Mobile Suit Gundam has always been the Holy Grail for anime fans. Despite being wildly popular in Japan since 1979, no Gundam series or movies were released in the US until very recently. Then about a year ago, Bandai, the company that owns the property, opened the floodgates. They've released some series on tape, Gundam Wing is playing on the Cartoon Network, and toys and models are coming. And best of all, Bandai has just released their first domestic Gundam DVD, containing the first five episodes of the aforementioned Gundam Wing.
Gundam Wing originally aired in 1995, making it one of the most recent Gundam projects. It takes place in its own timeline, so you dont need to know anything about Gundam to enjoy it. Like all Gundam projects, it's a story of war in a future where battles are fought with piloted robots called mobile suits.
In the future, the majority of people live in huge space colonies called "Sides," but they are still ruled from Earth. A rebellious space faction deploys "Operation Meteor," which places five super high-tech mobile suits (or Gundams) on earth to sabotage the Alliance government and its aristocratic military arm, OZ. The five Gundams are piloted by teenagers who go undercover in regular society and make raids on military bases in their spare time. Our main character is Heero Yuy, the particularly focused and sociopathic boy who pilots the powerful Gundam Wing. His descent to Earth is interrupted by an encounter with the Zechs, the Lighting Count, and his arrival is witnessed by Relena, an ambassador's daughter. How will Heero deal with these problems? Meanwhile, the Gundam pilots begin to encounter each other, sometimes fighting, sometimes becoming friends.
The first five episodes of Gundam Wing move quickly and are full of action. The characters are very interesting, which is almost enough to distract you from the fact that the plot makes almost no sense, not to mention that several improbable coincidences are needed to move the whole thing forward.
The animation is good, though because Gundam Wing was a weekly TV series, corners were cut. You will become very familiar with certain footage of mobile suits in action, because it is re-used in several episodes. The character and mecha design is first rate.
Gundam Wing may not be the best Gundam series ever made, but it's far from the worse. I'm very thankful that Bandai has made it available in the digital format.
Bandai's disc looks fantastic. This is one of the best looking anime discs I've seen. If you've only seen this series on bootleg tape or on the Cartoon Network, you haven't seen it all. The DVD is so clear and so detailed, it adds a level class the series lacks in any other format. My only quibble is that they should have sent the source print through the cleaner one more time, there is light speckling all the way through.
This being a TV series, the sound is Dolby Digital Stereo, and none too impressive. The music sounds pretty good, though.
You can watch the episodes in either English or Japanese with English subtitles. The subtitles are very legible.
The menus on the disc are all presented as being the screens of a mobile suit cockpit. The set-up is a little cramped and awkward, especially when text appears in the left hand window. Luckily they never put anything important there.
There are a few extras. First up are data files on Heero, Relena, and the Gundam Wing. The first pressing of this disk also comes with a 3-D motion card of the front cover artwork. I would have bought this disc if it had come in a brown paper wrapper, so this was a nice bonus. And finally, trailers are included for Cowboy Bebop, Blue Submarine No. 6, Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, and Gundam 0083: Stardust Memories. I hope that those last two trailers mean that Bandai is thinking releasing those series on DVD.
Scott Hamilton, 5/16/00