Gundam 00 - Season 2
This review is based on the preview disc containing episodes 1 to 7. It has only the English dialogue and no extras. I haven't seen Season 1, so my observations here are limited to what I've seen and my understanding after a bit of checking things out from other sites.
Well, if you're after action, Season 2 kicks off with something blown up by rogue mobile suits within the first minute! So far, so good for the action affinicados. Season 2 is set several years after the conclusion of Season 1 and little appears to have changed. The factions that dominated Earth have appeared to consolidate their activities, forming the Earth Federation. There are still countries and groups that sit outside the Federation, and inevitably become the target for suppression or conflict. Within the Federation is a peace-keeping force which is officially meant to unify nations by eliminating anti-government forces. This so-called peace-keeping force appears to use ruthless and brutal methods to enforce peace; and these actions result in the formation of anti-Federation forces. Cue the weird names: one of these forces is known as Celestial Being (what?!) and the Gundam machines are used exclusively by this organisation. Apparently the primary objective of Celestial Being is to eliminate war through focused armed intervention (is it just me or is that idea and approach somewhat ironic). The fact that the Gundams can beat the crap out of virtually anything else on the battlefield inevitably means Celestial Being becomes the target of the opposing factions and forces. The episodes on this preview disc establish (or re-establish) the basis for Celestial Being to intervene in conflicts. While it is still early days, the story shows some promise in my view. I had little understanding of the backgrounds to the characters and prior story, so I was rather confused about the settings and the already large cast; but if I avoided attempting to follow the story too much and focused on the action, I actually found that part of it rather enjoyable. The characters all had their various foibles which usually carried across from Season 1. Setsuna, for example, only knows how to fight and when confronted by Marina about his motivation mumbles something along the lines that fighting is all he has known. There doesn't appear to be any significant romantic interests between the characters - but that may change as some intriguing revelations come to the fore as certain characters interact with each other. Such opportunities show potential for character development and I got the impression fairly quickly that everything is not as it seems at face value. Did this release really hold my attention? Not entirely. I'll candidly admit a large part of that is due to my lack of appreciation and knowledge of what had gone on in the first season; but that should not preclude a viewer from getting into a story presumably after a major climax point and going on for the rest. Some other shows manage to pull such a situation off rather well, but this one definitely would require the viewing of Season 1 before proceeding further.
Visually, I'm not sure what it is with giant mecha - particularly Gundams. There must be a Gundam law somewhere that the bigger the mech is, the more it is able to manoeuvre extremely well, blow lots of stuff up without prejudice, and yet not get taken down by the opposition which is limited to lame mass-produced mechs. The new Gundams in this series are, well, consistent with that premise. The rest of the visuals were pleasant to look at: ships had the hallmarks of the Gundam universe - sleek and well equipped. The mecha had the usual characteristics of the Gundams (spiky headgear and lethal weaponry), while the opposing A-Laws had gear that looked typically mass-manufactured (read cannon-fodder). The action scenes were fast and full of energy and, yet, didn't appear to be recycled at this stage. Character designs were also pleasant enough and what I'd consider enough individuality in their presentation (unlike another Gundam series that I will not bother naming). The male cast looked as one would expect - militaristic, strong, probably won't go as far as saying ruthless. The females were also as one would expect - the bridge bunnies were cute, Marina was elegant, the tactical officer had a sense of strength while still looking feminine. Nothing to be overly picky with here. With seven episodes on the one disc, there was some evidence of compression and pixelation particularly in the fast moving sequences. I'd expect this would be due to the disc being a preview (pre-retail) release and the final product would not have such issues. It would also have quite a bit to do with me watching this on a DVD player being scaled up to Full-HD on a 46 inch screen through HDMI, which would make such issues rather obvious.
Music is very, how can I put it, "Gundam-esque": martial, dark and brooding; and totally consistent with the atmosphere being conveyed - nothing to complain about here. Voice acting is as one expects for the characters, and the English cast do a fairly good job. Setsuna's voice, for example, has the rough edges of someone who has only known fighting yet remains cold in most situations. The bridge operators - Christina and Feldt - both have that annoying squeaky voice typical of your "bridge bunny". They've also got a blasted Haro on board - and its voice puts me on edge, but again is consistent with what a Haro is - damn annoying. The preview disc had a solid stereo mix and, while dialogue focused on the centre stage, the explosions and other audio effects along with the music made good use of both left and right channels. I guess the final release will have a 5.1 mix in there somewhere.
Bottom Line: if you enjoyed Season 1 of Gundam 00, I think this one would be worthwhile picking up as I expect it would follow on nicely. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Season 1, but I generally liked what I saw: plenty of action, relatively complex characters, drama, angst, and giant robots. A solid three stars for another series set in the ever-increasing Gundam franchise.
Review gear: 46" Sony Bravia LCD TV (XBR series), Sony PS3, Pioneer 7.1 AV receiver.
Too hot for eBay!
As I was sorting through items for listing on eBay, I came across some adult product which I couldn't put there. Here is a list of those anime products. Please be aware that you must be over 18 years of age to order any of these items from me! I only have one of each of these. They are available now for immediate delivery.
Blu-ray anime DVDs
For those of you into the latest and greatest technology, here's a list of anime available on Blu-ray in the US and Australia. I will be updating this list about every two months to try to keep it current (last updated May 26, 2011).
Oz anime permanent price reductions!
The good folks at Madman have announced some permanent price reductions on selected Australian anime titles. Sure, these ones have been around for a while, but saving some money is a good thing, right