Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz

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GUNDAM WING: ENDLESS WALTZ

Watched via fansubs/DVD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz originated as a three part OVA sequel to the Gundam Wing series. With the addition of some footage and an update to the soundtrack, it became the movie it is known as today. Or I should say was known as, since it is out of print currently.

If you are unfamiliar with the original series, fear not. It’s pretty easy to get caught up with what you missed by listening to the torturously large amounts of exposition at the beginning of the movie. The film begins with the one year anniversary celebration of peace between the space colonies and Earth. The mobile suit Gundams have just been sent off to the Sun to be destroyed, and the world is looking forward to a peaceful existence devoid of weapons of mass destruction. That is until cocky little seven-year-old Mariemaia decides she wants to conquer and control the Earth.

It’s again up to the five Gundam pilots to restore peace and save the day. Obviously they are going to need their one of a kind Gundams, so Quatre goes off to fetch them in a race against time to catch them before they get to the Sun/out of reach. Meanwhile Heero and Duo attempt to fight off Mariemaia’s soldiers and their back stabbing comrades, Trowa and Wufei.

I found the pacing to be very erratic during this film. There were spontaneous flashbacks to “develop” each main character in the midst of a battle sequence. Not only did these scenes disrupt the flow of narration, but there were huge time skips that glossed over key information. For example, Relena speaks out to the inhabitants of Earth to cast aside their apathy and do something about their fate. Finally the people get riled up, but then we never really see how it helps resolve the main story arc.

You have a point about how weirdly-paced this movie, despite how much I like it. It rushes back and forth between backstory that reveals the real “Operation Meteor” and cameos of every fan-favorite character from the main series while providing enough exposition to help newcomers to the series. It definitely isn’t as smoothly plotted as it could be.

PLOT: Set a year after the Gundam Wing TV series concluded, Endless Waltz takes the much-celebrated and hard-earned peace that all of the characters assume will last forever and throws it on its ear.

Never, ever assume that a peace will last forever. It didn’t work after World War I, and it didn’t work for the world of Gundam Wing. After a year of lasting peace, the Gundam pilots think that all is well, so they decide to ship their Gundams into the sun to destroy them once and for all. Unfortunately, just as soon as they’ve done that, a colony goes rogue and declares war on the Earth Sphere Unified Nation, meaning most of the Gundam pilots have to duke it out in borrowed mechs for a few days while Quatre goes to save their Gundams and send them back for a last-minute grand entrance.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The crux of the conflict in Endless Waltz is that a new colony, led by the illegitimate daughter of Treize Khushrenanda, is unhappy to be ruled by outsiders and declares war. Their plan is to use the original “Operation Meteor” to drop their colony on the Earth to win against the ESUN. Of course, there are other themes wrapped up in this, like the questions of what a soldier does after war or how best to carry out someone’s legacy. This is an interesting enough plot, and definitely believable, but the way that most of the characters are brought in seems kind of strange, while the coincidence (and lack of foresight) with the Gundams being sent to the sun is just too much. And then we bring in more backstory, and the plot just tips over the edge into overly complicated.

Despite the amount of stuff crammed into this movie, I still enjoy watching it from a nostalgic point of view. The exposition helps bring me up to speed as a return viewer (who never saw past episode ten of the TV series), and all of the cameos are fun to spot. The pacing definitely doesn’t stand up, but it does a good job of keeping it exciting with all of the battles, even if their resolutions are confusing.

SETTING: Gundam Wing takes place in a futuristic society where Earth has colonized space. These colonies have been at war with Earth for some time, and only prior to the movie’s time line have they managed to cease battles for an entire year.

What makes the Gundam franchise special is how each society and political system is developed and how these infrastructures cause friction between groups of people through conflicting objectives. In addition to the politics there is the possibility for advanced technology and weapons of mass destruction. The five Gundams were developed independently to help the colonies gain their freedom.

Each main character has been thrown into the pits of war and has had to come to terms with their previous wrong doings. In a time of peace it comes as a shock for each to take up arms again and to fight. Much of the turmoil throughout the movie stems from each character having to cast aside their pacifism for the sake of the greater good. The world building is vitally important to the character development and plot of the franchise and is what makes the Gundam franchise so beloved by fans.

