forces work together to prevent civilian casualties on the surface. In the aftermath, Andrei Smirnov, Sergei’s son, kills both Pang and Andrei, holding his father responsible for his mother’s death years earlier. These deaths cause Marie to revert back to her Soma personality. Four months after the incident, dubbed “Pillar Break”, the A-LAWS’ hold over the world tightens, and Celestial Being destroys the second Memento Mori. However, their latest crew member, Anew Returner, is an Innovade and has inadvertently been broadcasting the Ptolemaios’ location to Ribbons.

  • Anew Returner’s story seemed quite tangential to Gundam 00, but in retrospect, it was meant to show that in the absence of bias and prejudice, different people could get along with one another to the extent where they might fall in love. Lyle, being much more open-minded and future-oriented than Neil, develops a relationship with Anew, and even after learning that she’s an Innovade, same as Ribbons and the others, declares that the labels are meaningless. Unfortunately, Anew is still susceptible to being hijacked by Ribbons, and on his overriding orders, returns to him after helping Revive steal the 0 Raiser.

  • Despite shooting up the 0 Raiser’s cockpit, Revive does little to stop Celestial Being: Ian swiftly replaces the unit and has the 00 Raiser ready to deal with the Innovade’s next assault on the Ptolemaios. During this fight, Setsuna helps Saji to reunite with Louise using the 00 Raiser’s quantum field, creating conflict in Louise – while she’d been a steadfast believer of the A-LAWS, seeing Saji again causes her to break down.

  • Lockon ends up duelling Anew and defeats her Gaddess, a mobile suit following the Gaddessa and Garrazzo in design. The Gaddess uses a heat blade and funnels as its primary weapons, being the polar opposite of the Cherudim’s emphasis on long-range combat. For the briefest of moments, Anew returns to her old self and consents to return to Lockon’s side. However, Ribbons takes over at the last second and has Anew nearly killing Lockon, until Setsuna snipes her. With the 00 Raiser’s quantum field, Lockon and Anew share one last moment together, affirming their love for one another, before Anew’s Gaddess explodes. While Lockon is grief-stricken and beats up Setsuna in the aftermath, Setsuna later confides in Saji, indicating that his gut told him there was no other way to save Lockon.

  • With Sumeragi’s plans to take back VEDA, help comes unexpectedly from Wang Liu Mei: desiring change to the world at all costs, she states that she’ll sacrifice anyone to achieve her ends, and compared to her composed self in the first season, Wang appears much more worn by the second season, sporting bangs under her eyes by the time she meets with Setsuna to hand him the coordinates to VEDA. Wang subsequently dies when Nena shoots down her transport, and Nena herself is killed by Louise’s new mobile armour, the Regnant. While the Regnant is powerful enough to match a Gundam in combat, Setsuna’s own skill at a pilot allows him to drive it off in their first encounter. Nena is not so fortunate: Louise uses the Regnant’s power to brutally kill her.

  • While Louise’s appearance is a cause for concern, Setsuna and Saji have a larger problem on their hands when Graham Aker appears, his heart set on duelling Setsuna. Without another way out, Setsuna reluctantly agrees to fight Graham, and the two engage their respective suit’s Trans-Am systems. Billy Katagiri had independently developed Trans-Am using Professor Eifman’s research: he installed the system to Graham’s Masurao, later redubbed the Susanowo. Modelled after the Flag, this purely-melee focused mobile suit boasts unmatched speed and ferocity for close-quarters combat, being a match for Setsuna and the 00 Raiser. As GN particles flood the battlefield from their duel, Setsuna and Graham enter a quantum field, where Setsuna realises that this combat is leading to unprecedented changes in the future related to Aeolia Schenberg’s plans.

  • Awakening fully as an Innovator, Setsuna disables Graham’s Susanowo and implores him to live on before heading off. Setsuna’s found the meaning in his fight now, believing that Aeolia’s plan had been about seeing humanity unite and evolve so that they could handle something that was cryptically called “the coming dialogues”. Graham is left to wonder about the nature of his opponent, and contemplates seppuku, but recalling Setsuna’s advice, that one can only fight by being alive, renounces his decisions and pursues a new path in his life.

  • Celestial Being’s final operation against Ribbons is of a hitherto unseen scale: their plan is to first smash through a massive A-LAWS fleet guarding the coordinates where VEDA is supposed to be located. By this point in Gundam 00, everyone’s got their own reasons for stepping onto the battlefield, whether it’s for the sake of a better world, protecting those they love, fighting for the memories of those fallen or securing a path into the future. The preparations for this final sortie is inset with Unlimited Sky by Tommy Heavenly6, who also performed the first season’s opening song, Ash Like Snow. Both seasons of Gundam 00 have an inset song with a youthful vibe: the first season had the Ptolemaios crew and Gundam Meisters bond while Taja’s Love Today was playing.

