Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is my Gateway Gundam. The first season was the first show in the franchise that I completed. Through it, I “got” the possibility of Gundam, and I proceeded to rewatch all the other Gundam shows I dropped and since most of them were from the Universal Century continuity, there was no looking back for me.
I genuinely like what Gundam 00 promised: that is, it presented the setting wherein the space proto-colonization of the worlds Gundam stories would play out could come to be. I bought into the passing of fossil fuels as the main energy source. I bought into the new energy hegemony created by access to the orbital elevators – structures that I thought were clever proto-proto-space colonization pieces of science fiction.
I bought into the Asimovian conceit that is Aeolia Schernberg. I liked the idea that Celestial Being drank their own Kool-Aid, that they actually believed in what they did no matter how comical it is under rigorous scrutiny as a policy for conflict suppression, much less for permanent peace. The story would show them the complexity of human beings, which would lead to varied epiphanies along the idealist-realist continuum or so I thought, having not yet watched Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny. I have yet to truly experience how Gundam-style pacifism proselytizing …is hell.
I even bought into the tremendous technological gap required for Celestial Being to make sense as a plan, even if the plan for them is beyond the mandate they follow. I even bought into 00’s take on Tomino’s Newtype concept – that is, the ability to communicate without misunderstanding (some kind of telepathy).
Why? What made it easy for me to buy into all of this? It’s because Mobile Suit Gundam 00 felt like a piece of military SF. The greatest thrills it gave me involved how the technologically overwhelmed pre-federation nations used skill, numbers, and tactics to combat the Gundams. It made for great drama. The battles were interesting.
Overall, it appealed to me military science fiction anime with gorgeous production values from the mechanical designs to the sexhair. Sumeragi Lee Noriega to this day had the second sexiest hair in all anime, all years (next to Lockon Stratos). Even the characters were memorable I thought, and the characters’ eccentricities informed the battles in interesting ways.
I still remember Tieria Erde’s rage-fueled whining when he was forced to use Gundam Nadleeh prematurely, and prehaps my favorite fighting effort was Doublellujah Haptism’s rampage in the finale of the first season. That was badass.
By the time the second season started becoming available, I had seen the Mobile Suit Gundam Original Movie Trilogy, and all the major UC OVAs. I fell in love with Gundam. The promise I got out of 00 was fulfilled by the older shows I watched. The consequence of this is that I learned to be discerning when it came to Gundam. I now began to form my aesthetic of robot vs. robot combat which to me, was the most important part of the spectacle that is robot anime.
As the second season progressed, I got more pissed off from episode to episode. I was still enjoying some things: Katie vs. Kujo and some of the battles. However, the Super Saiyan Trans-Am stuff was dulling my enjoyment significantly, as did the more simplistic engagements with a drop-off in both animation quality and in mechanical design. On the character end, Lockon Stratos did a quasi-Mu La Flaga. Marina Ismail was infuriatingly all over the show despite having the significance of 2.5 Meer Campbells¹.
Graham Acker turned into a fucking joke. Ali al-Saachez turned into a caricature. Doublellujah Haptism turned into a wailing mess without the fangs, and Soma Pieres was nerfed beyond shame. Speaking of disgusting pairings: Wang Liu-min x Hong Long, Lyle Dylandy x Anew Returner, Sumeragi x Billy Kitagiri, and Feldt x Setsuna WHAT.
Then the WMDs started showing up, though nowhere as obnoxious as GSD’s. But then the gaga squadron came from nowhere with its unlimited innovade works and my poor, poor face kept getting raped by my palms. Then the Trans-Am Burst fixed everything and merited a prominent place in the armory of Failhalla².
EVEN SO, I loved the campy goodness of Dark Amuro and the eye-popping Guncannon Reborns. I loved the touch of putting him in the 0 Gundam and bringing back SExia for one last fight. My wishes are over their airspace. I love you, I trust you, etc.
After that infuriating second season, I still thought of Gundam 00 (my fondness for it as my Gateway Gundam aside) as a net positive experience. I can acknowledge its merits easily while avoiding dumping on its faults.
After watching the culmination of oo’s story, the film Awakening of the Trailblazer, I am done with it. Dunzo. It will always be my gateway, but my affinity and regard for the sub-franchise is gone. This movie killed whatever’s left of it. I hated the stupid thing, such a jingoistic faux-substantial failure of a spectacle.
This is what the promise of 00 amounted to: designing the ultimate Gundam for the most evolved human with the aid of the most powerful trapilicious AI to have mindchat with an alien mess of monster tropes so it can geassturn it into the giant yellow space lily of peace.
God damn it.
This was what the Aolia Plan was for; these were the conversations that were to come: with a Jupiter Express of body/machine-snatching crystal aliens that make Innovator terminator zombies and killer trucks.
This gave the cast every excuse to spout their ideals of ending conflict and achieve understanding. Gundam has always been about “war is hell” but Gundam 00 as a franchise spent more time preaching how conflict is bad than portraying the existential emptiness and meaninglessness of war. And how loudly and clumsily it preached, and never as obnoxiously as in this film.
This comical attempt to give Celestial Being this Holy Work, and make a beatific martyr out of Setsuna F. Jesuseiei renders the attempts to give other characters dignified exits failures. Graham Acker’s martyrdom was abused to heap praise on the savior shonen Jesuseiei.
Why did all this fail where Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was so triumphant? I honestly don’t know for sure, but it may have something to do with the consistent panache of TTGL and its commitment to portraying “beyond the impossible.” Gundam 00 has neither. It takes itself so seriously without painstakingly laying world-building (science fiction, politcs), and character foundations.
Aim for the Top! Gunbuster/Diebuster succeeds because of a well-laid out science fiction base. It is also consistent with portraying its enemies as monstrously alien, while fighting it with grand super robot attacks as is desired from a super robot show. Gundams are great to watch fighting other mobile suits. Monstrous mobile armors feel like a concession and throwback to the super robot shows Gundam departed from. This movie had mobile suits firing at an endless train of lance points. And at some point, it figured out how boring it was and had the alien crystal lances form, no, combine, into mobile suits and cruiser ships. Too ugly, too cheap, and too late.
I also dislike Gundams fighting other Gundams. I’m fine with Stardust Memory, as it fit within a well thought-out plot point. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and 00, not so much.
Char’s Counterattack succeds because it doesn’t have to introduce boatloads of new science fiction and maintain so many characters. It also helps that it’s favorably just after ZZ Gundam. I can easily accept it as a conclusion of the Zeonic conflict in the UC even as the flying T in space joins the Trans-Am Burst in the armory of Failhalla.
But never mind my theories. This post is an elegiac love song for my first love. We dated for some time, but I started meeting more interesting women, and it turns out that she had an operation to become a she-male. We clearly want different things now, and so we must part. S/he/it will always be Gundam and s/he/it will always be my first, but s/he/it can go to hell.
¹The Meer Campbell scale of disproportionate screen time to significance of an anime character
²Mythical Hall of plot-resolving devices (deux ex machina)