SETTING: I really do love the setting of Gundam Wing, since I’m fascinated by the idea of humanity expanding into space via colonies and then figuring out how to interact with them. For a sci-fi show, it has a nice connection to Earth’s actual history with empires and colonization from several hundred years ago. Naturally, everything gets really messy, and it takes several tries to straighten out the relationships, but I like this kind of speculative anime politics as opposed to Code Geass, where it’s too over-the-top to ever possibly happen.

I also love the standard Gundam focus on war and the toll it takes on soldiers, especially with how we get to see the original “Operation Meteor” plans and learn how each of the Gundam pilots decided to go against the larger plan. I know many people consider Gundam’s anti-war focus to be cliché by now, but I still think it’s interesting, especially when you connect it to the wars that are still going on today. Rewatching Endless Waltz made me think about the cycles of war and how they work in real society, which isn’t something I can say for most anime.

The focus on the soldiers is particularly interesting, especially now that I’m older. It was painfully obvious to me now that these are merely adolescents fighting in a war that is much bigger than they could possibly imagine. Or should be, actually it seems as if they are more with it than the adults, which is just ridiculous to digest.

CHARACTERS: If you haven’t already watched the original series, this movie is going to do little to help you enjoy the characters. While there is some awkwardly thrown in back story throughout various battles, aside from that there are hardly any cues that help define each character and their designated archetype throughout the movie. The ground work of relations is hard to read and there are too many characters that just show up without any real explanation. In that regards this movie is seen best as a fan service add on to update the Gundams and give the dynamic main cast another chance to kick butt.

I found the lack of character development to be rather disappointing since each character is rather interesting on their own. There are a couple of key moments that I’m sure will have any fan girl squealing, but a lot of it can easily slip between the lines if you aren’t too familiar with the prior plot.

What I found most enjoyable was the new inter dynamics of the main cast. Trowa and Wufei have uniquely deviant roles which cause clashing between the tightly knit group. In particular I think Wufei’s character takes the most interesting angle by exploring a new path and showing that there are various solutions to each problem. I’m not happy with the direction he chose, but I like that each character has been diversified and begins to travel their own path independently from the whole.

As for the bad guys, I just don’t even know what to say. I have no idea why Mariemaia was invented, and why a studio would choose a seven-year-old as an antagonist. Sure her grandfather is pushing his own agenda, but really, who’s going to listen to a little kid? The whole thing is just too crazy to really take seriously, and I think this is the ultimate downfall to the legitimacy of this movie.

I’m surprised you were intrigued by Wufei’s actions, since I found them to be confusing and forced in to contrast with the other characters. It didn’t help that Wufei’s resolution seemed too easy to be believable.

CHARACTERS: No one believes that Mariemaia’s an actual seven-year-old girl. She doesn’t really act, look, or sound like one—I know she’s supposed to be manipulated by her grandfather, but she still comes off as far too politically savvy to be an actual child. I also doubt any real soldiers would follow her into battle, expect for that connection to Treize, but she’s essentially an unbelievable leader. The little character develop she gets is good, but her concept itself bugs me, and it’s tough to take her scheme seriously when it’s headed by a second-grader.

The Gundam pilots are more interesting as the main characters, reprising the fun balance and interactions they had in the main series. Though I find everyone’s initial actions to be confusing and short-sighted, the end of the movie satisfactorily wraps up stuff for them and shows what they’ve all decided to do with themselves, which make sense and fit with their characters. Furthermore, there are flashbacks throughout the movie that shed more light on how the Gundam pilots got brought into “Operation Meteor” and changed the course of history by individually (but maybe at the group behest of the weird-nosed scientists) deciding to take a different course of action. Though these flashbacks aren’t explained well, they still provide some much-needed background to the main characters.