  • Feldt’s feelings for Setsuna came a little out of left field for me when I’d first watched Gundam 00, but in retrospect, seeing Setsuna becoming increasingly open and fighting for the future would’ve doubtlessly made him inspirational. Prior to their launch, Feldt gives Setsuna a flower that he carries into his final battle. For Setsuna, the strength of these feelings would have him associate flowers with peace and life. While Feldt wonders if Marina might disapprove, Setsuna remarks they aren’t romantically involved.

  • Once the Gundams sortie, they begin making quick work of the A-LAWS fleet. The combat sequences are jaw-dropping, and even after the A-LAWS deploy a gas disrupting particle beams, the arrival of Katharon and Federation forces led by Kati keep the A-LAWS on the back-foot. Setsuna ends up firing a blast from the 00 Raiser that kills Arthur Goodman, sending the A-LAWS fleet into disarray. At this point, Ribbons finally reveals himself, firing a massive particle beam that neutralises the remainder of the A-LAWS. While thrilling, static images cannot capture the battle, so I’ve opted to only showcase the absolute highlights from Gundam 00‘s second season for the remainder of this post.

  • Once the Celestial Being space colony is revealed, the Ptolemaios pushes to close the distance and land so that they can secure VEDA. Ribbons deploys a vast swarm of Gagas, a mass-production mobile suit lacking any legs. For me, this was probably the weakest aspect of Gundam 00, showing the enemy as being incompetent to the point of wasting resources on manned suicide units: cruise missiles equipped with a GN Tau Drive set to self-destruct would be more useful at this point. This perhaps speaks to the Innovade’s desperation in holding onto power even as the tide turns against them, and indeed, even though the Innovades’ mobile suits are upgraded, they simply lack the resolve to fight Celestial Being.

  • Despite being shot down, Tieria eventually manages to make his way to VEDA’s core. Ribbons kills Tieria’s physical body, but not before he and Regene Regetta merge their consciousness to become a part of VEDA itself. While Regene had been presented as a traitorous double agent, it turns out his plans align completely with Aeolia’s, and it is only his ego that leads him to comment how his goals are original. Ultimately, Regene and Tieria remain completely faithful to Aeolia’s plan, and Tieria finally has access to the most secure data in VEDA. Here, he learns that Aeolia’s plan had been to prepare humanity for “the coming dialogues”, contact with extraterrestrial life.

  • Setsuna, meanwhile, helps Saji to recover Louise. Fighting to neither kill or maim, Setsuna stops the Regnant while Saji opens fire on the Gagas, marking the first time he’s pulled the trigger of his own volition. Saji is able to pull Louise from the damaged Regnant and brings her to a dock inside the colony, where her conflicting programming causes her to try to kill Saji. Meanwhile, combat outside forces Setsuna into a corner, and in desperation, he taps into the 00 Raiser’s true power: the Trans-Am Burst system saturates the battlefield with GN Particles, forcing the Innovades to back off and filling the protagonists with a newfound resolve to win. Lockon had engaged Ali Al-SAachez deep in the bowels of the space station, and while outmatched, begins gaining the upper hand. Meanwhile, Allelujah defends Marie after she’s knocked out, and when she comes to, she forgives Andrei for his actions after he expresses remorse.

  • Sumeragi and Billy had been within moments from shooting one another, and after the quantum field allows the pair to reconcile, they fight off the automaton threatening the Ptolemaios’ bridge. Louise and Saji also embrace after the quantum field heals her. Trans-Am Burst creates an environment similar to the Universal Century’s psychofield, converting willpower into something tangible. Setsuna uses this to heal the combatants and help them reach an understanding with one another. The output from the 00 Raiser is impressive, allowing Setsuna to single-handedly turn everyone around in a moment that equals a scene in Char’s Counterattack where Amuro Ray and Char Aznable’s psychoframes resonated to push Axis away from Earth.

  • Tieria, meanwhile, activates the Trial Field on the Seraphim Gundam remotely, shutting down the remainder of the VEDA-connected suits, bringing the battle to a close. This includes Ali Al-Saachez’s Arche, which Lockon subsequently destroys. While Ali Al-Saachez attempts to flee, Lockon stops him, but gives him a chance at redemption. Being irredeemable, Ali Al-Saachez attempts to shoot Lockon and is met with a bullet to the face, the ghost of his last laugh written all over his face. Lyle is uninterested in revenge, and his defeating Ali Al-Saachez was probably meant to show that clearing up the past can only be done if one is motivated by something beyond vengeance.

  • Gundam 00 wraps up with Ribbons sortieing onto the battlefield himself, shooting down the Seraphim before facing off against Setsuna. The resulting battle was one of the best-choreographed I’ve seen, and while Setsuna’s 00 Raiser is still recharging from using Trans-Am Burst, Setsuna nonetheless manages to hold on long enough to gain a sense of Ribbons’ combat style. During this final fight, the ball was in Ribbons’ court the entire time: his Reborns Gundam is fully charged at the onset and Ribbons has been watching Setsuna long enough to know the latter’s fighting style. This is why early in the battle, Setsuna has no answers to the Reborns Gundam and its seemingly overwhelming performance.

