Gundam 00 – A wakening of the Trailblazer
「A wakening of the Trailblazer」
Back in May when I posted about a couple of the trailers for the theatrical conclusion to the Gundam 00 story, there wasn’t a whole lot revealed about what Celestial Being would be getting into in this final installment. The official site only makes brief mention that it takes two years later in A.D. 2314, when a 130-year-old scrapped research vessel in Jupiter’s orbit makes its way towards Earth with a new crisis, so I really wasn’t too sure what to expect. Looking back, it’s almost as if the trailers at the time purposely avoided the real threat that was approaching too, and instead diverted most of the attention to a second pure Innovator, Descartes Shaman. As a result, I was in for quite a surprise when the startling revelation of a new alien threat was made — one that would force all of mankind to unite or face extinction. Extraterrestrial Living-metal Shapeshifters, or ELS for short, turn out to be a sentient metallic life-form much like their name suggests, and marks the first time that I ever recall a Gundam series introducing an alien threat. Up until now, the franchise has always been about humanity’s migration to space and the conflicts that occur from that separation, so when a swarm of ELS started pouring out of a wormhole at Jupiter’s Big Red Spot, I was suddenly hit with the feeling that I was watching something straight out of Macross.
With no concept of “folding” or “warp”, contact with an alien species was simply something that Gundam series have simply never addressed, making ELS’ arrival into the Solar System the biggest surprise in an otherwise fairly straightforward plot. There weren’t really any major twists afterward, but the rest of the movie wasn’t the least bit dull, as the Earth Sphere Federation scrambled to find out exactly what they’re dealing with when fragments from the research vessel made their way to the Earth’s surface and started assimilating both machines and humans. Those with strong quantum brainwaves and on the verge of Innovation (i.e. evolving) began suffering from inexplicable mental stress and were primarily targeted for assimilation by ELS, causing plenty of confusion for both the world and me as the viewer on exactly what was going on. The search for answers was what had me hooked immediately, especially when Celestial Being had their first run-in with ELS, and Setsuna was unable to fight back when he was overwhelmed with a flurry of alien thoughts he couldn’t make any sense of. This movie wasn’t short of any timely entrances with a lot of impact, and this particular incident saw the return of Tieria back in the body of an Innovade and piloting Raphael Gundam, saving Setsuna from being assimilated along with his repaired Gundam 00 Raiser (Condenser Type). Ignoring the fake-out opening where Saji was watching a Celestial Being movie with friends, and the brief armed intervention Setsuna and Lockon undertook in a Flag Kai to protect Marina, Tieria’s return proved to be the tip of the iceberg on several fast-paced, action-packed battles to come.
If there’s one area that this movie absolutely did not disappoint in, the action was undoubtedly it. The climactic battle at the end with the Earth Sphere Federation united in their last line of defense against unimaginable 10,000:1 numbers had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, in what felt like the final hour for mankind. What started out as insurmountable odds soon became impossible ones once ELS taking the form of mobile suits and battleships and firing their own beam weaponry. All the hope that rested on the Celestial Being space colony’s 80-meter GN Laser to destroy the moon-size ELS mother ship was quickly shattered, and it was just a losing fight from that point on as Ishikawa Chiaki’s “Mou Nani mo Kowakunai, Kowaku wa Nai” (There’s Nothing To Be Afraid of Anymore, I’m Not Afraid) played in the background. Even with the Ptolemaios 2 arriving with Graham’s elite Solbrave squadron, and Allelujah/Marie and Lockon in their Gundam Harute and Zabanya tearing everything up, I couldn’t shake the sense of hopelessness. I’m still not sure why, but I have a real soft spot for seeing people continue to struggle against impossible odds, to the point that I get pretty emotionally caught up in it. Watching this desperate battle in space gave me chills and put me in a bit of a cold sweat, and seeing Setsuna finally come to from the mental damage he sustained earlier and finally launch in the Gundam 00 Qan[T] as everyone’s last hope brought a tear to my eye. The ESF forces were getting absolutely slaughtered, the Celestial Being command center containing Veda had been breached, and even Ptolemy was being assimilated. Logic went completely out the window as Sumeragi, Kati, and everyone else only held onto the belief that Setsuna would open the way to a new future. In short, it was intense.
