A remarkably bloodless one

Gundam series are famous for their slow starts. Gundam Seed didn't really take off until episode twenty four, and Yoshiyuki Tomino's beloved original never really took off at all. Gundam 00, on the other hand, starts off at full throttle, speeding by in a blur of scheming sub-characters and muscular mecha action. The series slows only enough to introduce its cast and flesh out its future world, preferring bursts of mission-oriented action to the studied escalation of the Seed series-with not entirely felicitous results.

The missions begin to feel repetitive after a while, especially since everyone seems to be recycling the same half-dozen lines of dialogue over and over again (variations on You aren't suited to be a Gundam Meister, It's going exactly as Ms. Sumeragi predicted, and I am Celestial Being's Gundam Meister are the most common). There is, however, an undeniable though strictly left-brain pleasure in the thoughtful treatment that writer Yousuke Kuroda gives the roundelay of missions. Celestial Being's plans are mechanically precise and puritanically principled exactly as a fanatical organization's should be; the superpowers' responses are so realistically self-centered that they hurt to watch; and the way various organizations immediately take to exploiting Celestial Being's actions isn't just dead-on, it's a trenchant commentary on all-too current events. Kuroda's fixation on people who do bad things for good reasons finds a handy outlet in the Gundam Meisters, whose actions raise questions about what constitutes terrorism and the morality of using violence to stop violence.

Unfortunately, while an attractive and intelligent series, Gundam 00 is also a remarkably bloodless one. Though lip-service is paid to the costs both humanitarian and personal of Celestial Being's quest, the series obviously cares more about being relevant and incisive than being powerful or human. While the futuristic setting and political sparring are meticulously detailed, the characters are mere cogs in their own political games, with only cursory lives and personalities outside of their roles in Celestial Being. The series has no human core Setsuna is remarkable in his frosty unlikeability and there really isn't anyone else sufficiently fleshed out to anchor the show which leaves it feeling cold and impersonal.

If Sunrise's intent was to return to the franchise's roots after the teen-friendly Gundam Seed, they certainly succeeded. The Byzantine politics and sledgehammer pacifist message are pure Tomino as are the terrible dramatic instincts and nattering characters. Nevertheless, the series' modern twist religious fanaticism, terrorism, even a fascination with renewable energy and stellar production values make it a worthwhile watch for anyone who doesn't mind their entertainment with more brain than heart.

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