  • The final fight in Gundam 00 was well-done to the point where forum-goers spent over three quarters of the year analysing whether or not the Reborns was a superior Gundam to the 00 Raiser, attesting to how much discussion can be had when an anime gives people the materials to go off of. Thoughts from fizzmaister and GN0010 Nosferatu suggested that the Reborns was the better machine: their arguments were that the Reborns had a proper Twin Drive System, a more versatile arsenal and didn’t require an external craft like 0 Raiser to operate. SonicSP added that the performance seen in Gundam 00 should make it clear that mechanically, the Reborns is superior to the 00 Raiser in every way. While I agree that the Reborns has a better loadout for combat, we only had Ribbons’ word to go on at the time about his having a Twin Drive System. As it turns out, the limitations of a Twin Drive System using GN Tau Drives are given by documentation, which states that a Twin Drive System with GN Tau Drives, while impressive, is still vastly inferior to a system with genuine GN Drives. As such, while perhaps a feat of engineering capable of performing in a wide range of operations, the Reborns doesn’t have any access to new technology that gives it a complete edge over the 00 Raiser.

  • While Ribbons and Setsuna fight, Hallelujah and Hiling fight. Having now accepted Hallelujah as a part of himself, Allelujah is able to completely dominate the fight, destroying Hiling’s Garrazzo after tearing out her escape pod. However, Allelujah has very little experience fighting against funnels, and is promptly knocked out of the battle afterwards. This was a particularly impressive fight, during which Hallelujah calls out Hiling for being overly dependent on VEDA: while the Innovades are formidable pilots, VEDA or no, they used VEDA’s support to provide intelligence that greatly assisted them.

  • Lockon, on the other hand, is outmatched: unlike his Cherudim, which suffered extensive damage in Lockon’s fight against the Arche, the Gaddessa is still in great shape. However, shaken by Setsuna’s power and stubbornly insisting on his own superiority, Revive dies after Lockon feigns defeat, only to engage Trans-Am and get behind the Gaddessa, subsequently blasting it into oblivion and taking Revive out in the process. Lockon’s final words after defeating Revive is that this is what Celestial Being is about, affirming the fact that is allegiance and loyalties lie with the organisation, implying that Lyle’s accepted the idea about fighting for the future even when one has sustained loss in the past. In this way, Lyle succeeded in differentiating himself from Neil in that he is able to let go of the past, which is something that the latter could not do.

  • As such, I am not convinced that the Reborns is outright better than the 00 Raiser. 00 Raiser’s greater endurance and mobility means that a pilot who could outlast the Reborns would be at an advantage. Setsuna has the skill to do so, but had already exhausted the 00 Raiser’s power earlier: he wasn’t fighting at his best. Indeed, when all of the factors come into play, the Reborns Gundam draws with the 00 Raiser: I note that while both are capable of going toe-to-toe in a one-on-one situation, the Reborns was built with heavy combat in mind, and it was Ribbons’ knowledge of Setsuna’s fighting style that initially gave Setsuna a hard time. Once Setsuna began seeing patterns to Ribbons’ fighting style and the 00 Raiser had begun recharging, he was fighting on a much more even footing, critically damaging the Reborns by using the 00 Raiser’s ability to quantise (in this context, teleport). However, because of the lag the 00 Raiser experiences after exiting quantisation, Ribbons manages to sever a GN Drive.

  • Both Ribbons and Setsuna continue fighting in their original Gundams, respectively, the 0 Gundam and Exia. Without the powers conferred by the Twin Drive System, it’s a back-to-the-basics fight where Setsuna is completely on the offensive; Ribbons doesn’t even land a hit in until Setsuna cuts the cockpit hatch, giving Ribbons an opening. Overall, Setsuna’s powers as an Innovator, and his piloting, surpasses Ribbons’. Here, I will note that while I disagree with SonicSP, fizzmaister and GN0010 Nosferatu, they put a respectable amount of effort into their explanations so that I can understand where they are coming from. Back then, forum-goers spent a considerable amount of effort explaining themselves, and so, even if their speculations proved completely wrong by the events of A Wakening of The Trailblazer, it was nice to follow their train of thought for how they reached their conclusions. My best friend and I similarly speculated about GN Drives and the tech, but similarly ate crow after more information was released. However, rather than being a matter of right or wrong, we found that these discussions were always fun, since they allowed us to simply explore whatever directions were appropriate.