Other than that, the rest of the character appearances are largely to take roles within the developing conflict, and no one develops much individually. There are fanservice moments throughout, like the interactions between Noin and Zechs, but otherwise the rest of the characters are mostly brought in to make existing fans happy.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The best part of this movie is how the Gundams have been given a makeover. It’s a little sad that the backstories pretend the old designs never existed, but really the whole reason to watch Gundam Wing is just to see the pretty boys and pretty mecha battle it out. The battles are rather intriguing and the animation is beautiful to watch. I did notice a lot of cut screen effects were repeated, like stills always panning diagonally across the screen to seem more active. These got incredibly old after a while. Aside from that the worst of it was just how jumpy the battles seemed and how little was resolved in each event. I wish this arc had instead been drawn out to a half series and each portion given more attention to detail to fully flesh out the story.

The character designs are well drawn and move fluidly through action sequences. I have quite the love hate relationship with these designs. While they are nicely drawn and look perfectly nostalgic, it still kills me to look at the horrid anatomy used during the mid to late 90’s. Sure anatomy has always been off in animated films, but there’s something about a pelvis that’s too narrow to feasibly provide walking ability that kills me. There is also a weird lingering in the designs that hints at the large shoulders of the early 90’s and the boom of the large head syndrome. Either way, they aren’t quite too off as to really stand out from anything past or present. If anything it’s an interesting look into how a shounen franchise was adapted to meet the desires of the female audience.

I love these character designs because of nostalgia, even with the impossibly narrow pelvises, but the thing that always threw me off was Heero’s baggy shirt. I never thought those baggy tank tops were in style, but somehow they cropped up in every ‘90s anime ever made.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Man, does this art style make me super nostalgic. The original character designs are back and mostly intact, with some changes in costuming for Wufei and Trowa, who end up joining Mariemaia’s army for their own reasons. New characters, like Mariemaya, have clearly been designed by the same people who worked on the TV series, making them fit into continuity just fine, though the scientists all look weird with their big noses or extreme facial hair. The animation does what it can to make everyone look as nice as possible, which is good because the main draw for Gundam Wing was always those pretty men. Some shortcuts are taken, of course, but the priority is on always making the characters look good.

On the other hand, the Gundams have been redesigned to look even more awesome, and they have clearly succeeded at that. The new designs are less realistic than those from the TV series (and Wing Zero gets translucent feathers), but they look totally badass during the fight scenes. The Gundams aren’t seen in action until the end of the movie, but the buildup is necessary and makes it that much more exciting when the Gundams finally get to fight, because they look great. The action has its moments of repeated scenes and corner-cutting, but it’s still solid where it counts with the Gundams.

Ehh, we all know this was just made to sell new Gundam toys. I like that you mentioned the pacing, it’s almost like a commercial for the toys. A long build up with the final reveal at the end with some awesome revved up music to pump you up and get your credit card out.

OVERALL: I wasn’t impressed by Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz as a kid, and I’m still not as an adult. The antagonists are too goofy and the main characters lack real definition. The exposition does more telling, rather than showing. For a short OVA the animation is good, and the setting decently developed. I’d have liked to see the studio just pull out a whole new half season rather than throw the world in turmoil for a brief hour and a half movie. It just seems too over-the-top to have to retrieve the Gundams from space, just to go back to peace so easily. Overall, the potential of course is there, I just felt it was squandered away and left me feeling unfulfilled.

If you’re a Gundam fan, you’re obviously going to have to hunt this down and watch it, but otherwise I don’t know that I’d recommend anyone try this film out. I don’t think it’s the best representation of mecha, Gundams, or of Gundam Wing.

OVERALL: I’m totally biased here, but I think Endless Waltz is still worth watching today. It’s not a great introduction to the Gundam Wing series if you’re a newbie, but if you take a while to read up on the characters and plot (or read a lot of fanfiction), it’s a nice way to get your Gundam Wing fix without committing to the entire fifty episodes of the TV series. The plot and characterization aren’t without their problems, but the setting’s interesting, and the art and animation are perfect for a dose of ‘90s nostalgia.

If you aren’t into Gundam Wing or aren’t in love with ‘90s anime, though, give this a pass. It’s a great way to get excited about a certain point in anime history, but it might be too random and old for new fans to look into. I’m not sure where the best place to start with the Gundam franchise is, but it’s not here. This is for the initiated or nostalgically-driven only.

FINAL SCORE: (6/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)
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