The first half of Gundam 00 has concluded, and in the show’s desire to stand on its own two feet despite its Gundam name it embodies the spirit and messages behind the original Mobile Suit Gundam far more than any other alternate universe Gundam series. Every Gundam series involves war (or at least a substitute for war on an Earth surrounded by energy ropes), and every series shows how fighting affects various people, but none since the original Gundam and Zeta Gundam have put the emphasis on how it affects everyone. More importantly, it’s easy to care about how war affects everyone on both personal and universal levels, and this is really a testament to how effective Gundam 00 has been.
When I first saw Gundam 00, I was a little worried about it. It had all the right pieces, but it would be so, so very easy to play them wrong, to create the ugliest chess match in existence. But it didn’t. Gundam 00 has defied the odds, and it manages this by wielding the most powerful but most easily abused and corrupted piece of all: Death.
Watching the final episode and seeing roughly half of Celestial Being die in a battle they could not win, it was a bit of a shock. For one thing, with Nena Trinity still out there it would be natural to assume that something would come in and save the day. Turns out, nothing did, except for the power and resolve of the pilots and crew. This applies to not just Celestial Being but also the side of the allied nations as well. Looking even further back, with the death of Louise’s parents, the death of Graham Acre’s friends and co-pilots, and even the death of Lockon Stratos and so many others, death has immediate and long-lasting impacts on both the viewer and the characters. In other words, in Gundam 00 death is significant. Compare this to SEED, Wing, X, or even 08th MS Team, and the approach to death is drastically different. The deaths are not telegraphed from episodes away, nor are they quick changes to the plot in order to get a cheap pop or to try and produce drama. The characters are already dramatic, which is why their deaths inherently produce drama, not the other way around.
Gundam 00 is at its halfway point, and though I know better to jump the gun (I said that there was no way Gundam SEED Destiny could fail prior to it airing), I dare to call Gundam 00 the second best alternate universe series after Turn-A Gundam. I like SEED characters more, and I like pretty much all of Gundam, but 00 planned and executed so superbly, from its plot to its characters to even its mecha and fight scenes, that there’s no denying that it has just been a Good Series.
Surprising to me was how well the main pilots turned out, despite the risk of being generic angsty bishounen. The Gundam Meisters can be easily misconstrued as generic, but peeling back the layers shows a great deal of depth and personality. Setsuna F. Seiei is most surprising of all, as I like him as the protagonist quite a bit. He’s not an innocent kid who happened upon a Gundam, he’s a boy who grew up with war. He killed his own parents as part of a religious crusade. But despite being drenched in the blood of warfare of his own volition, of being a person who only knows how to fight and destroy, Setsuna is the most emotional of all. He is a blind boy desperately trying to find his way through the world with his own two hands because they are the only things he has ever truly known.
Unlike so many series in the Gundam franchise, Gundam 00 does not concern itself with homages or references or trying to maintain Continuity like it’s more important than the message itself. And that message? War affects everyone.
The fact that Gundam 00 is willing to kill and maim its comic relief says it all. Seeing Patrick Colasour (peace be with him) (edit: almost) dying in a violent flash of white, I can think of nothing closer to the excitement of watching a Gundam series. I expect everyone to die, and I expect no one to die, and this has left me in the best kind of suspense I could hope for.