  • Indeed, going back and reading Gundam 00 discussions and speculation now was generally quite enjoyable an experience because of this level of effort. Gundam 00 has aged remarkably well, and even now, the anime still looks amazing, with fight scenes that are comparable to those of contemporary Gundam series. Since Gundam 00, I hold that besides Gundam Build Fighters, there have been no real worthy Alternate Universe Gundam series – the only Gundam projects of note that I enjoyed since 00 were Gundam UnicornGundam: The Origin and Gundam Narrative. Similarly, I am looking forwards to Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash. All of these share the commonality in that they’re set in the Universal Century, the original Gundam timeline.

  • After Setsuna defeats Ribbons, he returns to Celestial Being and promises to keep an eye on the world. When the second season ended, the end of the episode showed five lights emerging from Jupiter and the enigmatic text, “Mission Incomplete”. Shortly after, A Wakening of The Trailblazer was announced, and I remember that the wait for this movie was excruciating: during the summer of 2010, I remember listening to Uverworld’s CHANGE constantly and watching the trailers featuring the new Gundams almost non-stop. A Wakening of The Trailblazer would release in September 2010, and in a rare move for an anime movie, saw a home release a mere three months later, in December 2010. Gundam has always been excellent about release timeframes.

  • Both Gundam 00‘s seasons are an A+ for me, having introduced me to anime, and showing what was possible within the medium. Having taken my best friend’s recommendation, I became a fan of anime, and Gundam 00 is where everything began: we spent countless hours speculating and discussing things offline, and I think for said friend, it must’ve been a breath of fresh air to finally have someone to talk to about Gundam to the depth he was looking for. Today, upon realising the impact Gundam 00 had on me (reading blog posts and forum discussions on Gundam 00 led me to start my own website and blog), I’ve made the call to begin watching Gundam SEED, as well – my best friend finds it a superb series, and Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime has also expressed a wish for me to check it out. Since Hathaway’s Flash is still a ways out, I am more than happy to oblige. At present, I am halfway through Gundam SEED and will look at writing about my experiences in the near future before continuing onwards: I am greatly enjoying the series thus far and look forwards to where it is headed.

Despite possessing a more straightforward, cut-and-dried story in its second season, Gundam 00 continued to impress as its predecessor did from a thematic and visual perspective; fights are much larger in scale in the second season to really convey the scope of the battles (and by extension, what the stakes were every time Setsuna and his team sortied). One-on-one battles were also captivating to watch, being more fluid than even those of the first season (especially now that mobile suit technology has advanced so dramatically compared to the more primitive suits seen in the first season). I especially had fun watching the attack on Momento Mori, which feels like one long love song to the iconic Death Star run in Star Wars, as well as the final fight between Setsuna and Ribbons, which was one of the earliest instances of characters reverting to their original mobile suits for a showdown. The second season was generally solid: there are a few decisions that felt a little questionable, including Graham Aker’s appearance as the masked Mister Bushido, and the fact Ali Al-Saachez was brought back purely to be an antagonist for Lyle, who had already made it clear he wanted to differentiate himself from Neil early on in the season. Beyond this, however, the second season continued on as its predecessor did: while it may not present the same political intrigue as the first season, or any of the mystery behind the Gundams themselves, Gundam 00‘s second season did excel in many areas, acting to decisively clear up lingering questions from the first season and bringing closure to a world whose problems could finally be addressed by diplomatic means rather than force. The second season was a conclusive end to Gundam 00‘s television run, setting the stage for A Wakening of The Trailblazer, where the unified world faces a new challenge in the form of extraterrestrial life in a first for the Gundam franchise. Since Gundam 00 ended, there’ve not been any full-length Gundam series that have had any of the same political relevance and technological depth – I’d love to see another Gundam series with fifty to a hundred episodes and really flesh things out in a similar fashion. With that being said, there have been some excellent Gundam series over the years, with Gundam Unicorn, Gundam Origin, Gundam Thunderbolt and Gundam Build Fighters acting to fill the void, and Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash is supposed to continue on with the Universal Century story later this year. In the meantime, it’s been a fantastic experience to revisit Gundam 00: besides being my first Gundam ever, Gundam 00 also holds the distinction of being the first anime series I’d ever watched in full, so returning to consider the magic behind Gundam 00 on the twelfth and thirteenth anniversaries of its finales airing (for seasons two and one, respectively) was a very pleasant trip down memory lane.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00: A Review and Reflection, Remarks on Changing the World and The Price of Victory

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.