The story on the other hand deserves more praise than it will probably receive from most viewers, since it brings together all the characters established over fifty episodes to provide multiple layers to it and to further wrap up some of their subplots. People who either haven’t seen both seasons of the television series or bothered to remember all the characters will likely have most of those developments go over their head, but as someone who could immediately identify with them all, including brief mention of deceased ones such as Sergei Smirnov, I appreciated their inclusion in the final chapter of the Gundam 00 story. Some characters had more prominent roles with their dramatic sacrifices, whereas others simply provided a sense of nostalgia by reminding me of everything they’ve been through. In the latter case, some added more to the story than it seems, such as Saji and Louise, whom a lot of the initial suspense centered around with what appeared to be the revival of Ribbons Almark. To a lesser extent were the introduction of astrophysicist Meena Carmine (Kugimiya Rie) who’s particularly fond of Billy, and the unnamed White House secretary (Shiraishi Ryouko), two characters that resembled Nena Trinity and Anew Returner respectively. On paper, a large cast tends to pose the risk of spreading the plot too thinly, but that really wasn’t an issue considering how the script was written under the assumption that the viewer is already familiar with everyone. Little to no time spent was spent on reintroductions, which allowed for a little bit of one-sided development between Feldt and Setsuna to be explored, while making it clear that this movie is intended for audiences who have watched the series.
Despite the story’s fairly straightforward progression, the delivery from multiple perspectives before having it all come together at the very end made it work well as a movie. The ending came somewhat abruptly with Setsuna’s decision to travel to the ELS’ world after learning how their original one was consumed by a red dwarf star and how they assimilate other species to communicate; however, the silence that swept through space when the ELS’ mother ship transformed into a giant flower from Setsuna’s memories went on to reiterate the “peace through understanding” theme of the series, and gave new meaning to Aeolia Schenberg’s belief that mankind needs to evolve to do so. It’s a stark contrast to what his plan appeared to be at the onset with Celestial Being’s armed interventions to put a stop to war, as the three key elements — a GN Drive, Veda, and an Innovator — came together in Setsuna and the Gundam 00 Qant[T] to realize his vision of a new future. The fifty-year time-lapse showing mankind coexisting with the ELS and the birth of a new hybrid species was still pretty unusual given that this is Gundam and all, but I commend the producers for taking the franchise in a “new” direction. It pretty much drove home the point that this movie wasn’t anything I was expecting, adding another dimension to the series as a whole. The moral of the story may be overused, but I didn’t see any problem with conveying it to younger generations and reminding older ones by quoting Albert Einstein in the final scene. “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”
Overall, this movie brought together everything that I liked about the Gundam 00 series, and threw in a bunch of aspects that I wasn’t expecting at all. The animation was absolutely beautiful and sheer the amount of high-speed action scenes blew my mind. As a long-time fan, it delivered two hours of exciting entertainment as well as a meaningful message that altered my view on the two seasons that came before. There were probably numerous ways the producers could have gone about giving closure to the story, and while I can’t really say this will be the most agreeable way to fans, I for one like how it used contact with a T-1000-like alien race to put an end to conflict on Earth. From the very beginning of the movie, the revelation that Gundam Qan[T] was designed with Setsuna’s hopes of a mobile suit putting an end to fighting through understanding hinted that we’d get something different, and that’s exactly what we got in the end.
Note: If for some reason you figure that watching this movie would be a good way to get into the Gundam franchise, I strongly recommend against doing so since it’ll just ruin the experience. Watch the TV series first, then the movie in its intended order.