Intervention as the Magic Moment in Mobile Suit Gundam 00

“Consistency is found in that work whose whole and detail are suitable to the occasion. It arises from circumstance, custom, and nature.” —Vitruvius

After defeating the AEU’s Enact prototype during its maiden flight, the Exia continues with its mission and draws out additional Hellion squadrons from the AEU’s orbital elevator pillar. Despite the Exia’s technological superiority, its pilot, Sestuna F. Seiei, is unable to dispatch his opponents owing to their numbers. Back on the ground, the Dynames (piloted by Lockon Stratos) provides sniper fire. Shooting down the Hellions with pinpoint precision, Lockon buys Setsuna enough breathing room to destroy the last of the Hellions. Back in space, terrorists attempt to hit the Human Reform League’s anniversary parties, and while they successfully evade the forces scrambled to intercept them, they find themselves promptly defeated by the Kyrios and Virtue. The opening moments to Gundam 00 thus serve as another example of a magic moment (given here to be “an event or moment in an anime that succeed in convincing the audience to continue watching”) that occurs early on in the series that captivated my interest. Despite being a sequence created eight years ago, the animation and execution in Gundam 00 reflects on the level of detail and attention that went into crafting the moments. In particular, the orbital elevators’ impressive scale provides an exciting backdrop to introduce the Gundam’s overwhelming power, creating tension and suspense. The high-speed angles seen when the AEU hellions are struggling to engage the Exia, and the distances mobile suits must travel to reach the HRL’s orbital platform both show that these are truly massive engineering projects, attained only because of serious advances in technology.

  • While perhaps not quite as magical as the magic moment from Gundam Unicorn, the first episode of Gundam 00 was nonetheless a fun watch. Eight years might have elapsed, but I still clearly remember the day I watched the first episode; it was a Friday, and because my high school was undergoing HVAC maintenance, we were sent home to begin the weekend early. I was working on a German assignment with the main computer, and decided to take a break, watching the episode on a laptop.

  • The assignment was eventually finished, and I found this episode to be entrancing; a friend remarked that Gundam 00 was quite unique in the fact that all of the Gundam units were working together right from the start. In comparison to the Universal Century, the pilots in Gundam 00 are there by choice rather than chance, and unlike the Cosmic Era, no Gundam thefts are involved.

  • The fight between Exia and the Hellions is set to Kenji Kawai’s “Intervention”, a powerful, high-paced song with the Celestial Being motif that captures the intensity and firepower of a Gundam. The maneuvers between the different mobile suits around the orbital elevator allow their sizes to really give an impression of how large the pillar itself is.

  • Here’s another moment depicting the size of the pillar, when AEU Hellions deploy from hidden hangers on the pillar itself. When I first watched the episode, I imagined that the trained forces would fare better against Exia than Patrick Colasour, but I was wrong: though the pilots employ various attack formations to engage Exia, the difference in armour allows the Exia to shrug off the rounds.

  • Eight years to this day, I was experimenting with video conversion software, during the night of my old high school’s fall awards programme. The conversion was successful; as I watched the Tieren pilots enter their mobile suits and begin to sortie, it was time to set foot into a chilly November night and sit through the awards ceremony.  The fall awards were somewhat duller compared to the spring awards, given that the latter had been for exceptional performance in classes, and the former was for students who had made the honour roll.

  • Space-type Tierens are deployed to engage the terrorist Hellions. Equipped with thrusters on its main body for maneuvering in space, they can be seen firing to help the Tierens stablise and adjust their course. Again, the scale of the constructs are noticeable here: the orbital stations are large enough to house entire structures and mobile suit hangers.

  • While the Tieren pilots must use head-mounted displays that project a HUD onto an image of what the Tieren’s main camera sees, I found that their systems are quite cool-looking, if somewhat busy; the Tieren HMDs resemble the Oculus Rift, which I’ve used extensively in my research project. It’s quite funny how eight years after Gundam 00 aired, I’m involved in research that involves virtual reality, and may expand said project to encompass augmented reality, too.

  • One of the tensest moments in the episode is when the missiles streak towards the station. The Tieren’s inability to dispatch the terrorist Hellions suggest that the Tieren is an outdated mobile suit; of all the mobile suits fielded by the world’s forces, they’re the bulkiest and most models are intended to fulfil the role of a MBT rather than air superiority fighter.

  • The Kyrios flies along the orbital ring en route to engaging the terrorists. Celestial Being’s timely arrival ensures that the missiles never impact the station, and making use of the Kyrios’ speed, Allelujah shoots down two of the Hellions. The remaining mobile suit charges the station on a suicide run.

  • Compared to the other mobile suits’ control panels, and even the Gundam of earlier universes, the Gundams of the Cosmic Era have very clean interface, making use of touch screens and highly simple but informative displays. The displays improve by the second season, and are only eclipsed by the floating cockpits seen in the Universal Century.

Consequently, that an organisation such as Celestial Being possesses technology eclipsing that of the world’s is an impressive feat. However, the first episode chooses not to do so via dialogue: instead, the differences are depicted by shifting focus between the mobile suits’ cockpits and the battle from an outside perspective. It’s clear that even the HRL’s old, lumbering mobile suits are complex machines; their HUDs are very detailed and provide a great deal of information about the environment. However, these pale compare to the minimalistic multi-function touch displays found inside a Gundam. Coupled with their unparalleled combat capability, audiences can plainly see that the Gundams themselves are on a completely different level, thus piquing their curiosity with respect to what happens next; highly sophisticated war machines in the hands of an unknown organisation, interfering with international politics would almost certainly result in a response, and the remainder of the first season depicts what the ramifications entail. It was a strong start to the Gundam 00 franchise, and although eight years have since passed, the opening episode remains as impressive to watch now as it was eight years ago: together, the sense of scale and technological disparity piqued my interest in Gundam 00, which eventually would become my gateway into the Gundam franchise, leading to Gundam Unicorn.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 A Wakening of the Trailblazer: Final Impressions

A Wakening of the Trailblazer is the first original feature-length film to be released for the Gundam franchise in over 19 years. at the time, this was my first experience with anime movies and as such, at the time, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the movie. The experience would prove to be a curious one: whereas most anime movies release on BD/DVD around six months after their theatrical release, A Wakening of the Trailblazer went to BD/DVD a mere three months after its original release. The movie was not disappointing, impressing audiences with its breathtaking visuals and intense combat. Three years after I drafted my review, I decided to port the original article over to this blog: when published back at the old website, this was the only review online to have a substantial number of screenshots, and as such, every day, readers linked to that article to point out a solid discussion with plenty of high-resolution screenshots. At its peak, the post alone drew in a thousand unique visitors each day, and on AnimeSuki, was praised for being a “very nice and in-depth summary…better than the one on Gundam Wiki”, as well as for its diverse, high-quality screenshot collection. At present day, interest in A Wakening of the Trailblazer has waned almost completely, but nonetheless, for accessibility reasons, I’ve decided to port the article here so it’s easier to find. I’ve largely retained most of the content from the original review and have gone back to make minor grammatical corrections, but other than that, the reflection is mostly intact and true to its original form, bearing hallmarks of my writing style from three years ago.

  • This represents my last major project for 2013: now that Five Centimeters per Second and A Wakening of the Trailblazer are done, I can finally say that there are no more major, planned posts that will be published in the foreseeable future beyond the Six Weeks of Unicorn project. Come 2014, I will kick the year off with a Girls und Panzer calendar, and a series of posts about Battlefield 3‘s campaign.

My overall impressions of the movie were largely positive: the introduction of extraterrestrials into the universe represents the first time anyone has done so in the franchise. With no yard stick to make a reference to, the movie is literally trailblazing into new grounds. The immediate impression of the plot is one that is solidly crafted; while execution could be a little smoother, it nonetheless flows very well. In essence, the movie is about the appearance of aliens, and humanity’s fight for survival. This sounds similar to the dozens of other movies out there about aliens invading, but the reality is dramatically different. The extraterrestrials are metallic shapeshifting beings that bear absolutely no resemblance to humans whatsoever; this is a highly realistic depiction of how intelligent life can develop from completely different environments with a completely different biological constitution. Through the portrayal of the extraterrestrials, it becomes clear of how much though went into the movie. Thus, we come to the question of how this movie about aliens is any different than most existing media about aliens. Films like Independence Day and War of the Worlds present the extraterrestrials as beings with technological superiority, and regard the human presence on Earth as humans regard lesser organisms. This sets us up for a climatic battle in which humanity somehow wipes the floor of an alien fleet using heat seeking missiles and tank shells (in the case of Independence Day), or sometimes, the aliens disagree with our micro-fauna (War of the Worlds). There’s nothing wrong with this, and in fact, Independence Day was an excellent film. The main point here is the contrast between the two films; in A Wakening of the Trailblazer, the plot is more concerned with understanding the ELS and their intentions, a theme which we have seen recurring since Setsuna became an Innovator.

  • The GN-X IVs seen throughout much of the movie are not antagonist units. This represents the first time where a ESF and private faction are not at odds with each other.

  • Setsuna effortlessly divides a GN-X in two in one of the earliest combat sequences in the movie.

In A Wakening of the Trailblazer, plot execution is consistent but is also a little rough at times, and events may be difficult to follow outright at certain points in the film. Things start slowly, punctuated by the occasional combat sequences, but focus on developing the background for the movie. We see the defecation hit the oscillation once Descartes Shaman wipes out the derelict space station, and afterwards, the movie takes on a horror-like tone as unusual phenomenon begin occurring. It is not until the appearance of the ELS Ribbons that we know things are truly starting to escalate. After this point, the pace of the story picks up and accelerates: the remainder of the movie becomes an exhilarating ride that remains with the viewer right up until the credits. This manner makes the first portion of the movie a little less exciting than usual, although I feel that this isn’t too unusual for a movie of this type (for instance, War of the Worlds is mostly about running from the aliens until the scene at the farmer’s house). When the ELS replicate the derelict space station, the pace dramatically rises from there; each battle after this one pushes the intensity further than the previous one, almost as if the producers were deliberately trying to surpass the ferocity of the previous battles. At the end of the movie, the epilogue comes as a refreshing moment to viewers- after all that non-stop action, it is relaxing to take in what the world has become since the ELS appeared. The ending sequence is set after the credits, and ends on a highly optimistic note.

  • There is actually quite a bit of English in the movie itself; with English being my second language, I am very impressed with anime that make the effort in getting the grammatical details correct.

  • People may feel a little shafted about the minimal amount of romance in Gundam 00.

From a character growth perspective, each of the main characters have expanded roles suited for the story. There are a few notable aspects I particularly found enjoyable. The reintroduction of Graham Aker as a protagonist was simply glorious; no longer obsessed with surpassing Asura, he is now a mature commander who bravely leads his soliders into battle. Graham brings the Sol Braves in to save the Meisters on their first appearance. Saji may be a civilian again, but he is a lot more decisive now. When the ELS Ribbons appears and makes a move towards Louise, he responds by throwing a chair at Ribbons, and goes to assist the effort against the ELS in his way by helping out with the maintenance of the orbital elevators. This action shows us that he fully understands that fighting does not necessarily mean picking up a weapon and pointing it at someone’s head, and that each action contributes to a cause. The newly introduced characters see little development with respect to their backgrounds, although each character has had their share of distinct and memorable elements in the movie. Descartes Shaman’s initial appearance in the trailer led many to assume he’d be the new antagonist, but he is merely a pure innovator who happens to be a pilot for the ESF. Meena Carmine is the “girl who looks like Nena and clings to Billy like static makes wool cling to a cotton shirt”. Amia Lee will be remembered by everyone as “that girl who got picked up by the ELS”. Finally, all those ESF commanders we see are simply there; I’m sure people don’t mind that, given that nameless commanders are present in every other science fiction film out there. Despite receiving minor development, each of the aforementioned individuals contributed to the story. I’m certain many have heard that there are no small roles, only small actors, something that definitely applies to A Wakening of the Trailblazer.

Meena is a minor character, but that doesn’t change the fact that her interactions with Billy are hilarious.

  • Descartes Shaman reacting to the arrival of the ELS fleet. If this moment was thought to be scary, it is dwarfed by the arrival of a moon-sized space station.

  • For those who insist on the “pics or did not happen” paradigm, Saji does indeed throw a chair at the Ribbons look-alike.

Seiji Mizushima continues working his magic to ensure that the animation quality in the Anno Domini universe is top-of-the-line. When it was released in 2007, Gundam 00 was the first anime to ever be animated in HD. The visuals were incredibly detailed, and set the standard for all anime to come. It comes as no surprise that Awakening of the Trailblazer raises the bar further, only this time, it is in the form of subtle details. Whether it is watching the ELS assimilate a Federation Cruiser or the displays the characters are viewing, every detail is masterfully attended to. Of particular note were the behavior of the ELS Swarms. I understand the complexity involved in building computer models of swarm-based systems, and animating such systems cannot be any easier; when we see the quantities of ELS on screen, we cannot help but be blown away. Their assimilation of whatever they contact is also masterfully portrayed; ranging from behaving like sucrose crystal growth to virulent liquid mercury, the ELS have the appearance of solid metal, but distinctly feel organic when they begin to assimilate their victims en masse. It is the attention to these kinds of details that make the movie worthwhile, and even viewing the movie in 480p, there is little doubt that the quality of the art is astounding. For those doubting me, my images are 720p images condensed into a width of 640 pixels for the sake of convienience. We move from this topic to execution of all the combat scenes. There is no surprise that the battle sequences are what define a Gundam series, separating an excellent series from a good one. In the case of Awakening of the Trailblazer, no words can really describe the action we see on screen whenever a faction sorties. The sheer scope and intensity of the battles give testament to just what humanity is up against, and at times, it feels like I am piloting a mobile suit alongside the characters in the movie.

  • The sheer number of things happening on screen is a sight for eyes to behold. It seems that every moment in the movie exists to be topped by awesome several orders of magnitude in a moment later on.

  • Assimilation is a fate worse than death: subsequently, infected pilots all use trans-am in an effort to escape the pain of assimilation and take out as many ELS as possible.

  • Fans of Hallelujah will rejoice; he will not fail to impress throughout the movie, putting on a spectacular performance using Harute’s arsenal.

My lasting impression of the movie is one that is very well done, but not quite a masterpiece; Seiji Mizushima’s decision to trail-blaze and introduce aliens into the Gundam franchise was very smooth and reasonably portrayed (not all the aliens we may meet will be bipedal vertebrae). Animation and attention to details are of a high grade, making every scene visually pleasing. There are some shortcomings in the movie, especially with respect to execution of the plot. Those who are seeking a emotional journey for the Feldt’s unrequited love will not find anything remotely to the same level as Five Centimeters per Second, but for everyone else looking at the battle sequences, I doubt viewers will be disappointed. Although those new to the Gundam 00 franchise may find themselves lost as events unfold early on in the movie, A Wakening of the Trailblazer is definitely worthwhile for existing Gundam 00 fans, representing a bold new direction in the Gundam franchise.

  • Since December 2010/January 2011, my anime library and collections have since expanded dramatically, well beyond Gundam, although Gundam 00 will hold the distinction of being the first Gundam series I watched. The next series of Gundam-related posts will concern Gundam Unicorn, where I will port all six of the episode talks from the original website to this blog in the weeks before the finale is scheduled to air. Happy reading!

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 A Wakening of the Trailblazer: Epilogue

Centuries ago, a younger Aeolia Schoenberg mentions his plan to evolve humanity to evolve and overcome their differences, and how disappointing it would be for human progress if the first thing they do is start a war once they became space-faring. Fifty years have passed since the conflict between humanity and the ELS. Setsuna had left on a journey to understand more about the ELS, and the flower-like space station is now Earth’s foothold for humanity’s first voyage into deep space. A ship, called the Sumeragi, full of awakened Innovators (including a quick glimpse of Tieria and the Aima Lee, who has since recovered) prepare for their maiden voyage into space. 40% of humans have become Innovators and as they were physically evolved; they were to spearhead the first voyage until the rest of Humanity evolves. Out in the country in a field of flowers lies Marina’s retirement home. Marina has since aged and has lost her sight. She senses someone entering her room and politely asks who is. It is none other than Setsuna; despite the 50 years that had passed, he has not aged in the slightest. He tells Marina how he finally came back and kept his promise, even if it was rather roundabout for both of them. They embrace each other as a token of understanding. Outside, the 00 Qan[T] is resting in the field of flowers, glistening in the sunlight.

  • This is E.A. Ray, the man who assisted Aeolia Schoenberg and formed the basis for Ribbons Almark. Here, he is discussing the roles and ideals of Celestial Being and what their desired fate of the world is to be.

  • With no fewer than eleven monitors and some five computer towers, Aeolia’s personal workstation does not appear dissimilar to those

  • Aeolia looks a little like Ian in his younger days, and reveals that his plan was for humanity to achieve interstellar capabilities after they could advance beyond its current point of evolution, this is a common theme behind a lot of Gundam series, although it was not apparent until the end of the first season.

  • Fifty years after first contact, the world is a radically different place. The ELS’ flower-like space station serves as a space port now, and the ELS have acquired the ability to use the original solar furnaces.

  • This is the Sumeragi, a deep space exploration vessel crewed by Innovators. In the fifty year span, human technology has become more asthetically pleasing to the eye, with gentle curved structures becoming more prevalent over our current preference for angular structures. I posted this image to AnimeSuki a while back, captioning it A rear view of the Sumeragi. Another member jokingly wished it were more fanservice-y

  • The interior of the Sumeragi is very minimalistic; we can assume this to be the bridge of the vessel. By this point, GN technology has been used to develop faster-than-light travel, which uses GN particles to generate quantum pathways not unlike the mode of operation for the Shaw-Fujikawa drives used in HALO.

  • Amia Lee has since recovered from her infection with ELS crystals, and is partially ELS now, as her hair and left eye have metamorphesized to a silver colour.

  • We get a nice view of the holographic table here. I’ve been interested in computers like these, as they offer a lot more functionality than the current inputs offered by keyboards, mice and printers. It appears that the different space suit colours reflect on different roles of the personnel.

  • Tieria glides behind the guy who’s giving the announcement about the Sumeragi’s objectives wearing an irritated expression on his face.

  • Klaus is being interviewed here, having become the captain of this exploration vessel.

  • Marina’s country home is in a field of flowers. Setsuna has made a brief return visit to her.

  • Marina lost her vision with age, but she remains a proficient piano player nonetheless. Following the release of the movie, many fans were clamouring for cam-rips just to see these few moments.

  • ELS Setsuna is now semi-immortal, having not aged a day since he left for the ELS’ homeworld.

  • Setsuna and Marina fully understand each other now; the former has learned to address problems with peaceful and diplomatic approaches, while the latter has seen that Setsuna has indeed found his happiness. They embrace. In the manga, what happens after is that Setsuna calls upon the ELS healing techniques and makes Marina young again. Setsuna and Marina then tie the knot by marrying. To be honest, I don’t care what those opposed are saying, but this is the ending I’m going with.

This is the end of the A Wakening of the Trailblazer, a movie that would eventually receive mixed reactions from critics and the anime community alike. The underlying thematic element throughout the entire Gundam 00 series, that understanding is key to human progress, is hammered home again and again throughout the movie. Proponents of the movie cite its direct message, brilliant visuals and willingness to go where no Gundam has gone before to be its strongest point: indeed, three years after the movie has aired and released on DVD/Blu-ray, no other Gundam franchise has explored the concept of extraterrestrials: the “Unknown Enemy” in Gundam AGE turns out to be human in origin, meaning that even now, A Wakening of the Trailblazer holds the distinction of being the only installment in the Gundam franchise to have integrated extraterrestrials into their story, and arguably, did so in a successful manner.